Doing Church, Part 5 – Ephesians 4:13
In the first post of this series we considered what the primary task of “doing church” is: the teaching of God’s word to God’s people. In the second and third posts we considered how to pursue the goal of doctrinal unity in the church. In the fourth post we considered knowing Christ as a goal of the church.
Today we consider a final goal of “doing church” from verse 13.
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,
16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
The Goal of Doing Church Is Spiritual Maturity
Along with the goals of unity in sound doctrine and knowing Christ, there is a third goal of doing church. It is spiritual maturity. Paul writes in verse 13: “until we all attain… to a complete man, to the measure of maturity which is the fullness of Christ.”
In this final part of verse 13, Paul uses a few words that are near synonyms. These words are, first, complete or mature. Second, maturity or stature, which refers to a stage of life we would call adulthood. The third word is fullness or completion. These three words all refer to the same concept: spiritual maturity.
It’s difficult to draw the line between what spiritual maturity is, on one hand, and what sound doctrine and knowing Christ are, on the other hand. If there is a way to distinguish them, it may be that spiritual maturity is the overall outcome of sound doctrine and knowing Christ. Regardless, this close connection tells us that the three goals are interdependent. In other words, the three goals work together.
The standard for measuring spiritual maturity is Christ Himself. This is what God is primarily about when it comes to our lives. His purpose is to conform us to Christ’s life.
In Ephesians 4 this purpose of conformity to Christ is accomplished through sound doctrine and sound living. Colossians 1:28-29 has the same idea in mind. But a passage like Romans 8 offers another perspective on how God accomplishes His purpose, namely, through suffering and affliction.
However, the overall purpose remains the same: conformity to Christ. In other words, to think like Christ and to live like Christ.
One example of how the Bible takes conformity to Christ and works it out in practice is in 1 Peter 2:21-25.
21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
Here Peter bases his command for servants to obey their masters, even if that means they suffer in their obedience, by saying this is what Jesus Himself did. Why does it matter what Jesus did? Peter writes, “Because you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.”
Overall, what Peter teaches here is the basic motivation for discipleship (see also Matt 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34, 35; Luke 9:23–25; 14:26, 27; John 16:33; Acts 9:16; 14:22; 1 Th. 3:3, 4; 2 Tim 3:12).
If God’s purpose for us is to be conformed to Christ, then this should be a primary goal for “doing church.”
Concluding Thoughts on the Goals of Doing Church
This means we must regularly evaluate what we do as a church along the lines of these goals: sound doctrine that helps us know Christ, which serves to fulfill God’s purpose of conforming us to Christ.
Is what we do in our time together facilitating the pursuit of these goals, whether in the service or small groups or mid-week activities and Bible studies or one-on-one discipleship relationships?
Furthermore, is this your personal purpose for your life and you personal goal for the lives of others in our church?
How is that reflected in how you spend your time that’s not already devoted to other responsibilities that the Lord has given you as a stewardship?
These are questions we regularly need to return to. And God is faithful to lead us to the right answers. He is with us and He is for us. And He will accomplish His purposes for us. In His power and ability we can be supremely confident!