Ephesians 4 Biblical Church Growth

Psalm 147:1- 20 Praising the Creator Who Communicates
Ps 147:1 “Praise Yah, for it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and fitting to praise him. 2 Yahweh builds up Jerusalem. He gathers together the outcasts of Israel. 3 He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds. 4 He counts the number of the stars. He calls them all by their names. 5 Great is our Lord, and mighty in power. His understanding is infinite. 6 Yahweh upholds the humble. He brings the wicked down to the ground. 7 Sing to Yahweh with thanksgiving. Sing praises on the harp to our God, 8 who covers the sky with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass grow on the mountains. 9 He provides food for the livestock, and for the young ravens when they call. 10 He doesn’t delight in the strength of the horse. He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. 11 Yahweh takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his hesed/loyal covenantal love
12 Praise Yahweh, Jerusalem! Praise your God, Zion! 13 For he has strengthened the bars of your gates. He has blessed your children within you. 14 He makes peace in your borders. He fills you with the finest of the wheat. 15 He sends out his commandment to the earth. His word runs very swiftly. 16 He gives snow like wool, and scatters frost like ashes. 17 He hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can stand before his cold? 18 He sends out his word, and melts them. He causes his wind to blow, and the waters flow. 19 He shows his word to Jacob; his statutes and his ordinances to Israel. 20 He has not done this for just any nation. They don’t know his ordinances. Praise Yah!"

Observations: 147:1-11 In this second Praise Psalm (see last post) our great and infinite God not only names the stars, He knows each of His people by name and cares about their physical, spiritual and emotional health. The correct response to His care is to not just praise Him with words, but to give Him pleasure by fearing Him and continuing to trust His promises and hesed. The fact that we can give the God who runs the universe pleasure (or not) is both astonishing and humbling.
147:12-20 God should be blessed and praised for His blessings. He gives peace and prosperity to His people (who fear Him), filling them with the finest of wheat. He is not meager in His blessings. The psalm ends with the greatest blessing, that of His word, containing both the rules for getting blessed, and providing the ground of our hope. He is the Creator who communicates.
Application: Do you please God? Could you be more pleasing in His sight? Start by listening to what He said He likes, then do it.
Prayer: Everlasting Father, I praise You for revealing Yourself in Your work of creation and Your care of me; thanks for being concerned about my needs and desires, and for communicating what I can do to please You. May I be pleasing in Your sight every day. Amen.

TMS Romans 5:8 Sinner to Saint
Rom 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us,
in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Observations: 5:8 God loves the unlovely, which is good news, because at times we can be downright ugly. Sin isn't attractive. God knows that. He knew how independent and rebellious we were, and would be when He sent Jesus to die for us. Jesus died for all the sins we committed before we believed and were born again, and all the ones we would commit after we believed. So, despite Satan's lies, we can always count on God's love, and experience it when we repent (change our mind). But note the change of identity in the last half of the verse. “While we were still sinners” implies that the situation has changed. Indeed the context of 5:1 says we're justified and have peace with God, as do verses 9-10. Our identity should no longer be that of sinners (folks who miss the mark), but of those those who have a relationship with God. Ephesians 4:20-24 below gives some help in living the new way. If you want to understand how Paul uses this verse in context (and what it means to be saved by His life) see the comments on Romans 5 in the Blog.
Application: Sinner is what you were, saint is what you are. Live like it.
Prayer: God, thanks for your love of me, and sending the Lord Jesus to die for my sin; may I live in love towards You, and seek to please You in all I do. Amen.

Ephesians 4 This is the paramount passage on Body life and Biblical church growth. Paul now expands upon the first request of his prayer in 1:18 “hope of calling” (having already addressed power and inheritance). The corporate calling is to the co-inheritance with all the saints in the Messiah's kingdom (chapters 2-3) and now Paul begs believers to walk/live in a manner worthy of that calling by living in Holy Spirit empowered unity with each other. Failure to do so prevents God's glory from being displayed. Most believers and churches subsist in perpetual infancy and never grow to being able to reproduce, and thus fail to fully glorify God. If you are the exception, praise God!, and share what you do with others. The section reaches its climax in 5:21 “submitting to one another in the fear of God,” but we'll save the final chapters for tomorrow to focus on the dynamics that make unity, maturity, and reproduction possible.

Ephesians 4 Self-Edifying Body
4:1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and humility/meekness with patience, bearing with one another in love; 3 being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in/by the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all.
7 But to each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Therefore he says, "When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." 9 Now this, "He ascended," what is it but that he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.
11 He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets;
and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds/pastors and teachers;
12 for the perfecting of the saints,
to the work of serving,
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 perfect/complete man,
to the measure of the stature/maturity of the fulness of Christ;
14 that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error;
15 but speaking truth in love,
we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ;
16 from whom all the body,
being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies,
according to the working in measure of each individual part,
makes the body increase/growth to the building up of itself in love.

17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,
18 being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their hearts; 19 who having become callous gave themselves up to lust, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20 But you did not learn Christ that way; 21 if indeed you heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus:
22 that you put away, as concerning your former way of life, the old man, that grows corrupt after the lusts of deceit;
23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
24 and put on the new man, who in the likeness of God has been created in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak truth each one with his neighbor. For we are members of one another.
26 "Be angry, and don’t sin." Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 neither give place to the devil.
28 Let him who stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need.
29 Let no corrupt speech/communicaton proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edification/building up as the need may be, that it may minister grace to those who hear.
30 Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander, be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you.

Observations: 4:1-2 Walking worthily of our calling/invitation (see chapter 1) means living so that God rewards us. 1Thess 2:12 “that you would make your walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”
Note the parallel passage in Colossians 1:4 we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love towards all the saints 5 because of the hope being laid up for you in the heavens, which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you...and is bearing fruit and growing...from the day which you heard and fully knew the grace of God in truth; 9 Because of this...praying for you, asking that you may be filled with the full knowledge of His will by all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10 that you should walk worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit and increasing in the full knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to the might of His glory, for all endurance and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

We bring God glory simply by obeying Him. God wouldn't make us for one purpose and then give us a bunch of commands that are irrelevant. He made us for His glory, and then gives us commands to guide us in fulfilling the purpose for which He created us. This is the same as the major OT theme of being careful to do what is right/pleasing in His sight. If we do what He wants, we, as a Body of believers, will become the temple in which His glory will dwell, and then He will glorify us in the Messianic kingdom of light. In short: we glorify Him; He glorifies us -2Th 1:11-12 ).
Note the character qualities necessary to live in unity with others (be they a sibling, roommate, spouse, or church member):
Humility - literally “lowly mindset,” is the opposite of self-will or self-centered pride; it's not poor self-esteem but esteeming oneself as the servant of others (Phil 2:3), which results in a willing submission to others (1Pt 5:5). It was a characteristic of Jesus (lowly of heart -Mt 11:29) and Paul (Acts 20:19) so it's not about being weak or spineless, but keeping one's strength focused on serving others. Colossians 3:12 tells us we should be wearing it daily, along with meekness, the next trait.
Meekness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23); and the twin sister to Jesus' humility in Matthew 11:29, which made it easier to learn from Him. It's a quality we need to minister (Gal 6:1) and to try to teach the dunderheads who have been taken captive to do the devil's work (2Tim 2:25). Like humility, it's something we should put on as the “elect” of God (Col 3:12); and chase after until we catch it (1Tim 6:11). It is the basis of inheriting the earth in the Kingdom (Mt 5:3).
Having the mindset of humility and meekness, we can then exhibit patience (literally “long-suffering” - the ability to inhibit the impulse to give people back the grief they've been giving to us) and forbearance (literally “holding with” - used of bearing with or “suffering” fools -2Cor 11:19) that results in enduring the faults and foibles of the temporarily insane around us. That endurance is sometimes what it takes to love one-another (there's another of those commands of what believers should do). Love is desiring what is in another's best interest, and is next in priority after loyally loving God. This means that we don't compromise the truth, nor be enabling doormats, nor let sinners continue in their stupor (Eph 4:15), but it means that we are more concerned about God's reputation and the needs of others than our needs and reputation. God knows all, and will sustain you in the pain, intervene when appropriate, and compensate you justly and richly. If this sounds like something you've been getting out of Psalms, you've been paying attention.
4:3-6 The qualities and skills above are essential for preserving the unity of the Body which the Spirit created, and Satan seeks to destroy. Therefore we need to be diligent to keep it, using the strategy God gives. “Unity” is used only here and in 3:13, and refers to the oneness of the Body or temple. Christ is the basis of our corporate peace (2:14) creating a unified body of the Jews and Gentiles (2:15-17). The awareness that none of us have standing before God apart from what Christ has done for us in conjunction with other believers (and thus no claim to hereditary superiority) provide a bond (that which holds things together or the means) to keep the temple from crumbling when hit with Satan's onslaughts. It takes diligence to keep things together. The default is decay. Paul expands upon the unity by giving seven pillars of Biblical unity. Count 'em, they should be self-explanatory by this point (you should be able to explain how each contributes to corporate unity). The one God over all will coordinate the efforts of all the individual parts, just like the brain does for the human body (which is why it's a good idea to never lose your head), as all the parts are connected and in tune with Him. Those who want to go the extra mile can figure out why Paul used each of the different prepositions.
4:7-10 The unity of the Body is made up of diverse parts, that need to work together to accomplish God's purposes (glorify Him corporately and get glory individually -1Cor 15). To achieve His purposes each believer is given grace/power to enable him/her to function as a member of the Body. Paul paraphrases Psalm 68 (click link for original context), in the LXX (Greek version -the Septuagint), to describe Christ, who came to earth from heaven and conquered the enemy, returning to heaven as the victor, receiving gifts to give to men. Christ took captive those who were captive (to Satan) to give them for the benefit of His people. Paul doesn't reference the end of the verse, but it totally fits the context of God dwelling in the midst of the NT believers.
Ps 68:18 You have ascended on high, you hast led captivity captive: you hast received gifts for men; even, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.
Christ is not giving “offices” but people. They fit into three groups that will have three functions in verse 13. The first group, apostles and prophets, upon whom the church is built (2:20), provide the basis for unity in providing authenticated truth about Jesus and the faith. The evangelists (used only of Philip and Timothy -Acts 21:8; 2Tim 4:5) were those who shared the good news particularly with non-Jews, to bring them into the Body. The last group He gave to be “pastors and teachers.” The absence of the word “some” before teachers has led many grammarians to correctly conclude that this is one critter, who shepherds and teaches. This is the only occurrence of the word “pastor” in most translations. Everywhere else the Greek word is “shepherd,” usually refering to Jesus as the Chief Shepherd. The tasks of shepherding and overseeing (bishop=overseer) are entrusted to the elders in Acts 20:28 by Paul, and in 1Peter 5:2 by Peter. Elders are also given the task of teaching in Titus 1:9, and 1Timothy 3:2. When the apostles got 3,000 converts on Pentecost, and there was no NT yet, there was a need for supernaturally gifted people to shepherd and teach. However, if they do their job correctly, they are no longer necessary, as the following verses show, because the Body will take over the work of the gifted men.
The gifted men were given to equip the saints (believers) for the work of ministry, so the Body would be able to edify/build itself up (which is exactly what happens in 4:16). The Body becomes self-edifying as the function of the gifted men is taken over by the maturing believers. The word for equip is used of mending a net to put it into service. People ripped by the world and their past need to be made whole so they can minister to others.
4:13 The giving of the gifted men has a clearly specified time limit in mind, spelled out in verse 13. The preposition “until” plus the subjunctive verb (in this case “arrive”) is always used of "a punctiliarly conceived future event.” The verb “arrive” is used of a ship arriving at a destination. This means that the giving of the gifted men, or their ministry, occurs only until a specific destination is reached, that described in verse 13 (and alluded to above): a unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, accomplished by the ministry of the apostles and prophets; a complete/perfect man, which would have been the result of the proclaimers of Good News bringing Gentiles into the Body (the word could be translated mature, but it would be redundant with the next element); and a measure (part of the whole) of the standard/stature or maturity denoted by the fulness (full control of Christ). Notice it is a measure, not the total control. See 5:18 “filled with the Spirit” for filling = control.
As a result of reaching this standard, the negatively and positively stated consequences follow in verses 14-16. Note that verse 13 cannot possibly be perfection, because in verse 14 we're still on earth, avoiding error and in 15-16 we're helping others grow.
4:14 As a result of reaching a certain level of Body maturity (verse 13) the Body will no longer be composed of immature children, who are clueless about truth or error; they will not be susceptible to liberal lies, the theology du jour, nor the movement of the year/decade. They will also not be taken in by the schemes of worldly men, nor craftiness of the devil (2Cor 11:3). Note that this state can't be the state of perfection in heaven, since those dangers don't exist there, and the immunity from them is the result of the maturity produced by the gifted men, (not the result of being transported to heaven).
4:15-16 When organic growth reaches maturity, it reproduces life. It's true of fruit trees, sheep, and people. A certain level of maturity needs to be reached before reproduction. There is still growth of the entity, but reproduction also occurs. Verse 15 provides the Biblical means of church growth. Literally it's “truthing it in love” (only used elsewhere in Gal 4:16). Remember that in 1:4 God's purpose is for believers to be holy and blameless in love, and the end goal of verse 16 is for the Body to build itself up in love. So love (doing what is in another's best interest) is the ruling dynamic, as well as the goal -John 13:34-35.
So as the Body parts live and speak in love (5:2) according to the revealed truth, they and the Body will grow. Paul specifies that the growth is not numerical (more noses and nickles), but into the headship of Christ (this is the abiding in the vine of John 15). As truth is communicated and modeled, people become rightly related to the head, and then each other. Each part needs to be fitted and connected to the other parts (just like a human Body), and each must do its job to the standard of God's intent, supplying its part/function, so the Body causes its own growth. It becomes self-edifying, building itself up in the sphere of love. The ministry of the gifted men ceases, as those people died out, and their function is taken over by the mature body members (elders, et al). See comment under Digging Deeper for post-apostolic times. If a part of the Body isn't connected to the Head, it is spastic, causing damage to those around it. If not connected to the other parts it dies. If not connected to both, it won't bear fruit.
4:17-19 Therefore, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to not walk/live as the Gentiles do, in futility/vanity of speculations not based upon God's revelation; whose understanding is darkened, and are alienated from the vine life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them. This ignorance is due to the hardening of their heart, which is the callous formed by repeated rejection of truth (see comments on Romans 9). As a result they live for the temporal and sensual gratification of this world, defiling themselves (uncleanness cuts them off from priestly service and reward). This is the state of the carnal Christian (see Corinthians). The worse news is that it doesn't satisfy, because we were made to be satisfied by God. Pleasure becomes addictive, because it is subject to the law of diminishing returns. Most of the worldlings think “if I only had X, I'd be happy.” So they spend their days pursuing X. A few attain it, and then chase after Y, because X wasn't what they thought it would be. Those who repeat the process reach Z, and start wondering about their purpose for living. Tragic.
4:20-24 The Ephesian believers in Jesus were not taught to live like pagans. The truth in Jesus is that they were to put away/off their former way of live, the stinky old man that they were. This is the “do not be conformed to this world” of Romans 12, and the “crucified with Christ” of Galatians 2:20. “Just say no” is good, but won't work in the long term unless there is an internal change of thinking and values (see comments on Romans 12:1-2 and “Killing Deadly Desires”). There must be an inner renewal of thinking, and a new set of values and feelings. Then one can put on the “fragrant new man,” who reflects the image of God in true righteousness and holiness. This should be both an individual and corporate identity.
4:25-32 The new identity in Christ should permeate one's relationships with fellow believers, especially those with whom you don't have natural affinity (and maybe even ethnic or cultural enmity, like Jews and Gentiles). Paul gives a series of instructions that follow the format of:
Don't do (stop a self-centered behavior), Do (replace it with a better, other-centered behavior), here's why (the reason or motivation). You can verify that structure in the above text.
The first bad behavior to stop is lying to others (to look good, cover up sin, or get gain), but instead, one should speak truth to one another, because we are members of “one another.” Lies and falsehood bear the hoof print of the father of lies, not the mark of the Spirit of Truth. Lies do damage, causing another to act on incorrect information. By deceiving others, to whom we are connected, we harm ourselves as well. There should be a level of trust from the common commitment to Christ and each other (in being a church) that one should not fear self-disclosure. The only thing you have to fear is loss of your sin, and lack of censure at the judgment seat of Christ. Of course, some immature carnal Christians might judge you, but they're already doing that anyway. The mature believers (who probably see even more of your sin than you do) will think more highly of you for being honest and transparent.
Verse 26 means: in your anger, don't sin. Anger is an appropriate response to injustice and hypocrisy, as Jesus demonstrated (Mk 3:5; 11:15). However, when anger lingers, and festers into the desire for revenge, it becomes sin. Therefore Paul says to resolve conflict quickly, before the sun sets, so that the devil, ever ready to fan the embers of resentment and bitterness into a raging conflagration won't have the opportunity to do so.
Those who have succumbed to Satan's shortcut to possessions should stop stealing, and work, not to fulfill their lusts, but to give to others in need. Working with one's hands means honest productive labor, rather than dishonest schemes.
Verse 29 is a great verse to memorize in your favorite version. It embodies a Biblical philosophy of speech. Corrupt is used exclusively of bad fruit of bad fish, that is useless and toxic. Corrupt communication is that which tears down another to make one feel better about themselves. Our speech should serve/minister God's grace/power to those who hear us. God's grace is the power that edifies, but sometimes one needs to blast before one builds, which is why the skills of refutation, reproof, and rebuke are in the toolbox of the mature believer.
Verse 30 lacks the positive exhortation, which would be something like cooperate with the Spirit. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we frustrate His efforts to build unity by our independence and sin. Paul's motivational piece is that God has sealed all believers with the Holy Spirit (1:13) for the day of redemption (and glorification) of our bodies (Rm 8:23). Failure to cooperate with the Spirit (who works in us to help us desire and do God's pleasure -Phil 2:13) will result in disappointment (if not discipline -2Cor 5:10 comments) at the judgment seat of Christ. God's will is that you do things His way. Satan's will is that you do things your/his way.
Paul ends the chapter with a list of carnal, self-centered, non-Christlike behaviors which abound in unsanctified believers, which should be put away from them, and replaced with the Christ-like behaviors that God has demonstrated toward us. Chief among these is forgiveness, since Satan uses a lack of forgiveness to create wedges and divisions among believers.
Application: Believers who want to glorify God need to learn the truth, live the truth, and then love others with the truth as part of a unified Body of believers. That's God's plan.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thanks that in Your wisdom You have provided the means for individuals to be blessed and glorified, as they seek to obey and glorify You. Thanks that You mend and use former sinners to love and mend others. Amen.

Digging Deeper

In post-apostolic times, a case can be made for folks functioning as the original gifted men until a Body of believers can grow, self-edify and reproduce to the glory of God. In cases where churches have existed for decades, one has to wonder why they aren't self-edifying.

God in a nutshell: God has established the unity of the Body of believers, and uses the diversity of individual believers to maintain and further it. God gives gifted men to equip believers so they can build up the body in love.

Build-a-Jesus: Jesus is the head of the Body to which all the individual parts must be connected to function properly and fruitfully.

Us in a nutshell: We need to live in such a way that we are worthy of the glory God has planned for us. That involves being transformed from self-centered sinners to other-centered lovers, focused on building others to the glory of God.

Where to Go for More:
There are numerous sermons on the purpose and function of the Church, including study guides on unity and other topics. See the upcoming blog on the Catacomb Church for how to create a Body of believers that fulfills the plans God has for His church.

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