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January 12, 2021 7:00 am
Businesses measure their success by profits gained schools gauge their effectiveness by observing student grades and athletic teams assess their results and wins a person's losses. But what is the ultimate purpose of the church and how should we go about measuring its progress. Listen in as Dr. James Boyce discusses the topic of spiritual growth on this broadcast of the Bible study our welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically. Glad you tune in today for this fascinating message from Dr. Boyce entitled spiritual adults. Let's listening together to learn what it really means to grow up in the spiritual sense of the term. What is the church are for anyway. We can speak of unique opportunities for local churches. But when we go beyond the local ministry and ask more broadly what the church of Jesus Christ is in the world for the obviously scratch our thinking. What is the church of Jesus Christ here for and what is God trying to do with us. Some people approach that in terms of evangelism. They would argue that the church is here to evangelize the world and quite obviously, that is one of the things that God has given us to do those who see the church primarily as an evangelistic tool. What I suppose in their minds have an image of the church is alarming churches to advance and all the world's to conquer in the name of Jesus Christ. They speak of the church militant and that is an appropriate designation in some respects other people think of the church being here chiefly to minister to the needs of people that is not so much to evangelize, but to welcome alone link to comfort sorrowing to provide food for the hungry and drink for those who are thirsty, and so on. This is been an aspect of the church valid one that has been picked up chiefly by the more liberal branches of the church.
So fortunately evangelical church in our time is also discovering that to be an aspect of its calling. Some see the church as retreat as a fortress. People who are out in the world and who are battered by come into the church where they find comfort, shelter, and the communion of Christian people and then our strength and so they can go back out into the world and fight again. We supposed to choose one of those with the others. When we think about the chief purpose of the church are we to have all three hold them in balance or is there something else that somehow embraces the ball and for which we should chiefly suggest that in this fourth chapter of Ephesians that we are studying, particularly in the verses that conclude the first right section where Paul is speaking of the unity of the church. The gifts of Christ to the church that we do have a statement of God's purpose for us to do as we might really suspect when we pause to think about it. These particular functions of the church that I've been describing, but rather with what the church in essence really is church, as Paul describes it in these verses is the body of Christ.
So when he speaks of God's purpose for the church as he does in these great summary statements so much of what we do what we are in the emphasis that he comes down on his spiritual maturity. That word occurs once in verse 13 where he says that God gave these gifts to prepare God's people for works of service of the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God and become mature.
But of course that's what he has in mind from beginning to end. Because if you go back a few lines you find him talking about the body of Christ build up that's majority. And if you skip ahead to the end. Verse 15 and 16 find them saying the same thing. There speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head that is Christ when he talks about the body growing and building itself up in love spiritual adulthood is what he has in mind and is within that overriding compass that all of these other things happen. This gives us a means of evaluating our churches, and the church as a whole is a mature church which we live and function is the church at large mature is it grown-up or is it. As Paul suggests, the church often is at times trial tossed back and forth by the waves blown here and there by every wind of doctrine taken in again and again by the cunning and craftiness of the secular mind.
Those are important questions because Leslie have a goal in mind and evaluate ourselves in terms of the goal. It's quite obvious that will never make progress toward that end, when Paul begins to speak of majority, as he does here in this great paragraph he breaks it down, suggesting a number of categories by which we can measure whether we really are spiritual adults.
The first is unity, which occurs in verse 13 and that's not the least bit surprising because that has been a theme of these verses from the beginning is been talking about that unity which we have.
There is one body and one spirit, one hope, one Ward one faith, one baptism, and one God.
This is something given. And Paul says as he reflects on the fact that we are to make every effort to keep it.
However, having spoken of that unity which we have and are to maintain goes a step further and speaks of the unity which we are to octane and is something we don't yet have being built up.
He says we are to keep that until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God were thinking about a bit unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God. When we think of faith. We usually think of a subjective experience. We think of knowledge we usually think of content why Paul uses those two words here.
It is actually the reverse doesn't merely speak of unity in faith, which might suggest unity and experience when he speaks of unity in the faith. Whenever possible, ask about the faith he has in mind. Christian theology that body of truth which characterizes the belief and as a result of the belief the actions of the Christian church. He saying that's what we should be united and we should be united in our doctrine and when he speaks of knowledge isn't thinking here so much as knowledge of that content of theology as he is an experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ. So unity in the faith involves the content in the knowledge of Jesus Christ involves the experiential working that out in life several pages further on in our Bibles in the book of Philippians, Paul writes about the second of those himself. He speaking there in the great third chapter of that letter about his own personal aspirations. He says in verses 10 and 11. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead first time we read that if we read it with any thought at all. We are inclined to pause and puzzle over because there is Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles the one from whom we have learned most of what we know, at least if we have begun all the studies epistles we have this man, this fountain of knowledge. This one through whom the revelation of God in its fullness is been passed on to the church saying I want to know Christ, that we pause and we say Paul is something wrong here. You're the one from whom we have learned, how can you say that you still want to know him all would respond. At that point if he were here to answer our questions.
I'm not talking about additional factual knowledge are not talking about doctrines always more doctrines to learn. Of course, but that's not what I have in mind when I say that I me know Christ. No, I mean an experiential knowledge of him, I mean that knowledge that goes beyond what is in the head, trickles down into the hearts and is lived out in the daily experience of serving Christ and trying to be like Christ in this world and that's the kind of unity. Paul says the church should obtain. I think that where possible, we should obtain an outward unity when Jesus prayed for unity that the world would see and observe. Obviously, any kind of outward manifestation of the unity of Jesus Christ will serve that end, it is important to the degree that we can have it. We should have it, but far more important than any outward show of unity is not in word, unity that comes from believers growing in the knowledge of the truth is we find it in God's word and living truth out experientially in our day by day walk with Jesus Christ reality of that of course is what transcends denominational barriers, no as well as I that you can be within the denomination talked with brother or sister within the same denomination and have really very little in common. At the same time.
You can reach out across denominational lines and find a brother or sister with much in common simply because in your walk with Jesus Christ.
You have tried the same pants… What Paul is saying here he saying let's have the church mature in that way that's mature and experience in the knowledge in order that we might recognize that it is one God and father of all who is working in us all to his own glory is the second thing Bob rings before us and that is what we would have to call Christ likeness.
That's the way in which he would have us become spiritually mature. You see it's not just that we are to have an experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is knowing what he's like and how he expects us to behave. We are also to become like him because as he says becoming mature we are to attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. First, 13, and again he says the same thing later.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ.
That is, we will become like Jesus Christ in this world is a personal side to that were going to talk about the church becoming like Christ. But the church obviously cannot become like Christ unless those who compose the members of the church become like Christ. When we come to a purpose like this. We have to examine our hearts and say, are we really mature in that sense, it is ironic you know that the temptation that first came to Adam and Eve in the garden was precisely at this point told in the first chapter of Genesis that when God made the man and the woman he made them in his image as he made them like him. That is such an important point that is repeated three times over the image of God, maybe them and it says it three times in his image in his image in his image like God. That was the uniqueness of the man and the woman then in the third chapter, we have the devil coming along, contradicting God suggesting that if they ate the fruit of the forbidden fruit. It would not die as God said they would, but rather their eyes would be opened it would have the knowledge of good and evil, and they would one come like God greatest all the temptations was that temptation that brought about the fall of Satan himself is that I will be like the most high God said to be brought down to the pit. Now he comes to the man and the woman, and he says not disobey God's of the fruit because if you do that, you'll gain the knowledge of good and evil you become like God, knowing good and evil. Funny thing about that temptation is that there was an element of truth and if they did come to know evil which they had not known before. But the devil is the father of lies. And the worst lie is a lie that contains some truth and this was the worst of all lives. This truth that they came to know evil, but they did not become like God, knowing good and evil.
They became like Satan, knowing good and evil, that is, they could practice the evil they can no longer practice good to see the wonder of the Christian gospel is that God is not given up here. We were made in his image. That image is ruined by our fall, but God comes along and redeems us in Jesus Christ begins at work of sanctification in our hearts, made possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit and what happens day by day, week by week year-by-year is that we grow in the image of the sun. We become like Jesus until that final day were taken into his presence were made like him perfectly. Forever more. Wanda way of measuring whether that is happening in your life you just go back a couple pages in the Bible to Galatians the fifth chapter verse 22 where Paul writes about the fruit of the spirit is what the Holy Spirit is trying to bring forth in our lives.
You find them saying that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience and kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that is Jesus Christ. And that's what God is trying to reproduce the heart of his people, but you know it's worth reflecting on something else here were talking about Christ likeness and were speaking on the personal level. Each individual member of the church must increasingly become like Christ.
It's how the church matures, and yet it is true, is it not that in this great concluding section dealing with the church in Ephesians 4 he is talking not so much of individual believers as the church is the body of Christ that is the whole anything that just as there is a growth in maturity for the individual is individual becomes increasingly like Christ. So, must there be growth for the church as a whole as church as a whole becomes like Jesus Christ writing that means that in this world as the church goes about its business. God develops one aspect of the character Jesus Christ in a special way here in another aspect of the character of Jesus Christ in another way they are and it's as these different parts of the church functioning in all sorts of ways to begin to manifest something of the glory of our Lord, that the wholeness of the body of Christ is seen by the world as it looks on ask you aware that you pray for that you think of that you aspire for that is what the Lord Jesus Christ wants to see in those who are his body. The 3rd Way, Paul passive talking maturity concerns. Truth verse 15 he says instead of being like infants we are to speak the truth in love, that is, the church is to be characterized by the truth of God. The contrast, as I've already pointed out as the conduct of infants which we see here in verse 14 children are delightful little things to have around, but they do have their limitations. And one of their limitations is instability. A second of their imitations is naïveté. Children are notoriously fickle. They will be interested in one thing for five minutes and then something entirely different for another five minutes and then they will be bored to death, or again, somebody can come along and can easily sometimes I kind of childhood carries over into adult life and we know people we say are childlike, there always unstable.
There never settle down and they go off in any direction following anybody who could make what seems to be a plausible case for something now Paul says I don't want you to be like that and the church must not be like that if we are not to be like that there must be growth because obviously when we begin the Christian life. We all begin at his children.
Sometimes we don't think of ourselves like that the come to faith in Christ late in life.
Perhaps are in the fullness of life. And immediately we think everything is falling together and we consider ourselves to be very mature in the faith, and yet were not work as children we are like those whom the apostle Paul describes what he wants is the church to grow and progress beyond that and the means by which that is happened is the knowledge of God's truth that is the knowledge of the word of God. That's why all this ties together. You see, if you go back in the paragraph and find them talking about God's gifts to the church.
He speaks of pastors and teachers, and apostles and prophets and evangelists, all of whom are engaged in the teaching ministry. There are other gifts or many other gifts were talking about those earlier every person. The church is to exercise a gift when he is talking about the maturity of the body, he has in mind the teaching ministry because it's through the teaching that the church grows from spiritual infancy, spiritual adulthood and is firmly established on the tragedies of our day. So we have such an immature church. Everything that comes along seems to carry the church with anything the world does the church as an echo of it. Several years later when the world is no longer interested and anytime anybody comes along with some sort of deceptive theology.
There are large blocks of ostensibly Christian people who go off after that particular deception.
That's a measure of our weakness on a measure of our strength. Paul says what we need is the truth you think of that as being the case that knowledge of the truth. The knowledge of the word of God is the single most important stabilizing factor in the church of Jesus Christ of the secret of its growth. That is true, that is Bible teaching sometimes wonder, especially on a hot Sunday when I see people listening to a lengthy exposition of the Bible. Why in the world ever do it, but it would be so much better to be someplace else where it was cooler or is it would seem more fun and yet Sunday by Sunday.
Even in the worst weather Christian people gather since they listen, they learn why is that.
That's because the Holy Spirit who is in the hearts and lives of Christian people knows that what they need is Bible teaching and gives them a hunger for it. So although at times it is perhaps boring or is perhaps less exciting as we might wish it was the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless tells us that's what you need brother. That's what you need sister because that's the way you grow. That's the way to become strong is why this means that the church is to progress in the direction of being spiritually grown-up others.
One more matter.
The Paul mentions you notice, I'm sure. In verse 15 that it's not just speaking the truth that he has in mind, but it is speaking the truth in love and love is the last factor is matter fact, love is what's emphasized and by the way this is written, it is evident that it is to go with truth as truth is to go with love. Most of our Bible speak of speaking the truth in love are ministering truth in love, but in the Greek language was other words are not there. Truth is just a participle and the best or most accurate translation would simply be something or cruising it talking about speaking the truth but proving it in love that is loving in a way that embodies the truth and living the truth in a way that expresses itself through love. I was very impressed with this combination years ago when I was first studying the 17th chapter of John and those great marks of the church that Jesus Christ develops their at high priestly prayer. Verse six marks the dimensions he speaks of joy, holiness, truth, mission, unity and love as I was reflecting in my study of the relative importance of those words. It struck me that love coming last is in the points of emphasis. It's the chief thing and it can be measured either by taking it from or adding it to everything else. Suppose, for example, you take love away from joy, joy, deprived of the holy love of God becomes hedonism.
The pursuit of pleasure for its own sake take love away from sanctification or holiness. Well when that happens you have self-righteousness sort of thing that characterized the Pharisees. They thought they were right better than everyone else.
They were actually miserable specimens and further from the kingdom and their self-righteousness than were the sinners take love away from truth. You have a better orthodoxy.
When that happens kind of thing that says well we got all the doctrines right we got all the eyes God, and we have all the tees crossed in the right place. We have no need of anything or anybody at a church that functions that way simply doesn't grow may be right, but it doesn't grow itself internally, character, grace, and it certainly does not grow outwardly in terms of numbers. Take love away from mission and what do you have you have colonialism on the part of the church where we are reaching out to make converts not to Christ but to our own denomination or to enhance our position or image in the world. Take love away from unity and have ecclesiastical tyranny is the kind of thing that says you must do it this way because the church must be one of her all going to be organizing one great big system whenever that is happened in the world. The result is always been treacherous and people have been driven from that large huge hideous thing goes by the name of Christ Church, on the other hand, I discovered that when you express love all of these other things follow. If you express love for God the father. Joy inevitably comes flooding and because our God is a great God and loving God, a gracious God, and the more we think about him and the more we learn about him and the more we love them, the more our hearts are filled with joy, adjusts an inevitable product of growing close to God, express love for the Lord Jesus Christ and holiness follows Jesus said if you love me you'll keep my commandments. And so we will so we grow in grace express love for the Scriptures. What follows from that is truth because if you love the Bible you study it as you study it you grow in truth all of these things will fill you. You'll become strong express love for the world and mission follows you go to the world of the gospel in the name of Christ express love for the brethren within the church and unity follows upon that we really love one another. You see many of the small differences that divide us.
I have one final comment and it is simply that, as the apostle Paul speaks of this great purpose of the church might be mature. He does so in the image of bodily growth. Growth is a process and growth takes time.
Church does not become mature overnight anymore than we become mature overnight if God is working to accomplish this in us and other people, then it behooves us to trust his work and be patient as he operates. I'm sure you've all seen that little but that some Christians are inclined where on their lapel doesn't have any words. It has letters of the letters are P, B, PWMGIFWMY at button is meant to provoke a question. What in the world. Those letters signify the answer quite simply is.
Please be patient with me. God isn't finished with me yet. We want everyone to be patient with us as learn to be patient with them is together.
The Holy Spirit builds his body and we together become mature in Christ. Each one supplier. Part of what is necessary prior our father. We do thank you for this passage and for the way which cuts to our experience of you and one another. We would ask that by your grace, you would use it to do good things in us. Help us to grow. According to this pattern where we find as we examine our hearts that we have been immature, convict us and teach us how we may grow in order that your church in this world, in part through us might become increasingly all you have called to be, for we pray believing and with great anticipation in the name of Christ our Lord.
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