Grow Up: The Source of Our Growth to MaturityDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that 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, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
As you may recall, in the past couple of months of reflections, we have been focusing on Ephesians 4:11-16, seeking to learn how we grow up as Christians, both as individuals and as the body of Christ together. We have seen that growth comes as church leaders, especially pastor-teachers, equip all of God's people for ministry. We have seen that when all of us, no matter our official role in the church, speak the truth in love, then we will grow up as God's people.
The last verse of our passage reiterates what we have learned, looking at our growth from a slightly different perspective. This verse underscores the fact that Christ is the source of our growth. We don't grow up by our own efforts so much as by the effort of Christ in and through us. Yet, as we'll see later, our individual efforts do matter.
Still, the foundational truth of Ephesians 4:16 is that growth of the body comes "from him," that is, from Christ. This might seem strange to us, given that Christ has just been identified in verse 15 as the head of the body. In what way, we wonder, is the head the source of growth?
If you think of the actual human body, the head does contribute to physical growth in a couple of crucial ways. First, the food that is essential for growth enters the body through the mouth, which is part of the head. Without our mouths we wouldn't grow up. Paul understands this and it supports his sense of the head as the source of growth. Second, we know what Paul may not have known, namely, that the brain, located in the head, is essential for all bodily functions. Growth simply won't happen without the governance of the brain. So, our head is absolutely essential for our physical growth.
Similarly, our growth as individual Christians and as the church depends on Jesus Christ. He is the one who gives leaders to the church so that they might equip all of God's people for the ministry of building up the church. Christ is the one who is Lord of both individuals and of the church. He guides and governs our actions so that they might be fruitful. When we offer ourselves to him as his servants, Christ enables us to grow to maturity and to contribute to the growth of his body.
Whenever Christians try to grow to maturity without depending fully on Christ and his grace, the result is frustrating and fruitless. Usually, those who depend on themselves fall into legalism that doesn't work and contradicts the gospel of grace. When we try to build up the church in our own strength, using human effort or clever techniques, growth of some sort may occur, but the church will not be truly mature and the apparent growth will not last. Only when we recognize that Christ is the source of our growth, only when we depend on him for our maturation, will we grow in all ways into him.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In your own life, how do you depend on Jesus Christ? How have you experienced growth that comes from Christ? What can you do to draw from the resources of Christ for your personal growth? How might you contribute to the growth of the church by drawing from his resources?
PRAYER: Indeed, Lord Jesus Christ, all good things come from you, including the growth of your people. Thank you for helping me to grow up in you so that I might become more like you. Thank you for providing all that is needed for your body to grow up to be all that you have designed it to be.
Help me, Lord, to rely on you for growth each day. Help me to use well the sustenance you make available to me.
Help my church to grow up as well, as we look to you to be the source of our ministry and maturity. May we learn to use well all the gifts you give us, for your purposes and glory. Amen.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All week on The High Calling, we’re focusing on transitions in the workplace, home, and community. Are you experiencing change in your life? Join us each day this week for articles, interviews, and reflections on thriving in transition. Or, do you know someone who is going through a transition right now? Encourage them by sharing one of this week’s articles via email or social media.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.