Grow Up: Is Your Church Becoming More and More Like Jesus?Daily 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.
In yesterday's reflection, we saw that the church as the body of Christ is to reach "the perfect man," that is, the stature and character of Christ himself. The last phrase of Ephesians 4:13 makes a similar point with different language: "attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
Admittedly, this is perplexing language. What is the fullness of Christ? What might be the "whole measure" of this fullness?
We were introduced to the fullness of Christ in Ephesians 1, where we read, "And God. . .appointed [Christ] to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" (1:22-23). Here, the church is the body of Christ and also his "fullness" (using the Greek word pleroma, which appears also in 4:13). We might paraphrase by saying that Christ so identifies with the church that he fills it completely. He is present throughout the church, in all of his people, all of the time. If you think of the church as a vessel, then we are filled to the brim with Jesus Christ (see also Eph. 3:19).
So, turning back to Ephesians 4:13, "the fullness of Christ" is the church fully saturated with Christ, fully relating to Christ, fully embodying Christ's presence in the world. The fullness of Christ is an image of the church being all that God intends it to be, the people of God together, fully alive and flourishing.
If this is true, then it makes sense for Paul to speak of the church as "attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." We are to become, in reality, that which we already are in God's plan for us. We, the corporate people of God, are to measure up to that which God intends for us. We are to become, truly, the full presence of Christ in the world. That's the goal for our growth as the body of Christ.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways do you experience Christ's presence in your church experience? How might your church attain even more completely to "the whole measure of the fullness of Christ"? In what ways do you contribute to the fullness of Christ in your church?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the amazing truth of who we are in Christ, both individually and corporately. Thank you for the wonder of being the body of Christ together, even the fullness of Christ. Indeed, may our corporate life be filled with Christ, with his spirit and truth, with his love and compassion. May we faithfully enact Christ's presence in the world, so that his peace might permeate all things and so that many might be drawn to receive his salvation. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.