Summary: 31st in a series on Ephesians. Paul gives Christians some instruction on how to avoid a faith with no depth.
Artemus Ward, an early American humorist, once described the South Platte River in northeast Colorado as “a mile wide and an inch deep”. It would be a considerable river, he mused, if it were turned on its side. Unfortunately, Ward’s description of the South Platte River could just as easily be applied to Christianity in the Untied States today – there is no depth.
Although surveys consistently show that 80-85% of Americans consider themselves to be Christians, those same surveys reveal some frightening looks inside their faith. Here are some results from recent surveys by the Barna Group
• 54% of people surveyed agreed that if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their life, they will earn a place in heaven.
• 41% believe that when Jesus lived on earth He committed sins
• 55% believe that Satan is not a living being, but merely a symbol of evil
• Only 47% of people attend church in a typical weekend
• Only 48% agree that the Bible is totally accurate in all its teachings and only 47% read their Bible during the week.
Apparently Paul had some concerns that the faith of his readers was also susceptible to becoming a mile wide and an inch deep. As we continue our journey through Ephesians, let’s see how Paul addresses that issue. Although we looked at verse 11 and the first part of verse 12 last week, let’s read verses 11-14 this morning so that we can put our passage in its proper context.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s 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 men in their deceitful scheming.
Ephesians 4:11-14 (NIV)
We saw last week that Jesus has gifted the church with apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers for the purpose of equipping all believers to be able to carry out the work of ministry. As we said last week, Christianity is not a spectator sport. Every Christian is to be a minister.
Beginning in the second part of verse 12, Paul goes on to explain that being involved in ministry is the key element in the process of us growing towards maturity and making sure that our faith does not become a mile wide and an inch deep.
Every baby that is born into this world is completely helpless. They all are dependent on someone else to feed them, bathe them, clothe them and protect them. And there is nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong with a baby that remains an infant and never becomes able to do those same things for themselves.
The same thing is true for Christians. Every one of us is like a newborn when we become a follower of Jesus Christ and we need others to help us mature. Here’s how Peter described that process:
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:2, 3 (NIV)
But there is something wrong with a Christian that remains a spiritual baby and doesn’t grow up. Both Paul and the writer of Hebrews addressed that issue in their letters:
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly - mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (NIV)
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:12-14 (NIV)
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul presents a very clear contrast between what his readers were like right then and what God desired for them to become. And, fortunately for us, he gives us some insight on how we are to get to where God wants us to be. Let’s begin with verse 14 that describes what Paul’s readers were like, and frankly what all of us are also like: