Summary: Presents the goal of unity and building up the body of Christ.
We have been going through the fourth chapter of Ephesians. Let’s review. After three chapters extolling the blessings of God shown to believers in Christ Jesus, Paul begins to address how we live in response to those blessings. In verse 1 he tells us to walk in a manner worthy of the blessed calling we have received. Verses 2 and 3 lay out the manner of that walk. It is to be done in humility and gentleness, with patience and bearing with one another in love. It is to be accompanied by an eagerness to maintain unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
With the term “unity” Paul has introduced the central idea in the passage of verses 1-16. He then, in verses 4 through 6, presents the elements upon which unity is founded – one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father. These are foundational truths that cannot be changed by us.
Nevertheless, we have a role to play in manifesting unity. We have been given grace from Christ who distributes gifts to his people. We all have the necessary gifts and power to contribute. Furthermore, Christ has given to the church offices – apostles and prophets who laid the foundation, then evangelists to spread the gospel and start churches, then pastors-teachers who shepherd those churches. These different types of teachers equip us to work together in building the body of Christ.
Now, here is the question – What for? What are we building? What is our unity to be achieving? This is what verses 13 and 14 address.
Read verse 13:
until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
Our unity is to be achieving unity – to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. The goal is not merely to agree with one another, but to agree on “the faith,” that is, the gospel, and on the Son of God, Jesus Christ. It is critical what we are united about. For if we grow together in the right understanding of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, we will attain maturity, indeed we will grow to “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” To put it simply, we will become like Christ; we will grow into his image. That is where we are trying to get; that is where our walk is to take us, both as individuals and as a united church.
The opposite of maturity is remaining as a child, as described in verse 14:
so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Being like a child is not always bad. Jesus wants us to have the humility of a child. Indeed, the only way to enter the kingdom of God is through such humility. But remaining like a child in the way that we receive and assimilate knowledge is not healthy. Just as we want our children to develop mentally and to build on knowledge, so we are to develop spiritually. Otherwise, we will not only fail to progress, but will become unstable as we go from one way of thinking to the next based on the skill of others to manipulate us.