Summary: In order to fulfill Christ's command to share the gospel and build disciples, Christians must be connected with one another.
LAST WEEK we examined Ephesians 2:21-22 “in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
The theme of this passage and last Sunday’s sermon was Spiritual Unity. Today we will study Ephesians 4:15-16 as we see this theme of unity continuing through Ephesians.
Eph 4:15-16 “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15–16, ESV)
Growing closer to Christ does not happen alone.
We need one another. In his book on the importance of relationships, Paul Tripp emphasizes this importance:
“What happens in the messiness of relationships is that our hearts are revealed, our weaknesses are exposed, and we start coming to the end ourselves. Only when this happens do we reach out for the help God alone can provide.” (Paul Tripp, Relationships, a Mess Worth Making, 12).
For CENTURIES, the early church practiced ASCETICISM, the idea that you draw closer to GOD through isolation, fasting, and poverty.
This movement was bringing great harm to the church, and would have ruined true Christianity if it had not changed.
Marshall Shelley writes.....
Pachomius was an Egyptian soldier won to Christ by the kindness of Christians in Thebes. After his release from the military around A.D. 315, he was baptized. Serious about his new faith and determined to grow, Pachomius became a disciple of Palamon, an ascetic who taught him the self-denial and solitary life of a religious hermit.
In early Christianity, the model of devotion was the recluse, dedicated to resisting the corruption of society. These hermits wandered the desert alone-fasting, praying, and having visions. Many went to extremes: eating nothing but grass, living in trees, or refusing to wash.
But Pachimoius began to question the methods and lifestyle of his mentors.
How can you learn to love if no one else is around?
How can you learn humility living alone?
How can you learn kindness or gentleness or goodness in isolation?
How can you learn patience unless someone puts yours to the test?
In short, he concluded, developing spiritual fruit requires being around people-ordinary, ornery people. "To save souls," he said, "you must bring them together."
So Pachomius began an ascetic koinonia, where holiness was developed not in isolation but in community. Instead of each person seeking God in his own way, with the dangers of idleness and eccentricity, Pachomius established a common life based on worship, work, and discipline.
In community with flawed, demanding, sometimes disagreeable people, followers of Pachomius learned to take hurt rather than give it. They discovered that disagreements and opposition provide the opportunity to redeem life situations and experience God's grace. Thus began genuine monastic life.
Pachomius, while largely forgotten in church history, demonstrates that as attractive as solitary sanctification may seem, it is life amid people, busyness, and interruptions that develop many of the qualities God requires.
Marshall Shelley, “Developing spiritual fruit requires being around people--ordinary, ornery people, “Leadership Journal, Spring, 1993
Let’s pursue this theme of spiritual unity and connecting with one another.
First, we must consider the context of
The theme of this chapter (and the entire book), is Spiritual Unity
But in this particular passage, I believe that there is a Chiastic structure in these two verses pointing to the importance of spiritual unity.
Notice the repeating, inverted patter of the words LOVE and GROWTH
4:15 “Speaking the truth in LOVE ”
4:15 “GROW up in every way”
“Into Him who is the head, Christ”
4:16 “Each part, working properly makes the body GROW”
4:16 “Builds itself up on LOVE
If this is an intentional chiasm, Paul is demonstrating that LOVE is both the MEANS and the END. A description of love marks the beginning and the end of these two verses. Inside of this emphasis on love, we find growth. Love produces growth! LOVE governs Christian relationships
A WORD about SPEAKING the TRUTH in LOVE: Both TRUTH and LOVE are required. We fail when we omit either.
When we DON’T SPEAK the TRUTH (lies, gossip, running away from conflict, failing to discipline our children, allowing sin to continue)
When we DON’T HAVE LOVE: (anger, jealousy, criticism, critical spirit, complaining, divisive)
ADDING a DISCLAIMER does not give you permission to speak in anger. Here are some common disclaimers we use today:
“I’m just sayin.”
“With all due respect”
“I probably should say this, but”
Each of these demonstrates that our intention is to hurt the other person while trying to avoid responsibility for our actions.