During a recent bible study, we were reading through Ephesians 4. I really love this passage because of the practical steps it gives to build up the Body of Christ. I thought I’d write a sort of commentary on the passage, which I think goes along with Shammah’s excellent post on exhortation.
“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
Shammah had started the study off by commenting that this whole chapter really illustrates just how important talking is, and I totally agree with him. In fact, I think that this passage holds pretty clear guidelines which, if practiced, will bring about the fruit which Paul is urging the Ephesians to work towards; the unity of the Spirit and the bond of Peace.
That secret is talking. Not just simple talking such as conversation, but speaking the truth in love.
The chapter starts off with Paul urging the Ephesians to:
“…walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerence for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.”
The humility, gentleness, and tolerance this verse is speaking of isn’t recommending that we ‘keep to ourselves’ to keep peace. While I do believe that being humble quiet and tolerating in love are important things to practice, I don’t think keeping to ourselves is good practice at all. I’m sure that’s not what Paul’s wanting, either, otherwise he wouldn’t have written in Hebrews 3:13:
“…but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
The fact is, we can’t live in a way of preserving the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace without speaking the truth in love. Life together (and I’m not just talking about a corporate, communal life together like we’re living) brings up issues and problems with each other, and to preserve unity, those need to be worked through, not stuffed away and ignored. Ignoring them just causes the issues to fester, bringing division, not unity.
Talking can be very uncomfortable. It’s easy to make excuses for ourselves (“I’m non-confrontational”), or to think we need to leave it up to others to do, especially “those in charge”, whether pastors, elders, leaders, whatever.
Look at verses 11 and 12 again:
“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”
Yes, these people are supposed to be talking to the Body, exhorting and instructing them. But their job is to equip the saints for the work of service, through which the body of Christ will be built up to be like him.
So, what is the work of service it’s speaking of?
“…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,”
That’s how we’re supposed to grow, by encouraging and exhorting each other in love, so that God can speak into each other’s lives:
“…from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
It is Christ who supplies that life which causes the Body to grow, but that life flows through the Body through the joints, which fit and hold it together. A friend made a comment recently that the joints are not necessarily a part of the body, but the connections between parts of the body. Those joints, the connections, are the relationships between us, the members of the Body. If each individual part is doing their proper work (maintaining the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace through speaking the truth in love), those relationships are created, maintained, and increased. And the Body builds itself in love.
Modern Christianity is very ministry-oriented nowadays. Everybody seems to be striving to be in that first list, the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, etc. But we easily miss that the bulk of the “work of service” in the body of Christ is to be carried out by the “ordinary” saints, in ordinary, every-day life situations. True ministry is taking care of the Body. So let’s speak the truth to each other.