Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #708 MP3 Audio File Video File

Growing in Unity

Ephesians 4:14-16

Delivered 06/01/2014

It has been a while since we studied Ephesians, so we need to review a little. Chapter 4 begins with a call to walk worthy:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, Ephesians 4:1 NASB

This worthy walk is based on who they are as laid out in the first three chapters. Verse one is a topic sentence that governs the rest of this Epistle. Paul will spell out in detail through the remainder of this Epistle how we can walk in a manner worthy of our calling. But in the first three verses he is stressing the importance of preserving the unity of the Spirit:

being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3 NASB

Paul's point here is: Although true unity among believers already exists because of the mighty work of the Sovereign Spirit, we must work hard to preserve it.

In verses 4-6, Paul describes the basis, or elements, that make up this foundational unity of the Spirit. Paul sets forth seven elements that form the biblical basis for unity, all prefaced by the word "one." There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father. These form the basis for Christian unity. Seven, of course, is the biblical number of perfection.

Verses 7-16 are a distinct unit within the section as a whole (verses 1-16); this is seen by the presence of "each one" in verses 7 and 16 forming an inclusio. In literature, inclusio is a literary device based on a concentric principle, also known as bracketing or an envelope structure, which consists of creating a frame by placing similar material at the beginning and end of a section.

In verses 7-10, Paul is showing that Yeshua is the ascended, victorious Lord over all, and that He has sovereignly given various spiritual gifts to His Church. We talked about spiritual gifts in our last two studies of Ephesians and said that there are basically three positions today in the Church on Spiritual gifts:

1. All the gifts are for all believers today. This is the Pentecostal/Charismatic position. 2. Some of the gifts have been removed, the miraculous ones, the other gifts are for all believers today. This would be the Baptist and Reformed position.

3. All of the gifts have been removed, there are no spiritual gifts today. This would be my position, and that of most Preterists. I believe that the gifts were operative only during the Transition Period, which began on Pentecost in A.D. 30, with the birth of the Church, and it ended at the destruction of the Jewish Temple in A.D. 70, ending the Old Covenant Age.

During the Transition Period Yahweh worked in the growing Church through miraculous gifts and spoke through His prophets to bring His Church to maturity. This was a time of change and growth, it was a time of transformation from the Old to the New. We are not in the Transition Period, and we do not have and do not need spiritual gifts.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Ephesians 4:7 NASB

"But to each one"—refers to those first century believers and Paul. This means that every single individual in the first century body of Christ had a specific spiritual gift. This leads pastors and commentators who don't understand the Transition Period to say that all believers today have a spiritual gift. This can be very frustrating to believers today as they try to figure out what their gift is when they don't have one.

One commentator writes: "I don't know what it would be like to stand before the judgement seat of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not be asked by Him: 'Did you use your gift?', but be asked: 'Do you know what your gift is?' Imagine being given a spiritual gift, through the death and resurrection and ascension of the Lord, and not know what it is to use it for the building up of the church." This is a common view, and it shows that he does not know what time it is! We are not in the Transition Period, we live in the "age to come."

So the transition saints all had spiritual gifts, and we don't. But we have something that they did not have, which is a New Testament! The newly formed body of Christ at Ephesus needed the nourishment of the Word of God, but the Word had not yet been completed, so Yahweh gave them gifted men with utterance gifts in order that they may be fed. And He gave all believers spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ.

Paul talks about the saints both individually and collectively. In verse 12 he says that these gifted men have been given for the perfecting of the saints. Notice the plural, the perfecting of each one of us.

But then in verse 13 he says, "Until we all a mature man." This is singular. So he looks at the Church as composed of a plurality of individuals, but he also looks at the Church as a plurality of individuals who, themselves, form one man. There is a corporate unity that exists in the body of Christ. Paul also says this in:

by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, Ephesians 2:15 NASB

He talks about the formation of making Jews and Gentiles, who have believed, into One New Man, this is the corporate body of Christ.

So the purpose of these gifted men was to equip the saints, so that they would do the work of the ministry, use their spiritual gifts, and build up 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. Ephesians 4:13 NASB

The word "until" here is the Greek word mechri , which means: "up to a certain point" (as preposition of extent (denoting the terminus). It denotes that He gave gifted men to the Church and that will continue until the action of the following aorist subjunctive katantao: "until we all attain." Paul uses this same word in:

My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you— Galatians 4:19 NASB

Paul would continue to labor "until" Christ was formed in them.

Grammatically, there are three phrases in 4:13, each beginning with the word "attain to." So, "attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God," is one phrase. Attain "to a mature man," is the second phrase. Attain "to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ," is the third phrase. "Attain" is used nine times in the Book of Acts to refer to travelers arriving at their destination. Thus each of these phrases involves a process that results in a goal.

The body attains "to a mature man." Now that is not an individual. Yes, we ought to all be mature. But here Paul is referring to Christ as a "mature man." The next phrase explains it: "To the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." The mature, complete, full man here is the body of Christ.

What is the point at which the saints were to stop building up the body by their work of service for which they were equipped by these gifted men? They were to do this work of ministry "until we all attain to the unity of the faith." Is that when it ends? No, they must also attain to the unity "of the knowledge of the Son of God." In other words, they have to become a "mature man," thus they would "reach the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." The gifts stopped when the body was matured. The word "mature" here is teleios, The maturity of the body happens at the Second Coming of Christ, which happened in AD 70.

The threefold description in verse 13 points to the ultimate destination of God's people at The Second Coming. When the body was matured to the likeness of Christ, the Lord returned to take His bride. The gifts were to function "until" the maturing of the body. Once the Lord returned, the gifts ended. Their purpose was to mature the body. That happened in AD 70.

Well, now in verses 14 through verse 16 the apostle speaks of the intermediate purpose of the gifts that the head of the church has given. Between maturity, when they all reach that unity, and the present state, there is to be growth.

These verses are not talking to us about growing in our spiritual life; they are referring to the transition saints who, until the body was matured, were to be growing toward that maturity.

Now Paul discusses the ultimate purpose of growing in unity in verses 14-16:

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; Ephesians 4:14 NASB

"As a result"—the conjunction "hina" indicates a logical connection with what precedes. It could denote result as stated here, but it more likely connotes purpose. The purpose is that believers will not be deceived.

"We are no longer to be children"—the "we" is a first person plural. Paul puts himself with his readers in desiring not to be a child. "No longer" is from the Greek word meketi, which means: "no longer, not any more, not hereafter." They are to stop being children. How can Paul say, "We are no longer to be children?" How was Paul a child? Well what does he mean by "children"?

The Greek word used here for "children" is nepios. Nepios means: "not speaking or one unable to speak." Figuratively, it means: "simple minded or stupid." Nepios implies: "stupidity, a moron in the spiritual realm." The writer is warning his readers about the dangers of infancy. In the present context it has reference to a child's gullibility, lack of understanding, or lack of perception. Paul is telling them that spiritual gifts are necessary so that they will not be children in their perception. Notice what Paul says:

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11 NASB

The context of this verse is that when the perfect comes, the partial is done away, and that now he sees dimly, but then face to face. Paul gives us an interesting understanding of nepios in:

Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. Galatians 4:1-3 NASB

Here he describes children as those under the Law. Further in this chapter he says:

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? Galatians 4:9 NASB

The problem of the Galatian believers was the conspiracy to impose upon them Jewish customs. Some were saying these Jewish rites were essential to salvation, and others were saying they were essential to spiritual growth. This problem was widespread and effected many believers. It even effected Barnabas:

And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. Galatians 2:13 NASB

Barnabas was putting himself back under the Law. But Paul stood his ground; the last man on earth to stand between Judaistic heresy and the safety of the Church:

But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. Galatians 2:5 NASB

When men came from Judea to Galatia teaching that Yahweh had set aside neither the Jewish nation nor Jewish privilege, and unless the Gentiles became as Jews, they could not be right with Yahweh, Paul responded to the Galatians that the only true children of Abraham—the heirs to the Abrahamic Covenant, blessing, and promise— are believers, whether Jew or Gentile:

Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. Galatians 3:7 NASB

Paul shows in Galatians 3 and 4 that the "seed of Abraham" is Christ, and that they who are Christ's (and no one else) are "Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise"; that this "seed" abolishes all distinction of birth or privilege.

So childhood seems to be associated with the Law. I think it is very possible that Paul uses "nepios" in our text in Ephesians to say that for the Ephesians to come under the Law was to be children. They were not to allow the teachings of the Judiazers to bring them under Judaism. Notice what Paul told the Colossians:

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? Colossians 2:20-22 NASB

The words "elementary principles" are from the Greek noun "stoicheion. Stoicheion is only used seven times in the New Testament. The biblical meaning of stoicheion seems to be: "the elements of religious training, or the ceremonial precepts that are common to the worship of Jews." Paul tells the Colossians that they have died to the elements of Judaism.

The "mature man" of verse 13 is singular and "children" in verse 14 is plural, which just may be suggesting that individualism is a sign of childishness, and unity is a sign of maturity.

There are two general characteristics of children: The first is instability. Children are notoriously fickle, their attention span is very short. You cannot interest them in one thing very long before they are after something else immediately.

A second characteristic of children is that they are easily deceived. Notice what Paul says, "Tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine"—Paul's picture of being "tossed about by waves and carried about by the winds of doctrine" may be rooted in his memories of being shipwrecked at sea. Without rudder and without sails, his ship was tossed around by forces far more powerful than the sailors could overcome.

"Tossed here and there"—is "kludonizomai." It means: "to surge, i.e. (figuratively) to fluctuate." It comes from the root word "kludon," and this describes a wave of the sea. Paul was speaking of being tossed about the way something floating in the sea would be. Children are easily confused in their thinking and are easily influenced by others.

"Carried about by every wind of doctrine—this is a metaphor for confusion. The doctrine referred to here, I believe, is that of the Judiazers. They were trying to bring believers under the Torah.

Both of these participles are passive, indicating that an outside force is causing the confusion. These participles adjectively modify "children" by indicating the manner in which they are exhibiting their childish lack of perception.

"By the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming"the word "trickery" was translated from the Greek word "kubeia." This Greek word comes from the word "kubos," the name for a cube for dice playing, and kubeia literally means: "gambling." It has the idea here of cheating at dice playing.

"By craftiness in deceitful scheming"translate as Greek, "craftiness tending to the methodized system of deceit." Deceitful scheming indicates that there is a deliberate plan. The word "scheming" originally had the idea of tracking someone as a wild animal tracks its prey.

How is it that we today are not deceived by false teaching? I think the only way is to be a Berean and check out everything you hear from the Word of God. We must be discerning.

but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, Ephesians 4:15 NASB

"But speaking the truth in love"—"speaking the truth" is one word in Greek, and a very interesting word. It could be translated: "truthing in love," i.e. living the truth in love. So he's not speaking entirely of speaking. That word, in the original text, probably involves more than simply speaking the truth.

Love—is that which seeks the highest good in the one loved. This is in contrast to the preceding verse, for deceit is used for selfish ends, but truth with love considers the interest of others supremely important.

As Jews and Gentiles were coming together to worship in the Church, love was to guide their speech and actions to others.

How about us today? Are we called to speak the truth in love? Well they were to be doing this to preserve unity. Does Yahweh still want us to have unity? Yes, so we also are to speak the truth in love.

What does it mean to "speak the truth in love"? Many people assume that it means: "Speak the truth, but do it nicely." They define "love" according to secular social etiquette, a non-Christian standard of polite speech and conduct. However, if this is the right definition, and if this is the correct understanding of "speaking the truth in love,"

then Paul would be telling Titus to, "Speak the truth in hate" when he writes:

One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, Titus 1:12-13 NASB

"Reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith." Is this love or not?

Why do you think he says to rebuke them in the first place? It is because he loves them

(Proverbs 27:5; 1 Timothy 5:20). Biblical love is not always nice and outwardly sweet. Yeshua, who always acted lovingly, called the Pharisees, "hypocrites, blind guides, fools, and whitewashed tombs (Matt. 23:13, 16, 17, 27)!" He often confronted the disciples as, "men of little faith" I'm not suggesting that we go around calling people names or blasting them in the name of love or truth, but we need to understand that love necessarily involves confronting what is false.

"Speaking the truth"—this implies, against postmodernism, that there is such a thing as absolute truth in the spiritual realm, and that we can know such truth with reasonable certainty. In other words, spiritual truth is not subjective, according to individual preference or experience. It is objective and true in every time and every culture. This truth is defined in written propositions in God's Word. This means that we can know and judge whether someone holds to the truth or espouses error. I realize that those who have been tainted by postmodernism will accuse us of arrogance, intolerance, divisiveness, and a lack of love. They will say, "Jesus did not say that the world will know that we are Christians by our doctrinal correctness, but by our love!" But they fail to recognize that in the same context, Yeshua said (John 17:17), "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth."

We have been infected with the cultural virus of postmodernism, which holds that there is no such thing as absolute truth in the spiritual realm, or if there is, we cannot know it. So, if anyone claims to know the truth, we think that he is arrogant or insensitive toward the views of others.

Postmodernism makes "truth" subjective, so that what is "true" for one may not be "true" for another. Thus tolerance and acceptance of any and all views becomes the supreme virtue. The only view that postmodernism cannot tolerate is that of someone who claims to have the exclusive truth.

That kind of thinking pervades the evangelical church today, flooding in not only through mainline liberal churches, but also through the growing emerging church movement. But it comes straight from Hell. It is somewhat surprising that it has gained such a foothold among those who claim to follow Yeshua, because He plainly declared:

Yeshua said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6 NASB

You can't get much more narrow and exclusive than that!

"We are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ"—Paul includes himself when he writes, "we." Paul is not talking about growing as a Christian, he is talking about growing into the "mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." The NIV Study Bible says, "Paul thus speaks primarily of corporate maturity. It is the 'body of Christ' that is to be 'built up.'" Paul is talking about the maturity of the body that took place in AD 70. Notice what Paul told the Philippians:

that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect...Philippians 3:10-12 NASB

What was it that Paul had not yet obtained? The Greek word used here for "obtained" is lambano. It means: "to receive, to grasp, to seize, to acquire." Paul is saying, "I don't have it yet." What is it that he doesn't have yet? The verb lambano is transitive, but the object is not expressed. Is it the resurrection that he mentioned in verse 11 that he has not attained? Yes, the resurrection is included, but it is more than that; verses 4-11 are a unit speaking of justification. The key verse being:

and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, Philippians 3:9 NASB

I think that what Paul is saying is that his justification had not yet been consummated. That might not fit your theology, but it fits the context of what Paul has been talking about. As a side note, let me add this: The manuscripts P46 and D*, with Irenaeus (Latin translation) and Ambrosiaster, insert the clause "or have already been justified" (dedikaiomai) for the phrase "or have already become perfect." That would mean Paul was saying, "Not that I have already attained, or have already been justified."

At the time of Paul's writing, righteousness was still a hope. So the transition saints were growing into the mature body of Christ. The consummation of the New Covenant came at AD 70 bringing righteousness to all the saints.

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. Ephesians 4:16 NASB

Verse 16 goes full circle back to verse 7, where Paul emphasized that each of us has been given a gracious spiritual gift to use in service to one another. Verse 7 says, "To each one of us grace has been given," and verse 16 concludes that the body of

Christ maintains its integrity and progress "as each part" does its work.

"From whom the whole body being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies"—this passage is almost word for word the same as in Colossians 2:19. "Held together" is from the Greek sumbibazo, which means: "to cause to join or knit together, to bring together, to unite, to combine." It is often translated: "teach" or "instruct." It means: "to bring a number of ideas together to come to a conclusion."

It's descriptive of the way particle board is made from joining small wood scraps in such a way that they become as strong as a solid piece of wood. The strength comes from each piece being in union with the other pieces. Separately, each small piece cannot bear much stress, but when compacted with many other scraps of wood, great strength can be achieved.

"Supplies" is from the Greek epichoregia, which means: "to supply fully, abundantly, to provide something besides what already exists to make available whatever is necessary to help or supply the needs of someone—to provide for, to support, to supply the needs of, provision, support." This was a term of the ancient drama. This is the word from which we get our word "chorus." In the ancient Greek world, a wealthy benefactor supplied all the money needed for the expensive chorus to function. He gave everything needed. He defrayed expenses for training, costuming, and staging. Great dramatists, like Euripidies and Sophocles, presented plays at the great festivals. The play would often train for a year before it opened. Usually they performed a play in memory of the gods. It is like someone is generously supplying all the up front money for a Broadway play. It is a word of grace.

Yahweh is the benefactor here. He provides everything we need to live the Christian life. He defrays any expenses we may face to live before Him:

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Yeshua. Philippians 4:19 NASB

The words "being fitted"come from the Greek word "sunarmologeo." Paul actually coins a word here to say what he wants to say. He takes a word, which means "a joint," two things put together; and then he uses the word "with"; and with these he links the word "to choose," i.e., it's Yahweh's choice that has put you in the body of Christ. This compound word means: "to render close-jointed together, i.e. organize compactly." It is a word picture taken from the way our physical bodies function; in the same way that every part of our bodies contributes toward the good of the whole, so they should work for the growth of the body.

This fitting and bringing together occurs between believing Jews and Gentiles combined into one body.

Paul used "sunarmologeo," in 2:21 to refer to believers as stones in the Temple being joined together.

"Every joint supplies according to the proper working of each individual part"—some scholars argue that "every joint" refers to the gifted leaders of 4:11, whereas "each individual part" refers to the rest of the body. But in my opinion, that seems to read too much into Paul's analogy. He is simply saying that every part of the body has a function to perform. When all of the parts are working in accordance with their specific function, the body grows in love.

"Causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love"—there is a shift in metaphors, possibly referring back to verse 12:

for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; Ephesians 4:12 NASB

As in verse 12, the building here is not inanimate, but a living and growing organism made up of living believers.

The distribution of gifts has a two-fold purpose: negatively, that the individual believer might not fall prey to any wind of doctrine presented by deceitful people; and positively, that the individual believer might be able to grow into Christ with respect to all things.

"Building up of itself in love"—everything Paul has stated thus far must have one all important ingredient. That ingredient is love. This is significant in light of the fact that he is addressing both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Historically, animosity existed between these two groups, but now in Christ they have been redeemed and reconciled with each other:

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, Ephesians 2:14-15 NASB

This "One New Man" is the body of Christ, the Church, made up of both Jew and Gentile, but constituting a new humanity—those who have been called out and redeemed by Christ. The picture here is that the true Israel becomes the Church of Christ and the Church of Christ emerges as the new Israel. And that unites this new people in Yeshua. They are the people of Yeshua. Christ is the One New Man.

This Church grew during the Transition Period and was redeemed by Yeshua in AD 70:

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:23 NASB

The body talked about here is not our individual physical bodies. The "our" is plural and "body" is singular. This is referring to the corporate body of Christ. This is Christ's body being redeemed at the Parousia. This is the eschatalogical redemption that Paul cried out for in Romans 7:24. This is all those who have trusted Christ being brought into the presence of God. This is the fullness of salvation. This is eternal life. This is the mature man of Ephesians 4:13. And this happened 2,000 years ago.

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