“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. … 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. – Ephesians 4:11-13, 15-16 (NLT)
What we can and can’t do
Both Terry and I groaned as the receiver missed the perfectly executed pass—it was Sunday afternoon football and our team was behind. “Even I could have caught that!” I proclaimed. Without missing a beat, Terry replied, “No you couldn’t. You could debate it to death, but you wouldn’t be able to catch it.”
I glanced at my husband. A look of fear lingered on his face until I burst out laughing. He was right. I don’t possess much physical coordination. My gross motor skills lack precision. He was also correct—I can debate a subject to death, I have the trophies to prove it.
While I don’t have graceful gross motor skills or much coordination, I can do micro-dissection. I can carry a tune. In fact, people have paid me to sing for them, so I will tell you I can sing. While I can sing, I can’t play a musical instrument, including the tambourine. I could speak in front of a crowd of 1,000 people and not be nervous; talking in a small group makes my heart pound.
I share those details to make the point—we all have different skill sets. Without exception, every person has something he or she can do. I know many people who are good at many things, but I don’t know anyone who can do everything. I also don’t know anyone who is “good for nothing.”
Equipped for Unity
The theme of chapter 4 is unity.
- Live a life worthy of your call,
- Be joined together,
- Grow in maturity
- Be honest, keep your anger in check and be nice
The power to live out the calling, to stay joined together, to act in ways that promote unity, comes from the gift Christ gives to the believer. Christ literally went to great lengths to bring your gift to you. As a believer, you are gifted with grace. You may not do everything well but there is something you can do. That something is YOUR function in the body.
Our Specific Gifts
If you have siblings, chances are you and your siblings didn’t receive the same gift for your birthdays. Your parents didn’t purchase identical toys and dole one out to each child as a gift. Each of you received a gift that was specific to you. It was probably something you liked or enjoyed. Sometimes, a person in the family would receive a special gift—something extraordinary. It didn’t mean that person was loved more and the others less. It was simply the prerogative of the gift giver.
Christ does the same thing. Some believers receive special gifts—gifts that directly benefit other believers by equipping the church to grow toward greater unity and maturity.
Are We Working in Unity?
Unity has its rewards. So we can know we’re moving in the right direction, Paul gives some specific indicators. Maturity is the foremost sign. Maturity can be a tough thing to pin down. Physical maturity is easy to understand. There are specific things that happen as one’s body physically matures. Emotional maturity is vague. Spiritual maturity is mysterious.
The signs of spiritual maturity are straightforward according to this passage.
Those signs are:
- Doing the work of building up the church—Christ’s body
- Preserving in faith and striving to know Christ
- Understanding sound doctrine—rejecting unsound doctrine
- Being led by love in all our interactions
- Becoming more Christ-like
I didn’t say it was easy. Spiritual maturity develops over time and at different rates during the life of the believer. It’s an outcome of being part of the body of believers. It’s what makes a congregation more than just a bunch of people. The unity of the body grows individuals into maturity. It’s what makes the last half of this chapter do-able
Spiritual maturity is the final product of unity.
Father, thank You for the gift of grace—Christ Jesus. Help me understand the church is a vital, living force. Remind me that church is not simply an activity. Help me see it as Christ’s body here on earth with a mission and a goal—all carried out in unity.