Sermon Text: Ephesians 4:15-16
Sermon Theme: The whole church body grows in Christ likeness as each member is equipped to properly work by speaking the truth in love.
Unto every believer is given some gift of grace, for their mutual help. All is given as seems best to Christ to bestow upon every one. He received for them, that he might give to them, a large measure of gifts and graces; particularly the gift of the Holy Ghost. Not a mere head knowledge, or bare acknowledging Christ to be the Son of God, but such as brings trust and obedience. There is a fullness in Christ, and a measure of that fullness given in the counsel of God to every believer; but we never come to the perfect measure till we come to heaven. God’s children are growing, as long as they are in this world; and the Christian’s growth tends to the glory of Christ. The more a man finds himself drawn out to improve in his station, and according to his measure, all that he has received, to the spiritual good of others, he may the more certainly believe that he has the grace of sincere love and charity rooted in his heart.
(From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)
“The moment I make of myself and Christ two, I am all wrong. But when I see that we are one, all is rest and peace.”
- Why is it that so many Christians think of growth only as something that is necessary for young Christians? They think of belief in Christ as the end rather than the beginning. But the bible reminds us that as we grow into a deeper fellowship with Christ, the process of divine sanctification through His Holy Spirit changes us more and more into His image, from one level of glory to the next. What factors led you to grow more or less?
- If someone asked you as to why God’s people ought to be unified, what would you say? The church in the world is Jesus Christ in the world, because the church is now the fullness of His incarnate Body in the world (Ephesians 1:23). We are to radiate and reflect Christ’s perfections. Christians are therefore called to “walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6), and He walked in complete and continual fellowship with and obedience to His Father—perfect unity. It is obvious that believers cannot in this life fully and perfectly attain the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ but they must and can reach a degree of maturity that pleases and glorifies the Lord.
- What does it mean that God is over all? through all? in all? Let us think of our one God and Father, along with the Son and the Holy Spirit, is over all and through all and in all. That comprehensive statement points to the glorious, divine, eternal unity that the Father gives believers by His Spirit and through the Son. We are God created, God loved, God saved, God Fathered, God controlled, God sustained, God filled, and God blessed. We are one people under one sovereign (over all), omnipotent (through all), and omnipresent (in all) God. What a blessed assurance that God is always in control and with us.
- What do you do when your elder and you disagree? Where does all the divisions come from in the body of Christ? Should we just tolerate them? What can be done? Consider other areas of our lives that can bring about more harmony and growth in Christ’s body:
- How can we develop doctrinal discernment without becoming proud, judgmental, and overbearing?
- How can we discern between areas where there is room for tolerance of doctrinal difference versus areas where we must not compromise at all?
- Are we discerning that our differences are not just personal preferences?
- Are you the first to reconcile your differences with your brother and sister?
- Is it ever loving to set aside essential truth so as not to offend?
- How would you respond to a critic who said, “They will know that we are Christians by our love, not by our doctrinal correctness”? Why is that statement out of balance?
- Do we all really recognize that Jesus is the head of the Body? Could there be a problem that there are too many who are seeking to be the head? Are too many people seeking to impose their will on the whole church? Are we seeking to hear the voice of the Lord and follow His commands? Let us walk worthy of the calling wherein we were called. Seeking the unity of the Spirit, recognizing that there is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one God and Father of all. While speaking the truth in love, and seeing the unity of the body becomes the sign of a spiritual maturity. Speaking the truth pictures the right doctrine. In love pictures the right spirit or attitude.
- Who is equipping you for the Body? “Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight” (Hebrews 13:20-21). For Christ is not only the goal of the growth but also its ultimate source, supplying all that is necessary for the body’s well-being.
- Who is equipping the Church for unity? Not only is the matter of individual equipping implied in the sermon text but also the collective equipping expressed in 1 Corinthians 1:10 — “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete (the verb form of equipping) in the same mind and in the same judgment.” The equipping of each believer results in the unity of all.
- What spiritual tools are equipping you for your service to the Lord and His Church? His Word, the Bible? Prayer? Testing and suffering? Are not the testing and suffering primarily a purging experiences by which the believer is refined to greater holiness? For Peter said in 1 Peter 5:10, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”
- What steps can we take for our church’s children to make them spiritually mature believers? For we don’t want them to be changing their views with every wind of doctrine and continually fall prey to men’s trickery and Satan’s craftiness and deceitful scheming. God does not give us knowledge, understanding, gifts, and maturity to keep but to share. He does not equip us to stagnate but to serve. We are not gifted and edified in order to be complacent and self-satisfied but in order to do the Lord’s work of service in building up and expanding the Body of Christ. For the future of our church will be given into the hands of our children.
- Do you think that spiritual growth always involve learning something new? Have you considered that often the most important growth in regard to truth is something we have already heard but have not fully applied? Peter wrote, “I shall always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. And I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder,… that at any time after my departure you may be able to call these things to mind” (2 Peter 1:12-13, 2 Peter 1:15).
- Do you understand that God’s basic design for the church is for equipping all the saints such that the saints can serve each other effectively? The entire church is to be aggressively involved in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58; 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Peter 4:10-11). Obviously the church leaders share in some aspects of serving and many of the congregation share in equipping. Spiritual service is the work of every Christian, every saint of God. But just attendance is a poor substitute for participation in the ministry for the building up of the body of Christ.
- What if God’s idea of church growth is not measured with bodies, bucks, and bricks, but with some other measurement entirely? The Church is in Christ and has to grow up toward him. This underlines that the Church’s growth is not being thought of in terms of quantity, a numerical expansion of its membership, but in terms of quality, an increasing approximation of believers to Christ. In the face of the scheming of error, believers are not only to stand firm (Hebrews 6:13-14) but also to make progress. That proper growth and progress is to take place in every way, that is, in every aspect of the Church’s life and particularly in those aspects of unity, in knowledge and in speaking the truth in love. It is one thing for individual members to be related to the Head, but it is equally significant that the growth of the body depends upon the way the members relate to one another and perform their appropriate function as members of the Body.
- Are you using your spiritual gifts for edification of the Body? God has given the members of His body spiritual gifts “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:1–11). These gifts are to be used for the edification of the church “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12–13). We can only reach our full potential as believers when we allow God to mature us through fellowship within His body, with Christ as the head (Ephesians 4:14–15). Is your time running out for using your spiritual gifts? A thought to ponder: There was an ancient custom of putting an hourglass into the coffin of the dead, to signify that their time had run out—a useless notification to them. Better put the hourglass into the hand of every living man and show them the grains gliding steadily out. Soon all will be gone (New Cyclopedia of Illustrations).
- What steps can be taken to improve the unity of the Church? For the building up of the redeemed involves the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, out of which flow spiritual maturity, sound doctrine, and loving testimony. Oneness in fellowship is impossible unless it is built on the foundation of commonly believed truth. God’s truth is not fragmented and divided against itself, and when His people are fragmented and divided it simply means they are to that degree apart from His truth, apart from the faith of right knowledge and understanding.
- This association of speaking the truth in love and growing up in Christ begs the question – Am I growing in Christ-likeness? Am I more like Christ today than I was last month, last year, last decade? Does the fruit of the Spirit’s love birthed by faith and obedience in my heart translate into loving action in my life and in so doing mimic the love of Christ? If so our lips and life are in synch, speaking and showing love and growing in grace, growing in Christ-likeness which is living a life of integrity.
- Do you want to know the best way to speak the truth in love? Be willing to be part of the solution. Be willing to take the time and effort to help that person through their time of temptation. Do you remember the time when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet? When He noticed they had dirty feet, He didn’t just point it out to them and tell them to do something about it. He took the role of a servant and came alongside them to wash their feet for them. Do you see somebody with dirty feet? Don’t just point it out to them. Be willing to serve them by washing their feet. Speak the truth, but do so in love. For Jesus never gives us truth without love, and never hides the truth in the name of love.
- How are you achieving the balance between truth and love? Here are some thoughts to think about:
- Remember what the ultimate source of truth is.
- Make sure God is actually calling you to address the problem.
- Ask yourself what you might have contributed to the problem.
- Try to discover what your motive is in pointing out the error.
- If you confront, are you doing it in a biblical way?
- You might want to ask yourself if you are demanding perfection.
- If you do confront the person, can you give input in the form of constructive suggestions rather than outright criticism and complaint?
- Are you willing to be part of the solution?
Additional Notes on “What is truth?”
1) This “being true” is expressed in many forms. Sometimes as “being of the truth” (John 18:37; 1 John 2:21; 1 John 3:19); sometimes as “abiding in the truth” (John 8:44), or “having the truth in us” (1 John 1:8); sometimes as “doing the truth” (John 3:21), and “walking in the truth” (2 John 1:4; 3 John 1:4). In all cases it is closely connected with the idea of unity with Him who is Himself “the Truth” (John 14:6).
2) Is there such a thing as absolute truth / universal truth?
In order to understand absolute or universal truth, we must begin by defining truth. Truth, according to the dictionary, is “conformity to fact or actuality; a statement proven to be or accepted as true.” Some people would say that there is no true reality, only perceptions and opinions. Others would argue that there must be some absolute reality or truth.
One view says that there are no absolutes that define reality. Those who hold this view believe everything is relative to something else, and thus there can be no actual reality. Because of that, there are ultimately no moral absolutes, no authority for deciding if an action is positive or negative, right or wrong. This view leads to “situational ethics,” the belief that what is right or wrong is relative to the situation. There is no right or wrong; therefore, whatever feels or seems right at the time and in that situation is right. Of course, situational ethics leads to a subjective, “whatever feels good” mentality and lifestyle, which has a devastating effect on society and individuals. This is postmodernism, creating a society that regards all values, beliefs, lifestyles, and truth claims as equally valid.
The other view holds that there are indeed absolute realities and standards that define what is true and what is not. Therefore, actions can be determined to be either right or wrong by how they measure up to those absolute standards. If there are no absolutes, no reality, chaos ensues. Take the law of gravity, for instance. If it were not an absolute, we could not be certain we could stand or sit in one place until we decided to move. Or if two plus two did not always equal four, the effects on civilization would be disastrous. Laws of science and physics would be irrelevant, and commerce would be impossible. What a mess that would be! Thankfully, two plus two does equal four. There is absolute truth, and it can be found and understood.
Is there any evidence for the existence of absolute truth? Yes.
First, there is the human conscience, that certain “something” within us that tells us the world should be a certain way, that some things are right and some are wrong. Our conscience convinces us there is something wrong with suffering, starvation, rape, pain, and evil, and it makes us aware that love, generosity, compassion, and peace are positive things for which we should strive. This is universally true in all cultures in all times. The Bible describes the role of the human conscience in Romans 2:14-16: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them. This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”
The second evidence for the existence of absolute truth is science. Science is simply the pursuit of knowledge, the study of what we know and the quest to know more. Therefore, all scientific study must by necessity be founded upon the belief that there are objective realities existing in the world and these realities can be discovered and proven. Without absolutes, what would there be to study? How could one know that the findings of science are real? In fact, the very laws of science are founded on the existence of absolute truth.
The third evidence for the existence of absolute truth/universal truth is religion. All the religions of the world attempt to give meaning and definition to life. They are born out of mankind’s desire for something more than simple existence. Through religion, humans seek God, hope for the future, forgiveness of sins, peace in the midst of struggle, and answers to our deepest questions. Religion is really evidence that mankind is more than just a highly evolved animal. It is evidence of a higher purpose and of the existence of a personal and purposeful Creator who implanted in man the desire to know Him. And if there is indeed a Creator, then He becomes the standard for absolute truth, and it is His authority that establishes that truth.
Fortunately, there is such a Creator, and He has revealed His truth to us through His Word, the Bible. Knowing absolute truth/universal truth is only possible through a personal relationship with the One who claims to be the Truth—Jesus Christ. Jesus claimed to be the only way, the only truth, the only life and the only path to God (John 14:6). The fact that absolute truth does exist points us to the truth that there is a sovereign God who created the heavens and the earth and who has revealed Himself to us in order that we might know Him personally through His Son Jesus Christ. That is the absolute truth.
(For full article, go to https://www.gotquestions.org/absolute-truth.html)
3) SPEAKING IN LOVE (By Ambrosiaster): Considering the love of Christ by which he loved us and gave himself up for us, we should make everything subject to him, knowing that he is the author of life for all. This is the truth. We are to be subject to him as members of the body are to the head. Others, either through error or through malice, may not confess that Christ is the head of everything or that everything is created from him by the Father’s will. But we who adhere to the wholeness of faith ought nonetheless to take pains with all care and devotion that we bring no harm to this faith but rather to uphold it. We do this by remaining steadfast in this affirmation, so as to constrain the talk of depraved minds armed against the truth.
(From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture)
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