Ephesians 4:11-16 (NLT)
11 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.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 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.
One of the interesting challenges to being a missionary is that many times, one finds that a previously unknown doctrine is being held as gospel. We have been in Europe for just about six months and have already encountered at least a dozen different views about various scriptures. Now, one would think that after having spent many years studying the Bible, one would have heard and/or seen everything, right? I wish!
Please understand, I know what I believe. I have taken hours to develop my understanding about scriptural truths. I truly have worked out my own salvation. While my methodical mind may not react fast enough to readily spit out a memorized verse complete with reference, I know when something does not line up with God’s Word. These “new” doctrines cannot sway me.
Recently, this has been the focus of my meditation, as I have been in several discussions with people about unique interpretations of scripture. For several days, my mind has been drawn to Ephesians 4:14. Each time, I would mentally affirm that this is what was happening, and then go on with life. Today, while mulling over the past occurrences, I grabbed my PC and began looking at the book of Ephesians.
Paul’s writings to the Ephesians were not a rebuke like the letters to the Corinthians; rather, it was a letter of encouragement. Its obvious intent was to encourage unity of faith, unity of spirit, and unity of purpose. Why did this letter of encouragement deliver such a need for diligence in doctrine? After all, Paul personally founded this congregation. Then, on his next time through, he stayed there for 3 years. After departing on the final leg of his third missionary journey, Paul sends Timothy, his protégé, to be bishop. With regards to leadership, this congregation had the best! How could a people with this caliber of leadership need such a warning?
The answer lies within the book written to the church of Ephesus. Paul’s writings contain a two-edged sword, for on one hand, you have the gifts that are given to the body (known as the five-fold ministry). As apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, it is imperative that we fulfill our role. But on the other hand, there is a simple phrase at the beginning of Ephesians 4:14: “Then we will no longer be immature like children.” We must seek to mature in our relationship with Christ.
I am the father of teenagers. I was also one not too long ago. I realize that it is not always a pleasure to mature. The privileges of age also come with added responsibility. Our first-world culture has produced a generation that does not want to mature. Society is rife with examples. Maturity requires effort. Maturity acknowledges responsibility. Spiritual maturity is a windbreak in the storm of life. It brings calmness and stability to the soul.
Is your life wind-tossed? Have you inadvertently built your house on the sand? I have the answer! My challenge to you: get in the Word. Study it. Pray and ask God to guide you. He will!
James 1:5-8 (GW)
5 If any of you needs wisdom to know what you should do, you should ask God, and he will give it to you. God is generous to everyone and doesn’t find fault with them. 6 When you ask for something, don’t have any doubts. A person who has doubts is like a wave that is blown by the wind and tossed by the sea. 7 A person who has doubts shouldn’t expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 A person who has doubts is thinking about two different things at the same time and can’t make up his mind about anything.