This article is one of several that will come from this context of scripture.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. [Ephesians 4:11-16]
The other day I had a very pleasant time of experiencing Fathers presence. While in that atmosphere, I chose to read the book of Ephesians. On this particular occasion, the text became a basis of prayer for me, my wife and whoever else came to mind. If these meditative prayers are answered, we will all increase in the revelation and wisdom of experiential knowledge of who Yeshua is and who we are in Him. Do I hear an AMEN to that? In passing through chapter four, questions started forming because there was not a clear picture for me of the intent of these verses. Closer inspection of the thirteenth verse revealed some word structure that needed unpacking. It says: “…till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;…” So with that in mind, perhaps the Greek text will open up the heart of this area so we can be transformed in our hearts and renewed in our understanding.
With the help and design of Holy Spirit, becoming like Yeshua is our prized goal in this life. When there is an increasing degree of revelation about Him; His character, His goodness, His grace and mercy, His authority and power; this allows for a greater degree of our cooperation and alignment to the design of who and what we can become and what he can do through us. This would include personal and corporate functionality, organic and organized applications and structures plus the larger communal interactions of a city-wide church perspective.
The typical proactive template of a believer is to improve our ability to articulate the truths and doctrines we know and clearly express the picture of Messiah’s love that we see. Given that this is a good thing, still our individual and corporate callings are vastly bigger than the small paradigms we have become accustomed to! And our life-giving gifts go deeper than words alone. Paul repeated the concept several times that the good news within us is not mere words, but power [1 Cor. 2:4, 4:19-20, 2 Cor. 6:3-10, 1 Thess. 1:5, Heb. 4:12, 6:5]. One of the several aspects that release power from within is a heart of unity [Psalm 133]. In addition it takes a committed heart of love to even work toward unity [Eph. 4:16].
Perhaps one very much talked about verse in Ephesians chapter four is the eleventh verse which Paul uses to encompass some of the gifts of Messiah; the giving of the graces of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers; for the release and administration of the work of ministry. Many leaders use this verse to reveal a governmental structure in the church. But beginning from verse one and going through to verse sixteen, the core value is more unitarian than governmental. This could possibly be a good time to redefine the usage of the word, “Unitarian;” it has been tagged to cult practice quite long enough. Unitarian as far as this author would describe it, is the increase of understanding and practice in community of using the diverse spiritual gifts we have to express the body of Messiah on as broad a front as possible with the purpose of conveying the character and nature of Yeshua by the Spirit of God through the multiplied varieties of expression that are uniquely Him.
That is not stated to minimize the importance of governmental function within the body. Shepherds, elders and other leaders are essential to the good health of a church and assorted congregations with people from babes to mature. The point being made here is that there is something more important than the elements of church government being stated in these verses. So what is the point? Or better yet, what are the points?
Going back to verses twelve and thirteen and looking at their structure, it appears to be a number of different statements thrown together. And with my simple mind, it is difficult to figure what each phrase is pointing back to. But for the purpose of this article, I wish to stop and point to this jewel of a tool called unity. It is so valuable that satan targets this area frequently to stop the forward motion of the testimony of Yeshua and bring the leaven of discord into the communal church and show an unbelieving and cynical world that we have a hard time deeply loving each other.
There is a movement in my region that is truly grieving my heart. There is a group of churches who are coming together to “straighten out” supposed misrepresentations of what Holy Spirit is dynamically doing within another church in their city. According to a locally published article, they claim: “their goal will be to present traditional Christian messages that haven’t changed in 2,000 years, not the unorthodox message promoted by [the other church] and similar churches.” One huge problem; the traditional Christian message has changed continuously over the last 2,000 years, with a great deal of toxicity being injected and purged throughout its’ lifespan. Yet, Father God constantly breathes new life into His church toward the end of the age, so we can become a glorious church [Eph. 5:27] in spite of our inclination toward religious and spiritual pride. In the almost forty years of walking with God, I have fallen prey to this line of thinking more than once. And it can happen again if I do not stay close to the One who loves all people and wants them to come to the way of salvation through Yeshua and His forgiveness of sins.
The church happens to have a special spot in Fathers’ heart because of the enormous price of love Yeshua paid to redeem it. Isn’t it stimulating what it says in Ephesians 5:25-33 about the mystery of marriage?
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” [NKJV]
Let me take a shot at if I understand this passage correctly. Marriage, is a representation of what it looks like for the church to be joined to its’ Messiah. And as the head or husband, it is His job to sanctify and cleanse His people for the purpose of making His bride glorious; without spot [undefiled] or wrinkle [free, delivered, to be able to run like water] or any such thing. This work is done so we can be holy [set apart exclusively for Him, sanctified] and without blemish [blameless, morally faultless]. This is the active work of His spirit within us to reclaim us from the brokenness of sin and the upside down and backwardness of the worlds’ mind.
It is our purpose to become “one flesh” with Him. In the Hebrew, “echad” is the number form of the word “achad,” which means to unify. This is expressed in the picture of collecting parts and bringing them into one container. Some people express that as a composite unity. Therefore, if we are to be actively becoming one with Him and with each other, perhaps it would behoove us to not cut off or discard parts of His body we do not agree with. To publicly alienate or amputate an expression of Messiahs body is saying “I don’t need you” [1 Corinthians 12] and leaving the completed picture of His handiwork unfinished. We must resist the idea that our message is the message. Our message, our gifts and our callings are only part of the bigger picture within the framework of the full council of Scriptural truth and Holy Spirit guidance [John 4:23-24]. Yeshua will build His church and we can either help or hinder.
Anyone who is or has been married knows that becoming one is a process. It can be tryingly painful to allow the “iron sharpens iron” method to peel back the layers of selfishness, hard-hearted pride, insecure fears and just plain thoughtless ignorance. Years later, there can be the golden reward of a solid and committed relationship that will not break down under fire. It has a history of “life-giving” physically, materially and spiritually. To be one with Yeshua, we go through similar crucibles and blessings and multiplied prunings to become someone who can bear fruit in His kingdom. Imagine what we could accomplish if we loved each other in like fashion for the sake of the one who gave His life for us.
At the end of Ephesians chapter five the closing phrase states: “…and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly].” [from the Amplified Bible] Should this be our attitude toward the other parts of His body? Let’s put ourselves in the place of the wife [that is, the church] and Yeshua in the place of the husband as the head of the church; His body. What would that think like? Well, we could capture the essence of the callings of each individual and dovetail that understanding into how their gifting could function in the larger context of the needs of the populace. We could also view individual churches and organic bodies as having specific callings within the city or region to meet specific needs or exhibit a specific gifting. That means we would need to have allot more understanding and love than we do to bless others in walking out their God-given design.
For some of us, we would radically need to enlarge our paradigm of what being members of His body entails and what it means to come “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” [Ephesians 4:13b] I will have more on this thought and other themes from this context in future articles.
I close with this prayer from the heart of our Messiah Himself:
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” [John 17:20-23]