TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement
Verse of the Day - Ephesians 4:16 ...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.
Puritan Catechism Question #37 - What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?
Answer - At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory (1 Cor. 15:43), shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment (Matt. 10:32), and made perfectly blessed both in soul and body in the full enjoying of God (1 Jn. 3:2) to all eternity (1 Thess. 4:17).
Devotional Thoughts As we have studied through Ephesians 4:1-16 in this series Learning to Walk: Walking in Unity we have seen that it is Christ who builds His church. We have examined the tools and methods that He has chosen to use to accomplish the building of His House. In fact, we learned that the term "edification" means "to build a house" and we have seen how He edifies His church.
Before we move on then to the next section of text and begin the next part in our series Walking in Truth (Eph 4:17-32) I wanted to look for one more day at Ephesians 4:16. There is so much here in this verse that shows us just how it is that Christ accomplishes the edifiying of His bride. So today let's take this verse apart phrase by phrase and see what we can learn about God's program for real church grwoth.
...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.
the whole body
It is the whole body that is growing! The whole body is edified. We often only think about the church on the local level. While it is true that much of what we have studied these last few days applies specifically in the practice of local congregations we cannot forget the rest of the body!
We see the evangelical scene here in the West and we wonder if the church is dying sometimes! We wonder how she can go on so infested with weak doctrine, apathetic practice, and heretical traditions. On a smaller scale we may also wonder how there can be a church on every corner in our town and also at the same time wonder how 90% of them can even call themselves a church and keep a straight face.
But let us remember that the church is bigger than just our own local congregations. And just because a group of people put a sign on a building that identifies them as a church does not mean that they are a part of the body of Christ. And to make the point we see from the text that the true church, the real body of Christ is growing and bearing fruit! If a group of people called a church is not growing and maturing in the faith and is not bearing good fruit then they prove that they are not a church, for Christ is building His WHOLE church.
Let us also never forget those other congregations around the world with whom we share this relationship as adopted children of God. I am pleased to be able to interact with churches of like faith in places in England, Malaysia, Signapore, Australia, India, Canada, and in other nations all around the planet. And let us never forget those members of the body of Christ who live and worship where it is forbidden by the local governments and others hostile toward Christ. Let us pray for the persecuted church as we all together grow in grace.
joined and knit together by what every joint supplies
We, the whole body and on the local level, are joined and knit together. This means literally that we in the church are being fitted together. Technically speaking it is being taught and learning together in a way that brings us together in our understanding of truth. We are fitted and united around the truth, around what we believe.
Notice too that this fitting and uniting comes by means of what every joint supplies. The term joint there means "bond". Every place that we are joined, or bonded, is a further step we have taken in unity. It is a deeper relationship, a closer walk, a more intimate trust between members of the body of Christ.
Our obedience, our love, our fellowship, our service, our sacrifice - these are all "bonding" experiences where we are used to grow the church. If your church is divided, or splitting, or breaking into factions then it is likely that the members of the church are failing to do their part in the work of church growth. Because growth here is referred to as being fitted and united, and this takes time and effort, willingness and teachability!
according to the effective working by which every part does its share
It is reiterated here that every part does its share when it comes to being fitted and united. This reminds me of a few verses. The Bible is clear that we are not to be troublemakers or busybodies, but instead we are to be at peace with others (as much as it depends upon us) and we are to bear one anothers burderns and even put up with each other! We are to be quick to forgive and eager to reconcile.
The phrase here also tells us that each part does its share effectively if we are to grow. Ineffective work is just that, ineffective. But here each part does its share working effectively - accomplishing what we are equipped to accomplish!
A church member cannot work effectively without being properly equipped. And who does the equipping? Remember? Elders and teachers in the church are given by Christ to equip the saints. And equipped saints who actually do what they have been taught to do work effectively when it comes to unity and growth.
The opposite sadly is all too true, where pastors do not equip but instead entertain, and where members do not work effectively but instead just act as spectators the church does not really grow. It dies. The truth is abandoned. And the Spirit leaves! Church growth is not a reference to having more people this week than last week come and sit to see the show!! Church growth is about every member being equipped to do the work of service, the work of ministry to God and to each other, and then effectively doing it.
causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love
And why then does the church grow? So that the church can be built up in love! There is the goal, the aim, the purpose, the meaning of it all. Church growth is about the body of Christ loving Him with all that they are and loving each other as themselves. Church growth is in fact proof that we are His for as we hear and obey His Word the body is matured and united and fitted together for this one ultimate purpose - to love and glorify God.
In fact, Paul wrote to Timothy and told him that "the purpose of the command is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5). The law has been given for this purpose - so that as we are empowered and motivated to obey the Word of God we may then love Him and love others with a maturing love - a love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
The end result of true church growth is a church that really and unreservedly loves Jesus Christ. And as the Word is used to equip us and motivate us, as we obey it, then we see that the result is that our love for Christ and each other is a true unconditional and lasting love. It is a love that comes first from a pure heart (forgiven) and is magnified by a good conscience (free from indwelling sin and guilt) and is ultimately expressed in an unfeigned faith (absolute and unfailing trust in Christ).
Let us not ever forget that to love Christ is to obey Him! So a growing church is an obedient church and an obedient church is a church that loves God and each other in word and deed. Are you doing your part?
Links for Further Study (links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)