Since I preached from Ephesians 4:1-16 on Sunday, April 23rd, I have been thinking about the kind of relationships Paul is encouraging believers to pursue in this portion of Scripture. Relationships characterized by unity, diversity, and reality; relationships that are very rare in today’s world. The kind of relationships that challenge us to thrive in our relationship with Jesus Christ are the ones in which we love one another enough to share the truths of Scripture in the reality of our day-to-day lives.
In the opening verse of Ephesians 4, Paul urges the church to, “…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called …” If you and I are going to grow and mature in Christ together, and thrive in our relationship with him, we need the kind of life-giving relationships in which we speak the truth to one another in love.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, make the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” – Ephesians 4:15-16
Notice the words “in love” in verses 15 and 16. These same words appeared in verse 2; Christians brought to life through the Spirit’s ministry, bearing with one another in love (v. 2), speaking the truth in love (v.15), will be built up in love (v.16)!
The truth that is being spoken of here is the truth of sound teaching about Christ. It is knowledge of the Son of God, through the mystery of the gospel. It is all that Paul spoke about in Ephesians 1-3, including our identity in Jesus Christ, how we have been forgiven through his finished work, and that we have transitioned from spiritual death to spiritual life.
When we speak the truth in love, we are applying the gospel in our personal lives. For example, have you ever sinned and been unable to overcome a sense of shame and condemnation? Even after confessing your sin to God, there can be lingering guilt. In a moment like that, a fellow Christian can speak the truth of the gospel to you in life-giving ways, reminding you of the mercy available to you in Christ and the power you have in Christ to walk in a new way.
Being and building the body of Christ is linked here in God’s Word to the teaching of God’s Word through sound “teachers” and Christians speaking these biblical truths to one another in love. Teaching is essential. However, God has designed us in such a way that we must learn to speak the truth to one another for us to grow up into Him. It is Jesus Christ himself, who through His Spirit, makes this kind of speech, life, and growth possible, and these things are found only in the church of Jesus Christ.
Are you engaged in these kinds of spiritual relationships in the local church? If not, I encourage you to pursue them. When I shared the message mentioned above, I noted the Men’s and Women’s Ministries, Bible Studies, and the community groups in our church as great contexts in which to build these kinds of relationships.
It’s true that the local church is made up of imperfect people and Christians still sin. That’s why we so badly need the power of the gospel in Christian community because the gospel empowers imperfect people to grow up together.
Life-giving relationships that help us flourish in our relationship with Jesus Christ can be difficult. Being a faithful part of a local church requires stamina, patience, humility, and most of all, the gospel! But, brothers and sisters, it’s these relationships that enrich our lives and make them meaningful in ways we could never have imagined because it is through the church that the manifold wisdom of God is made known (Eph. 3:9,10). And it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that makes a way for us to live together in life-giving relationships. Please pray and ask Jesus how you can develop these relationships within our church. He will surely answer that prayer!