And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. - Vs 11-12 (NASB)
I love this chapter. In it Paul paints a picture of the way in which the church, the body of Christ, was meant to function. He reveals to us God's plan for using the body of Christ to bring about spiritual maturity in the people of God. The community of believers is key to the maturity of believers. We were not meant to grow in isolation. God placed every one of us in the context of a community of believers and called it the body of His Son. Jesus Himself is the head of this body – an interdependent organism where every member is critical to the health of the whole.
…we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Vs 15-16)
We are to grow up – together. Because we are a body that has been fitted and held together. We are each to do our part – together. And when we do, the body grows – together. This is a team effort. It is only normal that we grow together and not individually. It would be abnormal if a child's arm grew at twice the rate as the rest of his body. It would be considered an aberration. Yet we think it is perfectly normal for one Christian to grow more rapidly than another, with no apparent concern or feeling of obligation to contribute to the growth of anyone else. We have turned the Christian life into an individualized effort – isolating ourselves from the influence of others and ignoring any responsibility for the spiritual well-being of one another.
Yet, throughout this chapter, Paul stresses the corporate or community aspect of the body of Christ. He uses phrases like "one another," "preserve the unity," "one body," "the unity of the faith," "the whole body," "the growth of the body," and "we are members of one another." Everything Paul talks about in this chapter has to do with the communal or relational aspect of our faith. We need each other. We were created to be dependent upon one another. In fact, Paul seems to indicate that independence and isolation are attributes of our former life. He tells the Ephesians not to live their lives the way the lost world lives (Vs 17). Their lives are characterized by confusion, with thinking that is devoid of truth or an understanding of what is right and appropriate. Their understanding is darkened. Their hearts are hardened. They are calloused. And they have given themselves over to sensuality. The NLT Bible translates verse 19 this way:
They don’t care anymore about right and wrong, and they have given themselves over to immoral ways. Their lives are filled with all kinds of impurity and greed."
Their lives are characterized by immorality fueled by greediness. That word means "greedy desire to have more, covetousness, avarice." They don't care about others. They only care about themselves. Their greed and avarice drives them to satisfy their own selfish desires. But Paul says, "you did not learn Christ in this way" (Vs 20). That is not the way of Christ. We are to die to ourselves and make others our highest priority. We are to serve and not be served. We are to lay "aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another" (Vs 25). Don't let anger, greed, covetousness, or potentially damaging words destroy the unity of thebody. Instead, Paul says to "be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you" (Vs 32).
We are members of one another. We need one another. We are to live for one another. We should have the attitude that we cannot exist without one another. God created us to live in unity and community – thriving and growing together in an interdependent, loving atmosphere where the grace of God is being lived out every single day.
Father, show us how to live together in unity. Open our eyes and let us see just how important the body is to You. Forgive me for trying to live the Christian life on my own. Forgive me for my self-centeredness and greediness. May we truly learn what it means to be one, just as You and Your Son are One. Amen