14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
(Ephesians 4:14-16 NIV)
Last time, we looked at the spiritual gifts Paul outlined in verses 11-13. Today, Paul looks at why we need to put these spiritual gifts into action.
In verses 12 and 13, Paul tells us that these spiritual gifts are to be used by the church, the body of Christ, to help us to become more Christ-like and carry out the work that God gave each of us to do. What a wonderful gift that we have been given to encourage and serve one another as we grow toward maturity and unity in Christ!
As wonderful as that news is, there is darkness looming on the horizon. We would love to stay in our little comfy world of unicorns and rainbows, but as we learn today, not everyone agrees with Christ’s call and Paul’s encouragement.
Paul proceeds to tell us that there are some who wish to profit from the Gospel, by claiming they have a “special decree” from God, and seek to entice followers away from what God’s Word says. What is the net effect on the church? It creates turmoil and confusion, and leads to the opposite of unity, which Paul told us is our ultimate goal in Christ.
Paul tells us that if we exercise our spiritual gifts, and equip one another to serve the Lord, we will be able to stand firm for Who we believe in, as well as what we believe, and why. This does not mean we all have to go to Bible college or seminary; it simply means that we need to be well-grounded in our relationship with the Lord, and be learning His Word (the Bible) as our guide on whatever situations may come our way.
Paul says if we are well-grounded, we won’t be blown around by every wind of teaching. Paul also uses the analogy of a boat being tossed around by the waves. The idea here is that the boat has no rudder – no way to steer it – the boat is totally at the mercy of the storm and the waves. Paul says that if we are grounded in Christ, we will not be like that rudderless boat.
Instead, we are to speak the truth in love (v. 15). This phrase, “speaking the truth in love”, could be the subject of an entire series or sermon that would not really fit in this format. That being said, let’s spend just a few moments here.
Many Christians struggle to live this phrase out today, and usually end up in one of two positions:
- Speaking in love. This is when we love on others in the community of Christ, but we never really get down to dealing with the issues at hand. A lot of love, but not much truth.
- Speaking the truth. This is when we speak the truth, but often do so without love. And this is perceived as judgment, condemnation, and is deemed harsh. So we have to have the hard conversations, and do so in love, to win back the one straying from the truth. We need to have tears in our eyes, not anger in our voice as we do the hard work of correction and encouragement.
As we practice loving correction, Paul tells us that this is part of the growth process, of becoming more like Christ. And from that maturing process, the entire body of Christ benefits (v. 17).
May we learn to speak the truth in love, to encourage our growth in Christ and walk with each other. May we always lead with love, and not bash each other over the head with God’s Word, and also have the hard conversation. All involved will benefit.