Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 55
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000|
|What happens when one part of your body is not functioning properly? What about if you have a broken leg, or a weak heart? How does that effect the rest of your body? Dr. Barber explains how this same analogy applies to each member of the Church. What if one member is not doing his part?|
Characteristics of Those who are Mature in Christ – Part 3
There has been a principle around since the beginning of time, as we know it. That principle is, when you have the whole made up of many parts, each part influences that whole. That is a principle that we all have known in life. When you have a football team, every player has to play to his best ability. He has to fully, properly function or the team will not win or do as it should.
When you have a complex machine, if every part does not function properly, it can even lead to devastating results. I remember several years ago when the Challenger space shuttle going up. You remember what happened as it lifted off. I heard about the explosion and about the horrible tragedy of that event. The only thing that was wrong was an o-ring on the fuel tank had malfunctioned. It didn’t work properly. The computer system of the shuttle was fine. The pilots, everybody in the crew were fine. Everything else seemed to be in good order. One part did not function and it devastated the whole.
When you look at your human body, think about the fact that we are made up of all kinds of organs. I can have the greatest heart in the world, but if I have a liver that doesn’t work or function properly, it devastates the whole unit.
So you see, when you have the whole and you have different parts, each part either directly or indirectly, by its reaction and its function, affects the whole. I am saying all that because I believe this is on Paul’s mind in Ephesians 4:16. What he is doing here is giving an illustration of how the body grows up into maturity, how it becomes built up into Christ. He wants us to see this. He has already given us a description of what the end result is like in verses 14 and 15. When a person is mature, he is doctrinally stable. When a person is mature and the body is mature, they are doctrinally sensitive. They are doctrinally stimulated. Now he wants to illustrate how all of that maturity is reached.
Let’s read verses 14 through 16 so we see the complete thought: “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness and deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, 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 that which 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.”
I want us to be challenged with an urgency to see this verse fulfilled in each of our lives. You see, for the whole body to mature, the individual parts have to be maturing. The parts affect the whole. We need to see this. All of us individually need to say, “God, I want to be growing. I want to be maturing in Christ so that I can have that positive effect upon the whole body of Christ so that the body of Christ will not be ashamed when Jesus comes for His church.” If we will all grow up in Him in all aspects into Him, then we will have a positive effect on seeing the whole body of Christ come to maturity.
There are three things in a progression that I see in verse 16 of how this takes place. First of all, in order for this to happen, you and I both have to see our responsibility to each other. Paul says in verse 16, “From whom the whole body.” Literally it is “out of whom all of the body.” It is the same thing. He speaks of the body representing the whole made up of many individual parts. We have to realize we are a part of a bigger thing. We are just a portion of the whole body of Christ. So often we think of ourselves as an island unto ourselves without realizing that we are only a part of the whole. As we will see in our text, my individual right or wrong responses, whichever it is, is either positively or negatively affecting the whole. We have to understand that. You and I cannot live like we want to live and escape the fact that the way we live is going to affect the body of Christ.
Let me take you back to the Old Testament to Numbers 12. A situation arose. It started with a woman, Miriam. Miriam went to her brother, Aaron, and as a result, a huge problem developed. Look at the Scripture in Numbers 12:1. “Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); and they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?’” Their whole problem was they didn’t like something Moses had done. So they began to gripe and complain, and the Lord heard it. That is a good thing for us to remember. We may not think anybody hears what we say in criticism or whatever, but God hears it. When you walk and grow in the Spirit, those things need to be confessed.
Verse 3 goes on, “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth. And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and Aaron and to Miriam, ‘You three come out to the tent of meeting.’” Now that is an awesome thing here. God said, “I want to talk to all three of you. Miriam, Aaron, Moses. You all come out and talk to me at the tent of meeting.” So the three of them came out. “Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent, and He called Aaron and Miriam. When they had both come forward, He said, ‘Hear now My words: if there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. Not so, with My servant Moses, he is faithful in all My household; with him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?’” God was saying, “Listen, he is not like a normal prophet. He is a friend of mine. I speak to him face to face. Why were you not afraid to speak against him?”
Verse 9 reads, “So the anger of the Lord burned against them and He departed. But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous. Then Aaron said to Moses, ‘Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account this sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned. Oh, do not let her be like one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes from his mother’s womb!’ And Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “O God, heal her, I pray!’ But the Lord said to Moses, ‘If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days?” That was a practice at that time. “Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again.”
We have read 14 verses, and we really haven’t gotten to the point. Here is a person’s sin. She has affected Aaron. Aaron and Miriam murmured against Moses. We have not yet seen the devastation of it. Look in verse 15. “So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again.” Here is one person’s sin affecting another and then a million and a half people being held back for seven whole days until that person’s sin has been dealt with. You see what we do and how we live affects the whole. We may never know the devastation we have brought to the whole by the way we refuse to be filled with the Spirit or by the way we choose to be filled with the Spirit. All of our decisions to obey and to surrender to Christ affect the whole body of Christ.
Jesus was asked in Matthew 6:9 by the disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The Lord Jesus said, “Pray in this manner. Our Father [not My Father] which is in heaven.” You see, you have to realize we are not by ourselves. We are all a part of a whole. Even when you pray, God is going to answer your prayer not just for you, but how it affects the whole. We are parts of a whole. Please understand that. The way you live is going to affect the universal church. Your decision is so key in all of this. We must realize how we are either positively or negatively affecting the body of Christ.
Let me ask you a question. If you look back over the last year of your life, would the records that are kept in heaven by the Lord Himself said, “Yes, last year that individual positively affected the maturing and the growth of the whole body down here on this earth.” Or would you say that the Lord had to say with grief, “No, not much that they did was in honor of Me. As a matter of fact, look at the damage they did by their refusal to obey me.” Our choices, our decisions, our actions affect the whole. Every part has to function properly or the whole will not reach its desired maturity.
Verse 16 says, “From whom the whole body.” So the first thing we must do is to recognize our need to each other and our responsibilities to one another.
Secondly, we must learn that to fulfill that responsibility, we must do it through the supply of God’s Spirit. I can’t just live like I want because it is going to affect my family, my church, and my friends. I have to realize that the only way to accomplish the potential God has for me is by the means of His Spirit. I have to be filled with His Spirit. I have to surrender to His Spirit. The Spirit is the supply that enables me to be what God wants me to be.
Look again at Ephesians 4:16. “From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies.” I want you to look at that other phrase, “by that which every joint supplies.” In the margin of the New American Standard Bible there is an alternate translation: “Through every joint of the supply.” There are two things on Paul’s mind. If you are not careful you will read it as if every joint, which represents believers, is the supply. Oh no. There are two things Paul has in mind. One is the joint, the believer, and its role. Two is the supply that the believer has to surrender to. You see, the joint is not the supply, and the supply is not the joint in the body. There are two things.
The word for joint (or ligament in some translations) is the Greek word haphe. It means a touch, and therefore can mean contact. So the joint is that which has contact with. Now, every joint, every believer, has contact with God by the means of His Spirit. But they also have contact with one another by the means of the Spirit either directly or indirectly because the Holy Spirit is the ligament that holds the joints together. There is a contact here. We see an interaction here. We are contacted with Him by the ligament, but we are also contacted with one another. So the first thing then is the joint. As I will share with you in a minute, that has a significant meaning.
Secondly, he has in mind the supply. Whereas the joint is in contact with the Spirit and in contact with one another, look at the supply. The supply is that which Christ the head gives to each joint by the means of the Spirit for growth. In other words, I have everything I need for growth in the person of the Spirit of God. Christ will give me, through the Spirit, everything I need to fulfill my potential and grow. So there are two things in mind. There is the joint and the supply. That joint has to be tied in to that supply. Implied in Scripture here is that daily I have to be surrendered to the Spirit of God. There is no way I can grow up like I should unless I am surrendered to the Spirit of God because He is the means of divine supply.
Now, the ligaments hold it all together. The head sends the message to the ligaments. Then the ligaments, controlling the bones, cause the whole joint to function. Now let me ask you a question. What would happen if you sprained a ligament? What happens if you break or fracture one of the bones? Immediately the whole process is shut down. Every single bone has to be doing exactly what its function is or the whole process is shut down. You may only have one little bone in your wrist out of whack. That one little bone not functioning correctly destroys the usage of the whole joint of the wrist. Once the ligament is sprained, once the ligament is torn, once any of the bones are broken or fractured you have just shut down the process.
What I see implied and what Paul is bringing out here is the necessity for every one of us to be about the things God has given us to do in the power of God’s Spirit receiving the messages through the Spirit from the head. If anything happens to sprain that contact, to fracture the usage of that bone, then all of a sudden we have rendered the whole process obsolete.
I have always wondered where the local church fits into the whole body of believers. You know there were local churches, Philippi and Ephesus. How did they fit? Well, since the joint has many bones in it and in order to function correctly, all of them have to be functioning properly, maybe there is a subtle thought here that every local church has to be functioning like a church ought to function. If it doesn’t, then it has rendered the whole body useless as far as its maturing and its growing into the stature of the fullness of Christ.
If that is the case, and I don’t know if it is or not, what a challenge to us. We need to be a church that is in contact with the Spirit of God, that is listening to the messages from the head which is Christ. We need to daily be filled with the Spirit of God, as Ephesians 5:18 says. As we are controlled by the Spirit of God and as we are functioning in our gifts so that every single person is doing what God designed them to do, the whole body will grow up into what God wants it to be.
Well, verse 16 goes on to say: “according to the proper working of each individual part.” Paul is showing you the measure by which each individual part participates “according to.” In other words, it is going to be according to someone being submitted to the Spirit of God, filled with the Spirit of God, working out of his gifts which is God’s divine supply to minister to the body. It is going to be according to the energy of the Spirit within me that I am willing to release and tap into. It is going to be according to each one of you, as you are willing to let the Spirit of God control you, according to that measure that you are willing to go to, the extreme that you are willing to go to, that the whole body of Christ worldwide will grow up and mature into the stature of the fullness of Christ.
One of the thoughts that hit me as I was studying this was “to him that has been given much, much is going to be required.” It is not a matter of contending with one another. It is a matter of just being what God wants each individual to be. When the body’s joints are functioning properly, every joint contributing, then the body is being fitted and held together.
Let’s go back to that phrase. What does it mean to be fitted and held together? The word “fitted” means perfectly fitted. My wife and I are weak in a lot of areas. Some people have strengths and some people have weaknesses, and they get married. Diana and I have strengths that are the same and we have weaknesses that are the same. That sometimes is sort of difficult. But we don’t worry about it. Diana is gifted in areas, however, that I am not. Diana is gifted in the area of mercy. I have been accused of not having a merciful bone in my body, but Diana does. As she lets the Spirit of God work in her and I let the
Spirit of God work in me, somehow God begins to put us and fit us together in a perfect way.
That is the same way it is in the body of Christ. We need gifts of mercy, gifts of serving, and all these gifts functioning in the power of the Spirit of God to enable the body to grow up to take on the character of Jesus and to reach the stature of the fullness of Christ. So each individual member, when he refuses to let the Spirit of God control him, shuts down the process and begins to immediately affect the whole, according to the proper working of each individual part. Once we realize our responsibility to each other, once we begin to realize that the only way to fulfill that responsibility is according to the supply of the Spirit, that we are a joint that is in touch with Him and in touch with one another then something is going to happen.
In the last part of verse 16 he says, when all this has taken place, it “causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” The middle voice is used there for the building of the body. It means of itself. We promote growth in a sense. If you want to see a church mature, the way to promote its maturity is for you yourself to grow up and mature in Christ. That is what he is saying. When each individual sees this, when each individual surrenders and bows before Christ, then he himself is promoting and causing the body to grow up in love.
What I am seeing in this Scripture is, instead of me trying to make my church members do what I am not doing, I need to go on and do it. That is the only way to encourage the body. I am literally promoting the maturity of the body by my own personal willingness to die to self and to let the Spirit of God give me the supply that comes from the head and go on and be what God wants me to be.
You know, the Christian life is called a walk, but it is also called a race. In a track meet when you have four people running the mile, nobody cares how all four of them did. They care how each individual did. It is an individual sport. In Hebrews 12 it says to “run with patience the race that is set before you.” I can’t run your race. You can’t run my race. The way you encourage me to run my race is by you running your own. As each of us take that responsibility to grow up and mature in Christ, we become an encouragement to others to do the same thing. What a tremendous truth! The body will promote its own growth if each individual will tap into the supply of the Spirit and just let the Spirit of God minister through their lives.
I love the translation of verse 16 in the 20th Century New Testament: “For from Him the whole body closely joined and knit together by the contact of every part with the source of its life, derives its power to grow in proportion to the vigor of each individual part and so is being built up in the Spirit of love.” There it is right there. As I am willing to let the energy of the Spirit of God motivate me and cause me to be what God wants me to be, and as you do the same thing, we have promoted our own growth. The body will, of itself in the Lord, begin to grow and to mature. You don’t do it by telling somebody else what they should do. You do it by doing what you are supposed to do. If each of us will take that as a challenge, it will be overwhelming what God can do in our midst.