Growing up is what God expects us to do. He commands us to “follow the Truth” – that is, Christ; but He expects us to follow the truth, “in a spirit of charity” – not lording over others in a spirit of one-upmanship. We are called to a “due proportion” with Christ in everything. He is our Head; we are only members of His Body. Who then are we to say to others, “I am better or more needed than you.”? Or, “You are of no value?”
We are to follow the truth, in a spirit of charity, and so grow up, in everything, into a due proportion with Christ, who is our head.
Growing up is what’s expected of us.
On [Christ] all the body depends; it is organized and unified by each contact with the source which supplies it; and thus, each limb receiving the active power it needs, it achieves its natural growth, building itself up through charity. (Ephesians 4:16)
Puzzling, yes? The Word of God teaches us two things which appear to be opposed. We are taught that God can not be scorned; that if we continue in sin, we pay the ultimate price – we die eternally, in corruption.
Roman Catholics get around this puzzle by teaching that some sin is minor – deemed venial or ‘easily forgiven’ – and does not lead to corruption while other sin is major – deemed mortal or ‘deadly’ – and will lead to eternal death, i.e. to damnation of the soul.
The bulk of the New Testament seems to teach, on the other hand, that sin is sin – that all sin leads to corruption. The problem then for mankind is what to do about sin. In Romans 7, Paul speaks of his woe – that the good he wants to do he can not do. He asks who will rescue him from his body of sin and death and then praises God that it is Christ who secures that rescue.
Yet, here in his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul warns that sin somehow hasn’t been nailed to the cross with Jesus.
“Do not ye err, God is not scorned; for those things that a man soweth, those things he shall reap [for why what things a man soweth, also these things he shall reap]. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh he shall reap corruption; but he that soweth in the Spirit, of the Spirit he shall reap everlasting life.”
Then there are those who claim that Christians – if they are true Christians – never sin. I presume this belief is to reconcile themselves to the many scriptural passages that imply that if a Christian commits a sin, then God can not be in his or her body. After all, a Christian is the temple of God the Holy Spirit. How can a holy God dwell inside an unholy thing?
Yet, Paul speaks of the deeds done in the body that are unworthy of God burning off as the Christian passes from life into death and from there into eternal life – the mortal being swallowed up by the immortal, so to speak. In these passages, Paul implies that Christians do indeed sin. We makes mistakes, yet we are saved though as through fire.
Sometimes, I imagine Paul himself struggling to fully understand the good news. The good news that we are saved while we are still sinners, that God loves us so much that He considers us His friends while we are still His mortal enemies.
Why would God die for us while we are dead in sin, and then turn away from us because we fail? I can’t imagine. I don’t think Paul was able to imagine that, either. Instead, he reminds us that God’s love for us is higher and deeper and wider than anything we have ever known; that Jesus Christ does for us more than we will ever understand while we remain on this earth.
As many parents know, provoking a child is not a good idea. Children are notoriously incapable of handling parents’ emotional outbursts in that children barely handle their own emotions. A screaming parent is likely to trigger a scream in return. Paul, who is not a father, writes:
“And, [ye] fathers, do not ye provoke your sons to wrath; but nourish ye them in the teaching and chastising of the Lord.”
Recall how the Lord Jesus teaches in the synagogue at twelve — He teaches with authority. Recall how the Lord chastises the woman at the well — He chastises with gentleness and even good humor.
Jesus nourishes; and gains obedience and loyalty through love.
Jesus does not promise we are not going to be ambushed by our adversary, who prowls about like a lion actively searching for one to devour. Instead, Jesus offers us “the might of His virtue” and “the armour of God” so we might “stand against the ambushings of the devil.” Paul puts it like this:
“Here afterward, brethren, be ye comforted in the Lord, and in the might of his virtue. Clothe you with the armour of God, that ye be able to stand against the ambushings [the ambushings, or assailings,] of the devil.”
Paul strongly advises:
“13Therefore take ye the armour of God, that ye be able to against-stand in the evil day; and in all things stand perfect.
14 Therefore stand ye, and be girded about your loins in soothfastness [Therefore stand ye, girded about your loins in soothfastness], and clothed with the habergeon of rightwiseness,
15 and your feet shod in making ready of the gospel of peace.
16 In all things take ye the shield of faith, in which ye be able to quench all the fiery darts of him that is most wicked.
17 And take ye the helmet of health, and the sword of the Ghost, that is, the word of God.
18 By all prayer and beseeching pray ye all time in Spirit, and in him waking in all busyness, and beseeching for all holy men, [By all prayer and beseeching praying all time in Spirit, and in him waking in all busyness, and beseeching for all saints,]”
Paul says to “stand perfect” “in all things.” Jesus says, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” How do you stand perfect? You stand perfect “in the might of His virtue” through faith, truth, righteousness, wisdom, the gospel of peace, the Word of God, prayer, and God’s own Holy Spirit indwelling.
Can you imagine “unity in the faith?” Can you imagine “becoming mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ?” Can you imagine not being an “infant?”
Our hope is to become united in our knowledge of Jesus Christ — i.e. no longer divided or “tossed back and forth…by every wind of teaching.”
“Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14) The good we seek is this unity in Christ; the evil we dread and should always flee is division, bickering, backbiting, unfounded criticism, and hatred of our brothers and sisters who are in Christ.
“You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God.’ So, then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:10-13)
Our fervent prayer is to be mature in Christ, to stand together as one church — as the whole body of Christ, and as His bride.
We come to the “fullness of being, the fullness of God Himself” “through faith,” through “deep roots and firm foundations.” Paul prays for us, that we come to know — “though it is beyond knowledge” — the love of Christ. Paul prays that we know “what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of this love.
We come to know the immensity of Christ’s love through the “strength and power” of the Holy Spirit “in [our] inner being.” (Ephesians 3: 16)
How great is the love of God for us in Christ Jesus? “In union with Christ Jesus [God] raises us up and enthrones us with Him in the heavenly realms, so that He might display in the ages to come how immense are the resources of His grace, and how great His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2: 6 – 8)
Paul prays “our inward eyes may be illumined, so that [we] may know what is the hope to which He calls [us], what the wealth and glory of the share He offers [us] among His people in their heritage, and how vast the resources of His power open to us who trust in Him.” (Ephesians 1: 18 – 19)
We have God’s resources: the strength and power of His Holy Spirit and the grace and love of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Paul says that our redemption is “in Him – the Beloved.” Our salvation is not in ourselves or in another. Rather, we are redeemed “through His blood.” We are not redeemed through the blood of bulls, goats, lambs. Rather, Christ’s blood pays our debts. We are forgiven our sins [trespasses, debts] “according to the riches of His grace.” His grace saves us.
Christ “is the mediator of a new covenant, so that [we] who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death occurs that redeems [us] from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9: 15) Christ “appears once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Hebrews 9: 26)
Paul explains that we are “predestined…for adoption as sons.” (Ephesians 1: 5) Our adoption is possible because of “His glorious grace” (Ephesians 1: 6) and “according to the purpose of His will.” (Ephesians 1: 5) We are not adopted by our will, but by His will.
God “works all things according to the counsel of His will,” reminds Paul. (Ephesians 1: 11) God is the one who is at work in us. He seals us with “the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.” (Ephesians 1: 13 – 14)
Therefore, since God is at work in us, we should praise Him. We should give Him all the glory which is due Him for He sends His Son who willingly dies to make our adoption possible. Hallelujah!