We face another trio of verses here in Ephesians 4:14-16. They are different though closely related to the prior three verses. We have all that we need to establish a great and glorious church here on earth (See Ephesians 4:11-13). Nothing is lacking.
We might then ask, “Why is the church the very opposite to what is described in these verses?” A person might question whether the model is not appropriate or has some inherent flaws. As a matter of fact, God did His part correctly and is desirous to assist the church in her part. The church, however, is responsible to rightly respond to what God has provided for her. If she neglects His instruction, then the church will falter. Paul gives the church three special guidelines in Ephesians 4;14-16.
We will discuss #2 and #3 of Ephesians 4:15 below.
2. Speaking the truth in love
Is the truth more important than love or is love more important than the truth? If you can answer yes to either question, then you are off balance. Truth is love and love is truth (Romans 13:8-10). Drop one and you lose both. Gain one and the other will come. We must not compromise on what the apostle says is important for the church to carry out her mission.
We need to speak the truth in love. Our goal and means are clearly laid out here. The goal is to be more like Christ our head. The means is simply to lovingly proclaim and live out the truth. Both of these elements, truth and love, are not to be compromised in any way. They are both essential to the glory of Christ.
The church often swings from one extreme to the other.1 On the one hand we have dogmatics. You may have been turned off by someone who persistently argues with you. He seems to know about truth but knows nothing of love. He somehow is able to dismiss the fact that 'loving one another' is also truth.
On the other hand, and perhaps this is more of our problem in this era, we have people who care nothing for truth. They think love perfectly summarizes all truth. In a sense they are right but they have misinterpreted love. Love is not toleration. Toleration has no place for truth. Without truth, there is no love. This is a hard fact for these people to grasp but it is essential to grab hold of it.
The needed balance was beautifully worked out in Christ. The challenge is for us to live it out. We must speak the truth in love. We speak the uncomfortable truth because people need to hear it. We speak lovingly because it is the only way to speak the truth. Otherwise we misrepresent the truth.
Churches need to instruct their people on how both to speak the truth in love as well as to how to make Christ the goal in life. We must refuse to compromise the truth in the name of love. It is this thought that sits as the basis for ethics.
Note the fact that we are to grow up in all aspects. To be honest this will take a lifetime, but why stop? Let us reflect on growth by examining a number of questions.
• How come some Christians don’t think they need to grow?
The biggest problem of the church is that she does not think she needs to grow! Once a person knows he is a Christian and guaranteed a seat in heaven, he loses interest in the things of God. This is largely because the church has not done a good job of training the church. Very few churches implement discipleship. Christians think they know what they need to know when in fact all they know is the means by which they can learn more.
• How are Christians to grow?
God has revealed the whole growth process in Ephesians 4:11-13. The church can only grow if she rightly receives the Word of God. Each of the main conduits through which the truth enters the church (i.e. apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers) is an instructor of truth. Paul will elaborate on this even more in the following chapters. Growth is inextricably related to acquiring a love for the truth. We learn the truth and obey it. Growth then means a person is more like Christ in his attitudes, treatment of others and belief in God.
• What does this growth look like?
Christian growth is essentially learning truth based on the commands of Christ and obeying them. Joshua was not only to know of the truth but to keep them on the front of his mind. He was to meditate on them day and night. But anyone who spends time in God’s Word will also need to purposely obey what God is directing him to do. Joshua 1 shows how challenging this life can be.
• How are we to measure our growth?
Many Christians live aimlessly in this world. They have no goals, no instruction and no motivation. A Christian that is growing will find sweeter and sweeter times with the Lord, better relationships with others and a feeling of deeper personal fulfillment. This does not mean things will go easy for him but only that he has peace of heart about the Lord taking care of his situation.
Paul gives the church three commands to bring the church to where she should be. Each of these if not done becomes a place where the church fails and is weak. She first of all needs to protect herself from the falsehoods about her. Instead we see the church submerged into a glob of the world so that she thinks she needs to be more like the world to be more effective! Secondly, we the church is to uncompromisingly speak the truth in love. She must delicately and yet boldly walk the balance of both truth and love. But again the church instead neglects the truth and indulges in tolerance. Lastly, the church is to have a mindset of growth. She focuses on being more and more like Christ. The church has no such mindset, however. She focuses on church services, kinds of songs used, programsbut she has forgotten her main goal to grow into Christ's likeness.
Our solution is simple enough. (1) Spit out the world by repenting. (2) Speak the truth in love. (3) Keep growing like Christ. Paul already said this many years ago, but we just seem to get around to doing it!
We are not quite done. The apostle has given us a special illustration that ties everything together. Next =>
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Biblical Foundations for Freedom
Paul J. Bucknell
1 It would be good to study whether the church trend follows the society in general or the society follows the church.