From this verse we can see how the body should rightly grow. Let’s make some observations phrase by phrase.
“From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies ...”
Each (person) is a part of the whole (body). Each part has its own key role to play in the overall development of the whole body. No part is to be neglected; each is valuable and important to reaching the final goal God has for us. We cannot say or assume that one part is not important (especially of the person we don’t get along with!). Each part has a place (being fitted) and interdependent (held together).
“ ... according to the proper working of each individual part.”
We must be diligent to make each part properly function. A part (person) might be in the right place but if it is not functional, then it still can’t rightly help others. We all need to be diligent in not just having people come to church but that they are effectively trained so they can rightfully serve. No training means no proper working.
“... causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself...”
When the individual parts are rightly functioning, then the whole body grows. We are on the whole far too individualistic. We think about our own growth rather than the whole body’s growth. Have you ever prayed, “Lord help me grow that everyone will be benefitted?” Probably not. The apostle is preoccupied about the end purpose of the whole and yet not ignorant of the individual components that comprise the whole.
“... in love.”
Growth is inextricably related to love.
Love is the definitive summary of growth.
Love captures everything that is supposed to happen.
Love is the life of God being poured out in our lives.
Love is the connecting glue that keeps us together.
Love brings about smooth inter-functioning much like oil.
Love is the joy and desire to continuing functioning together in the future. “We would love to get together again!”
Just think of it practically for a moment. Let us say that Sam and Joan are bitter at each other. Perhaps it all started with a misunderstanding. It doesn’t matter now how it started because they are subtly mean to each other. They are Christians but still tolerate this attitude. We have all seen such situations. They are disappointing.
But just think what happens if they allow Christ’s love to control them. Of course the meanness is going to go away. They will apologize for their evil hearts. They will then start to help that person be what God has called them to be. They will pray for the other. They will try to further whatever good they can in that person even at sacrifice to themselves.
Love is never just the ending of a unhappy relationship. Love holds forth the promise of everything good that can happen between individuals. In turn the renewal of those two individuals begins to impact the lives of others. And so love is a powerful tool in this world of despair and loneliness.
This picture of the church is rarely what we see in our local churches. On the other hand, we can be sure that it is exactly this end that the Lord is working towards. Those things that the Lord creates are good. We want to keep them forever. They are treasures that never lose their value and gleam.