In my last post (click here to read) you saw where I talked about how over the last year I have examined the centrality of the gospel. I’m convinced that our discipleship efforts are not about getting people to duplicate certain behaviors, no matter how noble they are, such as prayer, church attendance, giving and so on. But rather our discipleship efforts should center on convincing people of the Gospel.
If you look at the beginning of Ephesians 4 ,Paul has a request of the Ephesian church, and really the church in general.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Paul is telling the Ephesian church to live in such as way that shows they have been saved. The word worthy here can be misleading but one definition in the greek is “Becoming”. So maybe it is better to say that Paul is saying to walk in a manner that is becoming of salvation.
So in this moment Paul is not calling the church to earn good standing with God or earn salvation but rather he is calling them into maturity, he is calling them to grow up.
What is Maturity?
If you continue reading in Ephesians 4 Paul discusses God’s provision and plan for bringing the church into maturity.
“7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift…11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,”
See many people get hung up on vs 11 regarding apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. The good charismatic in me would love to discuss these gifts in detail, but Paul doesn’t seem concerned about that in this text. All he says is that Christ gave these gifts/people/workers to help bring the church into maturity.
What Paul does spend time on is discussing what maturity is. In verse 13 he says these workers equip the church “until we all attain the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God”. The unity of the faith? The knowledge of the Son of God? Paul here is talking about the Gospel.
Maturity is when the Gospel becomes a reality.
I’m not talking head knowledge, I’m talking about truly believing the Gospel. I’m talking about what you believe when you’re alone and no one is there. Do you truly believe you’ve been adopted and forgiven??
Though we may be saved, many of us really function as unbelievers in our daily lives!
Paul goes on to say that immaturity causes us to fall prey to false gospels and false teachers.
“14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
Many people without even knowing it preach and teach that maturity is simply doing better, being more positive, and being nicer. But these things do not lead to maturity. But Paul does begin to show us what leads to maturity in verse 15…
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Paul says that if we are going to grow into Christ its going to be by speaking the truth, the Gospel, to each other. We have to learn to confront unbelief in the church and lovingly speak the Gospel into each of those places. Paul says that when each of us learns to share the gospel with each other, that’s when the church will grow.
This is Discipleship
God has placed workers, gifted people both men and women, in the church to build it up into maturity. We must evaluate what we are using to shepherd the church into maturity, what are we using to make disciples? Are we wanting people to be more virtuous, meaning be more positive, try harder? Or are we always pointing them to the Gospel.
We must learn to speak the gospel into every part of our life. Into our finances, marriage, parenting, job, play, relationships. We must learn to center all our efforts in proclaiming this gospel message, showing people its implications in their life and train them to do the same for others. This my friends is discipleship.