Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:14-26
Sermon Title: Growing in Unity
Sermon Text: Ephesians 4:14-16
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." I provide this manuscript as a courtesy. I do not follow the document word for word during the message. I also do not write the document with the intent of publication; there may be grammatical errors throughout. Thanks for understanding.
Chapter 4 of Ephesians is a call to unity. The first six verses speak about the character of unity. Verses 7-16 speak about unity as a body. This morning, we finish off the last two verses of Ephesians 4:7-16.
I am going to begin by using an introduction that I should not use as an introduction for the message.
Our text is Ephesians 4:4-16. There are three main points. You can see them in the bulletin.
We need to mature as Christians and have conviction and not be wishy washy when it comes to doctrine. On the authority of God’s Word, I am telling you, as your elder, you need to grow up. Stop listening to every teacher just because they are on the Christian radio station. Stop thinking a book is okay just because it is in the Christian book store. Just because it is on Christian radio or in a Christian book store doesn’t mean it is good Christian doctrine. Stop being blown around by every wind of doctrine. Have conviction on the truth of God’s word. Learn to discern what is good and what is evil.
The second point is that we need to have conversations based upon truth so we may mature. Start reading your bibles so we may start speaking truth to one another. Learn the connection between the Old and New Testament. Most Christians only read the New Testament and miss out on the deeper theology and understanding of Scripture. To help each of us, I will email a reading schedule of Bible books along with a list of topics to talk to one another about.
Third, we need to contribute. The Bible says we are a body made up of many members. Some of you are doing your part. And, some of you are not doing your part. It’s not right for some of you to sit around while others contribute. It is not very Christian and, to be honest, it is selfish. You should know that. Everyone needs to do their part.
Again, that is the wrong way to introduce the message. Did it sound a bit harsh? I thought so.
Some of you might be thinking, “That wasn’t harsh. It’s about time Allen stood up and spoke the truth!” To which I say, please listen carefully to the sermon. This sermon is for you. What I said may be somewhat truthful, but the way I said it is not at all Christlike.
Others may be thinking, “Where is the door? This is the last time I come to this church and listen to one of his sermons. What a jerk.” To which I say, “Please forgive me. I am only trying to make a point. I intentionally spoke in that way to illustrate the most important part of the message, and that is the truth must be spoken in love. Nobody is ever given a license to be a jerk and speak in an unloving manner to God’s people.”
In the introduction, I ignored the phrase, speak the truth in love. I also overlooked putting into practice the first six verses of Ephesians, which teaches that we need to relate to one another in all humility, gentleness, patience, and showing tolerance for one another with love.
Hopefully, I never sound like I did in the introduction this morning. When I do sound like a pulpit-jerk, please feel free to let me know. I want to be teachable. I want you to help me be Christ-like.
There is a phrase, Carl says that he has heard Troy use it, and the internet says Teddy Roosevelt coined it, the phrase goes like this, “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.” As we leave here this morning, if you get nothing else from the message but to incorporate that phrase in your daily life as a believer, you will do well. It is the golden rule applied to speaking truth. Speak the truth onto others as you would like the truth spoken unto you.
We listen to Jesus because He loves us. This morning, let’s listen to the words of His Holy Spirit in the Bible very carefully because He loves us very deeply and desires the very best for us. He inspired Scripture for us to know how much He loves us.
Let’s meditate upon the word of truth and be people who are like a tree, planted by the stream, yielding its fruit in its season, its leaves do not wither and in all that we do we prosper.
The goal God has for us in this passage is that we mature and grow with one another, no on our own, but in unity, by having Christ fill all things. Last week, we looked at how God is working to fill all things with Christ. This week, we will see how God’s truth fills all things with Christ. We will look at verses 14-16 and use three words to guide us in our application of the truth.
The main teaching is: “Having conviction, conversation, and contribution will grow us together in unity and fill us to maturity in Christ.”
When we are filled with Christ, we will be in unity and we will be mature. God’s truth is an essential part of God’s plan for us to be in unity with one another.
The first step toward unity is for us to have conviction. When I speak of conviction, I am not talking about being convicted of sin or found guilty. We need to be convinced. When we are completely convinced, we have conviction. People with conviction are not swayed.
When we read of martyrs singing hymns as they are being burned at the stake, we may know they have conviction. Their faith is based upon truth.
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 in deceitful scheming; (Eph. 4:14)
The verse begins with the phrase, as a result, which leads us to ask, “as a result of what?” As a result of God giving gifts to the church; the gift of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, we are no longer to be tossed about doctrinally. God gives the church men and women with specific gifts, to lead the body to spiritual maturity. These people help us to have convinction by using their teaching gifts.
“As a result, we are no longer to be children.” This is not a flattering statement. Imagine what the Ephesians thought when reading this letter. “Did Paul just call us out and say we are being like children?” Yes, apparently, he did but, he said it out of love. “Ouch!”
Christian’s who are childlike in their faith are baby Christians because they don’t know much about doctrine. Christian maturity comes from knowing what is right and wrong. Immature Christians are not filled with Christ in every part of their life. They have only a partial understanding. They don’t realize they practice evil.
As this verse implies, the source of our immaturity is from listening to Satan, the father of lies. He has been lying ever since he deceived Adam and Even in the Garden.
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate (Gen. 3:6)
All those who are not in Christ are under His influence. Even the elect may be trapped and fall into his schemes. They will not lose their salvation, but they will continue in immaturity and miss out on being fruitful believers in God’s kingdom.
All which the verse describes, trickery of men, craftiness, and deceitful scheming, is negative. They imply evil connotations. Children are naïve and don’t understand there is evil in the world. We have to teach children not to take candy from strangers. We don’t want to be like children, that when the devil holds out candy-coated doctrine, we take and eat his poison. It looks good and tasty, just like the fruit in the Garden.
We may ask ourselves, “How do I know if I am susceptible to being deceived?” The answer to that question is found by asking ourselves another question, “How well do I know the doctrines of the Bible?” Seldom are people easily deceived when they are regular students of the Bible.
We may think, “I am not a baby Christian.” This may be true, but are we an elementary school Christian? High school?
Society has a scale for measuring maturity in life. There are expectations for when a child should know how to read or know how to ride a bike. First-graders need to know the alphabet. Sixth-graders should progress beyond addition and subtraction. Teenagers learn how to work and have an income so they eventually may be independent. All of this comes from learning important basics. There comes a time when children need to stop being children and they need to grow up.
We have a scale for measuring progress in life, but have we ever considered a scale for measuring Christian maturity in the believer? Where do we fit in God’s eyes with our maturity in our faith?
After we are born-again, do we stay as babies?
God expects us to understand the Bible as adults, not like naïve children. God doesn’t have a very flattering view of Christians who do not grow in their understanding of the Bible. As a parent wants what is best for their child and desires them to grow up, our Heavenly Father wants us to grow up because He loves us.
God doesn’t want us to have childish understanding and be is easily confused by all sorts of different doctrines. A child is easily led astray by one doctrine one day and another the next. Our Father wants us to know His truth. We need to take this to heart. The Bible is too important for us to have a childlike understanding.
The reason God gifted the church with evangelists, pastors, and teachers is to help us grow and mature in the truth. Those who are gifted in teaching are happy to help others. God doesn’t give them the gift without also giving the desire to exercise the gift.
I know what it’s like to not understand something. It can be embarrassing to admit when we don’t quite understand certain things. Some doctrines are not easy to understand. However, we are family. People in the church love you and care for you. They want to help you.
When we don’t find some things easy to understand, we are in good company. Peter admits some of what Paul writes is hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16-17).
It grieves our heart to hear of someone who falls victim of false teaching. Just as we tell our children, because we love them, they need to grow up, our Father in Heaven is asking us to please grow up in the ways of the Bible.
We need to be sure we are not childlike in the ways of Scripture. The Bible is far too important for us to ignore. Let’s fill ourselves up with Christ by being mature in our faith. Be a Christian with conviction.
Next, the passage tells us to have conversations with one another.
but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, (Eph. 4:15)
The verse begins with the word, “but.” The word but suggests doing something else. Don’t do that, but, instead do this. Instead of being childlike in our faith, do this instead, speak the truth with one another. Truth is the opposite of deceit and trickery.
There is only one source of truth, and that is the Holy Scriptures. Maturity in Christ only comes from God’s Word.
As Christians who put our faith in Christ, we have the following convictions:
All our conversations about truth must be based upon the truth of the Bible.
Many people in today’s world cry out for Christian unity. However, unity may only take place around truth. If another church in town does not believe in the inspiration, authority, or inerrancy of Scripture, we have no unity. God’s truth brings unity.
A friend of mine once shared an analogy about a supermarket giving away money. Let’s say your friend wins a contest where they may go into a room with three tables. One table has stacks of one dollar bills. The second table has stacks of fives and the third table has stacks of twenty-dollar bills. They have thirty seconds to go into the room to gather into a shopping basket as much money as they can. After 30 seconds, they get to keep all the money they have in the basket.
We watch as our friend goes in and pulls their cart to the table with the one dollar bills. They frantically begin loading their cart with ones. We look on and scream out, “Not the ones, grab the twenties!” They look back at us and say, “What is wrong with ones?”
Nothing is wrong with ones. Ones are fine. But, twenties are so much better.
The same goes for our conversations with one another. We can talk about sports and politics and our favorite recipes. There is nothing wrong with having conversation about ones. However, let’s also have conversations about twenties. Let’s talk about eternal matters with one another. Let’s ask what the Lord is teaching us in His Word.
Speaking the truth need not always be about difficult doctrines. It is having conversation which involves the viewpoint of the Bible. Speaking the truth may be about raising our children or relating to a difficult coworker. Sometimes, speaking the truth is to be honest with one another about our struggles. It is good to confess to one another. Nobody here is perfect. I have plenty of struggles. I am sure you do as well.
God’s children hear His voice and respond. God’s voice speaks through His Word. That is the wonderful thing about being a believer is that we know we may hold one another accountable and we have a standard upon which to measure our conversation.
As we Increase in knowledge of the truth, we need to be sure it is accompanied by an equal increase in love. 1 Corinthians 13 is a tremendous help for us to understand how we may speak the truth lovingly.
Love is patient. This means we are willing to be long-suffering toward one another. When we teach others, we may not become impatient or irritated if they don’t understand something the first time we tell them. We need to use kind and gentle voices.
When we have knowledge about doctrine that others may not know, let’s not brag or be proud about what we know. Don’t say things like, “I can’t believe you don’t know about justification by faith” or, “if you want to fit in this church, you better start learning about the doctrines of grace.” When visitors come here from other churches, don’t immediately tell them, “Well, our church believes this or that.” It may be true, but it is not very loving. We need to be understanding and good listeners.
I am not saying we need to avoid the truth or hide the truth. Don’t misunderstand. What I am saying is that we are ambassadors of the gospel. We need to be Christlike in our handling of truth. We never have permission to be rude or arrogant.
People don’t care what we know until they know that we care. It takes time to be able to speak into people’s lives. It doesn’t happen right away.
The verse talks about growing up in all aspects into Christ. We expect children to grow in many ways. We expect them to grow physically and that happens without much interference. We also expect our children to grow socially and in the workplace. We want them to learn math, but we also want them to know how math applies at the grocery store and in their banking account. We want our children to grow in every aspect of their lives.
In the same way, God desires for us to grow up to be like Christ in all aspects of our life. We are not to be an adult Christian in the church and a baby Christian at work. God wants us to be mature Christians at home, on the football field, at work, during church, and in our relationships with others.
Being like Jesus is the source and the goal. Jesus supplies the knowledge in His Word and He empowers us with His Holy Spirit. Christ is the head of our body. He provides the direction because He is the eyes and ears and the brain of the body. We are to grow up into Him. He provides the nourishment and we are to grow.
God desires to fill us with Christ. We are to have Christlike thoughts, words, and actions in all that we do. When we are growing up in all aspects, we become filled with Jesus.
The most important aspect of our maturity is truth and love.
We need to have conviction and not be easily swayed in doctrine.
We need to have loving conversations about the truth with one another so we may help one another mature in Christ.
Last, we need to contribute.
Each of us is to make a contribution to the body of Christ to help the growth of the body.
from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what 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. (Eph. 4:16)
First, we need to understand that Christ is the one who fits us together and holds us together. It is the Spirit of God who supplies and enables us to make a contribution. We need to give God the glory for any talent or gift we have which helps the body of Christ.
Notice how the verse describes that we are being fitted and held together by Christ. Our scripture reading from 1 Corinthians says,
… God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. (1 Cor. 12:18)
We learned this morning during ABF that church membership is a gift. Belonging to the Body of Christ is a gift because we receive one another. All of us are placed here by God. We are God’s gift to one another. Each of us has something to give and each one of us is needing to receive from someone else.
Let’s take a moment to think about this truth and rejoice in the people who God has placed among us. We need to rejoice and be thankful for each and every person in the body. God does not make mistakes. He knows what He is doing.
Each of us has a part to play. Each of us is to be working to help one another mature in Christ.
All parts of the body are to be working together for the common good.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Cor. 12:4-7)
As we look around the church, we see a variety of people with a variety of gifts. We all need one another. In our Scripture reading from the same chapter, we read:
… the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1 Cor. 12:21)
Independent Christians are an oxy-moron. It is impossible to live as a Christian and not be intimately involved with the body of Christ. When we don’t involve ourselves in one another’s life, we are not being faithful to Scripture.
Let me say it another way, when we don’t involve ourselves in one another’s life, we are being childish. It sounds like, “If I want to stay in my room and wear my pajamas all day long and be a Christian all by myself, I will. Nobody is going to tell me how I can live my Christian life.”
Is that how we want people to see us? As children? Sometimes, the truth hurts. If your heart is convicted, I pray that it is the Holy Spirit at work in your life.
We are all gifted. Mom’s may help other moms. Men may help other men know how to be better husbands and fathers. Look at each person and ask God, what may that person teach me? Don’t just think about who can help us with our taxes or who can help fix our car or mend our dress. Think about how people may help with our character.
There are people in our church who have learned how to persevere in difficult times. Others can teach us how to be humble. Some have the gift of generosity and hospitality. Others still may teach us how to speak with tact, diplomacy, and gentleness.
Imagine if we could develop meaningful, Christ-centered relationships in the body where we learn from others in the ways God has gifted them! What a tremendous blessing and opportunity for spiritual growth.
Do we see the vision? Imagine each of us, not just some, but every person, helping one another to build one another up in love.
Let’s begin by asking the Lord to identify someone in the church who we may learn from. Tell the Lord you desire to mature and be filled up with Christ. Ask Him to reveal who may help you in the areas you most need to grow. Humbly ask them to help you. For example, let’s say you want to grow in humility. Tell the person how you notice their humble attitude. Ask them how you may change.
When people approach us in this way, we need to lovingly, patiently, and gently share the truth of God with them. God’s people hear His voice. Lovingly and patiently help them understand how they may change. Provide examples. Tell them of your struggles and how God, in His grace, has helped you. Let them know you care for them and you will pray for them.
This is the kind of church we need to be. We need to recognize each of us needs to grow in one way or another. Not one of us has arrived. But, together, we may grow and mature and filled with Jesus.
MAIN IDEA: Having conviction, conversation, and contribution will grow us together in unity and fill us to maturity in Christ.