God’s intention was the perfecting and the full-equipping of the saints (His consecrated people), that they should do the work of ministering toward building up Christ’s body [the church]. That it might develop until we all attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the full and accurate knowledge of the Son of God; that we might arrive at really mature manhood, completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard height of Christ’s own perfection — the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ and the completeness found in Him (Ephesians 4:12,13).
What are your ideals and ambitions in life? In our so-called modern age with all its fascinating technological advancements, success is measured by one’s status in life, which in turn is determined by one’s financial position. Mankind is rushing after even greater pinnacles of success at a maddening pace. Nations throughout the world regard their economies as the alpha and omega of their existence, even to the extent that decent moral behavior and ethics are happily sacrificed on the world altars of Mammon.
One of the saddest snares Christians have fallen into is the notion that Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross so that we might feel good about ourselves. Indeed, the devastating lie that He was crucified because we are worthy and that He shed His precious blood to restore our self-esteem, is increasingly gaining credence in evangelical Christian churches throughout the world.
The inevitable result of this lie is that the entire concept of worship and praise is undergoing an entire metamorphoses. Jumping, yelling, laughing, crying vociferous crowds truly believe that they are praising and worshipping the Triune God. What has happened to the old fashioned and godly way of worshipping Him in spirit and in truth? (John 4:23). Have we completely lost sight of God’s ambitions or intentions for our lives?
What are God’s intentions for our lives? The above passage of Scripture clearly outlines His purpose. Firstly, God intends to perfect and equip His saints. In the business world or any kind of secular occupation, it is imperative that an employee undergo the necessary education and practical training so as to equip him for his particular position in a firm.
However, these educational training methods are not sufficient. Nearly all successful businessmen will admit that experience is what is ultimately needed to make a success of your vocation. In the spiritual realm this is of no less importance. If, what we learn through God’s word is not translated into an experiential knowledge, then all the other educational training methods are null and void. This is what Paul had in mind when he said:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer” (2 Corinthians 1:3-6 ).
Paul’s experiences in all kinds of circumstances enabled him to encourage, comfort and teach his brethren to endure similar experiences with fortitude and patience. Throughout all his ordeals, he was continually aware of God’s comforting presence that gave him the strength to endure in his faith, even to the extent that he could cry out triumphantly, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Keeping the faith was evidently Paul’s ultimate objective, which is also the essence of the message in Ephesians 4:12-13. It is apparent that the “perfecting” and “equipping” of the saints are first and foremost for the benefit of others. In fact, God equips his saints exclusively for the building up of Christ’s church.
It is God’s intent that the church should reflect the magnanimous and indescribable perfection and magnificence of Christ’s character, display the wisdom of God and to show forth His praises and glorify Him. There is no room for individualism or exclusivism within the Body of Christ. The saints are all members of His body who must collectively work together toward the achievement of the complete height (measure or standard) of Christ’s own perfection.
In the last of these last days the vicious attacks of Satan are primarily targeted at the faith of God’s saints. Bearing in mind that the reason for the edifying or building up of the church is to attain oneness (agreement or unanimity) in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, it is easy to see why he particularly wants to destroy the faith. Paul counted all things that were gain to him as loss for the sake of Christ, and for the excellent knowledge of His Lord. (Philippians 3:7, 8).
Nothing was more important to him than to progressively grow in the knowledge of Christ. To know Him in this way is to be overwhelmed by the magnanimous splendor and holy radiance of His character, prompting one to worship and serve Him with complete awe and abandonment.
Satan knows that the destruction of the faith of God’s children will lead to a total misrepresentation of Jesus Christ. Throughout the world there is an alarming upsurge of a new kind of Christianity that is increasingly turning away from faith in God and Jesus Christ to a faith in a convenient faith or faith in your own mind-power. Indeed, we are literally experiencing the falling away (departure) from the faith. (1 Timothy 4:1).
The knowledge derived from such a faith leaves one with a distorted view of Jesus Christ. It is preposterous to hold the view that the Body of Christ can represent—“ the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ and the completeness found in Him” when it has departed from a biblically grounded faith. Spiritual maturity, nothing less than the standard height of Christ’s own perfection, is what God has in mind for the Body of Christ.
In order to understand more clearly what is meant by spiritual maturity, we should look at immaturity. Our Lord plainly said that unless we are changed and become like a child, there is no hope for us; we will never enter into the Kingdom of God. (Matt. 18:3) There is however a vast difference between child-likeness and childishness. In our main Scripture paraphrase at the beginning of this commentary, verse 14 goes on to say that spiritual immaturity is typical of everyone who is easily “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”
In complete contrast to this, the spiritual man or the man who is governed by the Holy Spirit, tests or discerns all things. (1 Cor. 2:15). Contending for the faith is not merely having the right attitude about faith, but to combat and reject outright any false thing that even looks remotely like the authentic teachings or doctrines in the Bible. (Jude 3 and 1 John 4:1). Vigilance, sobriety, and a keen discernment are all traits of an acute mind that has been renewed by the Holy Spirit.
This is probably the most important prerequisite for spiritual maturity—a discerning mind. In fact, we are reminded in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that we have the mind of Christ. Anything short of the mind of Christ will not be sufficient to discern spiritual truths. What is meant by the mind of Christ. It is definitely something more than the power of considering and judging soberly, calmly and impartially. It is to exemplify his example by living the same way He lived and died when He walked the earth.
“Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus. — Let Him be your example in humility — Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained;
But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity] so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being.
And after He had appeared in human form He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of [the] cross!” (Philippians2:5-8; Amplified Bible).
So, since Christ suffered in the flesh [for us, for you], arm yourselves with the same thought and purpose [patiently to suffer rather than fail to please God]. For whoever has suffered in the flesh [having the mind of Christ] has done with [intentional] sin — has stopped pleasing himself and the word, and pleases God. (1 Peter 4:1; Amplified Bible).
The core of both the above passages of Scripture is the necessitousness of a humble mind. And indeed this is the very essence of God’s purpose in the ‘perfecting” and “equipping” of the saints for the building up and edifying of the body of Christ — humility. Meekness or a lowly mind is indeed “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Jesus Christ and the completeness found in Him.”
Did Jesus Himself not say that we may learn humility from Him? (Matt. 11:28). This truly is spiritual maturity. No measure of knowledge or studying will ever be able to build up the body of Christ. Knowledge alone puffs up, but charity (humble service and speaking the truth in love) builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1).