… that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting ….
We have seen that the function of the ministry gifts given to the church (typified by apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry – in order that all the members of the body of Christ might come to a mature man to the measure and stature and fullness of Christ. This end is approached as we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God. We have seen that, though we have not yet arrived at the place of final maturity, the body of Christ is progressing in that direction, and God gave the ministry gifts and the work of the ministry to us here on earth, until that goal is attained. While it will not be fully attained pending the return of Christ (‘not yet’), nevertheless it is something for which we diligently endeavor after in the ‘already.’ We have also seen that the primary means which God uses in the process of our sanctification and maturation include the Word of God, and the people of God.
Verse 14 then reveals to us the first of three visible signs which are to increasingly characterize the church militant (that is to say the church here on earth) as we mature until the coming of Christ. The three outward signs of a maturing church revealed in verses 14-16 of Ephesians 4 are: 1) a church that is stabile in doctrine; 2) a church that speaks the truth in love; and 3) a church that is building itself up in love. We will deal with each one in a separate sermon, this week emphasizing the importance of growth in doctrine through the ministry of the Word.
Children grow in stages. As infants and toddlers they are very unstable on their feet and easily knocked over; they are readily distracted; they lack the experience to know the difference between what is insignificant and what is truly valuable; they are easily taken in by that which looks pretty; and they have no conception of the idea of anything long term. The same is true spiritually. Immature believers are easily thrown and tossed about by the latest doctrinal wind that blows through. We have seen this in our own generation, how charismatic excesses have blown the church from one venue to the next – seeking experiences from falling down to holy laughter to barking; and when that wasn’t enough, they turned after gold dust and gold teeth; and from there, on to spiritual warfare techniques, kicking and cursing pastors, a new apostolic reformation, the third wave, the Prayer of Jabez, mega church, ministry-driven church, purpose-driven life, contemplative prayer methodologies, emergent church, mission-driven church, and onto whatever the next idea on the horizon. Sadly we have seen individuals and even entire churches following after these winds of doctrine, taking them from Toronto to Pensacola to Texas to Kansas City – moving from one deception to the next. If we honestly look at the modern evangelical church, the only consistent object which seems to drive the church is the latest fad; perhaps we would best call today’s church the fad-driven church.
Being blown around by every new wind of doctrine is an indication of the immaturity of the visible church. This began as the church began to degrade the importance of doctrine and theology. Under the guise of either unity or evangelism, teaching and exposition of the Word of God were replaced with new ideas which are supposed to embrace a larger group of people. Add to that, the pride of the human heart does not like to be thought of as old-fashioned, so as each new wind blows through, it carries away a church that is not rooted and grounded in the doctrinal truths most surely believed among us. Many are swept off their feet by the trickery of men, who come with an open, but misinterpreted Bible, and end up with deceived minds. But it is sustained, intensive, faithful exposition of God’s Word that delivers us from immaturity, as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. The milk and meat of the Gospel seeps into our instincts so that we are no longer spiritual babies or even teenagers, driven by emotion, attracted by spiritual ‘spin,’ shaped by passing trends and peer pressure, rather as we hear and breath, and live God’s Word, we grow strong.