We have been looking at the marks of a mature church. Verse 14 of Ephesians 4 has shown that to arrive a mature spiritual manhood means to be no longer children who are at the mercy of every wind of false teaching. By contrast verse 15 reveals, that if the church is to grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ, we do so only as we speak the truth to one another. However, even truth can be held and dispensed with a deceitful or unloving spirit, so the truth communicated, we are told, must be in love. The third and final visible mark of the mature church then, described in verse 16, is one where each member is faithfully fulfilling his or her appointed function in the body of Christ and thus contributing to the growth of the whole body. It pictures the body of Christ as a living organism in which each member contributes to the whole by giving and receiving to and from each other, that which is drawn from Christ, the head. Drawing from Christ as our source, the body then effects its own growth, a process which takes place, according to the effective working by which every part does its share (vs. 16). In other words, every member of the body to whom a gift has been given by the ascended Christ, receives the necessary enabling power from Christ, to perform his or her proper function, so that the growth of the whole body is advanced.
Now as Paul concludes this section, after 16 verses of Scripture, his overall message is crystal clear – a church is a body where each member lives for the well-being of the whole – another way of putting it – where each member loves one another. As this happens the body grows; it becomes more like its Head to whom it submits. Unity and maturity are vitally linked, and cannot be separated from one another.
When a church is not growing, its stunted fellowship can often be traced to one of two causes – either a lack of truth or a lack of love – sadly sometimes both. Just as is the case with truth, where love is lacking, Christ is lacking – for Christ is Love incarnate; and if we, as Christ’s body, are not loving, then we are not being Christ to one another. Sadly this is the ecclesiastical status quo – it too well describes the church of our day; a church more reminiscent of the Old Testament, where when we speak of “the church” we really mean the building or the temple or the “worship center” instead of “the church,” as it truly means – the people. If we get a grasp on the kind of new society that God reveals to us in this section of Scripture, then we will not be content in doing church the way we have been for centuries, but rather will pray and work for the church’s total renewal. This text has set before a beautiful picture of a deepening and growing fellowship of God’s people with an eager desire to visibly display Christian unity, through an active every-member ministry of truth loving and truth speaking people. We need to keep this biblical ideal ever before us, particularly as we move on into the instructions of the second half of Ephesians 4; realize that verses 1-16 provide the framework in which the exhortations of the remainder of the epistle are carried out.