IN HUMILITY AND LOVE, PROMOTE UNITY IN A CONTEXT OF DIVERSITY WITH THE GOAL OF MATURITY
Harold Hoehner: The revelation of the unification of Jewish and Gentile believers positionally as “one new person” (2:15), the body of Christ, and the prayer that this unity would result in a mutual experience of Christ’s love (3:16–19) leads Paul to demonstrate the manner of walk expected of this unified body. This can only be accomplished by God’s own power through the ministry of gifted believers who Christ gives to the church. The purpose is to bring all the members of the body to the unity of faith and to the full stature of Christ with the result that they will be a stable and growing body in living union with Christ the head.
Klyne Snodgrass: The present passage focuses on life, order, unity, and the purpose of the church, as well as its diversity and difficulties. All five words summarizing Christianity appear here. In other words, ecclesiology and ethics cannot be separated.4 As we have noted, Christology is soteriology is ecclesiology is ethics,5 and this understanding continues throughout the letter. . . The NIV provides a paragraph division at 4:14, which hides the fact that 4:11–16 is one sentence in the Greek text.
Andrew Lincoln: The Church’s Calling to Maintenance of the Unity It Already Possesses – This pericope begins the section of the letter which is one of the most extended pieces of paraenesis in any of the letters of the Pauline corpus. As has been noted in the Introduction, in Ephesians the paraenesis forms an exhortatio, which replaces the argumentatio found in most persuasive discourses. The various elements in the build-up of the rhetoric to this point—the exordium, the narratio, the digressio, and the transitus, which is a renewed exordium—all perform their own function in reminding the readers of who they are as the Church in Christ, but they also prepare most effectively for the exhortatio which now follows. They secure the audience’s goodwill, inspire them, convince them of the rightness of the writer’s perspective on their situation, and dispose them to carry out the specific injunctions of this exhortatio.
Grant Osborne: Now Paul turns to the ethical exhortation of his letter. This section comprises chapters 4–6 and includes a series of challenges for his readers to live the Christian life God’s way. This opening section is brilliantly conceived, stressing first that the unity of the church reflects the unity of the Godhead (4:1–6) and then that this unity must be lived out in diversity, with every member of the body taking their place and working together to enable the church to grow (vv. 7–16). As stated in Ephesians 2:11–18, the conflict among cultures in the church is insufficient to fracture it, for as each believer is united with Christ they are also united with each other. Christ’s reconciliation via the cross has broken down racial and ethnic divisions, and all the diverse peoples form a new humanity in Christ. . .
All of Paul’s passages dealing with spiritual gifts and the body of Christ (for example, Rom 12:4–8; 1 Cor 12:12–31) emphasize the diversity of the church in the midst of its unity as one body. The body consists of many members, all of whom must function together in order for the body to grow. Each member discovers her role in the body by taking the grace-gifts Christ has given her and using them for the benefit of the body. The gifts bestowed in 4:7–8 enable the body to grow (vv. 15–16).
(:1) THEME OF CHAPS. 4-6 — THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH — HOW WE SHOULD WALK IN CHRIST
- Paul has spent 1-3 describing our high calling;
- Now he “entreats” the believers to Walk Worthy in 4-6
A. Example of the Apostle Paul
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord“
Harold Hoehner: It is not uncommon for Paul to use this conjunction along with παρακαλέω (Rom 12:1; 1 Thess 4:1; 1 Tim 2:1; cf. also 1 Pet 5:1) after long doctrinal sections in order to draw inferences from the preceding discussion. Therefore, this conjunction is drawing an inference from all the preceding chapters of Ephesians.
B. Entreaty of the Apostle Paul
Harold Hoehner: Although the verb can have more than one English meaning, it seems the context demands the primary idea of exhortation. This conclusion is viable even though Paul is addressing fellow believers because friendship does not exclude authoritative exhortation. In fact, his close relationship to the readers makes the exhortation all the more effective.
- Substance = Walk Worthy
“walk in a manner worthy of the calling
with which you have been called“
Klyne Snodgrass: Note that “calling” is used of the salvation and responsibility of every Christian, not of the “professional ministry” or an elite group. This one call is for all Christians to live in accord with what God has done.
Andrew Lincoln: The use of the language of calling in the context of his ethical appeal indicates that for this writer God’s sovereign initiative and human responsibility for living appropriately go hand in hand, so that he would not for one moment have expected his earlier stress on predestination and election (1:3, 4), and even on God’s preparation of believers’ good works ahead of time (2:10), to undermine the seriousness with which his exhortation was to be taken. The appeal to live worthily of God’s calling presupposes that God’s gracious initiative requires a continuous human response and that his call bestows both high privilege and high responsibility.
I. (:2-6) UNITY — PROMOTE AND PRESERVE THE UNITY OF THE ONE BODY OF CHRIST
Frank Thielman: In 4:1–6 Paul introduces his practical admonitions on how the church can grow into this ultimate unity. He does this in two parts. The first part offers a general exhortation focused on loving deference to one another (4:1–3), and the second part grounds this general exhortation in the unity of God (“one Spirit . . . one Lord . . . one God and Father”), of God’s people (“one body”), and of the response of God’s people to God (“one hope . . . one faith, one baptism”; 4:4–6).
The two parts have a similar structure. Each part contains a list of items, with the last and longest item in each part bringing its part to a climax. The admonitions to exercise humility, gentleness, patience, and to bear with one another lead to the lengthy exhortation to be “eager to keep the unity of the Spirit by the fastener of peace” (4:3). In the same way, the affirmations of various unities conclude with the lengthy description of “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (4:6).
This final affirmation of God’s unity prepares the way for Paul’s discussion of how he has given “each one” of his readers a measure of grace to use in aiding the church on its way to unity (4:7–16).
A. (:2-3) HOW?
- Practicing the Fruit of the Holy Spirit in our Attitudes and Relationships
a. “with all humility and gentleness“
Klyne Snodgrass: “Gentleness” (prautes), a forgotten virtue, shows up with regularity in Paul’s ethical lists, which demonstrates the value he placed on it (cf. Phil. 4:5, which uses epieikes but is concerned with the same ethic). In 2 Corinthians 10:1 Paul uses both these words for gentleness to describe his own demeanor—a gentleness he says is characteristic of Christ.
b. “with patience, showing forbearance to one another”
Harold Hoehner: For the believer, patience is that cautious endurance that does not abandon hope. It pertains to waiting patiently without immediate results, like the farmer who waits for his harvest and the OT prophets who waited for God’s action (Jas 5:7–11). It includes patient endurance while awaiting the inheritance of the promises even as Abraham had (Heb 6:12–15). God is the greatest example of all. He stayed his wrath when he was wronged by human sin (Rom 2:4). Thus must the believer stay his or her impatience or vengeance when wronged by another believer, exhibiting patience one toward another, especially in the light of the union of believing Jews and Gentiles into one body. It is clear that patience is not only a virtue but a necessary ingredient for the life of Jewish and Gentile believers who comprise the body of Christ.
Klyne Snodgrass: “Love” and “putting up with each other” are intertwined and mutually explanatory. Both are ways of valuing the other person.
c. “in love“
Harold Hoehner: In conclusion, there was undoubtedly some tension between Jewish and Gentile believers even though they were now united into one body. Therefore, Paul has explained how their walk must be exemplified by humility, gentleness, and patience, forbearing one another in love, and thus excluding resentment. Such qualities could only be accomplished by the power of the Spirit in their lives, individually (3:16) and corporately (2:22).
- Working Hard at Preserving the Unity of the Body
“being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace“
Harold Hoehner: Believers are to make every effort to preserve the unity which has its origin in the Holy Spirit. This unity is portrayed by the bond between Jews and Gentiles who have become one new person in Christ. The bond consisting of peace is possible because Christ brought peace between these two former entities (2:14–16). Hence, there is no exhortation to establish peace because it has been done in Christ. Nor is there an exhortation to organize unity because this has been accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Instead, Paul’s concern is to preserve, maintain, or protect that unity.
Clinton Arnold: It is essential to work on developing Christlike virtues that enhance unity. In this passage Paul speaks of the importance of cultivating humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, love, and peace. Developing these virtues is an important aspect of what it means to “make every effort” to maintain unity within the church. Conversely, we must rid ourselves of those characteristics that hurt our brothers and sisters, make them defensive, or create a spirit of tension within the community. Practically, we should carefully examine our lives in light of the following considerations:
- If we are quick to get angry, we need to work on patience.
- If we have a tendency to be proud, arrogant, egocentric, and boastful (and who doesn’t struggle with these?), we need to work on humility.
- If we are insensitive, bullish at times, rough, bossy, or quick to impose on others, we need to work on gentleness.
- If we struggle with being intolerant with the shortcomings of other people, we need to work on bearing with one another in love.
- If unity among fellow believers in our own local churches is not a priority for us, we need to make it a priority.
- If the ardent pursuit of unity between churches in our cities is not a priority, we also need to make this a priority.
B. WHY? — God Has Called us to a Unity of Oneness (outline here from Wood)
- Realization of Unity in the Spirit
a. “One body“
b. “one Spirit“
c. “one hope of your calling“
- Focus of Unity in the Son
a. “one Lord“
b. “one faith“
c. “one baptism“
Clinton Arnold: This probably refers to the practice of water baptism and not solely to the experience of baptism in the Spirit. Water baptism was the common practice of the early church following a person’s confession of faith in Christ (see Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12, 13, 36, 38; 10:47–48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5), which Paul himself experienced (Acts 9:18; 22:16). In Paul’s teaching, the ritual symbolized identification with Jesus in his death and resurrection (Rom 6:1–11; Col 2:12). Paul also uses the term baptism to refer to the work of the Spirit in joining every individual believer to the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13). Paul’s confession of “one baptism” here probably indicates the rite as well as all that it symbolizes.
Harold Hoehner: 3 options:
1) Rite of Water Baptism
2) Spirit’s Baptism
3) A third option that needs to be considered is that it refers metaphorically to the believer’s baptism into Christ’s death, speaking of the believer’s union with Christ in his death and resurrection. Baptism signifies identification as seen in the baptism of Israel into Moses as they went through the Red Sea (1 Cor 10:2) and the baptism of the disciples with reference to Christ’s death (Mark 10:38). Both of these examples make no reference to water or to the Holy Spirit. This same concept is seen in other NT passages (Rom 6:1–11; Gal 3:27; Col 2:12). Furthermore, it fits well with the context, for the believer’s baptism into Christ signifies union with Christ (Rom 6:5) and it occurs at the time of conversion (Rom 6:2–4). This inward reality is all too often missed. It serves as the basis of the outward ritual. Hence, the “one baptism” most likely refers to the internal reality of having been baptized into (identified with) the “one Lord” by means of the “one faith” mentioned in this verse.
- Souce of Unity in the Father —
“one God and Father of all“
Harold Hoehner: God is further described as the God and Father “of all,” which refers not to all humans but to all believers (John 1:12; Gal 3:26). This is substantiated in the present context because Paul is exhorting Christians, and not all humans, to preserve the unity.
Significance — 3 Different Modes of Action:
a. “who is over all“
Harold Hoehner: First, he is over (ἐπί) all, indicating his sovereign position over all believers. This has reference not only to his spiritual authority over us but also in every aspect of the life of the believer. God is “supreme and transcendent.” If believers take God’s sovereignty seriously, the result is unity and contentment and joy for believers, even in the midst of trials. The believer will trust God in his wisdom and care for all things that transpire in life.
b. “and through all“
Harold Hoehner: Second, not only is God sovereign in all believers’ lives, he also works through (διά) all of them. Here the emphasis is on God’s immanence. He accomplishes his purposes through the instruments of believers. This is in keeping with 2:10 where the believer is God’s workmanship created for good works which God prepared beforehand in order that he or she should walk in them. However, since God provides the power for good works, he is to receive all the glory. Such a wonderful provision shows that he is alive and active in the world today.
c. “and in all“
Harold Hoehner: This signifies the indwelling Spirit (John 14:16–17; Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 2:12; 6:19–20; Gal 3:2; 4:6; 1 John 2:27; 3:24; 4:13), his intimate presence. In 3:17 Paul prayed that Christ might be at home in their hearts. Although Christ was already in them, Paul wanted him to be the very center of their lives. Believers have the joy of knowing that God not only is over them and working through them, but he is also residing in them. Whereas Paul spoke about God dwelling in the person of the Holy Spirit in the corporate body of the church (2:22), he now is talking about the personal dwelling of God in believers.
II. (:7-12) DIVERSITY — PROMOTE AND APPRECIATE THE DIVERSITY OF THE VARYING SPIRITUAL GIFTS FOR THE EQUIPPING OF THE BODY
Harold Hoehner: Having discussed the need to preserve unity (vv. 1–3) and the elements of unity which serve as a model for Christian unity (vv. 4–6), Paul now analyzes the means of preserving that unity of the body, namely, by the use of various gifts given to the church (vv. 7–16).
Frank Thielman: As with 4:1–6, this paragraph [4:7-16] can be divided into two subsections. The first subsection (4:7–10) focuses on the gift-giver, Christ, and on his status as the one who has conquered the forces of evil. The second subsection (4:11–16) is one long sentence. It shifts the emphasis slightly from the gifts given to each person in the body to the gifts of five groups of people to the body of Christ so that they might in turn equip the “saints” for the work of ministry (4:11–12). With mention of the “work” of the “saints,” however, the emphasis quickly moves back to the contribution that “all” make to the body’s maturity (v. 13). This body of Christ, we now learn, is growing and maturing away from infancy (with its tendency to be swayed by various kinds of false teaching) toward full adulthood, and every “connection” in the body assists this growth by his or her loving witness to the truth of the gospel (vv. 14–16).
A. (:7) Christ has Gifted Each Member of the Body in a Unique Way
“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift“
Grant Osborne: The emphasis here is on the source of these graces: Christ. There is no haphazard, random distribution of gifts. Every gift is carefully chosen and apportioned according to the sovereign will of God. In our narcissistic world we too often are dissatisfied with what Christ has given us and want more. That is to deny God’s grace and will for the sake of self. God gives us exactly what he wants us to have and what is best for us. It is our privilege to unquestioningly accept and use his gracious gifts. The joint ministry we have in the church is the result of the particular gifts each of us has received.
B. (:8-10) This Gift Giving was in Fulfillment of Prophecy in Conjunction with the Victory of His Ascension
- (:8) Prophecy of the Spoils of Victory
“When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He
gave gifts to men.”
Harold Hoehner: The point that Paul is trying to make is the fact that Christ, who ascended as victor, has the right to give gifts. For if Christ had been defeated, he would yet be in his grave and spiritual gifts would be useless to those whom he could not redeem.
Grant Osborne: Psalm 68 pictures Yahweh as a Divine Warrior descending from Mount Sinai, striding across the earth winning victory after victory for his people, and then ascending Mount Zion surrounded by an entourage of the heavenly host in order to establish his throne room (temple) there. It is the prayer of the psalm that this power of God be exercised once again to deliver his people.
The first line of Psalm 68:18 pictures the Divine Warrior ascending the heights of Mount Zion. He has won the victory and now ascends to his newly established throne on Zion to receive the accolades of his grateful people. The second line summarizes the triumphs of the Divine Warrior over the enemies of Israel (Ps 68:1–2, 6, 12–14, 23, 30–31) when he “took many captives” from the opposing armies. These captured armies are pictured bound and marching behind the victory chariot of Yahweh as it proceeds up Mount Zion. The third line depicts the conquering Lord “receiving gifts” from a grateful Israel. In this psalm David provides a panoramic view of the entire history of Israel from the exodus to the establishment of the temple on Mount Zion. God the Divine Warrior is the Savior and redeemer of his people, the only One worthy of worship. . .
It is more likely that Paul himself made the wording change from “received gifts” to “gave gifts.” This fits the movement in his thinking from “grace has been given” in verse 7 to “Christ himself gave” in verse 11. In Psalm 68 it is Yahweh who ascends to his newly established throne on Mount Zion to receive gifts from his people and their defeated enemies. Here it is Christ the Divine Warrior who ascends into heaven after defeating the cosmic enemies and then distributes his gifts to his delivered followers. The defeat of the hostile powers is central to Ephesians (1:20–22; 3:10; 6:10–20) and part of the imagery here. The switch to “gave gifts” is not a casual change. Paul is reading Psalm 68:18 in light of the whole of the psalm, which details the victories God gave Israel. Using Jewish exegesis, Paul is taking the gifts of Yahweh to the people of Israel in the psalm and applying it to the gifts of the ascended Christ to the people of the new Israel.
- (:9-10) Aside: Reality of Ascension with its Majestic Glory contrasted with Corresponding Reality of “Descension”
Andrew Lincoln: The incarnation provides what is on the surface the most obvious reference for the descent; but the descent in the Spirit, although it is still the minority view, may well be preferable if, as seems to be the case, the midrash is making a more complex point. It would explain why the inference of a descent from an ascent is necessary in the flow of the writer’s argument and better fits the probable background and associations of the psalm citation. Whichever interpretation one takes, however, the real stress in the progress of thought is on the ascent. The concept of a descent, though it inevitably attracts so much discussion in an exegesis of the passage, was only brought in by the writer to help make his point about Christ’s ascent in the context of his giving of gifts.
Grant Osborne: This [descent] refers to Jesus’ incarnation, seen as the descent into this world of the preexistent God-man. The “lower parts” then refer to the lower part of God’s cosmos, the earth. This would fit Psalm 68, where Yahweh descended from Sinai to deliver his people and then ascended to Zion to rule over the redeemed nation. John 3:31 provides a close parallel: “No one has ascended into heaven … except the one who descended from heaven.” This then would be a reference to the glorified Christ as the One who descended to earth at his incarnation and later ascended to heaven at his resurrection. This is similar to the picture in Revelation 12:4–5, where the woman gives birth to the “male child” (incarnation), who is then snatched up to heaven (exaltation), thereby defeating the dragon.
C. (:11) Distribution of the Leadership-Related Gifts
“He gave some as”
Harold Hoehner: Inexplicably, many commentators mix gift and office, yet they are not confused in the NT. Certainly, there is nothing in the present context about an office. It is true that those who have offices will have gifts because all believers have gifts. However, the opposite is not true, that is, a gifted person may not necessarily have an office since only a handful of people will occupy the offices of elder and/or deacon. Maintaining the distinction of the gifts and offices would help to avoid much confusion.
- “pastors – teachers“
Harold Hoehner: After a study of the grammatical structure of one article followed by two plural nouns separated by a καὶ (as here), Wallace suggests that the first is the subset of the second and thus “all pastors are to be teachers, though not all teachers are to be pastors.” Hence, while there is a distinction between the two, the distinction is not total. . .
Certainly, Jesus recognized that he was both shepherd and teacher and as such was and is a model for all others with like gifts. Shepherding includes instruction but probably is mostly concerned with administration and various ministries to the flock. Teaching includes instruction in doctrine and its application to daily life but the teacher may not have all the administrative and shepherding responsibilities of the pastor.
D. (:12) Purpose of Christ Gifting Such Leaders
- Immediate Goal
“for the equipping of the saints for the work of service“
The vision is Not for the leaders to do the bulk of the ministry
- Ultimate Goal
“to the building up of the body of Christ“
Harold Hoehner: Christ gave foundational gifts to the church for the immediate purpose of preparing all the saints for the goal of service and in turn this service is for the final goal of building up the entire body of Christ. As each believer functions with the gift given to each, Christ’s body, the church, will be built up. The gifts are never for self-edification but for the edification of the whole body of believers. The concept that the ministry belongs to clergy is foreign to this context because every saint is given a gift (v. 7) and every saint is involved in the ministry. The gifted people listed are not to be considered as officers of the church but rather gifted individuals who are foundational. Apostles and evangelists need to proclaim the message and establish churches. Prophets and pastor-teachers need to inform and instruct believers. But the work of the ministry does not stop there—it continues as these gifted individuals prepare all the saints for the work of the ministry with the ultimate goal of building up the body of Christ.
III. (:13-16) MATURITY — KEEP FOCUSED ON THE GOAL OF THE MATURITY OF THE ENTIRE BODY
(WHICH REQUIRES MUTUAL LOVE IN WORD AND DEED THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE PROCESS)
A. (:13) 3 Marks of Maturity
“to a mature man“
“until we all attain to the unity of the faith“
- Knowing Christ
“and of the knowledge of the Son of God“
“to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ“
B. (:14) Resulting Doctrinal Stability
“As a result, we are no longer to be children“
- Descriptions of Instability
a. “tossed here and there by waves“
b. “and carried about by every wind of doctrine“
Grant Osborne: To make explicit the picture of helplessness Paul adds two further images: those of a small boat at the mercy of the storm-tossed sea and of a small bird at the mercy of a hurricane. Neither has the strength or maturity to enable it to cope with these insurmountable forces. The steep waves and howling winds have rendered them unstable. As in James 1:6 they are “blown and tossed by the wind.” In Jesus’ parable of the sower the forces that cause disarray and spiritual failure are adversity and worldly desires (Mark 4:17, 19); here they are the wayward winds of false teaching. As a result these weak Christians drift onto the rocks (Heb 2:1).
- Strategies of Instability
a. “the trickery of men“
b. “craftiness in deceitful scheming“
C. (:15-16) Mutual Love Centered In Christ Makes for a Healthy, Growing Body
Clinton Arnold: In contrast to the instability and immaturity to which wrong beliefs lead, Paul wants these Christians to reach a maturity that comes with a full knowledge of Christ. This involves maintaining a corporate confession of the faith, but doing so with a heart of love for brothers and sisters within the believing community.
- Mutual Love in Ongoing Communication of the Truth
“but speaking the truth in love,“
Clinton Arnold: “Confessing the truth” is a better translation than “speaking the truth” since the latter can be read as simply an exhortation to truthfulness in speech. In this context, however, it conveys the more specific sense of accepting the truth of the gospel, speaking it out loud in the corporate gatherings of worship, talking about it with fellow believers, and upholding it firmly. . .
Paul’s emphasis on love for one another in the community will also be the note on which he ends the passage as well (4:16, “the building up of itself in love”). Stott perceptively comments, “Thank God there are those in the contemporary church who are determined at all costs to defend and uphold God’s revealed truth. But sometimes they are conspicuously lacking in love. When they think they smell heresy, their nose begins to twitch, their muscles ripple, and the light of battle enters their eye. They seem to enjoy nothing more than a fight.” The truth of the gospel needs to be proclaimed and upheld within the community of believers. But it needs to be done with a heart that is tender and concerned about the feelings, growth, and well-being of fellow believers.
Andrew Lincoln: The writer returns to the positive side of his portrayal of the Church’s movement toward its goals. He describes growth instead of immaturity, a growth which takes place as believers speak the truth in love instead of being taken in by those who propagate error through their unscrupulous craftiness. This contrast between the first part of v 15 and the last part of v 14 can be seen to have a chiastic structure with ἀληθεύοντες, “speaking the truth,” in opposition to τῆς πλάνης, “of error,” and ἐν ἀγάπῃ, “in love,” in opposition to ἐν πανουργίᾳ, “by craftiness” (cf. also Schnackenburg, 190).
John MacArthur: Authentic, mature believers whose lives are marked by love will not be victims of false teaching (Eph 4:14) but will be living authentically and proclaiming the true gospel to a deceived and deceiving world. The work of the church goes full swing, from evangelism to edification to evangelism, and so on and on until the Lord returns. The evangelized are edified, and they, in turn, evangelize and edify others.
- Mutual Growth of the Body Centered in Christ
“we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,”
Clinton Arnold: As “head” (κεφαλή), Christ is both the leader of the church and the one who nourishes and supplies all that the body needs for its growth. Christ is not simply the originator of the church (i.e., the “source” of the church absolutely). He is actively involved in stimulating and directing the ministry of the church as well as providing the church all that it needs to develop and reach maturity.
John Eadie: The growth is to Him, and the growth is from Him—Himself its origin and Himself its end. The life that springs from Him as the source of its existence, is ever seeking and flowing back to Him as the source of its enjoyment.
- Corporate Maturity Achieved by Mutual Love and Mutual Growth
a. Basis for Body Growth
“from whom the whole body,
being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies,”
Martin Lloyd-Jones: The expression means ‘parts fitted closely to each other’ in a kind of harmony. The word the Apostle actually uses means ‘several parts bound together’, fitting into one another. Speaking then of us as members of the Church, he says that the Head of the body is Christ and that we are members in particular; and as members we are articulated and fit into one another. Everything should be in the right position, ball and socket are to be articulated, fitly joined together. All these terms carry exactly the same meaning. The idea is of a number of parts not simply bound together, anyhow, somehow, but bound together as the various parts of our bodies are joined together. At this point a certain amount of knowledge of anatomy is helpful. In the case of a joint in the body there is a kind of cup on one bone and into that cup there fits a kind of ball at the end of another bone. The surfaces of both are smooth so that there is no friction, and everything works easily and harmoniously and in an effective manner. According to the Apostle’s teaching this should be true of the members of the Church. It is the way in which they are to grow up into Him in all things. The ideal condition of the Christian Church is that in which every member is what he is meant to be, fitting in with every other member and so preserving ‘the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’. There is to be no creaking, as it were, in the joints, no angularities; everything is to be ‘fitly joined together’. But the Apostle is not even content with that; he adds another term, ‘compacted’, which means ‘closely knit’, in order to drive home his point. It means ‘brought and held together’. It is a term which is often used in a figurative sense to suggest a kind of mental unity, sympathy of understanding, concord. In other words the Apostle is changing his emphasis slightly from the purely mechanical which we have in ‘fitly joined together’, to the notion of minds fitting in together, compacted, closely knit. This is essential, of course, for a true organic unity, and for proper functioning. Christ is the Head, and we as parts of the body are to be fitly joined together, and compacted.
b. Functioning of the Body to Achieve Growth
“according to the proper working of each individual part,”
c. Goal of Body Growth
“causes the growth of the body
for the building up of itself in love.”
Clinton Arnold: It is ever so important to recognize that love is a social virtue and cannot be seen or manifested by living in isolation from other believers. God designed the church so that believers will live together as a family in community. While there has been a strong emphasis in contemporary Christianity on personal, individual spiritual growth, this can be easily overemphasized at the expense of the corporate emphasis of this passage. Many years ago, Calvin astutely commented, “That man is mistaken who desires his own separate spiritual growth. For what would it profit a leg or an arm if it grew to an enormous size?” Paul not only envisions a body of proportional growth, but a body that cannot grow properly without all believers receiving gifted input from all other members of the body.
Andrew Lincoln: If any corporate growth or building up is to take place, love is the indispensable means. The climactic stress on this performs a function here similar to that of Paul’s hymn to love in the midst of his discussion of the proper working of the body of Christ in 1 Cor 12–14. Love is the lifeblood of this body, and therefore, the ultimate criterion for the assessment of the Church’s growth will be how far it is characterized by love.