How do we know we are growing in Christ? Many times, we ask this question thinking only of our personal walk with the Lord, but the Apostle Paul answers this question in the context of the body of Christ. He writes:
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:1–3).
Due to limitations of our language, one might not recognize in verse one that Paul addresses the entire church at Ephesus using the second person plural (translated “you”). In the South, this pronoun could be translated “y’all” while Californians might say “you guys.” In other words, Paul implored the entire church to walk in a manner worthy of their calling. In doing so, he called everyone to do the same as individuals. However, we must not miss the overall context of the church. God intends for the Christian to grow within the framework of the body of Christ. Therefore, the Christian who does not spend regular time with the body cannot grow.
Many may say, “You are putting too much emphasis on one word. Surely, that is not what Paul intends!” I would argue that we find a similar emphasis in the following two verses. Paul called the Ephesians to humility, gentleness, and patience and he desired for them to practice these attributes in the context of the body of Christ. As such, he exhorted his readers to accomplish these by practicing tolerance toward one another.
Said another way, Paul knew that the Ephesians’ growth would only occur within the context of the body of Christ as they worked through difficulties both great and small. This goes for ALL Christians! We miss out on many opportunities for growth when we avoid the problems which will pop up as we live in proximity with others.
We all know people whom we find it difficult to be around much less love and have true Christian fellowship. We all have people who hurt us deeply with their words and even their actions. Some choose to flee these difficult situations by leaving the church. While there are times when we may choose to leave for good reasons including our safety, in many situations, we leave for selfish motives choosing not to pursue forgiveness and reconciliation. Therefore, we forfeit amazing opportunities to be more established in Christ and His church.
Our Lord has perfectly orchestrated the best way for us to grow. He gives us spiritual gifts and places us in His body to use them for the edification of others. We give ourselves the best opportunity to grow when we embrace this truth.
Come back next week to learn more about how our Lord uses His church to sanctify and grow us in Christlikeness.