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Building up believers and the New Testament church

Growing Up Together Into Christ

In the first three chapters of Ephesians, the apostle Paul lays out what is perhaps the clearest presentation in the New Testament of God's purpose, provision, and plan for us in Christ Jesus. He finishes his exposition with these words. "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21) To see something of the glory of God in Christ Jesus is a great revelation. Seeing in some measure that God's plan is to work out His glory in the church today is an even greater revelation. But greater still, do we see how God has involved men in bringing God's purpose into expression? It is here that our vision often seems to fall short of the truth. It is God who is doing the work--but how is He doing it?

The first section of Ephesians 4 gives us the answer. Paul begins with an earnest plea: "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3) Why do we find here such a strong exhortation to love? Is it not because without this attitude of heart and mind we will never be able to carry out the instruction that follows? As men are closely involved in the outworking of God's great plan, the demand may seem too great. We can accept the fact that Christ will build His church, but we shrink from the thought that He plans to use men to do it. This seems to present insurmountable problems, and the responsibility on men seems too great.

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:4-6) Our hearts say "amen" to this statement of truth, but the implications of how God is working it out are not easily comprehended. This truth is the foundation for all that follows. As we begin to work out this great salvation, I believe it will greatly help us to come to back to this foundational truth again and again. We must let it judge everything that does not measure up. In God there is no division. He is One, and everything He is doing brings us into perfect oneness. Though our understanding may be weak and our experience of this oneness limited, let us not explain anything away. Rather let faith take hold of God so that He may lift us into the reality of this oneness that is true in Him.

"But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore He says: 'When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.'" (Ephesians 4:7-8) He gave grace to each one and gifts to men. Have we accepted the implications of this truth? If God has given this grace and these gifts, we are immediately accountable. Not only are we responsible for the grace He has given us, but also we are responsible to recognize the grace and gifts He has given to others. We look for God's supply to us, but do we look in the right place? Paul says God has done this "that He might fill all things." Our guide in all things is that God may be all in all.