“Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:13–16).
Paul demonstrated how the word of God is meant to interact with the body of Christ to build it up for a life of ministry. Much of this ministry is to one another. How long will this Christ-designed method continue? “Until we all attain,” is how Paul puts it, listing various elements which ought to grow within the church. The word must interact with us until these elements are realized.
First, the word must produce a unity of belief.
Paul describes this as “the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” This is an intellectual goal of God’s word, to bring the entire church into the same belief statement, a unity of the faith. However, one must spend five seconds looking around the universal church to know there are wide and varied beliefs on many of the subjects covered in scripture. There are doctrines which comprise the true church, cardinal and primary doctrines, but there are also secondary and tertiary doctrines which have often divided the church. To say we have a unity of the faith would be an outlandish claim. But Paul has the ultimate view in mind, the time when the church is seated around Christ’s throne rejoicing in God. Then, in that glorified state, the church will be uniform in her beliefs. So the word of God works in us now to produce a deeper level of unity of the faith, but a glorious day comes when we will taste that unity in its fullest sense.
Second, the word must bring us to maturity in Christ.
Paul describes this as being carried “to mature manhood.” This person has allowed the word of God to make them fully equipped, complete, full grown, fully developed. This church is powerful and effective because it does not get in the way of itself, but is healthy and strong, able to move into all God has for it.
Third, the word of God must produce conformity to Jesus Christ.
Paul describes this as being brought “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” He envisions individuals within church allowing their lives to become more completely conformed to Jesus, like Christ in every way. When this occurs, the whole church is brought into right relationship with its head. Jesus’s every thought and desire is lived out by his body.
When the church allows God’s word to permeate it to the degree Paul describes, it becomes solidified against false doctrine, which comes in various forms. Some winds of doctrine — denial of Christ’s deity, the Trinity, or the inspiration of Scripture, for instance — are a direct attack on the truth. Other winds of doctrine are merely an overemphasis of one doctrine which, though accurate, is best digested within the framework of other doctrines, not as a standalone, out of balance, driving truth. Some winds of doctrine occur when a periphery doctrine which, though important, becomes the major message of the church. Some winds of doctrine occur through taking Biblical concepts — the Old Testament era Sabbath laws, for instance — and twisting and forcing them into our modern church era. Much doctrine is pure opinion, speculation, or true yet grossly overemphasized. The Word of God prepares us to stand firm in the face of these waves and winds of doctrine.
Instead, Paul continued, we are to be “speaking the truth in love.” Truthing, in love. As we do, each part of the body works properly, which leads to more body growth in and through love for one another.
Here is a recap of this section: The head (Christ) dispenses His word to His church through the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. As they communicate, both in written and verbal form, the church is to allow Christ’s word to permeate their hearts, equipped for the work He has for them. As the church then lives out Christ’s word, standing bolstered against false ideas and doctrines, they can speak the truth with love. And as truth and love flow between the various members of the church, there is health. The body will function with full force, able to do all of what its Head has desired for them.