Over the past several months, we have seen from Ephesians 4 that pastors and teachers are called to equip the saints, that is, the born-again believers who make up the local church, to do the work of the ministry. This ministry can be described most generally as “the edifying of the body of Christ,” which is the application of God’s word to the members of the body so that they grow up into “the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” Yes, that’s right. It is the calling of the everyday, average Christian to build up his brothers and sisters in Christ by carefully teaching the Bible so that all may share in the full knowledge of the Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
When this is done faithfully and obediently, the church enjoys unity, as each member focuses on the common objective of doing the work of the ministry and so chooses agreement rather than conflict. The second thing that happens when the church members do the work of the ministry is that the whole body grows into full maturity, as a “perfect man,” according to the standard, which is Christ.
So what does this maturing look like? How can we know that we have achieved it, or at least are making progress toward it as a church? Well, Paul begins in v.14 with a negative description and concludes in v.15-16 with a positive, so let’s look first at what mature Christianity is not.
There is first of all the general statement “that we should no longer be children.” Like children, Christians begin in a state of immaturity and utter dependence on their spiritual parents. This is the beauty of the local church program which Christ has established, because new believers are to be integrated immediately into the fellowship of the church to be instructed and watched over by those who are already spiritually mature. Rather than chafing at this spiritual oversight, you ought to embrace it as God’s design for every new believer and seek to learn from those who are over you in the Lord so that you can become like them in maturity and wisdom. While it is alright for new believers to be children, the goal Christ set for us is that we would no longer be children, that is, our childish immaturity should be only a temporary state, to be replaced by spiritual adulthood.
Childishness is characterized in this verse as being “tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine.” According to Paul’s metaphor, children are like boats in the sea which are tossed back and forth by the waves and driven by fierce winds. While the saints are to engage in teaching one another the word of Christ so that children can be brought to full maturity, there are also false teachers who use deceitful methods and cunning craftiness to manipulate those who are weak in the faith and vulnerable. These men are tricksters, (Paul calls them literally “dice-players”), who cheat those who are foolish enough to engage them in their games. Clearly, Paul has no love for anyone who would take advantage of children in the faith, but the solution is not all-out war against the false teachers, it is for every saint to obey the Lord and do the work of the ministry, so that his brothers and sisters in Christ do not fall prey to false doctrine. We must be all about teaching and learning the true doctrines of the faith, not just as pastors and teachers, but as everyday, average Christians, so that we can fulfill God’s plan for the church.