Print Friendly

Mature-Man Unity

 

In Ephesians four the apostle Paul promises
“mature-man unity,” that is, Sunday unity
with all the members 
of Christ’s
body where you live.

 

Old church in New York

Atlas submits before St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 5th Ave., New York

Poor Atlas. He was cursed because he wanted unity.

You see, Zeus despised unity among men, but Atlas wanted it. Trouble was, Zeus was bigger (and badder). So Zeus punished the unity-loving little ‘g’ god Atlas. Ever since, he’s been carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Ah, those silly idols. They fight and curse each other, just like the people who invented them. They are the exact opposite of the true God. He’s three distinct Persons, yet exists in perfect unity. He loves unity.

Now, us Christians. We don’t worship the idols. But every Sunday we do follow them by dividing from each other. It happened this past Lord’s Day, right where you live. The Christians there divided themselves into different churches instead. You guys were schismed instead of being unified, as Christ and His apostle’s in Scripture command.

Sounds bad, but some of us go one worse. We pastors teach unity, but only about our own church. We teach unity this way: “we don’t have to be united in the Sunday worship of Jesus Christ with all who are in His body where we live. No, we only have to be in Sunday unity with those of you who come to our church.”

We pastors make it easy for you. We teach you that you don’t have to be in Sunday unity with those who live down your street, love our Lord Jesus Christ in truth, and go to other churches. You aren’t responsible for unity with them. If anyone is, they are! Let them come to our church!

Am I right?

Enter Ephesians, chapter four. One day, unity will come: “until we all attain to the unity of the mature man.” For now as in a dream, men sleep while Satan sows schism. But it won’t always be that way. In this age the body of Christ will be unified by gifted and godly men into mature man unity:

“…until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of
the knowledge of the Son of God, to a
mature man, to the measure of the
stature which belongs to the
fullness of Christ.”
(Eph. 4:12-13)

Mature man unity is physical unity in the here and now. It’s not mystical, invisible unity. It’s actual unity. Before Christ returns, everyone in the body of Christ where you live will worship Christ together in the same church, every Sunday, as one body. Once worshiping and serving the Lord together, they become the mature man Paul describes.

atlas and a churchDisunity is immaturity, and the immature man is the fractured condition of Christ’s redeemed where you live. You and I are kept immature when we are not properly related to all whom our Lord has redeemed where we live. You need them, and they need you, for growth in love.

How so? You can’t love your brothers and sisters where you live as He tells you to. Know why? They go to other churches! Because you can’t worship Christ with them, you can’t love them in deed and truth. You can’t share this world’s goods to help them because you don’t know them, nor they you. Yet the least of them lives in your neighborhood, or works with you. They just don’t worship with you, the most important activity for Christians here on earth.

Many of your brothers and sisters are tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine. Oh, their teachers might even be genuine believers who teach the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. But their teachers bind them to doctrines which isolate and confuse, wile some teachers are doing their worst to keep your brethren from knowing the truth, teaching the doctrines of men.

Until they are corrected they can’t live out the gospel’s most basic implication: unity in Sunday worship at the Lord’s Table with Christ’s body where they live.

 

God’s Glory in the Church to All Generations

Salvation isn’t just about the individual Christian, it also about the church: “Christ died for the church” (Eph. 5:25). This Universal Church our Lord died for is to be represented locally, where it is intended to portray unity:

“…to Him be the glory in the church. Therefore I implore you to walk
in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been
called, endeavoring to keep the unity of the
Spirit in the bond of peace.” [1]Eph. 3:20-4:3

Christians were redeemed to see God’s glory in the church, and according to the ethical imperatives of Ephesians four, their desire for God’s glory in Christ is measured by how much they prize unity with their brothers and sisters in the faith. Any natural man can have unity with those who agree with him, for it is generated out of self-interest. But God teaches us unity among all different types of people whom He saves.

“Unity is certainly a theme in other of Paul’s letters, such as I
Corinthians and Philippians. However, in Ephesians this
theme is carried to an ultimate expression; the unity of
the church is bound up with her unity with Christ
and the divine purpose to manifest through that
union the ultimate unity which God wills
for the entire cosmic order”[2] Polhill, Paul and His Letters, 466

 

Paul’s Promised Unity

The initial sixteen verses of Ephesians four divide into three sections, each emphasizing unity. First, believers are to be humble in light of our Unity in the Trinity (4:1-6); second, believers are to serve one another due to their Unity in Christ’s Ascension (4:7-10); and third, Christians will merge into one local church in every place because of their Unity in the ‘Local Body of Christ.'[3]The local body is defined as all the believers in a locale. “You yourselves are the body of Christ,” writes Paul to all the saints in Corinth, 1 Cor. 12:27, the ‘whole body’ in which every part is attached to every other part (Eph. 4:16, Col. 2:19).

Background

It was a timely message for the beleaguered church, for when Paul wrote the letter to the church in Ephesus he knew they were suffering from disunity.[4] The letter to the Ephesians appears to be a letter from Paul that was intended to go to multiple churches, not just Ephesus. The earliest copies of it do not include the name of the city (Ephesus) in 1:1, so he may have left some space to write in the next city to receive a copy. This appears to be confirmed in Col. 4:16 as Epaphras was likely the letter carrier for both Ephesians and Colossians. “On the face of it, this “letter” can only be regarded as a circular address sent out to churches in a wide area which Paul knew at [from?] a distance” (Martin, Reconciliation and Unity In Ephesians, 204). For the purposes of the article I’ll simply refer to the letter as written to the church in Ephesus. Several years earlier he had explained their coming troubles to their leaders:

“I know that after my departure savage wolves will
come in among you, not sparing the flock;
and from among your own selves men will
arise, speaking perverse things, to draw
away the disciples after them.”[5] Acts 20:29-30

Two enemies threatened the unity in Ephesus after Paul’s departure. The first was heretics – the ‘savage wolves.’ The second was schismatics, men “from among your own selves” who were trying to draw Christians out of the unified church and into their own self-made churches.[6]Schismatics are men who glory in ‘schism,’ which in this paper is defined as the local body of Christ divided into two or more churches, 1 Cor. 1:10-13, 12:25-27. It appears these enemies of unity are everywhere today, as well.

It also appears the Ephesian Christians had already been ravaged by schismatic and heretical men as the letters of 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy, also written to Ephesus, explain. Written within a few year after Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, these two letters show that the Ephesian church had been suffering due to heresy and schism (1 Tim. 1:20, 6:20-21; 2 Tim. 1:15, 2:17-18).

As a result, the Ephesian Christians, a body of Christ, were deeply wounded and likely schismed. Paul’s letter gave them hope to esteem unity in love and truth above all other Christian virtues.

 

Part 1 – Our Unity in the Trinity (vv. 1-6)

Earlier in Ephesians Paul made unity between Jew and Gentile a central accomplishment of Christ’s work on the cross:

“For He Himself made… the two into one new man,
thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them
both in one body to God through the cross.”[7] Eph. 2:14-16

Christ’s human body becomes a metaphor for our deep koinonia fellowship in one body in the present age. There is one Universal Church and one Universal Body of all those ‘in Christ,’ and over whom Christ has been given as Head:

“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head
over all things to the church, which is his body,
the fullness of him who fills all in all.”[8] Eph. 1:22-23

But when in Ephesians four Paul turns his letter over to commands and imperatives, he starts with local unity: ‘how can we live out our spiritual unity with each other?’

Seven times in Eph. 4:1-6 Paul uses the word “one” to convince every Trinitarian that he or she was created to live in real physical unity with the local body of Christ.[9] Only 1 Peter features a higher percentage occurrence of the word “one” (ἓν) than Ephesians in the NT. He also employs the word “unity” twice in order to teach us to labor for unity (vv. 3, 13).

But what kind of unity are we to live, exactly? Ephesians four tells us. It is local unity, as seen in the ethical imperative of v. 3, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This absolutely requires a local unity as opposed to any idea of unity with the Universal Body of Christ, for how does one maintain unity with people who lived in past centuries, or live on the other side of the world and will never meet in this life?

Furthermore, Paul’s words ‘being diligent to preserve the unity’ reflect “an element of haste, urgency, or even a sense of crisis to it” that cannot be easily translated into English.[10] O’Brien, Ephesians, 279 Contrast that to the unity of the Universal Body of Christ, which is maintained by God through the ages and into eternity. He wouldn’t ask you to maintain its unity, because you couldn’t. So v. 3 refers to the unity of those local to you in the body of Christ. It is local unity that we, in our present redeemed flesh, are mandated to visibly maintain – even as Paul commanded all the saints in Ephesus.

But, today is a day of crisis, morally speaking. Most Christians are morally incapable of obeying God’s command, “maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” because of the disunity among Christians where they live. Believers are schismed from their regenerate brothers and sisters in Christ inasmuch as they attend many different churches where they live. Such separation prevents them from obeying Christ and using their spiritual gifts as Eph. 4:16 intends, for the edification of “the whole body.” Believers can’t, for example, bear their burdens, or pray one for another, for they simply don’t know each other dues to being in separate churches. To illustrate, there are probably genuine Christians who live on the same street with you, the reader, but with whom you have the same level of fellowship as you do with Christians living in Indonesia.

This moral dilemma calls into question Christ’s tri-fold saving unity: “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5), a unity He creates when He supernaturally baptizes people into His local body (1 Cor. 12:12-14).[11] I take “baptism” in Eph. 4:5 as Christ’s baptism in the Holy Spirit since no human agent is identified, nor is water specified in the context, cf., Mat. 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33, Acts 1:5, 11:16, 1 Cor. 1:13-17. Therefore, Eph. 4:3 may be read this way: “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit!”

This paper interprets “one faith” of Eph. 4:5 not as a doctrinal faith, although it has a doctrinal commitment, but instead as the exercise of faith that obtains salvation all genuine Christians exert. All come to Christ in the same, one way – all exercise the same kind of faith, a saving, dependent faith – though circumstances vary greatly. Such an exercise of faith in the crucified and risen Lord brings anyone into a common salvation (2 Pet. 1:1). Therefore, in opposition to Roman Catholicism and many others families in Christendom, the Lord Jesus of Eph. 4:5 is not salvifically mediated to sinners through a water baptism, but rather is individually believed upon, with repentance for personal sin, for salvation.[12] The claim that ‘faith’ in 4:5 should be interpreted objectively as a doctrinal statement instead of personal (subjective) faith is contrary to every prior use of ‘faith/believe’ in Ephesians (1:13, 1:15, 1:19, 2:8, 3:12, 3:17, cf. 6:16, 6:23). I interpret ‘faith’ in 4:13 as personal (grammatically subjective) faith also. If I’m correct, then every instance of ‘faith’ (πίστις, πιστεύω) in Ephesians refers to personal (subjective) faith, not doctrinal (objective) statement.

The baptism of Christ performed through the Holy Spirit upon all who believe (cf. Mat. 3:11) makes the repentant yet believing sinner a part of “the all” of verse six, that is, a part of the Father’s own. These “all” are the regenerate in a locale, for they are all obligated to obey verse three. There is a unity created in the Father since He is “one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:6). This explains why believers desire to love all who are in Christ where they live. Those desires are not produced from oneself, but ultimately, it’s the Father communicating the life of the united Trinity “in all.” Since God loves unity within himself, He works in “the all” to see that they too love unity with all those He has called to himself. This explains why believers want to be in every Sunday unity with “the all” He saves where they live, worshiping the Triune God together.

 

Part 2 – Our Unity in Christ’s Triumph (vv. 7-10)

Christ’s ministry through His glorious ascension ministry is the topic of 4:7-10 as Paul teaches in v. 7 that each person Christ baptizes into His body (4:5) is given a spiritual gift:

“But to each one of us grace was given
according to the measure
of Christ’s gift.”

This highlights an important facet of Christ’s ascension ministry. Every believer receives a spiritual gift according to a single, unified source: “the measure of Christ’s gift.” The question ‘how large is that measure’ is important since the word ‘measure’ is used again in v. 13. Is Paul being qualitative or quantitative with the measure of the gift? The answer appears to quantitative, since the measure is “each one of us,” apparently the exact number who are saved through faith by grace, a number known only to God. As v. 8 claims:

“When he ascended on high he led a host of
captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

Since the day of Pentecost the Lord of the Church has given spiritual gifts to each one He saves, as measured by His own ascended success in “taking captivity captive” (v. 8). As a result of triumphing over the whole demonic host, Christ’s gives a gift to each believer enabling him to care for the souls of His own people where he lives.

Since salvation is not merely individual, but also corporate, each believer’s spiritual gift is meant to function in concert with the others who live nearby. Thus each believer’s gift functions to connect him or her collectively with the others who have been likewise gifted.[13] “The varieties of gifts by the one Spirit are analogous to the many members of the one body…. This is the argument of I Corinthians 12:4-31. The same is true of Romans 12:4-5.” (Ward, “One Body: The Church,” 402-403)

Verses nine and ten further describe Christ’s triumph over the host of rebellious angelic forces in order that He “might fill the all.”[14] ἵνα πληρώσῃ τὰ πάντα Often translated “all things,” this author prefers to see “the all” as a recall of the Father’s ministry to “the all” in 4:6,[15] ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων καὶ διὰ πάντων καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν since both refer to activities of God in relation to His people and not inanimate objects.

 

Part 3 – Our Unity in the Local Body (11-16)

Everything in Ephesians 4 builds up to this dynamic paragraph. As the first ten verses were marked by a command to maintain unity (v. 3) followed by the gifts of Christ’s ascension to help us do that, now unity and gifts come together by tasking special men to bind us together so we reestablish unity with all the body of Christ where we geographically live.

Paul’s thought is complex. Eph. 4:11-16 is one long sentence of one-hundred and twenty-five words in the original Greek, the same number of words in the previous ten verses combined. Moreover, verses thirteen and sixteen are each a challenging sequence of four clauses. Interpreting them requires perseverance – first to separate the clauses and read them in light of each other, and then to stitch the clauses and verses back together in a manner that reflects the meaning of the whole.

To see Paul’s flow of thought, observe the repetition of spiritual gifts in v. 7 and v. 11. What Paul universalized in v. 7 (all Christians) he particularized in v. 11:

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets,
and some as evangelists, and some
as pastors and teachers”[16] The use of the masculine nouns (ἀποστόλους, προφήτας, ktl) appears to show Paul referencing men in offices rather than mere gifts regardless of gender.

As verse twelve ascribes, these gifts are special men who give themselves to the ‘uniting’[17]The most natural understanding of the term [καταρτισμὸν, katartismon] in this context is that of gathering, uniting, or ordering the saints into visible communion and mutual cooperation one with another.” “‘Equipping’ Ministry In Ephesians 4?” T. David Gordon, JETS 37, 1, p. 75. of all the other the members in the body of Christ, and in so doing build together the body of Christ around them in unity. These gifted men press the unifying agenda of the Trinity (4:3-6) in the face of all opposition; they will labor so that the body of Christ shall indeed, in this present age, attain to the unity of “the mature man” (v. 13).[18] This views all three prepositional clauses of v. 12 as coordinate: the gifted men first unite the saints, and since there is no change of subject in v. 12, it is also the gifted men who do a unified work of ministry (expressed by the singular εἰς ἔργον διακονίας), and thereby build up the body of Christ – i.e., in unity, and not as popularly taught, build up each one’s giftedness.

But to see how, we have to ask the right question. In verse twelve, which ‘body of Christ’ does Paul write about in v. 12 and 16, the local, or the Universal?

“The Body”

It appears wise to rule out the Universal Body of Christ, the full number of all who will ever be saved in Christ (Eph. 1:22-23). After all, the vast majority of the Universal Body is in heaven and has no need for gifted men of v. 11 to help them. In line with this observation, there is no such thing in the apostolic writings as a sub-universal body, i.e., ‘all the saints living on earth today,’ or all the saints in a particular country or age. And even if there were such a sub-universal body of Christ on earth, 99% of the people in that body would never benefit by each gifted man of v. 11, thus violating the truth of verse twelve, that these men are gifts to edify the body of Christ. Christians can never be edified by others whom they never read about, or never otherwise know.

Therefore, Paul is not writing of the universal body of Christ, nor some vaguely construed idea of a sub-universal body. Which means the 4:12 body of Christ is the local body of Christ, which in the apostolic writings, and especially in Ephesians, is all the regenerated saints in a locale. These are all the nearby saints whom the gifted men of v. 11 live with and can build up with their gift, Sunday after Sunday.

This observation helps us make concrete sense of Paul’s yet-to-be fulfilled promise that begins 4:13: “until we all attain to unity.” We already saw the word “unity” in Eph. 4:3, but here the unity of the body of Christ is not a crisis of unity as it was there, but a promised future unity. Quite clearly in v. 13 Paul portrays unity as a destination to be arrived at, not as something already possessed by the work of the Spirit.[19] Hoehner, 552 This justifies our understanding of “body” above, which is different than that found in Eph. 1:23. That understanding is the local, not universal, body of Christ.

One last item in v. 12 is worth pointing out before moving on. The phrase ‘building up’ (οἰκοδομὴν, oikodomēn, BDAG: “building, process of building”) could be translated ‘edification,’ referring to an increase in graces. But the prior use in 2:21, where it refers to the Universal Body, clearly refers to the process of erecting a building. So should it be translated here (and v. 16), as do most English translations. However in 4:12 it refers to the local body. The local body, then, is a building of persons rather than an increase in graces, a true picture of the Universal Body.

The Destination

All commentators agree that “attaining unity” refers to reaching a goal or destination, but disagree on what that destination is.[20] καταντήσωμεν, “to reach a condition or goal, fig. extension of ‘arrive at, attain,’” BDAG. One writer claims the unity is attained when all meet Christ in the second coming since the terms of v. 13 are lofty – full conformity to Christ[21] Marcus Barth, Ephesians, 466. The 4:13 goal of conformity to Christ is “the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”. Most writers disagree, placing the event of full conformity at some point in the present age, to be experienced by the Universal Body of Christ on earth, or a sub-universal body existing on both earth and heaven.

But these writers claim a unity that is immeasurable and impossible, such as the spiritual growth of ‘the Church’ that attains full Christlikeness on earth. This claim has many weaknesses, with the chief being there is no way to possibly know if ‘the church’ has attained such unity unless all members in the body cease from sinning and live in perfect conformity to God’s law while yet existing in unredeemed flesh. Of course this is wrong, since no single believer on earth will ever come close to Christ-likeness due to indwelling sin.

Moreover, if Paul’s promised unity featured believers reaching full Christ-likeness (perfection) in the present time on earth, we should immediately stop all evangelism, because every new Christian takes us collectively farther from being more mature and more toward immaturity. The preferred solution, as will be explained, is that “attain” refers to a destination of reaching unity in every locale as the local body of Christ.

“The All”

Hidden in Paul’s phrase “until we all attain to the unity” are the words, “the all.”[22] οἱ πάντες These two words are almost always left untranslated, but if they were, the result might be, ‘until we, the all, attain at unity.’ ‘The all’ refers to “the saints” just mentioned in v. 12 who together comprise the body of Christ in Ephesus.[23] Commentators express a variety of options: “the all” refers to the saints of the prior verse (Hoehner); “the entire Church” (Lincoln, Ephesians, 255); or “God’s people collectively” (O’Brien, 305). Hoehner walks through the options well.

This phrase, when connected to v. 12, is an indication that all the saints in Ephesus were the body of Christ mentioned in verse twelve. Such unity, then, becomes physically accomplished in one church, and measurable. In this scenario, Paul’s promise, which began in v. 11, is that gifted men will so equip the gifted saints that each one will be matured into the ‘we all” unity of a single local body. Many have recognized that the writers of the New Testament were not Platonic but Hebrew in orientation.

It is this author’s position that Eph. 4:11-13 teaches a one-body unity to be attained in the present age that is both concrete and measurable. We can look at the present condition of schismatic churches, and learning where we have been disobedient, discover and submit to the three measures of unity in Eph. 4:13.

Measure 1, Part a: Saving Faith (v. 13a)

Paul’s first measurement is comprised of two related parts – faith and knowledge.

In the initial phrase of 4:13, ‘until we all attain to the unity of the faith,’ I recommend understanding ‘faith’ in v. 13 as the human response to God’s saving power in the gospel. While it might seem best to understand ‘faith’ here as doctrinal since verses eleven and fourteen mention teaching, the better choice is to understand “faith” as “saving faith” since only those who rely on the Lord for salvation can enjoy the unity of both the Universal and local bodies of Christ.[24] Bruce, 350. Those who claim ‘faith’ refers to a doctrinal formula have either yet to supply what this exact doctrinal content is, or if they have supplied something, have been unable to agree on what it is. This lack of unity shows how tenuous this claim is!

For instance, one commentator claims ‘the faith’ is “all that is contained in its one faith” but declines to specify what the faith of all Christian churches is.[25] Lincoln, 255. Likewise, another declines to specify except to say this faith fights false teaching.[26] O’Brien, 306. Another says this is doctrinal faith concerning “the one person, Jesus Christ,” but doesn’t specify anything about Him.[27] Hoehner, 553.

Beside inconsistency, another point to consider is that if these commentators are right, that ‘faith’ in 4:13 is doctrinal faith, then the words that follow “the knowledge of the Son of God” are repetitious, making ‘the knowledge of the Son of God’ the equivalent of faith.[28] Most commentators who claim 4:13 is about doctrinal faith differ themselves on many points of doctrine. The more they have matured in “the faith” the further they have grown apart in doctrinal commitments. Hence, they themselves lack unity “in the faith,” making their claim that ‘faith’ is doctrinal faith self-defeating.

Here I suggest taking ‘faith’ the other way, which turns out to be the way the words ‘faith’ and ‘believe’ are always used in Ephesians – ‘trust’ (see footnote 9). Just as in 4:5 where ‘faith’ was interpreted to refer to individual trust in the “one Lord” rather than some level of doctrinal content concerning Him, so too here.[29] In this interpretation the definite article (τῆς πίστεως, Eph. 4:13) is demonstrative, referring to the prior instance of πίστις in 4:5. This saving trust in Christ is a genuine unity that every regenerate Christian experiences, and can even share with other Christians as they mutually discover each other possess the same living trust in Christ. Negatively, it is also the spiritual disunity upon discovering a person who professes to be a Christian, but does not trust in the saving work of Christ alone for salvation. Therefore, ‘faith’ in 4:13 justifies full confidence that the churches are to be comprised of the regenerate, and not glibly compromised with the unregenerate. Practically, as will be established below, this requires that all the regenerate affiliate with each other in a single church in the locale where they live. Hence, this is a very real and very measurable unity with those who possess a Spirit-given saving faith.

Measure 1, Part b: Saving Knowledge (v. 13b)

Closely aligned with “the unity of the faith” is “the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God” in v. 13, a knowledge according to apostolic doctrine and without which no one can be saved by grace through faith. This paper recommends understanding the ‘knowledge’ as that used earlier in this letter (i.e., doctrinal knowledge) of Christ in Eph. 1:17:

“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of
revelation in the knowledge of Him”

Yet here again, commentators are split. Some favor a doctrinal component to “knowledge” (O’Brien and Hoehner) while others favor viewing “knowledge” as “appropriating salvation” (i.e., exercising personal faith, Lincoln and Bruce). But the best answer appears to be the first option: “knowledge.” The phrase “the knowledge of the Son of God” in Eph. 4:13 is doctrinal knowledge since Paul differentiates it from “faith” in the prior phrase, and trusted His readers already possessed this precise knowledge. On what basis could Paul know that? Due to the fact that the “knowledge of the Son of God” is a divinely granted knowledge to every person who believes (i.e., measure 1, part a), This is the knowledge of the Son of God given to Peter:

“Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are
the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus said to
him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because
flesh and blood did not reveal this to you,
but My Father who is in heaven.”[30] Mat. 16:15-17.

Since knowing the truth of Jesus Christ is the highest knowledge anyone can possess, v. 13 measures unity by referring to the knowledge of Him as “Son of God,” not as we might expect, “Savior.” Many claim Jesus is their savior (in some way) but are not saved by Him. Instead, Paul writes of a knowledge of Christ’s order within the Trinity: “Son of God.”

This phrase, “the Son of God” has not been previously explained in Ephesians. So how could Paul make the knowledge of something He hadn’t yet taught a measure of Christian unity? One answer appears superior to all others. He must have known his readers in Ephesus (and the other churches receiving this letter) already understood the exact meaning of Jesus as “the Son of God.” For if they held different views of Jesus, even as different sects do today, such dis-unified knowledge would have produced disunity instead of unity.

It fits that Paul would refer to this divinely granted knowledge of Christ as the ‘Son of God’ as the critical connective among all those with saving faith. In other words, all those with saving faith in every locale will believe, without reservation, in Jesus, the Son of the living God, who is equal in person, dignity, and power as the Father.

The first measure of unity then is an accurate confession of the Christ as the Son of God, which is connected to all those possessing saving faith by Him.

Measure 2: – The Unity of the ‘Mature Man’ (v. 13c)

The second measure of unity follows on the first. Every person with the saving confession of the “Son of God” is to be brought to a unity called “the mature man” by the gifted men of v. 11.

Now, because the word “mature” (τέλειον) can be translated ‘perfect,’ ‘the perfect man’ could mean glorification, i.e., all believers together once they arrive in heaven. But in that case, what is the value of Christ’s gift of teachers in v. 11 since glorification occurs no matter how immature a believer is at death?[31] Lincoln, O’Brien, Bruce.

Instead, it seems better to translate as ‘the mature man,’ especially when compared to ‘the immature’ of the following verse. And importantly, the word for “man” is not “ἄνθρωπός” (anthropos) but “ἄνδρα” (andra). This word refers to a full-grown man as opposed to a boy, a term that reinforces that Paul is not referring to the attaining of Christ’s perfection in 4:13. After all, an immature child that grows into an ἀνήρ (aner) man is still far from perfect. Reflecting this distinction, John Calvin taught “the mature man” refers to individual Christians.[32] Calvin, 283-84. But the text does not say “mature persons,” but a mature man.

Thus ‘the mature man’ is a ‘body” of saints ministering to each other with their gifts (v. 12, v. 16), but again, Paul cannot be referencing the Universal Body since those already in heaven no longer have their spiritual gifts. Nor can Paul be referencing schismatic churches of saints when other churches of saints exist nearby, for the phrase “mature man” is singular and is comprised of “the all” saints of v. 13.

Instead, Christ is the head of ‘the mature man,’ as we shall see in v. 15. Therefore, Paul’s second measure of unity is a local body of Christ that is a “mature man,” that is, a single body that comprises all the local believers. This ‘man’ cannot be shaken by schism and false teaching (cf., Eph. 4:14).

Measure 3: – The Unity of the Stature of the Fullness of Christ (v. 13d)

Paul’s clearest measure appears at the end of v. 13 with the words, “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”[33] The NASB unnecessarily adds in the phrase “which belongs to.”

All three nouns here – “measure,” “stature,” and “fullness” – are physical terms. Taken together they fulfill the “until we all attain” promise made at the beginning of v.13, a promise that when schism ends unity will prevail. Prior to the return of Christ each local body of Christ will include each and every regenerate person in unity, i.e., in one local church. Christ’s gift of church leaders (v. 11) will lead this merging of the regenerate and their churches into one body in every place.

‘Measure’ is not a verb but a noun. That is, Paul is not writing about the act of measuring but the result of measuring, a specific quantity, a number. It connects to the third word, “fullness,” as in a full measure, such as when a bag of grain is filled to its top so that there is no room left for more.

This physical sense is also seen in v. 7 – “the measure of Christ’s gift:” the measure from earth to above the heavens. A physical measure is also in v. 16, “the measure of every part,” that is, every part contributes in a tangible way to build the whole body.[34] ἐν µέτρῳ ἑνὸς ἑκάστου µέρους As a result, any valid interpretation of “measure” must not only interpret it in a consistent physical sense but also connect it quantitatively to “until we, the all, attain to the unity” (v. 13). In other words, the unity Paul is teaching is not a spiritualized character of Christlikeness that which will come in either this age or in future glory. It is a measurable and physical unity that will be concretely attained in this present age.

Similarly, “stature” always refers to either physical size or to maturity in age in the NT when describing a human as it does here (“the mature man,” cf. Luke 2:52, Luke 19:3, John 9:21, 23, Heb. 11:11, Hoehner, O’Brien). Yet, while stature never once in the NT is spiritualized to refer to character or qualities such as love and righteousness, that is exactly how the majority of commentaries interpret it. Most claim ‘stature’ somehow expresses the spiritual qualities of the ascended Christ in Christians. However, this is impossible since redeemed sinners can never attain to Christ’s spiritual qualities in this life. Such an interpretation renders the attainment of Eph. 4:13 unattainable in this life.

So too with ‘fullness.’ Each use of “fullness” in the letter are nouns and thus refer to the result of filling, not the act of filling. Thus fullness may also be compared to a full bucket of water, or a full cup of coffee.[35] 4:13 is the fourth time “fullness” has been seen in Ephesians (Eph. 1:10, 23, 3:19, 4:13). The phrase “the fullness of Christ” here in 4:13 may either mean “the fullness created by Christ.” i.e., a subjective genitive, “that which is filled by Christ with something other than Christ, cf. Eph. 3:19 or “the fullness which is possessed by Christ” i.e., an objective genitive, “that which is filled with Christ Himself” This paper takes the first choice as correct: “the fullness created by Christ” as all other instances of fullness in Ephesians refer to the result of the act of filling. A fuller range of interpretations are 1) spiritual maturity: “every believer develops to the image of Christ – Rom 8:29, (Hodge, 234; 2) “the full possession of the gifts of Christ” (Abbott, 121), presumably ministerial charism, spiritual gifts, offices; 3) “the Universal Church” – all arrive at the maturity of the universal Church (Lincoln); 4) “Christ himself is fulfilled” (Robinson); 5) “a definite number of people” cf. Eph. 1:23, Rom. 11:12, 11:25.

And again, although many commentators take “fullness of Christ” to mean the spiritual fullness of Christ’s own perfect character (i.e., Bruce, Hoehner, O’Brien), it is better understood as the complete count of the local body of Christ when each regenerate person in that region is in one church.[36] The body analogy only makes sense when its members are physically attached. So too in the local body of Christ; the members must be physically connected in one church. After all, it is incredible to imagine Paul is saying that the mature man comes when we, while yet in our unredeemed flesh, may attain to Christ’s own perfect character. And again, it makes no sense for Paul to teach that Christ gave gifted teachers who themselves are beset by sin, to equip us to attain to Christ’s perfection in our glorification (v. 11). Believers attain that apart from their help in the eschaton.[37] Lincoln asserts that the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ is not “Christ himself in His perfect qualities [but] the Church as His fullness.” He is thinking of some idea of universal body on earth. But since in Eph. 1:23 that “fullness” was a definite number, so too is it in 4:12-13. The ‘fullness’ is every member of the local body, i.e., ‘each individual part’ (v. 16). This can only be the local body since only the full number of gifts in that body serve each other member. The ‘fullness of Christ’ in v. 13 is the quantitative (countable) fullness of every member of His body in each locale.[38] Whether the final clause of v. 13, “of Christ” (τοῦ Χριστου) is taken subjectively or objectively, both point to His local body. If it means the fullness is Christ then that refers to His local body as it does at the end of v. 15 (see explanation there). If it means the fullness produced by Christ (as I take it) then it reflects Christ as the source of His local body.

Therefore, the third way unity is measured is this: is each and every regenerate person in a locale in one church so that they are fellowshipping and worshipping together? That alone is the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ where each lives.

 

Merging Believers from Immature Churches (v. 14-16)

With Paul’s 125 word sentence only half finished, his teaching moves from the measures of unity to the practical means required to make it happen. He describes our present day situation of multiple churches and multiple, conflicting teachers of sub-apostolic doctrine in the same locale. By sheer count, most churches today teach doctrines that are not in conformity with apostolic doctrine, thus holding any genuinely regenerate members in them in immaturity. But as gifted teachers (v. 11) serve the saints for the edification of the local body (v. 12) and form them into a mature man (v. 13), they must take upon themselves the rescuing of the body’s members from the dangers of immaturity (v. 14-15).

These men do this by merging local churches together so they have one Head and function organizationally as a connected body, as taught at the end of v. 15 and in v. 16. In doing this they reject all heretical teachers from the body even as Titus rejected those who opposed his merging of the one church in each city in Titus 3:10-11, while demoting impenitent schismatic men from office.

This merging brings the body out of immaturity and into maturity, as v. 14 puts it, “that we may no longer be children.”[39] The ἵνα (hina, “that”) at the beginning of the Greek phrase expresses result and is rendered “that” in most English translations. When Paul says “we” in v. 14 he refers to the local believers in Ephesus, presently disconnected to each other, worshiping their common Lord in separate (immature) churches. That disconnect hinders unity in the body at the local level.

These problematic teachers use “trickiness and scheming methods” to keep the regenerate in a storm-tossed immaturity. Such churches, regardless of how many regenerate are in them, have significant numbers of members who are tossed to and fro by the waves of errant doctrine and practice. Thus they remain in isolation from the local body by the schismatic beliefs of their teachers and immaturity of their members. They are too immature to value apostolic unity, and prefer certain cherished traditions of their leaders over apostolic doctrine.

Therefore, a great many genuine believers exist in immature churches that are “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” Their churches may be fly-by-night affairs that last six months, or they may be centuries-old institutions. But all teach doctrines in opposition to that which is taught by the apostles and prophets in precept and example.

As long as disunity prevails, such that the body of Christ is schismed where Christians live, then the believers are immature. Indeed, there appears nowhere at the present time that has attained to the mature man unity of v. 13. And though these churches and their leaders will bristle at such an assessment and will not initially hear such a description of themselves, they will be brought out of immaturity as the gifted men take aggressive action with them and go about “truthing in love” (v. 15). Most English translations begin v. 15 with “speaking the truth in love,” but the Greek verb is simply “truthing” and includes more than speaking. It includes doing, the doing of merging churches under one form of doctrine.[40] “Doing truth… is an OT expression used especially when fidelity between two parties is the subject, Gen. 47:29, Jos. 2:14, Jud. 9:16, 19” (Bruce, Ephesians, 352). Only by “doing truth” can schismed believers merge into the same body and “grow up into Him who is the head, even Christ.”

Headship is an important matter. Paul points out that as long as the body of Christ in a locale is in a schismed (i.e., immature) condition, the separate churches are not under the single headship of Christ (v. 15). To gain His Headship they will need to grow up, and naturally, according to the body metaphor, be functionally connected: one body under one Head. To be a body they must be physically with each other, arm connected to shoulder, shoulder to torso, torso to leg, etc. They take the Lord’s Table together, not as separate churches, each thinking of themselves as a body of Christ when each is only an arm, a shoulder, a torso, or a leg.

This last point requires a bit of explanation. When a church speaks of itself as a church with Christ as its Head in the present time, when there are yet others in His body nearby who are not unified with them in their church, such thinking holds them in immaturity. Does Christ have as many bodies as there are churches? No. Apostolic theology is insistent the Lord has only one body, and makes it a matter of authentic faith in the Lord’s resurrection.

To fight this practical heresy the gifted men of v. 11 must lead the way in “truthing in love.” They will need to challenge all the churches and their leaders in their region to grow up and into the Headship of Christ by merging together, warning them that if they remain schismatic they prove they do not wish Christ to be their Head.

As these two verse claim, the gifted men will lead the presently schismed local churches to accomplish two goals.

First Goal: ‘The All’ Grow to ‘Christ’ (v. 15)

The word ‘all’ in v. 15 follows its previous instances in chapter four: it is ‘the all.’[41] τὰ πάντα Just like ‘the all’ of v. 13, it is hidden by translation.[42] Though a clear direct object accusative, it is typically translated as a dative indirect object: “we are to grow up in all aspects into Him,” NAU; “we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head,” ESV. But it’s important to render it as it is in the Greek, as the direct object of the verb ‘grow.’ Consider reading it this way, “we are to grow into the all.” Like v. 13, “the all” is the entire group of persons redeemed by Him in a geographic locale, Christ’s local body. Paul is not exhorting believers to grow into a perfected Christ-like character but rather to an evangelistic growth that when complete, is ‘Christ.’

This is not affirming the Roman Catholic error of equating ‘Christ’ with the members of the Roman Catholic Church, but rather reflects the apostolic equivalency of Christ and His unified local body (cf. 1 Cor. 1:13, 2:2, 3:11, 6:15, 12:12, 12:27). The very Christ who appeared to Israel is to be convincingly known today on earth by the fruit of His cross and resurrection: the unified body of His redeemed in every place.[43] The RC equivalency of Christ and body of Christians is undone by 1 Cor. 12:21 where Paul uses a “head” a simply another part of a local body of Christ in Corinth, as much as a foot or a hand. Roman Catholicism can only allow for one head on earth, the Pope in Rome.

As the direct object of the verb, “the all” is quantitative; Paul expects “the all” to grow numerically into a full count.[44] αὐξήσωµεν… τὰ πάντα “The all” in 4:15 possesses the same quantitative meaning it has in Eph. 1:23 where Christ fills “the all,” that is the count of persons in the Universal Body. But in 4:15 Paul is teaching “the all” count of the local body. Just as Christ has a definite number whom He will save to fill the Universal Body, He also has a definite number who fill His local body at any one point in time.

Recapping, the first goal of v. 15, “growth into the all,” isn’t attained until the gifted men of v. 11 equip every person who is ‘in Christ’ in their locale to serve each other in one connected body. Only when this happens is Christ acknowledged as the Head of the local body.

The gifted men will know this happens when they accomplish a second goal.

 

Second Goal: A Properly Functioning Body (v. 16)

No hesitancy is apparent in Paul’s words in v.16 as He assures his readers of the reflexive mercy when mature man unity is attained. There is no sense that the unity he has described might not happen. Instead he encourages the distressed church in Ephesus that Christ Himself, as the source out of which the whole body comes,[45] Χριστός, ἐξ οὗ πᾶν τὸ σῶμα will come to real physical unity in this age. The unity described in v. 16 ensures that every single member of Christ’s body is profitably connected to all others in the body, rather than divided in different churches, as every single saint will build the local body into a single worshiping church, building itself in love.

Like v. 13, v. 16 is made up of four clauses:

Clause 1: “The whole body”

Even though the phrase, “the whole body” in Eph. 4:16 has led some to claim Paul describes some form of the Universal Body,[46] i.e., Lincoln, 262. there is one clear reason why that claim is not possible. In Eph. 4:16, Paul writes of a body that must work to grow in love, something that cannot true of the universal body, for much of it is in heaven, and much of it is perhaps unborn and unable to “grow in love.”

As well, v. 16 describes each part of the body having influence on every other part, a truth that can only be realized when all the parts provide care for each other in the same church. Therefore, “the whole body” is in exact numerical and concrete keeping with “the all” of v. 13 and v. 15: the local body of Christ. The adjective “whole” ensures that each member is included, and that the final goal of the gifted men is attained when each and every genuine Christians, living in the same locale, is in the same local church.

Clause 2: “being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies”

Verse sixteen describes a body of believers that has its source in Christ as its Head, but fits and holds itself together: “being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies.” Therefore, the initial clause of v. 16 describes a body of which Christ is the Head who forms it, but, surprisingly, is not described as the One holding it together.

This body is like a completed puzzle in which the pieces hold themselves in lock. Each member is a puzzle piece that interlocks to produce a visible unity with the whole, but to tug on one is to tug on all. Specifically, each piece ‘fits’ and ‘holds’ together the rest of the pieces so the full mosaic may be viewed as complete; if one piece is missing, the mosaic is incomplete.

The analogy is similar to Paul’s foundation metaphor in Eph. 2:20-21. Just as the apostles and prophets were formed as a complete temple foundation alongside Christ the cornerstone, and all the members ‘fitted together’ on top, so too each member of the local body shall be “fitted together” to form a complete body. But like mortar to a foundation, each member of the “whole body” is held together by each joint’s supply of work. So just as Christ and His apostles and prophets made a complete foundation for the Universal Church, so too in Eph. 4:15 a “whole body” is complete when each joint (i.e., each member) holds all the other body parts together.

Therefore, there can be no complete body until each member is connected to each other, ministering to the whole body. This requires a single local church for all the regenerate. These two realities, completion and connection, explain Paul’s “whole body” metaphor in 4:16: “being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies.”

Paul adds one more metaphor: the body will be “held together.” This adds an additional aspect to the coming unity which is not in Eph. 2:21, where Paul mentioned the temple built on the apostles and prophets is only “being fitted together,” but not “held together.”

This phrase “being held together” implies there are forces at work trying to pull the body apart, but those forces will be successfully resisted by the body. It will be the intense goal of each member in the body not to allow even one member to be pulled apart from the whole, even as a human body instinctively recoils from any threat of detachment of its parts. This adds weight to the necessity of merging schismed and immature churches together into “the mature man,” but it won’t be a pressure forced on people by their leaders, but will be a pressure arising from the people. They supply the energy: “being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part.” Thanks to the gifted men and a biblical ecclesiology, the local body becomes the mature man (unified), and hence is no longer immature (schismed). It holds itself together.

Clause 3: “according to the proper working of each individual part”

It sounds surprising that the body, working properly, will hold itself together. [47] ποιεῖται (“works”) is reflexively oriented, being middle voice. When Christians think of themselves as a body, they likely think of Christ holding them together. But then, how to explain schism? Or when we think of local churches, we might think of leaders holding the church together.[48] Some commentators teach that the “joints” of v. 16 are the gifted leaders of v. 11 (Lincoln, O’Brien), but the working in the body is supplied by each member, not just the leaders. We could also be close to the truth if we reasoned that it is Christ Himself who is doing the fitting and holding together (Hoehner), but we would be wrong. It is the whole body (not a partial body) that shapes and fits itself. But churches are always splitting, evidence that even our best leaders can’t make us a mature body of Christians without us being numerically mature as well. This means that each member in the body, no matter how young in Christ, must be taught Paul’s one body theology leading to repentance of all schism. Only this teaching and resultant obedience can fulfill Paul’s words, “according to the proper working of each individual part.”

Not only does this third clause explain that the ‘whole body” is comprised of “each individual part” so that no part of the body is missing or malfunctioning, but this phrase is a final proof that Paul can only be teaching the local body of Christ and not the Universal Body of Christ in Eph. 4:11-16. There are parts of the Universal Body that are yet unborn and most are in heaven. Yet here is a claim that each part works properly on itself.

Clause 4: “causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love”

The final clause of v. 16 shows that the members of the body are not passive, but active. This is a people who, each one, disbelieves in schism but rather builds up the “whole body” in love. Age in the Lord is not the issue, a proper theology of unity is. For these persons schism is not an option, for they know it is sin and attacks Christ’s body – the people they love and shall be unified with forever. Thus, those who strike out on their own by either leaving the body or starting their own churches in the same locale prove themselves not to be fitted and held together by what every joint supplies by the proper working of each individual part. They likely hate the members of Christ’s body, and therefore, Christ Himself.

Paul’s final phrasing in v. 16 brings out a final quantitative thrust in reference to the local body: “each individual part works for the growth of the body, working for its own edification in love” (author translation). Whatever translation you like, this much appears certain: each and every member of the body contributes to the numerical growth of the whole. Evangelism, made understandable to the world by visible unity, answers Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21-23.

 

Conclusion

Wait. Something important is missing.

Chapter 4 of Ephesians, the first sixteen verses, are all about church unity, right? That’s the whole point of the passage, isn’t it? No, not really. The word “church” is never used in it, and yet most commentators and preachers interpret this section as teaching exactly that, church unity.[49] “Ephesians 4:1-16 concentrates heavily on the Church. In fact, no other section of the letter is so directly and intensively devoted to the Church’s life and purpose” (Lincoln, p. 267). Others include O’Brien and Hoehner, Lincoln; those favoring local church unity are: Calvin, 288, Wood, 59, and Barclay, Ephesians, 178.

How can it be about church unity when the Holy Spirit doesn’t use the word, ‘church’? In fact, no writing of Paul in the NT has a higher frequency of “church” per words in a letter than Ephesians. “Church” is everywhere. Except here. It’s conspicuous by its absence.[50] Only 3 John, with its three occurrences of “church” in a short one chapter letter, features greater frequency, percentage-wise, of “ecclesia” than Ephesians.

“More than any other of the writings of the New Testament this
epistle deals with the relationship of Christians to one
another and to Christ; it is a thoroughly ‘ecclesiastical’
document — in the best sense of the
word ‘ecclesiastical.’[51] Best, One Body in Christ, p. 139.

True, for Eph. 4:1-16 isn’t about church unity, but about “body unity.” After all, the word ‘body’ is used four times in it. So while this passage is ecclesiological, it just doesn’t fit our mold, framed by our expectation.

This passage presents a unique teaching in Scripture, and it can be seen particularly in verse sixteen. Strangely perhaps, the word “body,” which occurs twice in this verse, serves as both subject and object of it. The body does something to and for the body, in other words. The “whole body” in the first part of v. 16 causes the growth of the “body” at the end of v. 16.

This can only make sense in the merging scenario discussed earlier, as separate local churches and their truly regenerated individuals join to one another to become one church in each locale, thereby rendering schism inoperable. The body then grows, numerically, as all of those who belong to Christ in a locale come together for the worship of the all-glorious Lord, Jesus Christ.

Or, consider this. Had Paul used the word “church” in connection to unity in Ephesians 4:1-16, every schismatic would have instantly justified his own schismed church as unified under Ephesians four. But instead the passage demands unity of the body, not the church. Obviously it wasn’t the Holy Spirit’s intent to reinforce schism, but to see schism ended it by “truthing in love” by gifted men.

These gifted men’s labors on behalf of Christ’s body must overcome the ministries in churches formed and sustained by ungifted men. The gifted men of Eph. 4:11 will yearn to serve all the saints where they live in unity, while schismatics are content to serve only their partisan memberships. Such gifted men build churches for all of Christ’s bride, but schismatics train “like-minded” believers in their own image.

Christian men who at the present time are committed to schism will be perpetually frustrated with immature churches that Paul compares to infants in v. 14. They are likely unaware that a number of the doctrines they and their churches teach are simply in error, and for that reason, sustain schism. In the Day of Christ’s Bema judgment, much, if not all of their works shall burn (1 Cor. 3:12-15).[52] The context of the bema seat of judgment (1 Cor. 3:12-15) is Paul’s condemnation of schism, a topic begun in 1 Cor. 1:10 and not finished until the end of the letter. They knew their Master’s will, but did it not. They will receive many lashes and yet be saved as through fire (Luke 12:47).

If Christ were as they imagined, that is, the head of every church where they live, He would be a heretical Christ, for He would have not one body, but hundreds. In this regard, Christendom’s churches presently show themselves in a state chillingly similar to Paul’s prophecy in Ephesus in Acts 20:29-30 – beset by heretics and schismatics.

But we can have great comfort in Christ’s plan yet to unfold, even in the present age.

 

Sources:

Abbott, T. K.  The Epistle to the Ephesians and to the Colossians.  The International Critical Commentary.  Edinburgh:  T. & T. Clark, 1964.

Barclay, William. The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1958.

Best, Ernest . One Body in Christ (London: S.P.C.K., 1955).

Bruce, F. F. The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. New International Commentary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984.

Calvin, John. Ephesians, Calvin’s Commentaries. Trans. By Pringle, William. Vol. 21, Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1981.

Carver, W. O., The Glory of God in the Christian Calling, Nashville; Broadman Press, 1949, p. 31.

Gordon, T. David, “‘“Equipping’ Ministry In Ephesians 4?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Volume 37.1, (70-79) 1994.

Hendriksen. William. Galatians and Ephesians. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990

Hoehner, Harold W.  Ephesians.   Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2002.

Lincoln, Andrew. Ephesians. Dallas: Word, 1990.

MacArthur, John. Ephesians. MacArthur Commentary Series. Chicago: Moody, 1986.

Martin, Ralph P., Reconciliation and Unity In Ephesians, Review and Expositor, vol. 93. (spring 1996), 204.

O’Brien, Peter T.  The Letter to the Ephesians.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1999.

Polhill, John B., An Introduction to Ephesians, Review and Expositor, vol. 76. (fall 1979), 466.

Ward, Wade, One Body: the Church,” Review & Expositor vol. 60 (fall 1963) 406.

Wood, A. Skevington, Ephesians, The Expositors Bible Commentary. vol. 11, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.

References   [ + ]

1. Eph. 3:20-4:3
2. Polhill, Paul and His Letters, 466
3. The local body is defined as all the believers in a locale. “You yourselves are the body of Christ,” writes Paul to all the saints in Corinth, 1 Cor. 12:27, the ‘whole body’ in which every part is attached to every other part (Eph. 4:16, Col. 2:19).
4. The letter to the Ephesians appears to be a letter from Paul that was intended to go to multiple churches, not just Ephesus. The earliest copies of it do not include the name of the city (Ephesus) in 1:1, so he may have left some space to write in the next city to receive a copy. This appears to be confirmed in Col. 4:16 as Epaphras was likely the letter carrier for both Ephesians and Colossians. “On the face of it, this “letter” can only be regarded as a circular address sent out to churches in a wide area which Paul knew at [from?] a distance” (Martin, Reconciliation and Unity In Ephesians, 204). For the purposes of the article I’ll simply refer to the letter as written to the church in Ephesus.
5. Acts 20:29-30
6. Schismatics are men who glory in ‘schism,’ which in this paper is defined as the local body of Christ divided into two or more churches, 1 Cor. 1:10-13, 12:25-27.
7. Eph. 2:14-16
8. Eph. 1:22-23
9. Only 1 Peter features a higher percentage occurrence of the word “one” (ἓν) than Ephesians in the NT.
10. O’Brien, Ephesians, 279
11. I take “baptism” in Eph. 4:5 as Christ’s baptism in the Holy Spirit since no human agent is identified, nor is water specified in the context, cf., Mat. 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33, Acts 1:5, 11:16, 1 Cor. 1:13-17.
12. The claim that ‘faith’ in 4:5 should be interpreted objectively as a doctrinal statement instead of personal (subjective) faith is contrary to every prior use of ‘faith/believe’ in Ephesians (1:13, 1:15, 1:19, 2:8, 3:12, 3:17, cf. 6:16, 6:23). I interpret ‘faith’ in 4:13 as personal (grammatically subjective) faith also. If I’m correct, then every instance of ‘faith’ (πίστις, πιστεύω) in Ephesians refers to personal (subjective) faith, not doctrinal (objective) statement.
13. “The varieties of gifts by the one Spirit are analogous to the many members of the one body…. This is the argument of I Corinthians 12:4-31. The same is true of Romans 12:4-5.” (Ward, “One Body: The Church,” 402-403)
14. ἵνα πληρώσῃ τὰ πάντα
15. ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων καὶ διὰ πάντων καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν
16. The use of the masculine nouns (ἀποστόλους, προφήτας, ktl) appears to show Paul referencing men in offices rather than mere gifts regardless of gender.
17. The most natural understanding of the term [καταρτισμὸν, katartismon] in this context is that of gathering, uniting, or ordering the saints into visible communion and mutual cooperation one with another.” “‘Equipping’ Ministry In Ephesians 4?” T. David Gordon, JETS 37, 1, p. 75.
18. This views all three prepositional clauses of v. 12 as coordinate: the gifted men first unite the saints, and since there is no change of subject in v. 12, it is also the gifted men who do a unified work of ministry (expressed by the singular εἰς ἔργον διακονίας), and thereby build up the body of Christ – i.e., in unity, and not as popularly taught, build up each one’s giftedness.
19. Hoehner, 552
20. καταντήσωμεν, “to reach a condition or goal, fig. extension of ‘arrive at, attain,’” BDAG.
21. Marcus Barth, Ephesians, 466. The 4:13 goal of conformity to Christ is “the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
22. οἱ πάντες
23. Commentators express a variety of options: “the all” refers to the saints of the prior verse (Hoehner); “the entire Church” (Lincoln, Ephesians, 255); or “God’s people collectively” (O’Brien, 305). Hoehner walks through the options well.
24. Bruce, 350.
25. Lincoln, 255.
26. O’Brien, 306.
27. Hoehner, 553.
28. Most commentators who claim 4:13 is about doctrinal faith differ themselves on many points of doctrine. The more they have matured in “the faith” the further they have grown apart in doctrinal commitments. Hence, they themselves lack unity “in the faith,” making their claim that ‘faith’ is doctrinal faith self-defeating.
29. In this interpretation the definite article (τῆς πίστεως, Eph. 4:13) is demonstrative, referring to the prior instance of πίστις in 4:5.
30. Mat. 16:15-17.
31. Lincoln, O’Brien, Bruce.
32. Calvin, 283-84. But the text does not say “mature persons,” but a mature man.
33. The NASB unnecessarily adds in the phrase “which belongs to.”
34. ἐν µέτρῳ ἑνὸς ἑκάστου µέρους
35. 4:13 is the fourth time “fullness” has been seen in Ephesians (Eph. 1:10, 23, 3:19, 4:13). The phrase “the fullness of Christ” here in 4:13 may either mean “the fullness created by Christ.” i.e., a subjective genitive, “that which is filled by Christ with something other than Christ, cf. Eph. 3:19 or “the fullness which is possessed by Christ” i.e., an objective genitive, “that which is filled with Christ Himself” This paper takes the first choice as correct: “the fullness created by Christ” as all other instances of fullness in Ephesians refer to the result of the act of filling. A fuller range of interpretations are 1) spiritual maturity: “every believer develops to the image of Christ – Rom 8:29, (Hodge, 234; 2) “the full possession of the gifts of Christ” (Abbott, 121), presumably ministerial charism, spiritual gifts, offices; 3) “the Universal Church” – all arrive at the maturity of the universal Church (Lincoln); 4) “Christ himself is fulfilled” (Robinson); 5) “a definite number of people” cf. Eph. 1:23, Rom. 11:12, 11:25.
36. The body analogy only makes sense when its members are physically attached. So too in the local body of Christ; the members must be physically connected in one church.
37. Lincoln asserts that the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ is not “Christ himself in His perfect qualities [but] the Church as His fullness.” He is thinking of some idea of universal body on earth. But since in Eph. 1:23 that “fullness” was a definite number, so too is it in 4:12-13. The ‘fullness’ is every member of the local body, i.e., ‘each individual part’ (v. 16). This can only be the local body since only the full number of gifts in that body serve each other member.
38. Whether the final clause of v. 13, “of Christ” (τοῦ Χριστου) is taken subjectively or objectively, both point to His local body. If it means the fullness is Christ then that refers to His local body as it does at the end of v. 15 (see explanation there). If it means the fullness produced by Christ (as I take it) then it reflects Christ as the source of His local body.
39. The ἵνα (hina, “that”) at the beginning of the Greek phrase expresses result and is rendered “that” in most English translations.
40. “Doing truth… is an OT expression used especially when fidelity between two parties is the subject, Gen. 47:29, Jos. 2:14, Jud. 9:16, 19” (Bruce, Ephesians, 352).
41. τὰ πάντα
42. Though a clear direct object accusative, it is typically translated as a dative indirect object: “we are to grow up in all aspects into Him,” NAU; “we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head,” ESV.
43. The RC equivalency of Christ and body of Christians is undone by 1 Cor. 12:21 where Paul uses a “head” a simply another part of a local body of Christ in Corinth, as much as a foot or a hand. Roman Catholicism can only allow for one head on earth, the Pope in Rome.
44. αὐξήσωµεν… τὰ πάντα
45. Χριστός, ἐξ οὗ πᾶν τὸ σῶμα
46. i.e., Lincoln, 262.
47. ποιεῖται (“works”) is reflexively oriented, being middle voice.
48. Some commentators teach that the “joints” of v. 16 are the gifted leaders of v. 11 (Lincoln, O’Brien), but the working in the body is supplied by each member, not just the leaders. We could also be close to the truth if we reasoned that it is Christ Himself who is doing the fitting and holding together (Hoehner), but we would be wrong. It is the whole body (not a partial body) that shapes and fits itself.
49. “Ephesians 4:1-16 concentrates heavily on the Church. In fact, no other section of the letter is so directly and intensively devoted to the Church’s life and purpose” (Lincoln, p. 267). Others include O’Brien and Hoehner, Lincoln; those favoring local church unity are: Calvin, 288, Wood, 59, and Barclay, Ephesians, 178.
50. Only 3 John, with its three occurrences of “church” in a short one chapter letter, features greater frequency, percentage-wise, of “ecclesia” than Ephesians.
51. Best, One Body in Christ, p. 139.
52. The context of the bema seat of judgment (1 Cor. 3:12-15) is Paul’s condemnation of schism, a topic begun in 1 Cor. 1:10 and not finished until the end of the letter.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *