Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head. From Him, the whole body joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work (Eph. 4: 14-16).
What a marvellous description of a harmonious and properly functioning body!
However, the real picture of the church, in many of its parts, is very different from the pattern Paul presents here a body of people whom the Holy Spirit has bound together into an organism that functions perfectly as one. Just imagine how dysfunctional one’s body would be if its systems and cells were constantly vying for position, competing for attention or being pulled apart by leaders who claimed authority over each other.
What would happen if one cell decided to be the boss? It demanded the right to cause a group of cells to pull away from the rest of the organ and set up its own organ in opposition to the one that has fulfilled its function in the body efficiently for many years. The result would be. . . cancer! Cancer kills and cancer in the body of Christ kills as effectively as the rogue cells in a human body which multiply uncontrollably and take over the entire body.
Paul describes God’s pattern for the efficient functioning of the body of Christ as it submits to its Head, through the power of the Spirit. It must, firstly, submit to the authority and follow the instructions of the Head. It is tragic that too many of God’s people are woefully ignorant of Jesus’ teachings. They rely, instead, on what they glean from the pulpit and swallow the teaching without checking the truth of what they hear. They claim to be disciples of Jesus without knowing what a disciple is or what a disciple’s life should be like.
To the Jews who had believed Him Jesus said: ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’ (John 8: 31-32).
Ignorance of God’s Word is a recipe for error. We can only become truly one in Christ when we believe and hold to the truth. We cannot know the truth if we fail to read God’s Word diligently and trust the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. Paul called people “infants” who were ignorant of the Word and subsequently easy prey for imposters who pulled them away from Jesus by setting themselves up as the custodians of the truth. We must beware of so-called “leaders” who subtly draw people to themselves instead of to Jesus.
Like the spokes of a wheel that are joined to the hub and keep the wheel strong and functioning, the closer each individual draws to Jesus, the stronger the unity of the body will become. The hallmark of the body of Christ is always unity through love based on a commitment to Jesus as Lord and obedience to His teaching.
Unfortunately, there are church groups and denominations that demand adherence to their particular brand of doctrine. Membership of that group depends on the individual’s willingness to believe what that denomination teaches, regardless of whether it reflects Biblical truth or not. I have seen how people easily follow someone’s “good idea” or personal interpretation like sheep, without checking the Scriptures to verify the truth of what they are teaching or practising.
Take, for example, the worldwide movement called “spiritual warfare” or being “prayer warriors”. There are many individuals who claim to be specialists in their brand of spiritual warfare and lead ministries and hold seminars on something that has no foundation in God’s Word. This entire superstructure of teaching and practice is based on an erroneous interpretation of a few passages of Scripture.
Let me illustrate. When Jesus took His disciples to a region called Caesarea Philippi in northern Israel, which was the “red-light” district which no self-respecting Jew would ever visit, He had a specific purpose in mind. The town was the centre of Caesar worship. There was, in a nearby region, a huge rocky cliff in which niches were carved to house the images of false gods. There was a pagan temple at its base where devotees worshipped these gods, particularly Pan, the goat-god, by having sexual orgies with goats.
It was in full view of these goings-on that Jesus asked His disciples the question, “Who do you say that I am?” On the strength of Peter’s response, He gave them the authority to interpret His yoke (His interpretation and application of the Torah) and to loose people from their yokes of paganism and legalism. By teaching them the truth, His disciples would bind His yoke on people like the very ones who were engaging in the vile practices they were observing.
It is the power of Jesus, who is the Son of the living God, and what He taught – the Fatherhood of God who loves and is merciful to all who receive His forgiveness and submit to Jesus as Lord – that sets people free from the bondage of sin and all the sinful beliefs and practices the devil has ensnared them to engage in. The power of the gospel, not doing “prayer walks” and “pulling down imaginary strongholds”, transformed the city of Ephesus and broke the power of the goddess Diana.
This is the essence of spiritual warfare. In partnership with the Holy Spirit and by following Jesus and learning from Him, we are set free from the bondage of false belief systems to become true disciples of Jesus. It is only in fellowship with Him that we can be in fellowship with one another and begin to reflect the power of the gospel to overcome our differences and become the real body of Christ, bound together in love, and function as one.
This, then is the role of the “gifts” Jesus has given to the church – to instruct and guide the body, under the leadership of the Head, to become one by His supernatural power so that the world will have a visible witness to the nature of the one and only true God.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!
ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3, eBook 978-4828-0511-6
My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), a companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, has been released in paperback and digital format on www.amazon.com.