Begin with the End in Mind
Ephesians Lesson #149
May 15, 2022
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we’re so thankful that You have provided us so much with regard to good, sound teaching of Your Word, and so many pastors and teachers around the country who proclaim the truth of the gospel, emphasizing grace. We’re thankful for Jim and Phyllis and their ministry, and for the opportunities Jim had just to clarify so much of the Scripture while he was in Armenia in the last few weeks. We know that Your Word will bear forth its fruit as You intend.
“Father, we pray for us as we focus on Your Word today, that we may continue to come to understand the purpose for the local church, why we should be involved in a local church and what the criteria should be for the church that we are involved with. So many are calling themselves Christian and claiming to be churches today that follow the Scripture and are not, and this is just a sign of the deterioration and degradation of the thinking of people in this nation and it is sad to see that.
“So, Father, we pray that we might come to understand what Your Word says, and that Your desire is for us to grow, to mature, and to be examples to both the angels and to those around us of Your magnificent Word and Your grace, and we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Ephesians 4:13. The title of my message this morning is that we should Begin with the End in Mind. There are many of you, I know, that may not admit it, but when you go out to eat, you like to look at the dessert menu first, so that you have an idea of how much you’re not going to eat before you get there, so there’s room for your favorite dessert. You’re beginning with the end in mind. What is the end goal of what you are doing?
When it comes to the spiritual life, it is sad that a lot of Christians have no idea what the end goal of their Christian life is. Sadly, a lot of people think that the end goal of their Christian life is to get saved. Unfortunately, if you are a Christian, you are already saved. Why have you been saved? What is the purpose of this new life that you have in Christ and how does that relate to the local church and your involvement in the local church?
As we have studied in the last several weeks in this passage from Ephesians 4:7–16, what we have seen is that this is one of the most significant passages in the New Testament for teaching us about the purpose of the local church. Some people today think the purpose of going to church is to be entertained. Other people think the reason they go to church is to meet other people, to have social interaction with people who are somewhat like minded, and to have a good time.
The Scripture tells us what the purpose of the local church is in this passage, and it is not related to either entertainment or social activity. It is designed to enable us as a corporate group—that is, not just individually, but as a group of people—to come together to worship the Lord. There’s a difference between individual worship and corporate worship.
Corporate worship is when a group of believers come together in order to worship God in harmony. It’s not about the individuals. It’s not a “look at me and how I can sing” or “what I can do,” but it is about how the body of Christ, the believers, come together in harmony in order to worship the Lord.
In order to achieve that, there has to be a foundation for spiritual growth and understanding the spiritual maturation process, which is the central purpose of the local church.
Now I want you to think back a little bit to when you were a kid, maybe when you were around 10 or 11 or 12, and somewhere along in there you reached a point where you had some sort of confrontation with your parents. I don’t mean in a real negative way, but basically you were expressing the idea of “I just wish I’d be treated like an adult. I’m growing up. I don’t want to be treated like a kid anymore.” That is something that happens to every one of us.
So as you are expressing that and coming to understand that in your life, what you’re basically realizing is that real life, the enjoyment of life, isn’t necessarily what we have experienced as children, but it comes when we are adults. When we have learned certain things and acquired certain capabilities, and we’ve develop certain talents, then we see that there is much more to life than what we thought as children. That’s what happens when we mature. Life really comes in maturity. It is not in childhood.
Unfortunately, in a lot of churches neither the pastors nor those in the pew come to understand that. One of the quotes I frequently cite is from Earl Radmacher, who is now with the Lord. 30 years ago at a pastors’ conference in Phoenix, he was teaching on this concept in the local church, and he made the point that the world’s largest nursery is the evangelical church. It is composed of almost exclusively babies, and the sad thing is that the nursery workers, that is, the church leaders, the pastor, the elders, others, had no idea how to get the babies out of diapers.
If you look at the passage that we’re studying, the contrast between Ephesians 4:13–14 is that Ephesians 4:14 is building off of Ephesians 4:13. Ephesians 4:13 is saying we have to grow to maturity, so that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.
The sad thing is that that’s what happens in so many of these mega-churches. They are big on entertainment and social action, but they don’t know enough about the Word of God to even begin to live their Christian life. They get it mixed up with legalism, they get it mixed up with entertainment, they get it mixed up with all kinds of other things rather than just learning what the Scripture teaches about the spiritual life and spiritual growth, and this passage is central to it. So let me read it again, I know we just read it, but it’s central to understand the thinking here.
In Ephesians 4:11, Paul writes, “And He Himself—that is, Jesus Christ—gave—and lists four distinct groups of gifted leaders—, some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastor and teachers.”
Their purpose is in Ephesians 4:12, “for the equipping of the saints—that is, every believer from the babies to the adults—for the work of ministry, for the edifying—that is the building up, the spiritual strengthening—of the body of Christ.”
Ephesians 4:13, “till—so now it’s stating the distant goal—we all come—and then we have three things listed here identified by the fact that you have three parallel prepositional phrases in the Greek, first—to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,—second—to a mature man—is how that should be translated, and third—, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
Now this is a critical passage, and it is basically commanding us as believers to respond to the ministry of these gifted leaders and to grow to maturity. But how does that begin?
First it begins with a new birth. Scripture uses terms like being “born again,” as well as the more technical term: regeneration.
The central passage for this is found in John 3, where Jesus is meeting with probably the foremost Pharisee, the foremost teacher of the Law, and he recognizes that the reason Nicodemus is there to meet with him is because Nicodemus has questions. He knows that Jesus has made certain claims. He starts off just trying to break the ice, I guess, and he says, “We know that you couldn’t do the things you do if God weren’t with You.”
To that Jesus responds just right out of the blue, targets the real issue that Nicodemus is thinking about, “How can I be sure I’m going to go to Heaven when I die?” Jesus said in John 3:3, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Jesus is making a very bold statement here, that there is only one way to Heaven. He will make this more clear later when He says, “I am THE way, I am THE truth, and I am THE life. No man comes to the Father except by Me.”
That’s a pretty outstanding claim. It’s a claim of exclusivity that a lot of people react to, that the Bible claims to be the only truth. Jesus claimed to be the only truth and the only way to God, but you only have a couple of ways in which you could take this.
The first way is that Jesus is telling the truth, that He is the only way, that He is God Himself. When He says, “I and the Father are One,” He is saying that “I am God Himself. I’m equal with God.” He is the God-Man, the Second Person of the Trinity.
So we either take Him at face value and He’s telling the truth, and there’s nothing in His life as recorded in Scripture that would indicate that He is a liar, or a deceiver, or a con artist. And so that’s the second option, that some people think that, “Jesus is just a good man.” But Jesus can’t be just a good man, if He’s telling people He’s the only way to Heaven. That’s the act of a liar, a deceiver, or a con man. But Jesus doesn’t present as that in any way in any accounts of His life and ministry.
So, you only have two options. He’s telling the truth or He’s a deceiver. And as a deceiver He’s either self-deceived, which means He’s crazy, or He is intentionally conning people.
Again, there’s no evidence to support either one, but those are the only options. You can’t say Jesus is a good man. You can’t say Jesus is a moral reformer. You can’t say any of the other somewhat nice things people try to say about Jesus, but then deny what He says about Himself.
So, He makes this bold claim that you can’t see the Kingdom of God unless you’re born again. Well, Nicodemus is a little confused, and he said in John 3:4, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
So, Jesus clarifies in Ephesians 3:5, He says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water—which refers to physical birth—and of the Spirit—which refers to a new kind of birth, a spiritual birth—, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
Now why do we need to be born again? We need to be born again because we’re born spiritually dead. This is what Paul said, we studied this in Ephesians 2:1, which says that we are born dead in our trespasses and sins. So we are born spiritually dead, but physically alive, and it’s only by trusting in Christ that we are born again by the Holy Spirit.
This is what Titus 3:5 contributes, it’s “not by works of righteousness which we have done ...”
God is not impressed with our good deeds because He knows that good deeds done by a spiritually dead person are worthless. There has to be a rebirth first. We’re not saved by works of righteousness. That is our good deeds, our good intentions, or any of those things because we’re all born spiritually dead. None of us are any better than anybody else, and a far as God’s justice is concerned, we all fall short of his character.
God has to provide the salvation, and that is, “according to His mercy.” We’re not saved on the basis of who we are and what we are and what we’ve done. We’re saved according to His mercy, “through the washing of regeneration.” That is being born again. Then he says, “that is, the renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
So, both passages relate this new birth to the ministry of God the Holy Spirit.
So, we are born again. That means we have new life.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away; behold, all things are new.”
We reach a point in our life when we’ve been spiritually dead, we hear that Christ is offering us a free gift of eternal life, forgiveness, that we will be made alive by the Holy Spirit if we trust in Him. And the result of that is that there is this new birth, this new spiritual life, that is in us.
Then there has to be some growth.
This relates to John 10:10, where Jesus says of His ministry, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill and to destroy. But I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
So here you have two statements about life: 1) He came to give life, and 2) He came to give life abundantly.
The first giving of life is the giving of eternal life at the instant that we trust in Christ as Savior. We move from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive, but a baby’s life does not end at birth. He is to continue to grow.
When we grow and mature spiritually, that is when we realize the abundant life that Jesus gives us. And it’s not a life that is to make us miserable. It’s not a life that is to bring something into our life—a lot of commands, and a lot of things that you can’t do. It is to give us an abundant life, a rich life, a full life, that even though we face all of the problems that are in our world today, and we face perhaps disease or face poverty or face some sort of illness, or there are other disappointments and heart aches in life, we can still rise above that and have peace and tranquility and contentment and happiness and abundance in life because of our spiritual growth in our relationship with Christ.
We are given that eternal life. John 1:4 says that He has eternal life, talking about Christ, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
This gift of eternal life comes as a result of belief. John 3:15 says, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16 is a well-known verse, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Notice it doesn’t say “whoever changes his life.” It doesn’t say, “whoever repents.” In fact, in the Gospel of John, over 95 times you have the verb “to believe.” It never says, “genuinely believe,” it never says “repent and believe.” The word” repent” never occurs in the Gospel of John. The issue is belief, trusting in Christ.
Once we believe in Christ, the promise is we will not perish. We will have everlasting life.
That abundant life comes as the result of our spiritual growth and our maturation.
In 1 Peter 2:2 Peter writes, which is what I quoted earlier, “desire the unadulterated milk of the Word like newborn babies, that you may grow thereby.”
See, before you’re a spiritual baby, you have to be born again. When you’re born again, you’re a spiritual baby. You are saved; you’re going to spend eternity in Heaven. But the instant that you are born, you have to be nourished, you have to grow, you have to proceed in that maturation process, and that is through taking in the Word of God.
It’s related to milk by analogy. If you’ve ever been around a hungry infant, you know how demanding they are to be fed. They’re hungry, and they want to be fed five minutes ago.
So that is the comparison. We are to desire the Word like a newborn baby. Sadly, in so many churches, the people don’t seem to really want the Word, or they’ve been put on a spiritual fast by the pastors, and they’ve lost their appetite. The result is there’s no spiritual growth. Spiritual growth, as we’ve seen so many times, comes from the study of the Word of God so that we learn what God’s will for our life is, and to think as God would have us to think, and then to live as God would have us to live.
This life comes “through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,” 2 Peter 1:3, “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”
So the life there is that first step, trusting Christ where we’re born again. We have eternal life that can never be taken from taken from us. And then the godliness refers to our spiritual life, our spiritual growth.
This is accomplished by means of God’s Word. 2 Peter 1:4 says, “by which—that is, by Christ’s glory and virtue—has been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises.”
It’s the Word of God that provides that growth.
Now what is God’s goal for us? Is God’s goal for us to be miserable and have to live some sort of life where we don’t have any joys or pleasures? Not at all! Jesus said He came to give us an abundant life.
God’s plan, though, is expressed in Romans 8:29, “For whom He knew and marked off beforehand …”
That is talking about the fact that in God’s foreknowledge, He knew who would trust in Christ as Savior. And what did God do in Eternity Past? He said, “I want these believers, those who trust in Christ, to resemble Christ in their character. That’s My goal for them.”
“… He set their future destiny …” Most translations translate that “He predestined them,” and people get all kinds of crazy ideas about what the meaning of that word. What it means is God sets your future goal. He is the One who says, “Okay, Mike. My goal for you, the destiny toward which I am taking you, is to be conformed to the image of My Son.” He said, “My goal for your life once you accept Christ as your Savior is for you to grow spiritually, so that your life and your character resemble Christ.” That means you have to learn something about who Jesus is.
Most people have really strange ideas about who Jesus is and what His life was like, but Jesus was the preeminent Son of God. He is the epitome of what manhood and what humanity should be because He was the perfect Man, the Son of Man, and He had no sin in his life. He is the perfect example of what a mature person should be like, and the virtue that should characterize their life. So that’s God’s goal for you.
Now if you say, “I want this in my life and not what God wants, then you’re just going to have a life of conflict, because if you’ve trusted Christ as Savior, God’s plan is to take you to spiritual maturity, so that Christ’s character is manifest in your life in order to glorify God. And if you say, “No, I want to be like this,” well, you’ve just set the stage for misery in your life.
God’s goal for us is to build us, develop us, so that we are reflecting the character of God.
We’ve seen that this process is related to what Paul has said in Ephesians 4:12, “for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Now we’ve covered this over the last couple of weeks. These three statements translated with the preposition “for” in English go back to the main subject and verb of Ephesians 4:11, “He Himself gave—Christ gave.”
Why did he give those gifted leaders?
We also looked at the fact that the first “for” translates a different preposition in Greek than the other two, and the result of that is that we are given a distinction here.
The first “for” indicates the immediate purpose for the giving of these gifts. That immediate purpose is the equipping of the saints. That takes place first, and the equipping of the saints is for the work of ministry. So that’s your secondary goal.
Then your ultimate goal here is the edifying of the body of Christ, because when the individual believer is maturing and being edified, then all believers who are part of the universal body of Christ, that is all who have trusted Christ as Savior, the whole body is also edified and matured. You have an individual emphasis, as well as a corporate emphasis.
The immediate purpose is to equip or train the saints. That’s the purpose for those gifts.
We saw that the purpose of going to church and being involved in a local church isn’t about how it makes me feel, isn’t about entertaining me, it isn’t about some sociological process. It is about education. The model that the Scripture gives us for the local church is education and not some sociological purpose.
Today many pastors who don’t have a lot of training, never really looked at the Word of God, use a sociological framework for understanding the role of church, but it is to equip, to train saints, so that they are able to carry out the work of service to serving one another, Scripture says, in the Word.
So that relates to lots of things. It can relate to helping people understand why they are going through suffering, whether it has to do with finances, or maybe going through some sort of weather disaster, whatever it may be. We have to understand how to respond to life’s challenges on the basis of God’s Word.
Those who have spiritual gifts, if you go back and look at Ephesians 4:7, we’re told “to each one of us grace was given,” and that relates to spiritual gifts. We all have spiritual gifts, and as we are equipped, and as we grow and mature, those areas of our giftedness will be manifested.
Some people have great compassion and they like to visit folks who are in the hospital; you have other people who are very sensitive to different kinds of needs of people in the congregation, and they want to help them out in different situations. You have others, not all, who have the gift of giving, but some who have the gift of giving also have the gift of making money. There’ve been some tremendous individuals who have become incredibly wealthy.
I was reading about one man named Taylor just yesterday, and he was responsible for a great deal of funding for Youth for Christ, Young Life, and a number of other youth and campus ministries in the early part of this century. And as a result of his benevolence, there were just hundreds of thousands of people who became Christians and whose lives were transformed when they were in high school or junior high or maybe later in college.
God has gifted someone like that to make money for the purpose of using that for the maturation of the body of Christ.
This is what we’ve studied in Ephesians 4:12, “For the immediate purpose of training all Church Age believers to do the work of service, toward the ultimate goal of spiritually strengthening the body of Christ.”
That’s how I would translate this particular verse, but that’s only the intermediate purpose in terms of our training.
The ultimate goal is stated in Ephesians 4:13. Here we have three prepositional phrases again, all of which began the same way, and so there’s a question as to how they relate to each other.
What we will see when we break this down is that they are all related to the maturing or the maturation process of the believer.
It begins with “the unity of the faith” and “the knowledge of the Son of God.” That’s step one. As you learn who Jesus is and as we study the Word and apply it, then God the Holy Spirit is working in us to mature us, and then the ultimate goal of that is “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” which in essence is talking about the character of Christ, the fullness which is Christ, the fullness that is His, that He is the ultimate in expressing the Person of God.
For example, John 1:18 says no one has seen God at any time, but the only begotten Son, has revealed Him.
So the ultimate goal is that Paul talked about in Romans 8:29 is to be conformed to the image of Christ.
Ephesians 4:13 begins by saying, “till we all come to the unity of the faith …”
Now that word translated “come” is a word that means to arrive at a destination, and it is often used in passages in Acts to refer to someone who is traveling somewhere, and they finally arrive at their destination. They arrive at the place that they were intended to be.
But what is the subject of this? The subject of this goes back to that key introductory clause in Ephesians 4:11 that “He Himself gave.” He Himself gave these gifted leaders “till we all come to the unity of the faith.”
That’s telling us what the goal of their ministry is. The goal of the evangelist, the goal of the pastor-teacher, is to equip the saints toward the ultimate goal of having “the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.”
This word tells us that we are traveling toward a specific destiny that’s described by these three phrases that relate to one another.
In this clause, the “we all” describes his immediate audience, as well as the universal body of Christ. So, when you read it, you think, “Well, is he talking about the body of Christ as a whole or is he talking about individuals?” Well, as the individual advances in maturity, so does the overall body of Christ.
Remember, there are different ways that the term “church” is used. We have a local church, which is just like this church. It is a group of believers meeting together in a local assembly. Then we have the universal church, which is made up of all those who’ve trusted in Christ as Savior from AD 33 up until the present, and will extend until the end of this age, which is when the Rapture occurs.
During this time, those who have already lived are not present on the earth, but they’re still part of the body of Christ. They are in Heaven and awaiting the Rapture when they will receive their resurrection bodies. We are alive now. We may die before the Rapture, at which time we will have our interim body until we receive our resurrection body at the end of the Church Age.
So, the “we all” describes the individual believers, as well as it’s going to relate to the impact of the individual believers on the church as a whole.
We see this passage that we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.
That’s the first step.
The word “unity” is only used twice in Scripture; it’s used twice in this chapter. It is used in Ephesians 4:3, and it’s used here in Ephesians 4:13. It refers to unity or oneness.
In Ephesians 4:3 it says that we are to be diligent to maintain or to keep that which is already there, so at the instant of salvation, there is this reality of the unity of the Spirit, and it is maintained in the bond of peace.
There’s a lot that we could say about unity, I’ve taught about this in the past. The unity here is the unity of faith, and this is not at the expense of faith. We cannot have unity if we do not agree on the fundamentals of Christianity. Specifically in this context, it has to do with the knowledge of the Son of God. We have to understand who Jesus is and what He has done for us.
We start with a positional unity. This is an abstract concept that may be difficult for some people to grasp. At the instant that we trust in Christ as Savior, we are legally identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. This is described by the term “baptism by the Holy Spirit.” Baptism has the significance of identification. So, we’re legally identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, so that for the rest of our lives and on into eternity we are identified with Christ, and we are in Christ. We can never lose that position. That is part of our eternal security.
But the reality is, in terms of our day-to-day life and experience, we are not always being filled by the Spirit or walking by the Spirit. So what happens is that we are not walking in the light, we’re walking according to our sin nature, walking in darkness.
But the unity of Ephesians 4:3 is the unity that we have positionally or legally in Christ as a result of that baptism by the Holy Spirit. But there is an experiential unity—that’s the circle on the right—that comes as a result of learning who Jesus Christ is and what He did for us on the Cross, expanding that knowledge of who the Son of God is. Then as we submit in humility to the teaching of Scripture, then we can experience that unity.
That’s important. Paul goes through a whole section in Philippians 2 on the importance of unity, and the basis for unity is our humility, being willing to humble ourselves under the authority of God, and the result of that is we can have peace and we can have this unity and tranquility.
There’s a lot that Paul says about this.
In 1 Corinthians 1:10 he says, “Now I plead with you, brethren …”
See, by using the term “brother” he is recognizing that the Corinthians are all believers. They’re all Christians, they are all saved.
They were a mess! They were plagued by divisions, divisiveness, arguments, they were taking each other to court, they were involved in a variety of different sins. And yet they’re still brethren, they’re still believers because we’re saved not on the basis of our righteousness, but we’re saved because when we trust Christ. His righteousness is given to us, and we’re saved on the basis of His righteousness.
So Paul says, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you—obviously Christians cannot speak the same thing and be divisive because he’s telling them that only by submitting to the Lord are they going to solve this problem of divisiveness—that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
Philippians 2:1–11 tells us that has to be done on the basis of humility and submitting to the authority of God.
Now in Ephesians 4:13, Paul emphasizes two aspects in this first stage of the growth process.
“To the unity of the faith.” This is talking about the content of what we believe. It’s not talking about the act of trusting God. It is talking about the content of our faith.
For example, in Jude 3 we are commanded to contend for the faith, that we are not to allow those to come into the congregation that are teaching heresy. We are to contend for the faith. This is the unity of the faith.
It is a unity of what we believe, not allowing people to just believe whatever they want to believe, not allowing people to just “I can live my life any way want to because all I have to do is confess sin, and it’s all okay.”
Sin, while it is dealt with on the Cross, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t do damage to our lives, to our relationships, and to our spiritual life. We don’t lose our salvation, but we have to learn to how to walk by the Spirit and how to recover when we have walked by our sin nature.
The unity of the faith is connected to knowledge. It’s the knowledge here of the Son of God.
Now this is a distinctive word that is used for knowledge. It is not the core word, which is GNOSIS. But it is a word that is intensified by that prefix EPI: EPIGNOSIS. This is a knowledge that is directed to a particular object, which involves perceiving, discerning, and recognizing something, according to Harold Hoehner in his commentary on Ephesians. So this emphasizes the fact that it goes beyond simple academic knowledge to a knowledge that is the result of some measure of spiritual discernment.
That’s the starting point. We have to know who Jesus is and what He did on the Cross. We have to believe what the Scripture says about Him and understand that it is being conformed to that image, not some made up image.
So many people have sort of an idolatrous concept of Jesus. They have their own image of who Jesus was and what He did. It has nothing to do with the Bible. They’ve just sort of generated this idol of Jesus in their minds, and then they worship that. But that’s just heresy. That is idolatry. Just because you call that image in your mind Jesus doesn’t mean it is Jesus, anymore than calling Jesus (Hay-soos) my plumber Jesus doesn’t mean he’s something more than just being a plumber.
The second stage is to be a mature man. This is the Greek word TELEIOS, which means to be complete or mature. The second word is man. Now this is the word ANER, which means male.
Earlier, Paul uses the word ANTHROPOS, which has the idea of a human being, so he’s not advancing to be a human being. That’s why he doesn’t use ANTHROPOS there, he uses ANER, which has, as part of its meaning, the idea of being an adult. This makes sense in the context because the contrast is with being children in Ephesians 4:14.
So we have to understand who Jesus is and what He did for us on the Cross and we have to take that beyond just a basic knowledge in order to be able to increase in our spiritual maturity.
The third stage is expressed as “to the measure—that is, according to the standard of something, to the standard—of the stature—or the character, stature is related to character—of the fullness which belongs to Christ.”
The idea here is that that ultimate standard is the character of Jesus Christ, and God is conforming us to that character. So to start off, we have to understand the basics of Scripture, especially in relation to who Jesus is and what He did for us.
As we continue to grow by the milk of the Word and the meat of the Word, then that produces a spiritual maturity in our lives, and then ultimately it takes us to where we are being conformed to the image of Christ.
In Romans 8:29 as I read it earlier, “For whom He knew and marked off beforehand, He set their future destiny to be conformed to the image of His Son.”
That’s His goal for us. We become like Christ.
1 John 3:2 says, “Beloved, now we are children of God—we’re saved because we trusted Christ as Savior—; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed—that is, when Christ returns—, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
So that is again expressing that God is taking us to conform us to Christ.
Then as this paragraph ends in Ephesians 4:15 we read that we “may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.”
So as we come to this passage, it tells us that the goal God has for us is to take us through this spiritual growth process, which is the result of our spiritual growth from learning under the pastor-teacher and those who are teaching the Word of God, so that we advance in maturity as we learn the Word and apply the Word. And that brings us to spiritual maturity.
Why do I really want to be spiritually mature? Well, that’s what we’ll come to next time. Ephesians 4:14 talks about the fact that this brings us to a point of stability in our lives, that we’re not going to be tossed to and fro like children by every wind of doctrine, or by the trickery of deceitful men, so that we can have real stability and tranquility and contentment in our life. Even though the storms of life may be howling around us, we can be calm and relaxed, trust God knowing that He is in control, and then we can experience that level of maturity where we are being conformed to the image of Christ.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study through this passage, and as we continue to press on, just coming to grips with the fact that Your desire, Your will for us, is first of all to be saved, to trust in Christ as Savior, to recognize there’s nothing we can do to gain merit with You because we are all sinners. We’ve all fallen short of Your glory, Your essence, but You have provided a perfect salvation for us. It’s a free gift, that all we do is accept it by trusting in Christ as our Savior. By trusting in Him we are given His righteousness and we’re given eternal life. We are forgiven of all of our sins, and we look forward to spending eternity with You.
“But it doesn’t stop with that. The purpose continues in terms of our spiritual growth and the impact of that spiritual growth on the edification of the whole body. We are being taken to a goal that You have set from Eternity Past, and that is that our character is transformed into a reflection of the character of Christ.
“Father, we pray that if there’s anyone here this morning, anyone listening online, that is not sure of their salvation, has never trusted in Christ as Savior, that has never understood really the basics of biblical Christianity, that we don’t have to and we cannot impress You with our goodness. We are all sinners, we’ve all failed in many ways. But You have provided a perfect Savior, and on the basis of what He did on the Cross, not on the basis of what we’ve done, we’re saved by trusting in Him. We pray that You would make that clear to anyone who is not a believer and does not have eternal life.
“Father, we pray for this congregation, that we could continue to press on to that high calling to which we have been called, and to grow and mature in our spiritual life. And we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”