until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.
I. UNITY OF FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD. This implies:
1. That faith and knowledge are distinct from each other in nature, though they are inseparable in the experience of Christian men. Faith is fed by knowledge, and knowledge, especially in the sphere of Divine realities, is based on faith.
2. That religion is not a mere matter of feeling, but intellectual as well, resting upon correct apprehensions of Divine truth.
3. That the central Object of religion is the Son of God, not only apprehended, but appropriated by faith. It is eternal life to know him.
4. That saints have yet to attain to a truer faith and a larger knowledge of the Son of God. All believers, it is true, have "one faith;" yet they are to attain to the unity of faith. Unity is a matter of degrees. The apostle does not, however, say that we are to begin with it, but to end with it. It is to be realized, net in the course of the dispensation, but as one of its blessed results. The unity of the faith includes more than the unity of the Spirit - that unity of mutual kindness and forbearance that will promote the other unity - for it points to the result of the Spirit's continuous working in the Church. There is an absolute truth independent of all our opinions, and the same to every man, whether he believes it or not. We shall not here attain to it; but we shall reach it when we are at length set free from our imperfections and our infirmities. We shall then be of one mind, because we shall be conformed to one image.
II. A PERFECT MAN. This points to the full development of our manhood. We are fragmentary, one-sided, without a true adjustment of powers. The believer is imperfect both in faith and in knowledge, but he is growing into that unity of life which involves perfect knowledge and perfect holiness.
III. THE MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST. The true standard is conformity to Christ. The stature of the Church is ever expanding, as it receives of Christ's fullness, into that very fullness. The end of this growth cannot be seen in this life. The Bible nowhere represents the perfection of the Church as occurring on earth. It is to be without spot or wrinkle when the day of its glorious presentation comes. Thus the design of the Christian ministry is to labor for the perfection of the Church. - T.C.
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.I. CHRISTIAN UNITY.
1. Oneness of faith.
2. Oneness of knowledge. This signifies practical acquaintance, or what you sometimes term a "saving knowledge of Christ."
3. Oneness of aim or object. Seeking to become perfect men in Christ, full-grown men, to attain to the loftiest standard of perfection, both in strength and beauty, in the universe.
II. CHRISTIAN STABILITY. Christian men are not to be like children in weakness, credulity, waywardness, changeableness, and much else peculiar to childhood; but to be strong, robust, fixed, settled in their religious belief and manner of life, showing that their faith had so inwrought itself with the very fibre of their spiritual life as to impart moral stamina, enabling them to stand like men, and not be tossed about like feeble children. But the apostle's figures supply something more than the thought of childish weakness. "Tossed about with every wind," suggests the idea of a drifting, unmanageable ship, dismasted, and without rudder or compass, driven before every wind. A plight most pitiable. This suggests the thought of instability and unrest. The vessel pursues no course but such as the wind dictates, and you know how unsafe a ship master that is when it has sole command. Now Paul knew the danger of this restlessness, not only to the individual possessed by it, but the damage it might be to others. Hence he desires all Christians to be united in the grand verities of the gospel, vigorous in faith, clear in personal acquaintance with Christ, that they might have a life of uniform stability, be firm, fixed, and unwavering in mind and heart, faith and life. The doctrine, then, that comes out here is that of Christian stability, not obstinacy; steadfastness, not stupidity.
III. CHRISTIAN GROWTH.
1. Growth is gradual. Little by little is the principle on which it proceeds. A child does not become a man at one bound, a picture is not painted by the magic of a single stroke, a building is not reared by one single supreme effort, nor does the oak tree mature in a single day. "Line upon line," layer upon layer, "here a little and there a little," are the lines upon which all things move ere maturity and perfection are reached. Continuity, progression, development, evolution — or whatever else you may please to call it — this is the great governing law.
2. This growth is constant. Day and night, summer and winter, in storm and calm, the principle is in operation. It may appear sometimes to the good man as if no progress could be registered, he seems to himself to be putting forth no fresh blossoms, and yielding little or no fruit. And yet, those very times, that seem so unpropitious to him, may be the most successful periods of his life, his roots may be striking deeper, and spreading wider in preparation of richer foliage and fruitage in the future. Always growing — though not always giving the same outward indications of growth — this is the law of the Saviour's kingdom.
3. This growth is silent, and imperceptible. You can neither see nor hear its actual operation. Growth is one of the most effective forces in nature, and yet the most silent.
4. The growth spoken of in the text is upward. It is "growing up into Christ the Head in all things." Upward growth is a marked speciality of the Christian life. Aspiration is the thought. Upward, heavenward, is the Christian's watchword.
IV. CHRISTIAN COHESION. The Church is likened to the human body. A few points of comparison between the two will show the beauty and appropriateness of the figure.
1. Fitness of position and work. "Fitly joined." So it is in the Church when it is under the entire governance of the Master, every man occupies his own place and does the work for which he is fitted by gifts and opportunity.
2. Here is compactness — "fitly joined and compacted together." Heart, mind, sympathy, principle, motive, aspiration, and wish, so closely blended as to become one heart and one mind, "that there be no schism in the body," but working together with the greatest order for the one purpose, the well-being of the body, and the glory of its Head.
3. Here is also mutual aid — "by that which every joint supplieth." Helping together is the thought, every joint contributing its share so as to promote the general good of the whole body. You see the beauty of this comparison where the Church of Christ is, in its best sense, a mutual aid society, where every joint is supplying its quota of aid for the good of the whole.
(J. T. Higgins.)
(B. Gregory, D. D.)
(Bp. Horns.)1. To bring Christians to the unity of the faith.
2. To bring Christians to the knowledge of Christ.
3. To bring Christians to the perfection of Christian character.
4. To bring Christians to the enjoyment of the fulness of Christ.
(G. Brooks.)I. The TEACHERS in this school.
1. God, the great and effectual instructor of the Church.
2. The human teachers — the ushers under God.
3. The Church collectively.
II. The MANUALS used;
2. The Scriptures.
3. God's providence.
III. The LEARNERS.
1. The universal race of man.
2. The private members of the Church.
4. The angels.
(Dr. W. R. Williams.)y: —
I. The relation subsisting between Christ and the Church. Christ the Head, the Church the body.
II. The officers given by Christ for the service of the Church.
4. Pastors and teachers.
III. The special ends for which these officers were given.
1. To instruct men for the ministry.
2. To edify the Church.
(W. Roby.)I. THE PROGRESSIVE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE.
II. THE OBSTACLES TO THIS DEVELOPMENT.
1. They arise from the necessary limitations of our nature.
2. They arise from indwelling sin.
3. They arise from the influence of the world.
4. They arise from the power of temptation.
I. When we think of an ideal man, we think of a being with A BODY AS THE PERFECTION OF BEAUTY IN FORM, AND MOVEMENT, HEALTHY AND STRONG, FULL OF CAPACITY TO DO AND TO ENDURE. There have been very noble minds in weak bodies; but being in such tabernacles, they groaned, being burdened. The true ideal motto is that of the Latins, mens sana in copore sano. There is every reason to believe that our Lord Jesus Christ wore such a body. As the taint of hereditary depravity did not cleave to His soul, neither did the curse of ancestral disease infect His body. He that was so obedient to law of every kind, saying: "It becometh us to fulfil all righteousness," — would faithfully observe the laws of health, as to food, air, exercise and rest — never guilty of any excess, never exposing Himself to needless injury. The purity and peacefulness of His spirit were every way promotive of bodily health. Therefore we say to those who would be like Jesus Christ, — be healthy and strong if you can be; cultivate your physique religiously, and understand your bodily system, that you may intelligently work out your Maker's plans.
II. The second element in model manhood is STRENGTH OF MIND; we mean, at present, of the intellectual powers, rather than of the will or the affections. Mind is necessary to understand, to plan, to execute, to rule over Nature, ourselves, and ether men. In the case of our Saviour, goodness and knowledge were blended together.
III. The third element in manhood is STRENGTH OF WILL The manliest man, to our thinking, is the one who stands upright on his own feet, self-poised, not leaning on anyone else, thinking out his own thoughts, making up his own mind, adhering to his own purpose, master of himself, bending all his powers to his one aim, undismayed by difficulty, conquering opposition, resolute in suffering as vigorous in action, and so victorious in the end.
IV. One more constituent of manly character is STRENGTH OF HEART.
(F. H. Marling.)
1. Christ confirmed and enlarged the ethical truths which existed in His age. Whatever was just, and pure, and true, and good, from whatsoever quarter it may have been derived, and whether it was held by the Jews or by the enlightened heathen, was accepted at His hands. The moral precepts of the gospel were not originated by the Saviour when He came upon the earth. They belong to a system of natural ethics. They are the outworkings of natural laws which were made when man was made, and when the world was made. They were partly found out, they were imperfectly known, they shone dimly, before the coming of Christ; but they were unveiled at the time of Christ's advent more perfectly, and accepted more fully, and carried back to their true source, and arranged so, with reference to their real character, as that they should become transcendently more fruitful than ever they had been in isolation and twilight under heathen civilization.
2. He delivered men from bondage to vehicles and forms of worship; not, however, that He might destroy these things, not that He might detach them from these things, but that He might deepen their sense of the truths and principles which these things had been employed to express. He taught that, whenever there was any conflict between the inward principle and any external law, or custom, or ordinance, the law, or custom, or ordinance, must go down. He taught that the physical must be subordinate to the spiritual, for whose sake it was originally created. He taught that the spirit was to be master of the flesh.
3. Our Saviour cleansed and amplified the knowledge of spiritual truth, and carried that truth far higher than it had ever gone before.
4. He added to the realm of spiritual truths most important elements which had never before been clearly known. The nature of God; the certainty of immortality, etc.
5. More important than all was the fact of the vital intercourse between God's soul and ours.
6. Christ came, by His sufferings and by His death, to open the way for the universal forgiveness of sin, and for redemption from it.
7. The last point that I shall make in this category is that Christ taught Himself to be Divine; and that His divinity is such a true divinity as makes it proper for men to offer, and for Him to receive, all that it is possible for a human soul to give to its God.
(H. W. Beecher.)
1. A true Christian has, or may have, large elements of reason and knowledge; of veneration and worship; of faith and aspiration; of activity and obedience; of earnestness and zeal; and yet not one of these, nor all of them, will make him a Christian, until the soul pours a whole summer of love round about them. Then the presence of this love in the midst of these other qualities will determine that he is a Christian. It is not knowledge that is evidence that you are a Christian; it is not a sense of duty; it is not mere outward conduct of any sort; it is the benevolent tendency of the heart; it is the soul's sweetness and love power.
2. The peculiar Christian graces which are enjoined upon us in the Bible are all love children. Not only are they to be known by their likeness to love, but they cannot be born without love. And there is not a Christian grace that is not easy to those who love enough. I have sometimes stood and marvelled at the vastness of the water wheel that lay silent by the side of the mill, and wondered by what power it could be turned. Meanwhile there was the trickling of water through a small pipe, which fell on the far side of it, and did not stir it. At last the miller went to the gate further up, and lifted it, and the flood poured down in larger measure; and the moment enough water had flowed into it, the great slave wheel began instantly to toil and turn; and all day, and all night, and so long as the water continued to pour upon it, it ground out its treasure, singing and spilling its musical water as it rolled round. And so it is with that wheel of the soul, in its revolutions of daily life. If the stream of love pours on it abundantly, how, it revolves! How does it work out every interior fruit of the heart and life, only so that the stream of love pours on it!
3. We can trace, in the light of this truth, the progress of Christian life, or growing in grace. The test that you are growing in grace is that you are growing in more perfect moral qualities in the direction of love.
4. And as it is in the individual, so it is collectively, or in Churches. The spread of Christianity is to be measured by the spread of its distinctive spirit. As growth in conscience, or reason, is no evidence of growth in grace with the individual, so growth in these things is no evidence of growth in grace with the Church. Growth in beneficence is the test in both cases. The Church is taking possession of the world, not geographically, but in the degree in which it is able to stimulate and maintain the summer of benevolence among men. The union of Christians — and of Churches, for that matter — is to come from this characteristic spirit of love, or from nothing at all. And the aggression of the Church on the world will be victorious only when a whole Christianity brings the whole human soul to bear upon the world in the power and plenitude of love. And we are talking about the Church owning the world. Christian hearts will own the world, but Christian Churches never will. For, when we take the world captive, it will be by the subduing power of Christian love.
(H. W. Beecher.)
1. To live well for the life to come is the surest way of living well for this world. And to live rightly for this world is the surest way of living rightly for the world to come. The world is grandly constituted to develop manhood in those who know how to use it. But how base and ignoble are they who squander their manhood in this world; who pass through the most wondrously organized system of education — namely, the natural, civil, and social world — and parcel out their noble nature, as it were, for sale; who coin conscience; who suppress their spiritual nature; who dignify success in worldly things; who live, not for manhood, but for selfishness, for pride, for pitiful pelf! How does a tool or machine pass through the various shops in its construction? It goes in a lump of pig-iron. Melted and rudely shaped it is at first. It passes out from the first set of hands into the second. There something more is given to it, not of fineness, not of polish, but of shape, adapting it to its final uses. The next shop takes something from it, it may be, trimming away the clumsiness, reducing it in bulk, that it may be finer in adaptation. And, still going on from shop to shop, it passes through some twenty different sets of hands, and gains something from every single man that touches it. And it is a perfect tool or machine when it issues from the other side. This great world, my young friends, is God's workshop. You are put in on one side, and every single shop, every single experience, is to take from you something that you are better without, or add something to you that shall fit you for use. And blessed is the man, who gathers as he goes, symmetry, shapeliness, temper, quality, adaptation, so that when he issues from the further side he is a perfect man. But what a base thing for a man to be put into God's workshop, which was set up on purpose to make man, and come out on the other side without a single attribute of manhood. Ah 1 such wastes as there are! For a man to walk through cities and towns, and see what becomes of manhood, is enough to turn his head into a fountain of tears. It is enough to see the wastes of antiquity — the battered statues; the toppled-down columns; the fractured walls; the ruins of the Parthenon. But of all the destructions that have gone on in this world, and that are now going on every day in the great cities which are grinding and crushing out manhood, the destruction of men is the saddest. And woe be to the man that is burned, or that is crushed, and that comes out worthless, and goes into the rubbish heap of the universe!
2. I call you, young men, to a Christian life, not simply because it is the way of duty, but because it is the only way in which you can find your own selves. There are reasons springing from the eternal government of God, from the rightful authority of God, from the issues of the eternal world, why you should be Christians; but there are other reasons springing from the nature of your own soul — from your makeup. I hold that no man can be a man who is not a Christian. I hold that the true Christian is the noblest man, the strongest man, the freest man, the largest man. He is like a harp, not subjected to rude and random, touches, but handled by a skilful player. His soul is so organized and acted upon that there is melody produced from every single chord, and from all of them matchless harmonies.
3. I call you to discriminate between God's men and the Church's men. I do not call you to be men in the Church, or to be men according to the sects, whether they have prevailed in times past, or do now prevail. As a vine, growing in a garden by the side of the road, does not confine all its flowers and clusters to the garden side, but hangs over the wall, and bears blossoms and clusters in the road; so a man, wherever he grows, should be larger than the thing he grows in. Wherever you go, let your manhood be bigger than any human institution. It is a shame for an institution to be bigger than the man it has reared. God did not call you to be canary birds in a little cage, and to hop up and down on three sticks, within a space no larger than the size of the cage. God calls you to be eagles, and to fly from sun to sun, over continents.
4. I use this truth as a matter of criticism, to ask you to discern between the true man and the current gentleman of life. life man has occasion for pride of gentlemanliness whose manhood has nothing in it of religion. A man must be a Christian who would be a gentleman. Christianity, as I have said, is the science of being a whole man.
5. Let me beseech you to take heed to the substitution of class character for manhood. Beware of classes and "sets." Be larger than any class will ever let its members be.
6. Beware of the narrowness of professional character, which will be your temptation. For no profession has so many claims upon a man as mankind has. No man can afford to live for his profession, and in his profession. No man can afford, by the side of the sounding sea, to build his but on a little rivulet that runs into it, and never go down to wet his feet in the flood, or try its depths. Men need mixing. Men need to feel a sympathy with the whole of human life, Therefore, remember that you are not to be educated out from among your fellow men, but for them.
(H. W. Beecher.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)I. THAT THE OFFICE AND WORK OF THE MINISTRY IS TO CONTINUE TILL ALL THE ELECT OF GOD BE FULLY PERFECTED, AND THE CHURCH ARRIVE AT ITS FULL GROWTH.
1. That Christ's presence is promised to the ministry always, even to the end of the world (Matthew 28:20); now this supposeth the existence of the ministry till then.
2. The sacraments are to continue till then, and consequently a ministry by which they may be dispensed. As to baptism, it is plain from that (Matthew 28:20). And as for the sacrament of the supper, it must continue till the Lord come again.
3. The Scripture holds forth public ordinances, in which the Lord keeps communion with His people, never to be laid aside till they come to glory. It is one of the singularities of the upper house, that there is no temple there (Revelation 21:22). Here they look through the lattices of ordinances, till they come to see face to face in heaven. Reasons of the doctrine. It must continue.
1. Because the ministry is a mean of the salvation of the elect. While there is a lost sinner to seek, the Lord will not blow out the candle; and while the night remains, and till the sun arise, these less lights are necessary to be continued in the Church.
2. The ministry is appointed of Christ, in some measure to supply the want of His bodily presence in the world.
3. Because their work which they have to do, will continue till then. They are ambassadors for Christ, and while He has a peace to negotiate with sinners, He will still employ His ambassadors.
4. What society can be preserved without government and governors. Every society hath its governors, and so the Church must have hers also.
II. THE DIVERSITY OF GIFTS BESTOWED ON MINISTERS HATH A TENDENCY TO, AND IS DESIGNED FOR ADVANCING OF UNITY AMONG GOD'S ELECT PEOPLE, FOR UNITY IS THE CENTRE OF ALL THESE DIVERS GIFTS. These are as the strings of a vial, some sounding higher, others lower; yet altogether making a pleasing harmony. There are many things necessary to make a compact building, such as the Church is. Some must procure the stones, some lay them; some smooth and join the wood, and altogether make a compact uniform house.
III. Whatever differences are now among the godly, YET A PERFECT UNITY IS ABIDING THEM, IN WHICH THEY SHALL ALL HAVE THE SAME APPREHENSIONS AND VIEWS OF SPIRITUAL THINGS. To confirm this, consider —
1. The perfect unity of the elect of God, is that which is purchased by the blood of Christ, and therefore must needs take effect.
2. This unity is prayed for, by the great Mediator, whom the Father heareth always, and whose intercession must needs be effectual (John 17:21-23).
3. The same Spirit dwells in the head and in all the members, though not in the same measure. This Spirit hath begun that union, and is still at the uniting work; and it consists not with the honour of God, not to perfect that which He hath begun.
4. The occasion of the discordant judgments that are among the people of God, will at length be taken away. There is great darkness now, in those that have the greatest share of light and knowledge.
IV. THAT THE CHURCH OF CHRIST SHALL AT LENGTH ARRIVE AT ITS FULL GROWTH IN GLORY, AS A MAN COME TO PERFECT AGE. Then shall it be perfect in parts, every member being brought in, and in degrees every member being at its full growth. How does the heir long till the time of his minority be overpast that he may get the inheritance in his hands.
V. Then, and not till then, comes the Church to perfection, WHEN EVERY MEMBER THEREOF IS BROUGHT TO A PERFECT CONFORMITY WITH CHRIST, bearing a just proportion to Him, as members proportioned to the head.
VI. AS IS OUR FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST, SO IS OUR GROWTH AND PERFECTION. It is the knowledge of Christ, that introduces us to the blessed state of perfection. The more we believe in, and know Christ, the nearer are we to perfection; and when these are come to their perfection, then are we at our full growth.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
1. Teacheth us, that God hath ordained the ministry of the gospel to last to the end of the world. The ministration of the law had an end; but there is none to the ministration of the gospel, before the end of the world. Here may be given a double excellency to the gospel. It is more gracious and more glorious.Obs.
2. This "until" gives matter of exhortation; instructing us to wait with patience for this blessed time; to be content to stay for God's "until." It is a sweet mixture of joy in trouble, the certain hope of future ease. We are got through the gate, let us now enter the city; wherein we shall find five principal passages or streets.
1. What? There shall be a meeting.
2. Who? We, yea, we all: all the saints.
3. Wherein? In unity; that unity.
4. Whereof? Of the faith and knowledge of God's Son.
5. Whereunto? To a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
I. WHAT? "meet." The meeting of friends is ever comfortable: "When the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum; whom when Paul saw, he thanked God and took courage" (Acts 28:15).
II. WHO? "We." There is a time when the elect shall meet in one universality.
III. WHEREIN? "In the unity." A perfect unity is not to be expected in this life; it is enough to enjoy it in heaven. Though a kingdom have in it many shires, more cities, and innumerable towns, yet is itself but one; because one king governs it, by one law: so the Church, though universally dispersed, is one kingdom; because it is ruled by one Christ, and professeth one faith. But that unity which is on earth may be offended, in regard of the parts subjectual to it. What family hath not complained of distraction? What fraternity not of dissension? What man hath ever been at one with himself? I would our eyes could see what hurt the breach of unity doth us. Scilurus's arrows, taken singly out of the sheaf, are broken with the least finger; the whole unsevered bundle fears no stress. We have made ourselves weaker by dispersing our forces.
IV. WHEREOF? This unity hath a double reference: first, to faith; secondly, to knowledge. And the object to both these is "the Son of God."
1. "Of the faith." Faith is taken two ways: either passively or actively. Either for that whereby a man believes, or for that which a man believes. So it is used both for the instrument that apprehends, and for the object that is apprehended.(1) If we take it for the former, we may say there is also a unity of faith, but by distinction. Faith is one — one in respect of the object on which it rests, not one in respect of the subject in which it resides. Every man hath his own faith; every faith resteth on Christ: "The just shall live by his own faith."(2) But if me rather take it — for Christ in whom we have believed — we Shall all meet in the unity of those joys and comforts which we have faithfully expected.
2. "Of the knowledge." That knowledge which we now have is shallow in all of us, and dissonant in some of us. There is but one way to know God, that is by Jesus Christ; and but one way to know Christ, and that is by the gospel. Yet there are many that go about to know Him by other ways; they will know Him by traditions images, revelations, miracles, deceivable fables. But the saints shall "meet in the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God"; there shall be union and perfection in their knowledge at that day.
V. WHEREUNTO? "To a perfect man." Before, he speaks in the plural number of a multitude, "We shall all meet"; now by a sweet kind of solecism he compacts it into the singular — all into one. "We shall all meet to a perfect man." Here lie three notes, not to be balked.
1. This shows what the unity of the saints shall be: one man. O sweet music, where the symphony shall exceedingly delight us, without division, without frets!
2. The whole Church is compared to a man; we have often read it compared to a body, here to a man.
3. Full perfection is only reserved for heaven, and not granted till we meet in glory; then shall the Church be one "perfect man." This implies a spiritual stature whereunto every saint must grow.Whence infer —
1. That we must grow up so fast as we can in this life, joining to faith virtue, to virtue knowledge," etc., (2 Peter 1:5). We must increase our talents, enlarge our graces, shoot up in tallness, grow up to this stature. For God's family admits no dwarfs: stunted profession was never sound. If a tabe and consumption take our graces, they had never good lungs, the true breath of God's Spirit in them.
2. God will so ripen our Christian endeavours, that though we come short on earth, we shall have a full measure in heaven. We have a great measure of comfort here, but withal a large proportion of distress; there we shall have a full measure, "heapen and shaken, and thrust together, and yet running over," without the least bitterness to distaste it. This is a high and a happy measure. Regard not what measure of outward things thou hast, so thou get this measure.
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