Growing Together in Christ

The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians. (4:7-13)

In today’s epistle the holy apostle St. Paul writes “grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” We will come back to that in a moment. He also writes“When He ascended on high He led a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” The “He” whom St. Paul refers to is Our Lord Jesus Christ, “When He ascended on high He led a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.”

For our purposes I would like to focus on the second part of that phrase, “He gave gifts to men.” It is a well known fact God loves us so much that it wasn’t enough for Him to forgive us our sins. He did much more than this in order to prepare us to continue in good works which build up the Church, the body of Christ. St. Paul continues writing “And His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers”. These are different roles within the community of the Church. Not every person fills every role, but each according to what God has given him to do. That is why we began the passage with the verse “grace was given to each according to the measure of Christ’s gift. This means that everyone within the Church has been given gifts not only for their own salvation but primarily for the salvation of others. And there is no use in being jealous or envious of the gifts that another person has because God is the giver of each whether we like it or not, and God gives to each in a different manner and not equally but everyone is given gifts from God for His purposes.

And then St. Paul says something really interesting, he tells us why these roles exist. “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Who are these saints that are spoken of here? It is all of you. The Christians were understood to be holy and separate from those in the rest of society. They were considered holy because Christ our Lord is holy but they were also considered holy because they did not do the things that the outside world did. When their neighbors would run to pagan feasts and worship idols and fall into drunkenness and debauchery, those who were in the Church, kept themselves away from such things. They followed the will of the Lord.

When we are together, we are being equipped for the work of ministry. That tells us that each and every Christian within the Church is a minister of God. Each person has a ministry, a calling, a way that God can use their gifts and talents to build up the body of Christ (which is the Church). In our society, we are often taught to focus on what my gifts and talents can do for me as an individual. We begin to ask children from a very young age, what they would like to do when they grow up. We ask college students what they study. We almost never ask “How will you use your gifts for God and the profit of His Church?” It’s a pretty important question that we might want to begin asking our children, and that we might want to begin asking ourselves if we have never done it before.

St. Paul goes on and he tells us what it looks like as we build up the Church. He says that we build up the body of Christ “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” So this tells us that even though we are all here, we are not all in the same place regarding our faith and our knowledge of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. So each of us has a calling to assist our brothers and sisters towards this goal. Each of us should have a personal goal of deeper knowledge of Our Lord and savior and we can deeply affect others by our struggle for deeper faith in Christ. There is no limit to the ways that God can use us to help others through our genuine struggles to know Him. St. Paul tells us that the goal for the Church is “unity of the faith and of knowledge of the Son of God.” We are meant to believe as one mind, to worship as one body, to love with one heart.

He goes on further with his description of our life within the Church. He tells us that the goal is “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” What does that actually mean? Let’s ask the holy fathers of the Church. St. John Chrysostom says “By maturity he means here the perfecting of conscience. For a grown man stands firm while young boys’ wits are tossed about. So it is with the faithful. We mature until we attain the unity of the faith, that is, until we are all found to share a single faith. For this is unity of faith when we are all one, when we all alike acknowledge our common bond. Until then we must labor.”

We see from this epistle that everything that God has given us is for our benefit. Each of us is planted here in this place to fulfill His purposes, to put on the mind of Christ, to become mature human beings who reflect Jesus Christ, not just a little bit. Instead we are seen to be mature with the fullness of Christ, as saints who radiate Christ in every word, deed and even our very thoughts. This is why God has created us, this is why God has redeemed us, this is why God has given us gifts and this is why he has brought us all together as one body. Glory be to God Forever AMEN.

 

 

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