By what every joint supplies,
During our Wednesday evening studies we
have returned to mine the depths of several well known passages to
find (as we always do) more priceless gems. Recently, we have
considered verses 11-16 in the fourth chapter of Paul's letter to the
Ephesians. In this portion of the letter Paul says that Christ has
given apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers to the
church in order to build up the church to full spiritual maturity.
Given this fact, we must infer that no Christian can ever reach full
spiritual maturity if they neglect the Lord's specific provision
given for that purpose. In other words, no Christian can reach full
maturity unless they are connected to the sources through which God
works to develop spiritual maturity. This, of course, does not
preclude an individual's personal responsibility (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15,
3:14-17). But, it is certain that without the regular ministry of
those whom Christ has called and gifted for the welfare of the
church, few Christians will progress in the faith as they ought.
Reformed Christians ofter refer to the
means of grace, by this is understood the God-given specific
ways by which a Christian is to live and grow in the Lord. These
means include reading and obeying the Scriptures, prayer,
observing the ordinances of the church, fellowship and service in the
church, and gospel ministry to the world. When a Christian's life is
ordered along these God-given ways, the result is spiritual maturity.
When a Christian neglects these ways the result is spiritual
retardation (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1-3; Hebrews 5:12-6:3). Neglect also opens
a Christian up to the many false doctrines and practices that attack
the church (Acts 20: 28-32; Eph. 4:14; 2 Tim. 3:13; 2 Pet. 2:1-3).
Neglect always results in a weak faith.
But, it is not just the neglectful
Christian who is weakened, the whole church suffers to some extent –
the degree to which is determined by the number of those in the
church who are not pursuing spiritual maturity in accord with the
means of grace. God has designed the church in such a way that it
functions best when all the individual parts are working as they
ought (Eph. 4:16, cf. 1 Cor. 12). We all know the difference a tune-
up makes to the car we drive and how secure it feels with a new set
of well-balanced tires and good brakes. Like the family car, the
church family needs to be kept in top running order. The family car
cannot function at peak efficiency if only a few of the cylinders are
firing and the church family will not reach its full potential if all
the work is done by half the members.
Church membership (and all that that
implies) is not a matter of personal convenience, it is a God-given
duty, it is a tremendous privilege, it is the means of grace. Every
member needs the church, and the church needs every member to be
growing in spiritual maturity into the measure of the stature of the
fulness of Christ – by what every joint supplies.
For the kingdom,