The ultimate goal of equipping the saints for ministry is not just so the saints can do ministry. That’s part of it, and every believer is transformed both by doing and receiving ministry in community with each other. But the overarching purpose is “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12–13). That’s God’s vision behind the model of every-member ministry.
Verse 13 is packed with implications for us. First, we are being built up in order to reach unity in the faith. This is not just “the faith” in the sense of our common beliefs and ideas about Jesus. It’s faith expressed by our unified walk with Jesus, the lives we lead as we carry out the work of ministry.
The second implication is “the knowledge of the Son of God.” The Greek word for “knowledge” here is significant. English is one of the few languages in which expressions like “I know you” and “I know algebra” or “I know French” use the same word. In most languages, knowledge of a person (acquaintance, friendship, intimacy) is different from knowledge of facts, concepts, and systems of thought. The word used in verse 13 is ginosko, “to know by personal experience.” Paul intensified this word with a prefix to make it more powerful: a deep, personal, intimate knowing.
God wants everyone in the body of Christ not only to walk together in faith but to experience Jesus. And that experience leads us to the third implication of verse 13: becoming mature. When you experience Jesus personally in deep, intimate knowledge, you grow. He is your standard of maturity, and the closer you are to Him in relational experience, the more you grow to be like Him. The word for “mature” in this passage is teleios, referring to a pattern or design, the end result of where you’re headed. In this context, it means you become all you were designed to become as a new creation in Christ.
The last phrase Paul uses in this verse is “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” God is committed to your continuing growth. He does not start renovation projects and drop them when they are halfway done. He has called you into abundant life (John 10:10), and He will carry on His work in you to completion (Phil. 1:6). As you trust in the work of His cross and resurrection in burying your old nature and raising you to new life, taking steps of faith and exercising spiritual gifts in community with others, your transformation will continue until you are fully conformed to the blueprint of Jesus.
Along the way, you will want to see how this project is progressing. How do you measure it? How is the design coming together? How is the divine design team working together to reach the common goal? When you’re excited about a renovation project, these are questions of anticipation, not of concern or confusion. In the next passage, Paul gives us four specific criteria of transformation into the likeness of Jesus. They are not meant as criticisms; they are encouragements, signs that our transformation is going as planned. When you are living by faith in the head of this project, you will see the evidence. And you can trust that He is masterfully, creatively bringing you toward a beautiful, satisfying result.
Ingram, Chip. 2021. Yes! You Really Can Change: What to Do When You’re Spiritually Stuck. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
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