The whole goal is maturity and in verses 14-15 he shows us the dangers of remaining children, and also how advancement in maturity brings stability. Now we come to the conclusion of this paragraph in verse 16, and in many ways the pinnacle of the paragraph where Paul wraps up all that he has said. He indicates how all the information he has given operates in the church when it is functioning in the unity that is created by God.
I love this passage and the conclusion of this paragraph here in verse 16 because it really keeps us away from many sins that plague the church if we would just see how the church is to be functioning in unity. One is that eradicates the sin that everyone has to be like us. We recognize that God has gifted and equipped people in various different ways for the welfare of the church. The passage is away from uniformity and toward unity. It keeps us away from the sin of thinking we need to serve Christ but we do not need Christ. The one who equips believers for service is Jesus Christ, and without Him we can do nothing. Another sin is to believe that we do not need others. It should be obvious in this passage that true growth cannot happen outside of body life because the members will provide that which is lacking in your life, and there are aspects in your Christian life that are lacking. And finally it keeps us away from the sin that God has gifted and equipped others in the church for the work of ministry but He has not equipped me, and therefore I do not have to be active or seeking to serve others. Christ has not only saved all but given you with your peculiar make-up to the church because it is what the church really needs.
Now, all those truths and misconceptions are found throughout this passage, but they are also found right here in this final verse of this paragraph. And maybe you are still not convinced of your need to be involved and functioning in the church. I want to challenge you with this verse. The churches health and unity depend upon the membership being active and involved in the lives of one another so that all might be built up and encouraged to follow Christ. Here is the point I want us all to see this morning: Since Christ’s purpose is to have a functional unity in the church you need to be active in that goal. Well, how are we to be active in that goal?
1. We are active in that goal of church unity by relying on Christ. V.16.
Do you recognize the importance of Jesus Christ in the life and the sustaining of the church? So often people see the need of Christ in salvation but do not see the need of Him throughout their Christian lives. It is Jesus Christ who is the sovereign head over the church. Jesus said in John 15:1, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in Him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” With the Savior there is much fruit, and without the Savior there is nothing. Now, think about that in light of the church. It is also Jesus who said in Matt. 16:18, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” The church and all of its members must rely on Christ because He is the source of life and vitality.
Look at the verse, “from whom the whole body.” Now look at those words “from whom.” The question is who is the “whom” that is referred to? Look at the last word of the previous verse. This is clearly referring to Christ. Look at what He is involved in: “the whole body.” It is not just part of the body but the whole body. He is the spiritual power that causes the body to function and grow and to glorify our great God.
Now, in light of Christ doing this work look at what He says next, “being fitted and held together.” The idea of “being fitted” was used of a stonemason, who would fit various different stones and place them in the construction of a building. They had to be smoothed out and placed together, and there was great skill in the construction of a building. It was not the idea where today you have bricks that are all the same size, and mortar in between and smooth out any imperfections. Here Christ takes different living stones and constructs them in this living body. He is the Master artisan. He is the one who choose and selects and moulds and places believers just where he wants them. And that is good news. God is His infinite wisdom has not only placed you in the broader body of Christ but this specific church. He is molding and making you into that living stone that this building needs. If you ever think that there is no purpose for you to be in the church just look at Christ, realize who He is. He has the one who has placed you and equipped you so you need to trust in Him and get active.
Look at what else it says about the body that Christ energizes, “held together.” The Greek word that is employed here had a wide variety of meaning. It is used of redeeming together or of someone who is making an appeal and brings various different lines of evidence to prove the validity of His appeal. They are all necessary to hold together what needs to be proved. It was also used to with the meaning of to unite or knit together. It is this latter sense with the construction and also the body metaphor that fits best in this context. Literally the word means to be jointed together. Just like a ball and socket in our body is joined together believers are united together. We are held together. There is an intimacy in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. As you recognize that this is the work of Christ to hold us intimately together you see the need of living and functioning in the church of Jesus Christ.
If this is what Christ is doing, and this is the goal in which He is going to be glorified then why would I not want to be active in the church of Christ? Being active in church for the spiritual benefit of others is really relying on Christ. It is relying of His plan for growth in my life and others, and realizing this is His plan to be glorified. Not to be active in the church out of choice is not to rely on Christ and His power.
2. We are active in church unity because of what every member supplies. V.16b
Have you ever thought about the greatest growth process? It should be evident by now that the greatest growth potential is in functioning in the church. God has given all of us a job to do in the church. And as all do their spiritual duty one to another there is growth and balanced growth. There is a wholeness. God has planned it in a way that we cannot get this well-planned and balanced growth in our lives. No one develops a proper symmetry in their Christian lives by listening to Christian radio, or watching videos, or reading books. Some people will try to stay away from the church to make others suffer. They want to take their presence out of the question. They do not realize that God can use someone else in the same capacities that we functioned in, and they do not realize that attitude is sinful and dishonoring to God, but also they do not realize they are robbing themselves of vital ministry in their own lives. The maturity and growth and the glory that is brought to Christ can only come through meaningful interaction with the body of Christ. It should be so apparent in this phrase right here.
Look at what Paul says, “by what every joint supplies.” Notice that Paul is still using the body metaphor. The idea of “joint” or ligament is an aspect of the body. The idea of “every” is all different parts. And the idea of “supplies” is that there is some benefit that is being supplied to the body. You look at the symmetry of the body, and all the various parts, God has made the body with no parts that are dispensable. All parts are necessary to the body and the proper functioning of the body. Every believer supplies something. Every member is necessary and necessary to one another, and that is clear to see. You cannot function and grow by yourself. It goes against our grain of thinking where we want autonomy, and even so many want it just to be “Jesus and me.”
Now look at the next phrase in the verse, “according to the proper working of each individual part.” This underscores the importance of every member of the church. This is how God has chosen to grow and mature churches. And this goes against so many of the modern church growth methods whose main task is not the members doing ministry and ministering to one another. The point of their programs are just to get more people through the doors. Christ is the life and source of growth in the church and He works through the gifts that are given to every single member of the church. Every member has its proper function, and this diversity is necessary in the unity of the church, and also necessary if there is going to be growth. Every aspect of the body is working and laboring. The greatness of this unity is that we are all different. Everyone is not a hand or we would not be able to see to do anything. If we were all eyes we would still not be able to do anything. The strength of our unity is that we are different just like a ball and socket. We have people who do maintenance, nursery, cleaning, counseling, teaching, adio and video, and fellowship and encouragement.
Let me ask you a question: are you working for the spiritual benefit of others in the church? If you realize that Christ has saved you for a purpose in the here and now and that is to function in a united effort to help others grow in Christ, are you working. It is almost like a hitch-hiker. A hitchhiker gets a ride but assumes no responsibility for the car, gas, and thinks nothing of asking the driver to go an extra mile. He banks on the driver having adequate insurance if anything should happen. He takes all the benefits without any responsibility. There are many in the church who are spiritual hitchhikers. They might have settled down in the church, but they want all the advantages but do not want to put forth the effort or take the responsibility of ministry. They are quite comfortable to have everyone else put the effort in, to clean the church, watch the children, to teach one another, to support financially, or to get involved in the messy lives of others. They are just there for the ride. He or she wants to get rather than give. They want to serve rather than be served.
Look at why Christ has put you into the body, “according to the proper working of each individual part.” When we find a church and join a church what we should be saying is that we do not want to be a spiritual hitchhiker but carrying out my responsibility in the lives of those around you. This is really what is meant in turning from living for yourself and living for Christ. You need to be active in the unifying of the church for the glory of Christ by using whatever Christ has supplied you with.
3. We need to be active in the unity of the church because this is where growth is accomplished. V.16c.
So many think of going to church like taking cough medicine. It is needful but it sure tastes bad. So I have to go to church in order to be obedient, or in order to show my devotion for Christ, but it is something I’d rather not do. God never gives us commands without glorious purposes, and if He has emphasized the importance of the church so much through the Scriptures it must be a vibrant and necessary token of His love. Every command of God is a command of love. He intends to strengthen us and cause change in our lives that would not come without the relationships in the church.
Look at what Paul says here, “causes the growth of the body.” Now what causes the growth of the body? The subject of this verse is the body mentioned at the beginning of the church. So it is almost like the body causes the growth of the body. In other words it is growth from within the body. Now is this qualitative growth or quantitative growth? Is this talking about spiritual growth or numerical growth? The main aspect is qualitative growth, but the qualitative growth grows out of the quantitative growth. It is Christ that has given gifts to the church, in the church that causes the growth. The growth is in the church. The church is made whole and lacking nothing, and in that there is glorious unification. We might see something in the church and it is so easy to be critical. It is so easy to think that is someone else’s responsibility. Have you ever heard someone say that no one welcomed me the first time I came out to church? Well, when we see something like that we should endeavor to meet that need. There are such a wide variety of people ministering to people in different ways and they all challenge us and encourage us to serve Christ. Some are serving our shut-ins and seniors, others are involved with our young adults, some are involved in teaching, others in counseling. It does not mean that everyone has to do what I am doing. But all of it is causes the growth.
Now look at the last phrase of the verse, “for the building up of itself in love.” There again you see the building, the construction is done in the church. And it is all done in the sphere of love. As we grow in our love of Christ through the knowledge of Him there cannot help but be a love, care, and concern for others in the body of Christ. There si a real love and care that is fostered in the church for the glory of Jesus Christ. It is here that we carry out the commands to love one another as Christ has loved us. To not come out and participate and live and function in the Church is a failure to love Christ and follow Him.
Do you see that God intends you to be an active member of the body of Christ? Do you see that this was an encouragement for these believers to be active and function in the church of Christ? That unity and growth in the church cannot be accomplished without all of us working and laboring together.
As you look at this passage God is calling you to be active in the church. He is calling you to use all your gifts and talents and efforts in Christ. I know if we have not done this before it is hard. You look at the homeless and they many times are offered places by very well-meaning people. The familiarity of the loneliness of the street is just too much. They think somehow they would be loosing if they gave into family love for the freedom of the street. They cannot see how much they are really losing. There are many homeless Christians, and they think the same way. They cannot imagine any benefit by being active and devoted to the body of Christ. They even see the commands of Scripture and say, “I know but…”
God has so much for every believer. It is here where grow and joy in Christ will be found. But not that, but as you grow God uses your life and testimony and love to help others see the glory of Christ. We need to see the importance of Church. When the membership is active there is a wonderful love and unity that glorifies Christ. This is how he has chosen to be glorified. He has chosen to energize and work through the church. All of us must be active and functioning in the church for the glory of Christ.