14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:14–16)
At what point does a child become an adult?
In a legal sense, it’s eighteen, at which point you can vote, be treated as an adult in legal matters, and so on.
In more primitive tribes, a boy is initiated into manhood by performing some task, often bizarre, like running across the backs of four bulls three times as you would have do if you were a boy in the Hamar tribe of Ethiopia.
But really, the line where a child becomes an adult is hard to nail down because it has to do with maturity. I’ve known boys who were husbands and fathers but not yet men. I’ve known girls who were wives and mothers but not yet women.
An even harder line to see is when a Christian moves from being immature to being mature. Some Christians never grow up. Others mature quickly. But all Christians are expected to become spiritual adults.
Becoming an adult brings with it certain expectations: being able to hold a job, to care for a family, to put others ahead of yourself.
What is expected of being a spiritual adult? One expectation of spiritual adulthood is that you…
I. DON’T BE LIKE CHILDREN
Ephesians 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
A. What Are Children Like?
1. Children are gullible and easily fooled.
Have you ever teased a two-year old by pretending to pull off their nose and sticking your thumb between your two fingers to make it look like you got their nose?
Then you show them your thumb sticking between your fingers and say, “Where’s your nose? Is this your nose?” Then they grab their little nose to make sure that it’s still there.
Paul wants Christians to grow up in Christ and the knowledge of the faith so that they will not be easily fooled like children.
2. Children are also vulnerable to peer pressure.
If their friends wear it, say it, or play it…they have to wear it, say it, and play it also.
Many parents of teenagers have experienced how one day one thing is cool and the best, but a few days later, it’s not so grand and something else has the teenager’s attention. They can be easily “tossed to and fro and carried about.”
Likewise, Paul is wanting that Christians will not be so easily enamored with the latest, greatest thing. That we would not be carried about by every wind and whim of doctrine.
B. The Danger Of Being A Childish Christian
Like children, immature Christians can be gullible and tossed to and fro. In most cases, it’s a far more dangerous business however.
1. The whims and trickery of men.
Paul says not to be “carried about by every wind of doctrine,”—Many Christians are very susceptible to every wind of doctrine. They move from one bestselling Christian book to another. Whatever is most exciting and new—that is what they follow for a few months. Whatever is the new fad, or the best-sounding doctrine, is what they follow.
Paul also says that Christians need to beware “…the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” These are false teachers, motivated by Satan, working to deceive Christians, especially immature ones, to wreck their faith.
Take a look at that phrase, “the sleight of men” (κυβείᾳ, κυβεία, Dat/Sg/Fem, craftiness) We get the word cube from this Greek word, so it should be no surprise that it originally referred to playing dice. It came to be used to refer playing with “loaded” dice in order to cheat.
So “sleight of men, and cunning craftiness” means to try and pass falsehood off as truth. It’s being dishonest. The devil knows that it can be hard to mislead a believer with some obvious error, so he’ll try to trick the believer.
Often the trickery involves mixing what appears to be only a little deviation with the truth of the Bible. Because it sounds at least a little right, the immature Christian supposes that it must be all right.
One example might be that someone claims that it doesn’t matter how God created the world, just that he did (the little bit of truth) and he must have used evolution to do so (that’s the falsehood).
Evolution is a religion, not just a scientific theory, and so once a Christian buys into evolution, their loyalties begin to be divided between the true God and the god of evolution—mankind himself.
Beware of the one who claims to agree with you on most of the doctrines of Scripture, but says that this one point or that one area could be compromised without harm.
2. What about legitimate compromises?
“But,” you might ask, “aren’t there areas where we might compromise in order to get along? Aren’t there doctrines that aren’t as important?”
Yes, indeed, there are. “So how can we tell if this is an area that we can compromise a bit, or if it’s an area that someone is trying to deceive us and lead us astray?
Think back to children for a moment. When do they stop being gullible or following the whims of the crowd that they hang out with? Hopefully, when they grow up.
Often when I say something silly to try to tease six-year old Nodi, she’ll stare at me for a moment and then say, “You’re kidding, Papa.” It’s harder and harder to fool her these days.
The way that we can tell the difference between a legitimate compromise of a minor doctrine and the deceptive trickery of the Devil is that we must grow up in Christ.
II. DO GROW UP IN CHRIST
Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Paul says that the opposite of being like a child is to “grow up into” Christ in “all things.” The word for “grow” (αὐξήσωμεν, αὐξάνω, Aor/Act/Subj/1st/Pl) means to increase or grow abundantly. It is used 20 times to refer to a variety of growth, both spiritual and physical and even plant growth.
Another verse in which it is found in 1 Peter 2:2—
2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: (1 Peter 2:2)
We are to be desiring milk like a newborn baby desires milk, so that we’ll grow like newborn babies grow.
Verse 15 describes one aspect of the growth of a Christian—that we are to be…
A. Speaking The Truth In Love
1. What speaking the truth in love doesn’t mean.
What does it mean to “speak the truth in love”? Often people use this phrase when they have to rebuke someone. Perhaps someone is doing a poor job at work and the boss, who is a tender soul, decides he has to “speak the truth in love” and tell them to get busy in a gentle way.
Folks, this is not what this means at all. Speaking the truth in love is not about breaking hard news to someone gently. We’ve taken this verse out of context.
2. What is the truth that we are to speak?
What does it mean? Well, first, what is the “truth” that is being discussed in the passage? In verse 11, for example, what truth would the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers be concerned with?
In verse 14, what truth would keep us from being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine? What truth would help us to grow up into Christ? What is the truth?
The truth here is the gospel. The message that, while we were sinners, God sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins. If we believe in Christ, we can have salvation from the death penalty of sin. We can have a new life in Jesus, a life where we gradually grow to be more and more like our Savior.
So when it says, “speak the truth in love,” it’s not talking about confronting someone about the lousy job that they are doing. It’s talking about sharing the gospel truth with someone else.
Now, here’s the thing: who needs to hear the gospel? Not only the unsaved, but Christians as well.
Why do Christians need to hear the gospel? Because the work of the gospel is more than saving someone from Hell. The work of the gospel is also to change the way that we live—to make us more like Jesus.
So speaking the truth in love might be telling an unsaved person the truth that they are sinners and they need Jesus.
It might also be encouraging another Christian to live more for Jesus because he died for them. It might be pointing out a sin to someone so that they can repent.
3. What it means to speak the gospel truth in love.
In any case, speaking the truth in love means that we speak truth with an attitude of love. Love is being unselfish, so when we speak truth in love, it means that we aren’t doing it to make ourselves feel better or to make our lives easier. Speaking the truth in love means that you are speaking for the other person’s benefit, not yours.
Part of growing up in Christ is being increasingly able to speak the gospel truth to both the saved and the unsaved.
Another aspect of growing up in Christ is that Christians will be increasingly…
B. Joined Together In Love
Ephesians 4:16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
1. Joined Together
The church is in the process of being “fitly joined together” (συναρμολογούμενον, συναρμολογέω, Pres/Pass/Part/Sg/Nom/Neut). This word is only used twice in the New Testament, the other time being Ephesians 2:21. BDAG defines as “to join together so as to form a coherent entity.” Seamless might be the word we use today.
The present tense of this verb indicates that it is not yet finished, but the process of fitting together is still happening today.
“and compacted” (συμβιβαζόμενον, συμβιβάζω, Pres/Pass/Part) This means knit together, fit together, or held together.
When my mom first started knitting, she made me a big afghan blanket. I really liked it, but after a short time, the blanket developed big holes that you could stick your fingers through.
So mom took it and redid the whole blanket, but this time she made the knits tighter. They were “compacted”, so that even now, years later, you can hold the blanket up to the light and barely any shines through. That’s what it means to be compacted or knit together. It means to be joined together tightly.
The church is to be joined together like an afghan. We weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.
We don’t let grievances last for too long between us, and we grieve until our offenses between one another are settled. We will be “fitly joined together.”
How do we become joined together tightly?
Paul has a somewhat wordy answer: “by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
My short version of this verse is that we become joined together…
2. By Working Together In Love
Paul is going back to the image of the body. In a body, every “joint” does what it is supposed to do. In a body, there is a “effectual working in the measure of every part.”
People with joint pain can testify how the whole body aches when even one joint isn’t working the way it is supposed to. Life isn’t good when a shoulder, a knee, or a hip becomes a pain.
The Christian church is the same way. When parts of the body stop doing their jobs, or in some way become pain, the whole body can be effected.
Now look at the end of verse 16. We find that every joint is to do their job so that the body can be edified “in love.”
We already mentioned that a key trait of love is unselfishness. When we work “in love,” we work for the benefit of others, not for ourselves.
Returning to the image of children that we used earlier, we find that another trait of children is that they are selfish.
The toddler’s creed is well-known to every parent, “If I want it, It’s Mine! If I give it to you and change my mind later, It’s Mine! If I can take it away from you, It’s Mine!”
A childish Christian will be selfish, only doing what benefits themselves. If it is fun and pleasurable, the child-like Christian will be involved. But if it is hard or uncomfortable, the childish Christian leaves.
An adult, mature, Christian recognizes that the work of the ministry should always be done in “love,” that is, for the benefit of others and not themselves.
They recognize that there will be times that it is fun, but there will be times that it will be uncomfortable and hard to do. But they don’t quit because others in the body depend on them.
Are you growing up in Christ?
Can you discern when a deceiver is trying to trick you?
Do you get distracted by the latest and greatest Christian book?
Do you speak the gospel truth in love to the unsaved and the saved?
Are you unselfishly using your spiritual gifts so that the body of Christ can grow together more tightly?
Do you want to grow up in Christ?
An old farmer frequently described his Christian experience by saying, “Well, I’m not making much progress, but I’m established!”
One spring when he was hauling some logs, his wagon wheels sank down to the axles in mud. Try as he would, he couldn’t get the wagon out. Defeated, he sat atop the logs, viewing the dismal situation.
Soon a neighbor who had always felt uncomfortable with the farmer’s worn out testimony came along and greeted him, “Well, brother Jones, I see you’re not making much progress, but you must be content because you’re well-established!” (Source unknown).
Don’t be content with where you are in your Christian walk, it well may be that you are simply stuck in the mud! Grow, grow up, into Christ!