God's Blueprint for Church Growth
-- An Exposition of Ephesians 4:16 --
From him the whole body, joined and held together
"From" is a primary preposition signifying origin, the point from which something happens or proceeds.
"the whole Body"
1 Corinthians 12 likens the church to the human body ... a collective whole, yet made up of many individual parts.
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"joined and held together"
Being "joined" together is more of building concept, similar to framing something together. Ephesians 2:11-22 describes the institution of the church as "being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." When we are in Christ, we are no longer an isolated entity. We belong to something bigger than ourselves. "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body ... and we were all given the one Spirit to drink" (1 Cor. 12:12-13). Our identity shifts from "me" to "we" as we are one in Him, "fitly framed" together as translated in the ASV.
Being "held together" suggests that this joining together is meant to last. We are "knit together" (ASV) suggesting such an intertwining that what affects one, affects the others (1 Cor. 12:24-26).
"by every supporting ligament"
The word "by" lets us know that we are being given the means through which we are joined and held together.
"Every" is the same Greek word used earlier translated "whole." So, again we must conclude that this affects any and every member of the Body.
The NIV use of "supporting ligament" fails to adequately communicate its meaning. Most other translations help us better understand by wording it as that which every joint supplies. These are connection points, the junction at which the parts are fastened or bonded together ... the points where we connect one to the other.
Though every part doesn't connect to all parts, by virtue of the point at which it does, it now belongs to the whole. Using the analogy of the human body, we would acknowledge that the arm is not directly connected to the leg. Yet, they are members of the same body. Where one goes, the other goes.
"grows and builds itself up in love"
So, in the Body of Christ, every connection adds into the whole Body and when we work together, with each part doing its work, the Body functions most efficiently, causing it to become all it can be. And, when we are who we should be, we see growth. Look at the example of the early church in Acts 2:42-47. As they lined up with God's design, "the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." That's real church growth. We're not talking about increase through transplants.
But, it isn't all about growing numerically. The Body builds itself up. There is an edification and equipping process that happens.
This kind of relationship with one another can only be defined as love. Love "always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (1 Cor. 13).
"as each part does its work."
The word "as" denotes the measuring rod to which we will see this kind of growth and edification in the Body. Growth will be in proportion to "as each part does its work."
"Each" part is vital to this process .... each part of the whole.
The Greek word for "work" is "energia" which is used in the New Testament in conjunction with superhuman power. This is significant. What separates the church from other growing organizations is the power source. The true church is not a man-made institution but rather a living organism infused with the "energia" of an Almighty God.
What each "part" or member of the Body has to offer to the whole would be tied into spiritual gifts as seen in the context of this verse. Spiritual gifts can be defined as "special divine empowerments." Given by the Holy Spirit, they enable believers to do their part supernaturally so that the body "grows and builds itself up in love."
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