Building the Body Up in Love
Ephesians • Sermon • Submitted
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Several years ago I worked for the city of San Antonio. I was employed by the Human Resources department to initially do analytical work on computers regarding the employees of the city and work on computers within the department. In my last years with the City, I moved to the training department where I taught computer systems and SAP, a citywide interdepartmental linking software system. During those years, travel to the city and parking in the city was always a problem for me. It was the part of work that challenged me most each morning going to work and in the evening coming home from work. Finally, I decided to drive to the Park and Ride and then from there catch an express bus into the city. That bus drop me off literally beside the building I was working in. I rode the bus for the remaining time I worked for the city. During my bus ride, I would read, listen to sermons, prepare sermons and/or take occasional naps if I was tried. There were all types of passengers on that bus that I would see each day. We all became informal acquaintances.
There were two people who rode the bus who had a physical problem. The both had Tourettes. Tourettes is a symptom that is characterized by multiple motor tics and vocal tics. These tics characteristically come and go involuntarily and are typically preceded by an unwanted urge or sensation in an affected muscle. Some common tics are eye blinking, coughing, throat clearing, sniffing, and facial movements. No matter what the Tourettes suffers may try to control with their mind, their physical bodies wouldn’t work properly according to the brain or head’s directions. Tourettes doesn't adversely affect intelligence or life expectancy. One of the Tourettes suffers was an attractive older lady whose hands and arms would move and wave uncontrollably. She would occasionally demonstrate a vocal tic. The other passenger was younger man who had vocal and facial movement tics. The bodies of these Tourettes suffers acted on their own, apart from what these two riding companions desired to do. The amount of energy expended by these poor sufferer was tremendous. A person suffering a Tourettes attack is tremendously active, the output of energy is amazing; but the activity is of no value; it is a symptom, it has no use.
Now listen to me, what our body is to us, the Church is to the risen Lord. What do we ask of our bodies? What do we expect our hands and our fingers to do? What is the function of all the members of our bodies? Is it to act instead of us? Is the body to act on its own and independently? Of course not! The business of our bodies is simply to be at our disposal. We decide to do something, we initiate a movement, and we act through the body, through its members. It is not for the members of our bodies to do things apart from us or instead of us.
In the same manner, the church, the body of Christ is to be at His disposal doing what He expects of us. But we find today far to many churches caught up in being independently active and busy. The questions we must ask today are, What is the nature and the character of our activities? What is their spiritual value? Do they lead to spiritual results? The fact that a church is very active does not of necessity prove that what she does is right; it may be all wrong. A church may be living on her own energy, doing things on her own initiative, and deliberately ignoring the Head, and refusing to be subservient to Him. Like the Tourettes suffers, the amount of energy expended by these churches is tremendous; but there is no point in it, it serves no purpose and is a sheer waste of energy. Far to often, I believe, church bodies are not doing what, Christ their Head expects of them. They are acting on their own, apart from Him. Their actions are not voluntary but involuntary.
The one thing absolutely necessary is that all churches and individual Christians should be usable like any other part of the body as directed by the Head. Christ is our Head and the main hindrance to His working is that we are not often usable as we should be.
To build up the church, we must speak the truth in love and build the body up in love. The Apostle Paul gives us the formula for achieving these fundamental principles in our text today.
The one thing absolutely necessary is that all churches and individual Christians should be usable like any other part of the body as directed by the Head. Christ is our Head and the main hindrance to His working is that we are not often usable as we should be. To build up the church, we must speak the truth in love and build the body up in love.
The Body is built up in love by: 1) Christ Doing His Part
The Body is built up in love by: 1) Christ Doing His Part
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
“…Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped…” The Apostle Paul returns and closes this section with a familiar analogy, the human body. It was in Ephesian 1:22-23 where Paul first uses this analogy, “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Paul is here repeating that statement, for we must always start with the fact that Christ is the Head of the Church. He is the source of all her life, her energy, and her growth; apart from Him there is no Church. The church is joined and held together by Christ its head, not by its works or activities, which is why the unity of the church must be sought from Christ.
Paul is here repeating that statement, for we must always start with the fact that Christ is the Head of the Church. He is the source of all her life, her energy, and her growth; apart from Him there is no Church. The church is joined and held together by Christ its head, not by its works or activities, which is why the unity of the church must be sought from Christ.
With regard to our position as Christian believers Paul makes two statements. The first is that we are ‘joined’, and the second that we are ‘held together.’ Christ is the acting agent and we are passive in receiving His agency. At this point a certain amount of knowledge of anatomy is helpful.
In the case of a joint in the body there is a kind of socket on one bone and into that socket there fits a kind of ball at the end of another bone. The surfaces of both are smooth so that there is no friction, and everything works easily and harmoniously and in an effective manner. It is in this way Paul uses “joined.”
According to the Apostle’s teaching this should be true of the members of the Church. It is the way in which they are to grow up into Him in all things.
The ideal condition of the Christian Church is that every member is what they are meant to be, fitting in with every other member and so preserving ‘the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’.
There is to be no creaking, as it were, in the joints, no rheumatism; everything is to be ‘joined’ together.
Illustration of Stormi’s hip…
But the Apostle is not even content with that; he adds another term, ‘held together.’ It is a term which is often used in a figurative sense to suggest a kind of mental unity, sympathy of understanding, being in one accord.
In other words the Apostle is changing his emphasis slightly from the purely mechanical which we have in ‘joined,’ to the notion of our minds fitting in together, held together, closely knitted together.
This is essential, of course, for a true organic unity, and for proper functioning. Christ is the Head, and we as parts of the body are to be joined and held together having our minds fitting in together.
We come now to ask how all this is brought into being and how it is maintained. The answer is found in one of the most difficult of the Apostle’s phrases, namely, ‘by every joint with which it is equipped.’
The difficulty arises in the word ‘joint’, because we instinctively think of the word joint in the way that I have already explained it, as a ball and socket fitting together to form a joint. The ESV and other translations use this misleading term “joint.” But this new term has a somewhat different meaning and could well be translated ‘ligament’ or ‘connecting link’.
In other words Paul is saying that these ligaments not merely unite us together. They do so, but they do something much more important; it is through these ligaments or connecting links that the supplies of life and energy pass to every part of the body.
The exciting thought comes by way of “…every ligament (joint) with which it is equipped…” Meaning, the body has its ligaments and nerves by which it is sustained, that is, through which the life-giving energy spreads and is distributed. This life giving energy is superabundant and endless in its supply.
This superabundant energy does not simply rush into every part of the body but reaches each part of the body according to its character and size.
Some parts of the body are weaker than others, while some are thinner or fatter. Our Savior knows that each part needs something appropriate to itself, and in this way He super supplies the whole body with growth and restoration.
Summing up the various phrases we can state Paul’s teaching in this way. The Head of the body is the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord will do His part in building up His body the church. We as individual members should function as the Head desires us to do.
We are all joined and held together and energized through ligaments by an endless superabundant supply that comes to us from Christ Jesus our blessed Head.
Every single part of the body, whether great or small, significant or insignificant is absolutely filled by Christ; each part, each member of the body gets all it needs and no more.
Each part is not identical; we are not all absolutely the same. We differ tremendously; each one of us has our own particular capacity, and every one of us will be filled according to our capacity.
Our Lord honors our unity and the midst of our diversity as each member of the body is equipped by Him.
Transition: The Lord does His part in the building of the church so it is necessary for us, the members of the His body, to do our part.
1) Christ Doing His Part
The Body is built up in love by: 2) Members Doing Their Part
The Body is built up in love by: 2) Members Doing Their Part
“…when each part is working properly, makes the body grow…” As Christ Jesus superabundantly supply all our needs as a functioning body, we experience the unified growth of the body as members by being involved in the process of continued mutual adjustment, with each part working properly.
Once again, the Head is responsible for our actions. The body does not act; it is the Head that acts. The Head acts, of course, through the body, but it is nevertheless the Head who acts. It is He who decides and determines when to act and how to act. Our concern should be to be usable at His command.
He is the originator, His is the action, and we are but the vehicles or the channels through which His activity passes.
As I look at the history of the Church during the past hundred years, what I see standing out boldly is a complete failure to remember this principle. I see today much feverish activity; but it has been the activity of the members, not the activity of the Head.
When each member in the body works properly by being usable at His command, the body will grow. However, if the member behaves as a tic or involuntary movement as to what the Tourettes suffers experience, there will be disunity and no growth.
A foot or a hand that shows the affect of Tourettes cannot share in the power that comes from the supreme head.
Nor does the Head transfuse its strength into its members in a haphazard or reckless way. Rather, the Head does so according to what each member is, what it is capable of bearing, how much is right for it to have, and according to the usableness of that member of the body.
So what is our part in building up the body? It is when each part is working properly and by each person using their personalized gifts in the body; there will be growth together in mutual love.
"...so that it (the body) builds itself up in love..." Love is the final perfection, the pinnacle. ‘Now abides faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love’. In this matter of unity nothing is more important than love. If the Head is love, the body must be love. We are to conform to the Head, He is love everlasting, eternal love. I must admit, I don’t understand how any professing Christian can dislike or not love another Christian. Christ our Savior became incarnate love (here is hope for sinners); and the body is to correspond to Him; so we build up ourselves and we grow together ‘in love’.
Members Doing Their Part
What a privilege to be in such a body! To belong to such a Head and to receive this supply of life and energy from Him! Have you received up to your capacity? Are you fulfilling your function? Is this vital energy of Christ the Head in you, whatever you are, whatever your place in the Church? Such is our privilege.
But think also of your responsibility as a member of the body. Are you causing pain and trouble in other parts of the body by being diseased, or by being sinful? Are you the Tourettes symptom within the body that expends a tremendous amount of energy, but there is no point in your efforts, because such efforts serves no purpose and is a sheer waste of energy? These are the questions that we need to consider for the health of this church.
The Apostle’s great appeal is that we be no longer children, no longer remain undeveloped or immature, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
There is no value in intellectual knowledge unless it finally leads to love. There is no value in any emotion unless it leads to love. So what is love? "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
Our works are useless if they do not produce this love; ‘… though I give my body to be burned and have not love it profits me nothing’. So let us build up ourselves in love in order to build up the body of Christ.
Remember: The one thing absolutely necessary is that all churches and individual Christians should be usable like any other part of the body as directed by the Head. Christ is our Head and the main hindrance to His working in us and through us is that we are not often usable as we should be. Be useable for the glory of our Head, Jesus Christ!