“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
The integrity of the church is both individual and collective. The “church” cannot become what its people are not. The integrity of the church is determined by the integrity of the Christians who make up the church.
God designed his church to be a discipleship community. A learning community. A fellowship of people who progressively and continually grow into greater degrees of maturity.
The Greek word for “mature” in the Colossians passage above is teleios, a powerful word that is rich with meaning. Teleios was used by the Greeks to describe something that was whole and complete, thereby functioning effectively according to the purpose for which it was designed.
Re-read the Colossians passage above. Paul declares that he proclaims Christ and “teaches everyone with all wisdom” for the purpose of equipping the saints to grow into maturity (teleios). The profound importance of this mission is reflected by Paul’s statement that he toils and struggles (Greek agonizomai) with all the energy the Lord powerfully works within him.
The message in Scripture is that God created us in his image, which means he gave us an integrated collection of attributes that are a reflection of his own characteristics. At Creation these attributes in man functioned together in an integrated way. Man was fully teleios, which means whole, complete, and integrated.
However, the attributes of God in man became disintegrated at the Fall. The attributes continued to function, but in a distorted and broken way. Man was no longer teleios. The good news, of course, is that through Christ we are reconciled to God, redeemed, and made new in the image of God. Through the process of spiritual growth and discipleship, teleios is being restored in our lives.
It is important to understand that teleios is very specific; it is how God designed you to function and operate. It represents the wholeness of the image of God in you. You are at your best when you do our job with teleios, and when you love your family with teleios. This is not an abstract theological concept. It is practical, specific, day-to-day skill for how to live and work.
Consider the importance of just three of the attributes of God’s image in your life. Consider how much of your effectiveness at work and home is determined by the way you:
- Communicate and interact with others.
- Think and make decisions
- Manage your emotions.
What happens at work or at home when you do not communicate clearly? What happens when you don’t think effectively and fail to make wise decisions? What happens when you mismanage your emotions and are guided by deceitful impulses?
There is a teleios way to live and work, and there is a broken way to live and work. Jesus is in the process of restoring in us the teleios way.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3.17-18)
I repeat: The integrity of the church is both individual and collective. The “church” cannot become what its people are not. The integrity of the church is determined by the integrity of the Christians who make up the church.
God created you, redeemed you, and calls you to be teleios. Trust him, respond to his call, and pursue the teleios way.
More to come …