“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
The last two weeks we are focused on a foundational theme for Christ followers in our generation: The integrity of the church is the result of the integrity of the Christians who make up the church. The church cannot become what its people are not. The spiritual development and growth of individual Christians is the critical variable that determines the impact the church will have in the world.
God created mankind whole, complete, and integrated (teleios). However, as a result of the fall, teleios was lost and man became disintegrated. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus came to redeem us, reconcile us to God, and restore us to wholeness / teleios.
Keep in mind the restoration of teleios has two elements: positional and practical. Positional teleios means that when you trust in Jesus, the Lord imputes righteousness to you and you are positionally whole and complete before God. This imputed righteousness is a gift of grace, and it is received by faith, not achieved by effort.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come … For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5.17, 21)
However, while still in our earthly bodies, our old nature remains, and it coexists with and competes against our new nature. This means that for every Christian, there is a constant inner battle between the two natures.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5.16-17)
“Put off your old nature, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and, through the renewing of your mind, put on the new nature, which is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4.22-24)
In order to progressively grow into greater degrees of teleios, we must constantly choose to live by the standards of the new nature rather than the impulses of the old nature. You will note that scripture makes the choice (and the inner battle) crystal clear: “Walk by the Spirit and do gratify the desires of the flesh … Put off the old nature and put on the new nature.”
Note also that scripture puts “renewing your mind” in the very center of the process of growing in teleios. This is because a transformed life requires transformed thinking. A teleios life requires discernment, discipline, and wise choices.
With these principles in mind, re-read the Ephesians passage at the top of this post. As I wrote last week, God designed the church to be a discipleship community; a learning community; a fellowship of people who progressively develop into greater degrees of Christlikeness.
Therefore, the goal of every Christian should be to grow to spiritual maturity and to help others do the same. In this passage from Ephesians, Paul describes the standard of maturity with the Greek phrase teleios anthropos, which means “mature manhood.” Paul contrasts it with the immaturity of children.
The Lord wants us to be spiritual adults, not self-centered adolescents. He does not want us to believe and behave like immature children who are tossed about by false doctrines and deceitful people. Rather, the Lord calls us to go about life with the discipline and discernment that comes with true maturity (teleios).
More from this passage next week …