|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000|
|Dr. Barber explains how doctrinal stability and sensitivity are marks of those who are spiritually mature|
Paul is making a contrast. He wants us to understand the difference between the mature in Christ and the immature in Christ. They are all believers, all children of God. Some have stayed in the nursery and some are growing up.
The first characteristic he mentions is in verse 14. The purpose we all have is to grow up in Christ. Salvation is the beginning, not an end. The first characteristic of those who are growing up and maturing in Christ is that they have a doctrinal stability. Let’s read the verse again. Verse 14 says, “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine.” In other words, those who are growing up in Christ, who are allowing His Word to get into their minds and into their hearts, who are obeying it, studying it, living it, and believing it, are those who are not thrown this way and thrown that way by all the different winds and waves of doctrine that are coming our way in these days. They understand truth. They stand on truth. They are not misled by the false teachers of this world. They are aware that the devil wants their mind. Did you know that? The devil wants your mind. People are always worrying, “Can he get in my heart?” Friend, he just wants you to believe the false doctrine that he has for you. As Proverbs says, “As a man thinks so is he.” The mature know that. They give their minds to the Lord Jesus. They let truth renew their minds, therefore, transforming their lives. They are on the lookout for the trickery of men and the craftiness in their scheming.
False teachers are not looking for lost people. You will not find them in the ghettos. You will not find them where the needs of this world are. You see, false teachers have nothing to offer a person like that. They are not looking for the lost. They are looking for the infant children of God. They are looking for the immature in churches all over our country. Statistics show that the congregations of the cults are filled with those who used to be on church rolls. The mature are not that way. They know God’s Word and are not deceived by false truth. The mature in Christ examine everything by the Word of God, as I Corinthians 2 tells us.
I have been thinking about the deceitfulness of Satan. I’ll be honest with you. He seems to be winning the minds of people all over the world. It seems like he is winning the battle. It is overwhelming how he is beginning to take away the minds of people everywhere you go. Revelation 12:9 describes the devil as the one who deceives the whole world. That word “deceives” is an interesting word. It means you really do think it is right. You turn towards it and are led astray. Scripture says there is a way that seems right; that way leads to destruction. That is the devil. He is the deceiver of the whole world. In John 8:44 Jesus is speaking to the religious lost and says, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Folks, please hear those words. The devil is a liar and the father of lies. If we are not growing in Christ, if the Word of God is not getting into our life and hearts, if we are not obeying it, then friends, we have believed a lie.
Let’s look at the second characteristic as we move into verse 15. Secondly, the mature in Christ have a doctrinal sensitivity. They don’t just know it, they believe it and are sensitive to allow it to permeate every fiber of their being. It says in verse 15: “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ.”
I think I need to back up and explain you the phrase “speaking the truth.” It comes from one Greek word. The word is aletheuo. It is a present active participle. In other words, it is something you do that is a lifestyle. It is consistent every single day. Now, it does not, unless the context permits it, exclusively mean speak the truth. You see the word simply means to express or to confirm the truth. We are being contrasted to the little children of verse 14 who are easily led this way and easily led that way. Paul is saying, “Oh, no. The mature are not that way. They are doctrinally stable and doctrinally sensitive.” In other words, every thing they do is a confirmation and an expression of what truth means in their life. To translate it, “speaking the truth in love” excludes too many other things and compares us with the false teachers of verse 14. We are not being compared to false teachers. We are being compared to immature children. So when he says, “speaking the truth” the idea is more than just speaking the truth. It is to confirm it. It is to express it. It is to validate the truth by everything that we do in our life.
You see the people who are doctrinally stable are the people who are doctrinally sensitive. It is not just that they know the truth, they hold to it, they cling to it, and they live in it. They express it and confirm it in every area of their life.
The word “truth” appears several times in Ephesians and tells us why we need to hold to it and walk in what the truth of God really is. Turn back to 1:13. We find that truth contains the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We wouldn’t be saved if it were not for truth. That is why we love it. That is why we want to confirm and express it in everything that we do. It says, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” You see, truth has had a profound effect on the people who are growing up into Christ.
If you will look in 4:21 of Ephesians, you find something else. You find that all truth finds its source in Jesus Christ. Paul says, “if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus.” The source of all truth is in Christ. You have to get the picture here. When I bow to Him, I also bow to His Word.
Look at verse 24 of chapter 4. We find here that truth is the main fabric of the new garment that we are to put on in Christ. In Colossians it says you have already put on the new self. Ephesians says, now put Him on. I love the aorist tense. It means “having put on, put Him on. Put Him on by conscious choice every day of your life.” He says, “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” You mean to tell me that everything He is, that truth, permeates the way I think, the way I speak, and the way I am? Do you mean it effects my very lifestyle? Yes. I choose against my flesh and I choose to put Him on.
The word means to take off something and to put something on. Daily I say, “Lord Jesus, I want Jesus to be Jesus in me. I choose against myself. The world has had enough of me. I want them to look at me and see Jesus and I put Him on.” It effects my lifestyle, and truth is the main fabric of that lifestyle. It is honesty, that which is without deception. It is everything that comes right out of the source of the Lord Jesus and the source of His Word.
In verse 25 truth even determines what is to be spoken. Here is where you find “speaking truth:” “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” You can trust people who are being effected by the truth. Why? Because it just exudes out of them. It is a part of the fabric of who they are. It even effects the way they speak to one another.
In 5:9, it is the fruit of our new life in Christ. Go back to verse 7 and catch the whole sentence. “Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth).”
I want to tell you one more thing about truth that Ephesians tells us in 6:14. In our warfare against the devil, in all the schemes and the wiles that he has, if we want to be protected today, look at what it says in verse 14. “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth.” Truth makes up everything that we are. It has to do with the inner purity of our life. It comes out in our actions. It comes out in our speech. It comes out in our thinking. Truth has got to effect us if we are going to mature in the Lord Jesus Christ. It not only stabilizes us, it sensitizes us. The sphere in which truth is expressed and confirmed is in the sphere of love.
Again, look at 4:15: “but speaking the truth in love.” You know the meaning of that word for love. It is far beyond emotional things. It is not that we feel like it. It is a committed love. In other words, people who are mature are profoundly effected by truth and now they are committed to it. They are so committed to it that it is even beyond feelings. They are going to live it out so the world can look at their lives and have no doubt. The world will say, “Yes, they know who Jesus is. They have met Him. He lives in them. You can see it by the way that they live.”
That is the person who is doctrinally sensitive. The lifestyles of the mature in Christ are radically different than those of the immature. The mature are stabilized by doctrine. They are not misled, tossed here and there by all the winds and waves of doctrine. They are sensitive to doctrine. They allow it to filter into their life and allow it to be expressed in every area of their life. They, by their very lives, are confirming and expressing truth. Sometimes you can speak it well and it still not be confirmed. The word there means to express and confirm it much more than just speaking it. Confirm it by the way you live.
You say, “Why is it that some believers are immature and won’t grow up in Christ? Is there a reason we can find in the book of Ephesians?” I think there is. I want you to look back with me in chapter 3. There is a prayer that Paul prays in the middle of the book that sums up chapters 1, 2 and 3 and sets up chapters 4, 5 and 6. I want to keep going back to it because it has everything to do with what he is talking about in chapter 4. Why is it that some people just don’t grow up? Where are they missing it? What is the problem? Look at 3:17. I want to remind you of something. He says: “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
The word “dwell” means to be made to feel at home. My purpose every day in order to grow up in Christ is to make Jesus at home in my heart, to accommodate Him, to make Him feel like He is welcome in my heart. How do I do that? I do that by my faith. What is faith? “Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God.” In other words, if I say I have faith in this area, it means I believe what God says concerning that area. If I am not willing to obey Him in that room of my life, then I am cutting my growth pattern short and I am not growing up and maturing in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you remember the areas of our hearts? There was the area, first of all, of our thoughts. In Luke 9:47 Jesus said, “And Jesus knowing the thoughts of their heart.” Is He pleased with what you are thinking about? II Corinthians 10 says, “Take every thought captive in obedience to Christ.” “Oh, come on. Christianity is not that radical.” Yes, it is if you have a high view of Christ. Yes, it is if you have a high view of Scripture. Even thoughts are to be taken into captivity of the obedience of Christ.
If you are not growing into Christ, the Word of God is not a part of your daily life, the Word of God is not permeating what you are thinking, then obviously you are still in the nursery. No wonder you are so confused and disillusioned when you ought to be celebrating the One who has come to liberate us from ourselves.
There was also the room of our attitudes. Matthew 18:35, Jesus says, “You must forgive and you must forgive from your heart.” “You mean to tell me, Wayne, that my attitude towards somebody in my family even can affect my whole life?” Absolutely. Oh folks, if you are not forgiving to somebody in your life, then evidently you haven’t trusted the Christ who is truth, you haven’t trusted His Word which is truth, and you don’t believe He can forgive in and through you.
Thirdly, there was the room of our emotions. I want to tell you something, folks, emotions are triggered by many things. Did you know there are basically three root areas of sin? There is the area of immorality. Do you think that doesn’t effect your emotions? There are a lot of Christians who have not let the Word of the truth of God cleanse their mind of all of the immoral thoughts and things that are there. They are allowing themselves to be controlled by the affections of their emotions, and they have robbed themselves of every single joy Jesus could have brought into their life.
But immorality is not the only area. We are so critical of people who are immoral if we are not that way. There is another area. It is covetousness of things...money. That is another root. Some people who are not bothered by immoral things are really affected by the material things in life. Some people have the root of sin in that area. They love it. They can’t stand it when somebody has more than they have.
The third root area of sin is anger and bitterness and wrong attitudes towards people. You are going to fall in one of those three or all three. Most of the time it is just one. Hebrews says, “Lay aside the sin that does so easily beset you.” I guarantee you, somehow in our thoughts and our attitudes and our emotions, it is all tied in. We don’t trust Him to bring something better into the rooms of our hearts, the room of our secrets.
Sometimes the little things that I hear overwhelm me. I begin to wonder, “What in the world are the secret sins that are hidden even in our churches?” I am even afraid to approach it. What is there that people won’t let Jesus, who has been resurrected and glorified, come in and rule and reign in that area of their life? They won’t confess it, and they won’t let truth profoundly effect that area of their life.
Friend, the freedom I have today is that Jesus is dwelling in my heart by faith and setting me free from myself. Are you free? A person who is maturing is a person who is not only doctrinally stable, but he is doctrinally sensitive, sensitive to the Christ that lives in him, the truth that lives in him, to let Him permeate and live in his life. He has a high view of Christ and a high view of His Word and a high view of salvation. He shouts when he thinks about Jesus coming to this earth to set him free from himself.
Not only is he doctrinally stable and doctrinally sensitive, but thirdly, he is doctrinally stimulated. Look in verse 15 of chapter 4: “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him.” I want you to see what he is saying here. This, to me, is really exciting. You see, once you get in the Word and let the Word get into you and let Jesus fill all the areas of your life and start obeying Him in these different areas of your life, you start growing in Christ.
Let me show you what happens. When you start growing into somebody, less of you is seen and more of Him is being seen. In other words, you are being filled to the fullness of God, which is back in another chapter. In other words, everything that fills Him now fills you and when people see you, they see Him because you are growing into Him. Your identity is in Him, and the Word is the root of every bit of it. That is why God gave gifted men to the body to equip them. Why? So that each individual can start growing up, become doctrinally stable, doctrinally sensitive and doctrinally stimulated. They begin to be stimulated into growing into Christ.
When you grow into Him, it is not you anymore. What fills Him fills you, and it is Christ being seen in your life. It is not just knowing the Word of God. If you will remember correctly, the church of Ephesus was warned of false doctrine. Did they heed the warning? Yes, sir, they did. In Revelation 2 he wrote another letter to them through the Apostle John and what did he tell them? You are doctrinally straight. But what was their problem? They had left their first love. Isn’t it incredible? You can be doctrinally stable and still be doctrinally insensitive. If you are not letting truth change your life, confirm it, express it by everything you do, and “truth it in love,” then you are not growing into Christ. If you are not growing into Christ, when people see you they see you, they don’t see Him. But by growing into Christ, people begin to see the Christ that lives in our life.
People who are maturing in Christ are distinctively different. They are contrasted to people who are not growing into Christ. Oh, it is a big difference.