December 11, 2018 • Life for Leaders
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:13 contains a mystery, though it’s hard to uncover it in English translations. The NIV says that we, as the body of Christ, are to “become mature.” The NRSV says we’re to come “to maturity.” Other recent translations use similar phraseology. But the classic KJV is an outlier, with its peculiar translation: “Till we all come… unto a perfect man.”
In fact, the KJV is much closer to the Greek of Ephesians 4:13 than more contemporary versions. Translating very literally, the original reads, “until we all attain… to a perfect man.” When we read this, we must wonder: Who in the world is the perfect man? What is Ephesians talking about here?
In order to answer these questions, we need to examine the original language closely. The word translated as “man” is aner, which means “male human being.” It is singular in our verse, modified by teleios, which means “complete, mature, or perfect.” Who is this perfect man? He is none other than Christ himself.
Thus, Ephesians 4:13 reveals that we, as the body of Christ, are to grow up together so that we might become more and more like Christ. We are to reach the stature, maturity, and completeness of Christ himself. Individual growth to maturity in Christ is not negated in this verse, of course. But it isn’t the main point here. Rather, Christ, as the perfect man, provides the goal for the growth of the church.
Today’s devotion includes some pretty weighty biblical interpretation. But, when we sort out the details, we come to a fairly pointed and basic question: Are we, as the body of Christ, actually becoming more and more like Christ? Tomorrow, we’ll reflect further on this question. For now, let me encourage you to consider the following.
Something to Think About:
What might it look like if the church were to grow up to the measure of Christ’s own perfection and maturity?
How does this process happen?
What role might you have in helping the church to become what God intends it to be?
Something to Do:
Today, choose to do something in imitation of Christ. Reach out to someone who is lonely. Share a kind word with a colleague. Forgive someone who has wronged you. But, as you imitate Christ, see if you can see yourself not as a solo individual but rather as part of your church community.
Gracious God, this passage is not an easy one to figure out. Yet, as we sort through the words and phrases, it seems clear that you are unveiling a vision of the church growing up to attain the maturity of Christ. That is indeed a lofty vision, one that seems far away from the reality of church life. Nevertheless, Lord, may this vision inspire your church—and may it inspire me, as a member of your church—to grow to become all that you have intended us to be. By your grace, may our growth help us to be what Christ is, “the perfect man.” Amen.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.