Growing into Christ: Andrew T. Lincoln on Ephesians 4 and the spiritual growth of the Church

This from Andrew T. Lincoln in his commentary on Ephesians, which is part of the Word Biblical Commentary series:

So Christ’s giving of gifts to the Church is to enable the Church to move toward its goals, and that movement is seen in terms of believers’ growth toward Christ. In Paul’s letters, believers’ faith can be said to grow (cf. 2 Cor 10:15; 2 Thess 1:3), and growth is used of the development of the local Corinthian church and credited to God in 1 Cor 3:6, 7. The concept occurs more often in Colossians, where it is employed of the work of the gospel itself in 1:6, of believers’ knowledge of God in 1:10, and of the whole body of the Church, which is said in 2:19, the verse on which Eph 4:15, 16 is modeled, to “grow with a growth that is from God.” Here in Ephesians, then, the notion of the Church’s growth is elaborated, and 4:15 has affinities with 2:20, 21 where, as we have seen, Christ is presented as the keystone of a building in the process of growth. The earlier statements of the Church’s goals in 4:13 were primarily descriptions of the Church itself in its state of completion, but now it is specifically Christ who is the standard of maturity, indicating again that for this writer ecclesiology remains determined and measured by Christology. The Church is in Christ and has to grow up toward him. This underlines that the Church’s growth is not being thought of in terms of quantity, a numerical expansion of its membership, but in terms of quality, an increasing approximation of believers to Christ. In the face of the scheming of error, believers are not only to stand firm, as will be emphasized in 6:13, 14, but also to make progress. That proper growth and progress is to take place in every way, that is, in every aspect of the Church’s life and particularly in those aspects singled out earlier, in unity, in knowledge, and in speaking the truth in love.

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