Yesterday morning Caroline & I read Ephesians 4 as a part of our family worship. We finished reading the book of Acts a couple of weeks ago and decided that we would next read through the shorter letters of Paul a chapter at a time (starting at Galatians and reading through the Pastoral Epistles). As we were reading through Ephesians 4 I noticed that Paul described the church's growth in terms of "maturation". Here's what he says:
(11) And [God] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (13) 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, (14) 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. (Ephesians 4:11-14)
You'll notice in verses 13 and 14 Paul speaks of the church maturing and no longer being children. When I read this I was immediately reminded of something Caroline and I read in Galatians the other week as we were reading through it. Paul uses the similar language of maturation at the beginning of Galatians 4 as he talks about the difference between the Jews and Christians in light of Christ:
(1) I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, (2) but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. (3) In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. (4) But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, (5) to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (6) And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of this Son into our hearts, crying "Abba! Father!" (7) So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:1-4)
When one looks at these two passages together and how they overlap with each other it offers a much fuller picture of the history of salvation and the Church than we are often presented with.
Paul sees the Church as the people of God maturing and coming in to their inheritance. Before the dawn of Christ the people of God were still in childhood and thus were put under the guardianship of the law. In their immaturity they were no different from a slave. Now, however, the people have received the Spirit of God as a down payment toward our full inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14). The New Testament expressly teaches that this is the Spirit of Freedom (1 Corinthians 3:17).
Like a child matures into a mature adult and thus gains more freedom, so too have the people of God gone from childhood under the law to mature adulthood under the Spirit of Christ. In Ephesians 4 Paul continues to admonish the Church in Ephesus to grow up even more into the fulness of Christ, the pinnacle of the Church's maturation.
Food for thought.