In both Ephesians 4:16 and Colossians 2:19 Paul says that the church grows from “what every joint supplies.” Have you ever thought about what that’s saying?
Paul likes to use the human body as an illustration of the body of Christ. He spends a whole chapter on it in the first letter to the Corinthians, but the illustration sure seems to break down here in Ephesians 4:16. Is a human body really nourished by what its joints supply???
The human body may not be nourished by its joints, but the spiritual body of Christ most certainly is. We tend to think that its individual members of the body that cause our growth in Christ. We depend on evangelists, pastors, and teachers (and if we’re charismatic, then on apostles and prophets, too) to build the body of Christ, but that’s not what Paul said in Ephesians 4. Paul says that the job of these church leaders is to equip the saints to build the body of Christ. The leaders don’t do it, the members do.
And how do they do this? That’s where the supply of the joints comes in. Colossians 2:19 says that what the joints and ligaments supply produces a growth that comes from God. We are a spiritual people, not a physical people. We grow together with a growth that comes from God. We do not grow by mental means, by careful teaching, or by outlines and systematic theologies. We grow with a growth that comes from God.
What supplies that growth? The joints. The joining of the members to one another produces the supply needed for growth. It’s not what the members supply, it’s what the joining of the members supply.
If we understand the importance of loving one another and of unity, then it’s easy for us to understand how the joining of the members supplies the growth of the body. Love is at the center of all we do as Christians. The greatest commandments are to love God and love one another.
American Christians tend to think that they grow by themselves. We think that our supply will come from Bible study or prayer. These are good things, of course, and we need to do those things if we are to grow, but those things will not supply our growth. If we are not also joined to others, we are likely to simply become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. The Bible says that! In Hebrews 3:13 it says that if we are not exhorting or encouraging one another every day, then we are in danger of hardening by sin’s deceitfulness. Look it up! It’s really there!
Colossians 2:19 says that it’s the joints and ligaments–the things that connect us to one another–that supplies the growth of the “whole body.” Ephesians 4:16 says that the “whole body” increases. Ephesians 4:13 speaks of “we all” coming to the unity of the faith and to the full measure of the stature of Christ. We are to be growing together, supplied by the joining of ourselves to one another. That joining is seen in our “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) and exhorting and encouraging each other every day (Heb. 3:13).
Don’t underestimate the importance of this. Jesus prayed that we would be “perfect in unity,” joined just as he and the Father are, so that the world would know that the Father sent him (Jn. 17:20-23). It’s our love for one another, he said, that lets the world know that we are his disciples (Jn. 13:34,35).
I point this out repeatedly, but it’s worth doing. Jesus did not speak of us shining our own little lights to the world, no matter how often we sing about it. The “you’s” in Matthew 5:13-16 are all plural. He wants us to shine the great light of a city, not the little light of an individual to the world. This is why Paul can say that our good works should be done first and foremost to one another, not to the world. We should love outsiders, and we should do good works to them. However, Galatians 6:10 says “especially to those who are of the household of faith,” not “especially to those of the world.” Paul knew that our love for one another is the testimony Jesus offered to the world. He also knew how effective it was, for he told the Thessalonians that their love for one another was such a powerful testimony that he didn’t need to say anything at all in their area (1 Thess. 1:3-10).