Recently, I found out (NOT, mind you, through personal experience) that eating too much spinach can cause kidney stones. That’s an episode of Popeye the Sailor you won’t ever see! Oh, how I wish I would have known that when my mother kept saying, “Eat your spinach, so you will grow up strong, handsome and wise!” Well, I ate my spinach, and frankly, I’m 0 for 3. Of course, my mother’s interest was in seeing me grow healthy as a child, learning to eat vegetables and other things that don’t taste good is part of growing.
While the details of a good diet have shifted some over the years, the idea that we need to be attentive to how our bodies grow has long been recognized. In the US, there are over 100 universities and colleges that offer a degree in nutritional science or related fields. There are numerous academic journals, various educational courses and a vast array of popular programs which promote the idea that we should care deeply about how the body grows in a healthy, mature way.
As we discussed last Sunday, the metaphor of the church as the Body of Christ is a popular one in the Scriptures. Indeed, it is the most prominent one used by the Apostle Paul in his letters to describe the people of God. Paul will at times refer to the church as a building, temple, priesthood, family, and other analogies, but his primary illustration is to link the gathering of Christians with the living body. And, for Paul, the connection between the human body and the church is not about one or two similarities—he envisions a lot of parallels: how the body/church acts and functions
* how the body/church is connected
* how the body/church cares for itself
* how the body/church is held together
* what the body/church has in common
So, it shouldn’t surprise us that Paul also speaks significantly of how the church matures by leaning into the metaphor: the Body of Christ grows. Growth is something that every human body does—it is a natural part of the human process, but, as we all know, that growth can be healthy or unhealthy. A body can grow in ways that strengthen, protect and invigorate it; or a body can grow in ways that distort, pervert or hinder proper function. No parent wants to see an unhealthy development of their loved ones, and God is no different. We are His children, His people, His body, and He desires for us to grow in ways that will lead to a healthy maturity.
How does the Body of Christ grow? Our human bodies grow through nutrition, exercise, and natural development. How does this parallel our maturity in Christ?
This week in worship, we will look at Paul’s thoughts on this, how the Church, the Body of Christ, is to mature and grow. The Bible’s teaching on this is both commonplace and profound: commonplace, in that working the metaphor, we can largely anticipate the Bible’s answer, yet profound, in that the answer can make all the difference.
Come join us in worship this week as we explore what Paul says about how our church can grow more and more in healthy maturity.
1. Review verses 1-3. Last week we mentioned that Paul here is urging a natural response to all that has come before—we are made Christians by Christ’s work on the Cross, so we are to live accordingly. What might a “manner worthy” of Christ look like?
2. Review verses 4-6. The “ones” here are all connected. Can you see how you can’t have “one” without the other “ones”?
3. The “one body” referred to in verse 4 is the people of God, the church. What does being “one” mean?
4. In verse 15, how is it possible to “speak the truth in love”? How might that phrase be distorted?
5. What is the goal of our “growth”? What does it mean to grow as Christ’s body?
6. In verse 15, what is the source of growth in the body? Don’t assume something here, actually work through the grammar of the sentence Paul uses. What does he think is the source of growth?
7. Notice how “love” bookends these verse. What evidence of love can you find in the church today?