In Ephesians 4:13-14—Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.—Paul provides us with three characteristics of spiritual maturity. The first is unity.
Second, another characteristic is knowledge. How vitally important knowledge is in the Christian life! The word knowledge is the Greek epignosis. We examined this word way back in Ephesians 1:17 where Paul prayed that Christians would truly know God. The full meaning of this word is a personal knowledge that is full, thorough, precise, and correct. Why is knowledge so important? Because we need to know God fully and intimately. No, we will never know everything, but our knowledge is to be “full” in the sense of knowing what is necessary for Christian living, which is really an enormous amount of knowledge. Of, course, there is only one way of acquiring such knowledge and that is by a constant involvement with the Word of God. In that way our knowledge continues to grow. In other words, our knowledge can be full from moment to moment; we can right now know what God wants us to know, but tomorrow we will know more; so, each moment we are living in the full potential of our present knowledge.
And what is the goal of this ever-advancing knowledge? It is unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The Greek teleios (perfect) “originally meant the turning point, hinge, the culminating point at which one stage ends and another begins; later, the goal, the end.” Several things were looked upon as being an end, or a goal, such as marriage, physical and intellectual knowledge, and, of course, death. So, anything that has reached its goal or end was “complete.” So, within the context of the following verse, where there is a direct contrast with being “children, tossed to and fro,” the clear idea of perfect is “a complete mature adult.”
What, then, does “mature” mean? We hear the term often. We tell our children to “act more mature,” pastors tell Christians that they need to be mature in their Christian walk, and so forth. But what is maturity? Our English word “mature” comes from the Latin maturus, ripe, mature, timely, and seasonable, so our English word means “having completed natural growth and development, full development.” As the old Latin expression puts it, mens sana in copore sano, “a sound mind in a sound body.” Our thoughts, attitudes, actions, speech, and all else are that of a mature adult.
So what is spiritual maturity? It is to be fully developed in Christ, that is, as our text puts it, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The Greek behind stature (helikia) originally spoke of age, life-span, height, and even size of body. It is used, for example, to describe Zacchaeus, who was “little of stature” (Luke 19:3). Used metaphorically, as it is here, and combined with the words measure and fulness, the idea is “the measure of maturity in Christ, the measure of being dominated by Him and possessing Christ-likeness of character.” We are to measure ourselves not by the yardstick of society, or the ruler of some legalistic list of “do’s and don’ts.” Rather we are to measure ourselves according to the gauge of the stature of Christ. In short, spiritual maturity is Christ-likeness of character. God wants the Church to be built in the image of Christ, according to His stature.
Wow! The application of this principle will embarrass us often. The next time we react wrongly in a situation, say something we shouldn’t, do something we know we ought not, may we immediately be reminded to ask, “Is that how my Lord would react? Is that what He would say? Is that what he would do? Am I really being mature here?” Our answer will reveal whether or not we have grown to His stature. Again, we will never measure up perfectly in this life, but out failures will become fewer as we continue to grow.