Growth For God’s People, The Church
We're going to be looking at growth for God's people. The main text will be, Ephesians 3:14-21. The book of Ephesians was written to the Gentile Christians of the Asia Minor city of Ephesus. It is a great religious center for Greek religion. So it is filled with pagans, gentiles and very few Jews were in that region. He's writing to the Gentile Christine talking about the great spiritual blessings found in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 1:3. He's talking about those great blessings found in Christ. He talks about the things we do as Christians are to be to the praise and glory of God, verses 6 and 7.
"To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;" Ephesians 1:6,7.
How do we live to the Praise of His Glory?
"That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ." Ephesians 1:12
The sermon on the mount, Matthew 5:16 reminds us that we are to glorify God. God is glorified by Christians that are strong, Christians that are growing and remaining faithful and steadfast in the faith.
The church is made up of individual Christians. Each one of has a part in the church in the building of the spiritual house of God.
"And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." Ephesians 2:20
We are each lively stones, or living stones, 1 peter 3. We need to be as strong as we can as Christians. That's what God wants for us, He wants us to be for the praise of his glory.
Growth in the Inner Man
"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." Ephesians 3:14-16
We as Christians are challenged to grow. That's what Paul's desire for Christians at Ephesus that they might strengthened with might in the inner man. We've got to continue to grow and develop. Peter tells us in, 2 Peter 3:18 that growth is connected to the glory of God. We bring glory to God, glory to Christ as we grow as Christians.
We all need to examine our lives, 2 Corinthians 13:5, tells us that we are to do that. As we examine our lives, are we growing? Are you stronger christian now than you were 1 year ago? What about 5 or 10 years ago? God expects us to grow. He doesn't expect us to reach a level of immaturity and just stay there. And yet, many people do. Some never grow beyond the milk of the word.
"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." Hebrews 5:12.
Spiritual Growth Comes from God
As we look at our test, Ephesians 3:14-20, we're going to focus in on verse 16.
As we look at this text notice that it says “That He would grant you…” Notice where our personal spiritual growth only comes from. It comes from God, through His word. It is impossible without him and without Christ has done for us. We looked at blessed are the poor in spirit. We need to recognize that we need God. and we need what Christ Said, because that growth only comes from God.
Without Christ we cannot grow. We have to be rooted and grounded in Christ Jesus if there is going to be any spiritual growth. God grants us such growth if we will but ask it of Him, James 1:5. This does not mean that we will miraculously gain that wisdom. We have to study, and take responsibility to study.
God Grants Us Such Growth
That He would grant you “according to the riches of His Glory…” Paul speaks of the riches of God 5 times in the book of Ephesians.
- Paul speaks of spiritual riches 5 times in Ephesians.
- The riches of God’s Grace. Ephesians 1:7, 2:7
- The riches of our inheritance. Ephesians 1:18
- The unsearchable riches of Christ. Ephesians 3:8
- The riches of His Glory. Ephesians 3:16
God is the God of glory! Psalms 19:1, we can look at the night sky and know that God is. God is the God of spiritual abundance, Psalms 104:24. In Romans 11:33, Paul referred to the depth and riches of His glory. Paul says, "according to" which means, down from, or really out of... Out of the riches of His glory. Here we see the reason God desires and provides for this growth... Because of, or for the purpose of God’ glory He grants us to be strengthened.
The Growth that Takes Place in a Christian is Inward Growth
We're “strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man…” In 2 Corinthians 4:16, we see that the inward man, is man's spiritual nature. It is the part of man endures eternally. No matter how well we take care of this physical body it will not endure. We are all going to die. The body will wear down.
The inward man never has to die. It can continue to grow and life.
Bodily exercise, the outward man can be strengthened physical, 1 Timothy 4:8, profits a little for us. But, the inward man is also strengthened through spiritual exercise and proper nutrition, the implementation of God's word. Our food is to do the will of the Father. We're to exercise ourselves unto godliness, 1 Timothy 4:7. The reason why the Hebrews writer speaks to the people in Hebrews chapter five is because they were no longer growing.
"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Hebrews 5:12-14.
We've got to move on beyond the basic principals of Christianity. We can not grow unless we have the food, the meat, of the word of God.
Growth Comes through Strengthening of Might by His Spirit
Notice this growth is "strengthened with might by his Spirit,” Ephesians 5:23. How are we strengthened by the Spirit? It is through the Word of God. Acts 20:32. The word of God, edifies. It builds us up. It is strong and powerful, Hebrews 4:12.
The word of God is understandable, children can understand it and grow from it, and is profitable 2 Timothy 3:15-17. There is no other way to grow in the inner man except through the word of God. We become approved of God through our growth.
We have to strengthened in the inner man through the word of God.
Practical ways for Growth Strengthening in the Inner Man
We need to look at practical ways that we as Christians can grow in the word.
- Prayer, James 1:5
- Do we have faith that with God’s help we can grow in wisdom? James 1:6-8
- We also have to be motivated and diligent in our personal study. 2 Timothy 2:15
Prayer can be a spiritual exercise that readies the mind and prepares the heart to be receptive to God’s word.
Think about how many times Jesus and His disciples fasted. Fasting can help prepare us for growth in God's word.
- Bible reading
Familiarization with the Bible’s content. You can read the entire Bible through in a year. Or you can read the New Testament through in about 3 months. This helps us to get ready for more in-depth study.
- Deeper study
Get into this book until it gets into you!
Don’t just be a hearer (or reader) of the word but be a doer! James 1:22-25 The doer of the word both studies and understands the word and also makes application. Looks into the mirror of the word and sees what he ought to be and looks at himself and sees who he actually is. He sees where he is not what he should be and makes the appropriate changes in his life – repents. Finds areas of weakness and turns them into strengths.
▬ Types of Bible study
•Topical Study, study a specific topic.
• Character Studies, study men like king David, Solomon, Jonathan, even King Saul. You can learn from both the positive and negative aspects of their character
• Exegetical, study specific books or chapters – to bring out the message it imparts. Perhaps the most important and beneficial type of study.
- Exercise your Faith
- Teach others the word. To me the best way to apply what you have learned is to teach others, Hebrews 5:12; 2 Timothy 2:1-2
- True personal, spiritual growth is seen by the fruit it produces. One of the fruits manifested is teaching and evangelism.
- Assemble with brethren and be strengthened through the communions do share with one another.
- Listen to the word preached!
How does this growth occur?
- Strengthened in the inner man – through faith.
- Christ dwelling in our hearts – through faith.
- Faith comes from the word of God.
- The word of God gets into our mind, our hear,t as we study it!
- Growth for God’s people comes about when we apply ourselves to a dedicated study of the word of God.
The Result of Christian Growth
- “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith…”
What are some characteristics of healthy, growing Christians? We are growing when Christ is dwelling in our hearts by faith When Christ’s words dwell in us then that it is Christ dwelling in us. John 15:4-7. Christ dwells in our hearts by faith through the word of God. When God’s word works in us – that God’s is working in us. Philippians 2:13 When the words of the Spirit dwell in someone it can be said that the Spirit is dwelling in someone, Colossians 3:16.
A growing Christian is “Rooted and grounded in Love…” We learn together, grow together as God's spiritual house.
“Filled with the fullness of God…” One begins to be filled with "all the fullness of God"..., As they are strengthened by God (i.e., the Father) Which is through His Spirit (i.e., the Holy Spirit) Whereby in their hearts may dwell the Christ (i.e., the Son) With the help of the all members of the Godhead. Col 2:9
The True Purpose of Growth
The true purpose of Christian growth is to bring glory to God through Christ. A strong, growing Christian brings glory to God through His church. Do we desire to give God glory throughout all ages, world without end? How can we be sure to be filled with all the fullness of God? For one who is already a Christian, we should follow Paul's Plan of Growth for God’s People.
For one who is not a Christian, then one needs first to become a child of God. The question is, how do we get into Christ? We learn this in Galatians 3:26-27 and other places. We need to have faith that Jesus is the Son of God. And be baptized into Christ, to put on Christ. We then can glorify God through Christ as we grow in our knowledge and faith.