Life-Study of Ephesiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Ephesians 4:13 says that we need to arrive at the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, at a full-grown man, and at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. It is difficult to define these items adequately because they are all related to life and life is very mysterious. The real oneness in practicality is a matter of life. Likewise, the full-grown man and the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ are matters of life. Only after our experience of life has reached a certain degree can we understand such a verse as 4:13.
In 4:13 Paul begins with the oneness of the faith. From my limited experience, I can say that the faith here refers to Christ with His redemptive work. Hence, the object of our Christian faith is the living Christ with His work.
Verse 13 also speaks of the full knowledge of the Son of God. Apparently there is little relationship between the faith and the full knowledge of the Son of God. According to our experience, however, the two are actually one, for both refer to Christ. The full knowledge of the Son of God is a matter of knowing Christ as life and everything to us. In the New Testament the Lord is called the Son of God in relation to life, but in relation to His commission He is called Christ. When Peter received the revelation regarding Christ, he said that the Lord Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16). Furthermore, in the Gospel of John we are told that we need to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31). This means that we believe in the Lord Jesus for life and for His commission. To know the Lord’s commission is rather easy, but to know Him as our life is quite difficult. This comes not by mere objective knowledge, but by experience. When we experience Christ as our life, we know Him as the Son of God. Then we have the experiential and practical oneness, that is, the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God.
God desires that Christ be everything to us. Christ is the object of our faith, and He is also our life. If we see this, we shall begin to lay aside whatever distracts us from Christ; we shall drop everything other than Christ Himself. How much we drop depends on our experience of Christ. The more we experience Christ as life, the more things we shall lay aside. In this way we arrive at the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God.
Today, because we are still short of the experience of life, we do not have the full realization of this practical oneness. But we are growing. We cannot say that we have arrived at the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, at a full-grown man, or at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Nevertheless, we thank the Lord that, in His recovery, we are on the way toward this goal.
Verse 14 says, “That we may be no longer babes tossed by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching in the sleight of men, in craftiness with a view to a system of error.” This verse is the continuation of verse 13. The word “that,” which may also be rendered “in order that,” indicates that the result of arriving at the three things in verse 13 is that we are no longer babes tossed by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching. Therefore, arriving at the three things in verse 13 has a purpose, and this purpose is that we be no longer babes.
Babes are those believers who are young in Christ, who lack maturity in life (1 Cor. 3:1; 13:11; Heb. 5:13). In the first stage of our spiritual life, we Christians are all babes.
Verse 14 indicates that the babes are tossed by waves. The Christian life is like a journey on the sea, where there are many storms. As Christians, we should not expect our journey to be calm, with no waves or winds. The waves and the storms come not only upon individual believers, but even upon the church. There are times when the church experiences waves and is in the midst of storms. Paul’s concept here is not that we can avoid the waves and winds, but that we can be kept from being tossed by waves and carried about by winds.
Difficulties and hardships are different from waves and storms. Hardships are like rocks, and difficulties are like heavy weights that we must bear. Waves, on the contrary, often come in a pleasant, appealing way and even with a sweet, loving appearance. Most of those who are tossed by waves are not tossed against their will, but are tossed willingly by waves that seem most pleasant and enjoyable to them. As they are being tossed by the waves, they have no sense of danger. Rather, they may have a sense of excitement or enjoyment. Because waves may have such a pleasant appearance, they are quite different from hardships or difficulties. Actually, few Christians are tossed by difficulties, but many are tossed by waves and carried away by winds.
Perhaps you are wondering what the waves and the winds are. They are the various teachings, doctrines, concepts, and opinions. As the church is journeying on the sea, Satan will seek an opportunity to send in some appealing teachings, concepts, and opinions to entice the believers. His purpose in doing so is to carry them away from Christ and the church.
At the time of Paul, certain Judaizers taught the Old Testament in an enticing manner. Their teaching was related to certain practices that had been ordained by God in the Old Testament. It was difficult for the babes in Christ to discern the subtleties of these appealing teachings. The principle is the same today, but now there are even more distracting teachings, concepts, and opinions. All these have a pleasant and positive appearance. Otherwise, no one could be cheated by them. Thus, many today are being tossed by waves and carried about by winds of teaching.
A babe can easily be deceived or led astray. For example, children can be led away from home by someone who offers them candy or gum. Their love for candy causes them to forget everything else. Because many Christians are still babyish, desiring sugar-coated teachings, they are easily deceived.
The only way to escape from the waves and the winds is to grow in life. As you are growing, you need to hide under the covering of your parents in the Lord. Do not care for spiritual candies, but care for the way your parents in Christ are taking. In this way you will be preserved and safeguarded.
In the church life the young ones should hide under the shelter provided by the older ones. This covering is the best hiding place. On your own do not take in any concept, no matter how sweet it may seem. Whenever you are tempted in this way, you should say, “I don’t care for these sweet things. I care for Christ, for the church, and for the shelter of the older ones.” If you take in the candy, you will discover that there is poison under its sugar coating.
By reading verse 14 in its context we see that the most reliable test to expose any deceptive teaching is Christ and the church. In his subtlety, the enemy, Satan, uses waves and winds to distract the saints from Christ and the church. At times, Satan will even use the Bible to do this. This indicates that even scriptural teachings may be used by Satan to carry us away from God’s purpose. Satan can use almost anything to distract us from Christ and the church. He used even the words of Scripture to tempt the Lord Jesus in the wilderness. There is no better safeguard than Christ with the church. Do not accept any teaching that cannot pass the test of Christ and the church.
Satan may even come to you with a teaching under the pretense that this teaching will help you to enjoy the church life more. However, when you take in such a teaching, you find that your appetite for the church life is actually nullified. Before you accepted that teaching, you were absolute for the church and for the church testimony; you desired to attend the meetings of the church and had a high regard for the ground of the church. But the subtle satanic teaching kills your desire for the meetings, dilutes your absoluteness for the church life, and causes you to disregard the church ground. As this teaching does its damaging work within your being, no longer do you care for the genuine testimony of the church; yet all the while you are convinced that, through the concept you have absorbed, you are on the way to a better church life. This is the most subtle doctrine of all! This subtle wind carries you away from the church life.
This kind of subtle teaching also causes you to lose your appetite for Christ. Through its influence, you are no longer as hungry and thirsty for Christ as you once were. You come to feel that it is religious or legal to love the Lord in an absolute way. All this is evidence that the poisonous essence of this satanic teaching has entered into your being and corrupted it, causing your spiritual senses to become dull. This is the most subtle way for a believer to be carried away from Christ and the genuine church life.
The only way to grow, to be protected, and to be covered is to stay in the proper church life. Do not place so much confidence in your personal sense about any situation. Certain teachings may cause you to feel that the church life is not very good or that it is even unnecessary. Through the years I have learned that we must always be on guard against any thought that the church is poor, wrong, or unnecessary. Such a thought is a clear sign that a wind of teaching is approaching. I do not claim that the church today is perfect. However, I do say that any negative thought about the condition of the church is an indication of the working of a subtle teaching. Such a teaching does not first appear to be threatening. It is usually concealed beneath a pleasant appearance. The color may at first be very appealing, but after this teaching enters into you, its color becomes darker as time goes by. This is a sign that this teaching is exerting a poisonous influence within you.
I say again that the only way to escape the waves and the winds is to grow. However, we cannot grow up overnight like a mushroom. Rather, we grow gradually little by little and day by day. As we are slowly growing in the Lord, we need to remain under the protective covering of the church. Trust the church, not your individual, subjective feeling. Look to the Lord that He will cause you to place your trust in Him and in the church. This is necessary especially when, according to your feeling, the church is not so good. At the very time you feel the condition of the church is not positive, you should place your trust in the church all the more.
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