“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph 4:15-16 ESV)
Here are two excerpted commentaries on Ephesians chapter 4 which describe more detailed how Christian growth should look like.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
4:7-16 Unto every believer is given some gift of grace, for their mutual help. All is given as seems best to Christ to bestow upon every one. He received for them, that he might give to them, a large measure of gifts and graces; particularly the gift of the Holy Ghost. Not a mere head knowledge, or bare acknowledging Christ to be the Son of God, but such as brings trust and obedience. […] The more a man finds himself drawn out to improve in his station, and according to his measure, all that he has received, to the spiritual good of others, he may the more certainly believe that he has the grace of sincere love and charity rooted in his heart.
Verse 15. – But speaking the truth in love. Ἀληθεύοντες is hardly translatable in English it implies being true as well as speaking the truth and following the truth. Truth is the element in which we are to live, move, and have our being; fidelity to truth is the backbone of the Christian ministry. But truth must be inseparably married to love; good tidings spoken harshly are no good tidings; the charm of the message is destroyed by the discordant spirit of the messenger. The more painful the first impression which a truth is fitted to produce (e.g., Ephesians 2:1-3), the more need is there for dealing with it in love – a much-needed and much-neglected exhortation. […]
Basically, it is not enough to gather the truth as mere head knowledge and to speak up whenever we disagree with someone. Rather, we should also let God examine our hearts on whether our tendency is more about ending up being right than about helping one another to grow up in Christ, always keeping in mind the following exhortation, too.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:3-8 ESV)
What I found interesting while reading the last Scriptures was the fact that we may both look to our own interest and to those of others. I would have rather thought that we should merely aim for the good of others by neglecting our own interests. But not so. Hmm… Leaves me wondering… 😉 Although, I think that statement matches completely with the second commandment that challenges us to love our neighbors as ourselves. It seems to me that this is what true balance is all about (cf. Mk 12:31). If we love God (Mk 12:30), we will love others AND ourselves because God is ONE (Mk 12:29) and His love is one, not three “loves” that would prove themselves as different from one another as for their extent.
I was just reminded of two verses of Jesus, Son of Sirach, who said,
“And refrain not to speak in the time of salvation. Hide not thy wisdom in her beauty. For by the tongue wisdom is discerned: and understanding, and knowledge, and learning by the word of the wise, and steadfastness in the works of justice.” (Ecclesiasticus 4:28-29)
Indeed, if we do not open our mouth when God nudges us to do so, even though our loving words might hurt the hearer (because the truth indeed hurts at times), how can the Body of Christ grow? If we see that there is a member of the body that is (spiritually) sick and thus weak, the whole body gets weakened until that member has been healed. Peter and Paul tell us the following.
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Pt 2:1-3 ESV)
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col 1:9-10 ESV)
Indeed, good works will spring from a loving heart. If there is no good work (that includes our “words” as well), esp. toward our brothers and sisters, is proclaiming “the truth” worth to be proclaimed – at all? Since, will there be any people who can hear the message of the Gospel with their very hearts so that they might be healed and repent? I often recall Paul’s admonition that explains the most excellent way of being, speaking, and doing.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor 13:1-3 ESV)
Sometimes we hurt while trying to love one another or those who do not want our love, but we could always try to look at Him who humbly endured death on the cross because of His love to the Father and to all of us, even to the whole world (Jn 3:16). There is no one excluded unless they exclude themselves from God’s love. I believe that the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings entails for us the pain of being rejected although we keep on loving others. Finally, it is always His power that brings us through the pain of rejection and offers at the same time being blessed by supernatural joy in the very midst of suffering (cf. Lk 6:22). Or in other words (mine),