Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Ephesians 4:13:

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

Does this text imply that the act of coming into unity of faith should happen during the believers' physical lifetime? Or could it be so that the text here reserves the possibility that this process of coming in the unity of faith, as well as the process of growing into Christ the Head mentioned in the following verses, can continue taking place in each believer even after his or her physical death?

share|improve this question
add comment

3 Answers 3

Short Answer: This particular text does not relate to an individual coming into unity of faith and becoming a perfect man, but rather, to the body of Christ as a whole coming into unity of faith and becoming a perfect man. This will not be complete until all God's chosen have come in, and the completed body perfectly reflects Christ. This growth of the body of Christ continues even after one individual saint dies (e.g. it continued after Paul's death.)

The context

Ephesians 4 opens with an exhortation to "walk in a manner worthy of your calling" and love one another. Paul then goes on to explain the unity that we have with one another in Christ:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (v.4-6)

Paul then proceeds to clarify that even though we are one, we each have a different function in the body of Christ:

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure [i.e. allotment] of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,
“When He ascended . . . He gave gifts to men.”
(v.7-8)

After a brief tangent discussing His ascension and prior descension, He comes back to the "gifts":

He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, (v.11)

Next, Paul explains the Lord's reason for giving these various gifts to men upon His departure: They were...

for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (v.12-13)

After a brief tangent in which he urges them to therefore stop being led astray by every "wind of doctrine" he returns to his exhortation to the body of Christ:

speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (v.15-16)

Paul's point

Paul wants his readers to love one another and recognize that they are one with one another in Christ; they are one body. As a result, they are each to use their individual gifts to serve the body so that the body can grow into the full image of Christ, the head.

How long will this growth take?

This growing of the body into the full stature of Christ will not be complete until the entire body of Christ is perfectly functioning together to reflect Him perfectly. (I suspect that will not happen until His return, though that is more of a theological topic.)

But I think the answer to your question is essentially that this is about the body of Christ as a whole, and not about any one individual Christian.

share|improve this answer
    
I am afraid it doesn't quite answer my question. I know that a corporate aspect is in the focus here, however, it doesn't discard the time-span aspect. To re-phrase my question, does that part of One Body of Christ that is not physically alive anymore still experience the process of growing into Christ the Head or not? –  brilliant Jul 6 '13 at 6:53
    
@brilliant Ah OK. Interesting. I'll have to give that question some more thought before responding. Thanks for the clarification. –  Jas 3.1 Jul 6 '13 at 8:14
    
@brilliant I thought about it some more and I think the issue I'm having is that this particular text isn't about an individual growing into Christ the Head, so it's hard to answer about individual growth from the text. I think we could say (based on other passages) that an individual's growth won't be complete until the growth of the body of Christ is complete (and they get a new body, etc.) ...I don't know if that helps. –  Jas 3.1 Jul 17 '13 at 3:04
add comment

In the same Epistle we see that the church after the second coming will be “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless”. (Eph 5:27) On the other hand ‘till we come to’ implies this perfection is not attainable in this life. Therefore the time span starts for believers in this life (assuming at the point they begin to take hold of salvation) and ends when Christ presents the church a perfect bride as a result of a completed redemption at his second coming. This does not imply that believers in heaven continue to be conformed to the image of Christ in terms of eliminating some kind of imperfection, for sinless is everywhere assumed to be had by those in heaven, but as they still wait for a resurrected body they can’t be said to be ‘like him’ in the final state.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (The New International Version. (2011). (1 Jn 3:2))

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (The New International Version. (2011). (1 Co 13:12))

Therefore, in one sense one can say the time span continues after death if we are looking for a final ‘we shall be like him’ state. Paul always has an eye to this state as the final likeness of Christ which each individual believer and the corporate body as a whole will obtain.

The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. (The New International Version. (2011). (1 Co 15:47–49))

From this sense, we cold extend the time span to cover those who have already died, until they receive a new body.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Remember the Anointed One was the Lamb without spot and blemish, the only complete seed of Adam. A seed sacrifices itself to bring forth life. So out of all humans he was the only one to achieve this. Therefore he was in favour with the Father who raised him from the dead.

He wanted to be made like us so that he can experience what we experience, that is death and thru favour were raised up and had victory over death. Now the secret of salvation is actually quite simple. As a man marries a woman they become one flesh and have all things common. Therefore the Anointed One being the only begotten son and heir and the only one who achieved victory over death, is the only way according to the Father's plan to recieve adoption of children.

Those who therefore accept him becomes one body and he being the head of that body (as in the case of a marriage union), we have all things common with him. Common heirs, adoption of children even as he is a son over his house, and victory over death. Immersion into water therefore symbolizes that union. Being buried with him (going down into the water) and being raised up. Since we are raised up with him thru immersion which is a shadow of the true resurrection, we should therefore strive to be complete even as he is, because when he arrives we will indeed be like him and be complete in him. Therefore we should always at this point grow to completeness even before our actual adoption as children. Even as a man and a women grow close and conform to one another before being married and become one flesh.

The Hebrew and Greek word for belief/faith is more of an assurance, being assured, obtaining assurance. Grow in the unity assurance. Like mentioned above there is "one faith(assurance)". Since there are only one assurance, if different individuals grow in that one assurance we indeed grow up in one unified body of believers.

As for death, we are told to be faithful (assured) even unto death.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.