Our Growth in Grace Is a Community Journey

July 25, 2016

Bob Kellemen

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Bob Kellemen

Everyone wants to change and grow, but all too frequently we miss the biblical context for growth—the church. The world often tells us, “It takes a village.” God’s Word consistently informs us, “It takes a church.” We can summarize the biblical message like this: Our Growth in Grace Is a Community Journey

Do you want to grow in grace? The Bible teaches that it happens in the Body of Christ. Let’s see how and why…

Living the Christian Life: Together with All the Saints

Ephesians 4 is perhaps the classic passage that weaves together gospel-centered ministry (Ephesians 4:1-10), biblical counseling (Ephesians 4:15-16), sanctification (Ephesians 4:17-32), and the local church (Ephesians 4:11-14). What’s fascinating about that chapter is the chapter that precedes it.

In Ephesians 3:1-13, Paul marvels over the gospel of Christ’s grace—calling it “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). Then Paul reminds us of God’s eternal intent—that His infinite, multifaceted wisdom and grace should be made known to the on-looking universe—through the church (Ephesians 3:10-11).

This bears repeating: God has chosen to do His work—through the church.

How does the church witness to the world? First, by rejoicing in and living out the gospel indicatives of what Christ has done for us: “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12). This is the amazing, “Welcome home!” that we celebrated in Christ.

Secondly, the church bears witness to the world about Christ’s great grace by grasping together with all the saints (Ephesians 3:18) the infinite power and love of God in Christ. Here’s how Paul prays it, and don’t neglect his phrase—power together with all the saints to grasp

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through the Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

In one prayer, you have gospel-centered ministry, biblical counseling, sanctification, and the local church. Here are the gospel indicatives making a home in our hearts as they produce a gospel-based identity that leads to gospel imperatives (which we read in Ephesians 4-6).

And how does this happen? Never in isolation.

Always in community.

Always together with all the saints.

Experiencing Christ’s Grace: An “Aha!” Moment

Together with all the saints we grasp the multidimensional, infinite love of Christ—its width, length, height, and depth. “Grasp” is a fascinating word meaning both “to seize” and to “light upon, understand, and hold fast to intensely with surprise.” It’s the soul-shocking, life-rocking, mind-boggling “Aha!” experience of “getting it,” of experiencing Christ’s grace with our whole being—relationally, rationally, volitionally, and emotionally.

And it happens only together with all the saints.

Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 and his statement about grasping together with all the saints is the pivot point of Ephesians. It explains how everything that goes before and everything that comes after is made real.

Everything you’ve ever read in any book about gospel-centered ministry, biblical counseling, sanctification, and the local church is impossible to grasp and apply unless you do so together with all the saints.

That’s why, when we talk about biblical counseling and the local church, we are not talking simply about a church with a biblical counseling ministry. We are talking about a church of biblical counseling. That is, a church saturated with people who live and speak gospel truth to one another before church, at church, after church, away from church, in the car, at the restaurant, at work, in the neighborhood, at the sporting event, in the midst of conflict…

This is exactly what Paul suggests in Ephesians 4:15-16:

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Join the Conversation

How would our churches be different if we applied the truth that we can only grow in grace together with all the saints?

How would our Christian lives be different if we applied the truth that we grasp the infinite love of God together with all the saints?

How would our daily lives be different if we applied the truth that our growth in grace is a community journey?