STUDY | Spend the week studying Ephesians 4:1-16. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Many questions have been included in this guide. Read through this lesson to determine which questions will work best to encourage, push, and grow your group.
PRAY | As you prepare, pray for the preaching of God’s Word this coming weekend. Pray also for your time in this week’s study and your group’s openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | We help each other grow in maturity by sharing the truth in love and building one another up.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
Wouldn’t it be great to pursue your calling, use your gifts, and feel satisfied in your purpose without ever failing? However, life never works out that way, does it? If we’re honest, we experience failure more times than we’d like to admit. This week your group will look at how the church can be a place where we help each other grow in maturity and overcome our failures through the grace of Jesus.
Q: Why is it so hard to admit when we’ve failed? What fears does failure bring to the surface?
Q: How do you typically react when you experience failure?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
NO LONGER CHILDREN
In Ephesians 4:14-16, Paul gives us two contrasting pictures of maturity and immaturity. Mature believers grow out of a deep faith in God and His purposes. Immature believers who aren’t growing are often missing a strong foundation of belief. They are easily swept away by false teaching or personal sin. Paul instructs his readers that the way to maturity involves speaking the truth in love to one another. Truth (doctrine; right beliefs) and love (grace) are necessary ingredients for real, lasting growth in the Christian faith.
Q: How would you describe an immature Christian? How about a mature Christian?
Q: Recall a time when someone spoke the truth in love to you. How did that help you?
BUILT UP IN LOVE
Paul’s vision for the church is that of a body, joined together by its parts and working properly. The head of this body is Christ. Paul’s metaphor shows that as a part of the body, every believer has a purpose. This purpose looks different for every person, because different parts of the body serve different functions.
Every member should work together to make sure the body of Christ is built up in love. Love for one another is the ultimate witness to the outside world that we belong to Jesus and are a part of His church.
Q: What happens when we don’t build each other up in love?
Q: What’s one thing you can do this week to build someone up in love?
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
STAYING ON THE PATH
Paul lists several ways that believers can be thrown off the path of growing discipleship. The first way is immaturity. Some Christians never grow up. They are content to go to church each week, but never feel challenged to change or mature. When people don’t mature, they often fall prey to false beliefs. The other way we can be thrown off the path is sin. Although we’re redeemed, we still have sinful tendencies that we must fight against and we still experience temptations to follow another path.
Maturity protects believers by giving them wisdom to stay on the path of growth and obedience. Wisdom is more than just having knowledge; it’s the right application of that knowledge. A mature person uses wisdom to spot warning signs in life, avoid ditches and detours, and stay on course with God’s purposes. Growing believers know that wisdom is more easily gained in community than on one’s own.
Q: Why are immature Christians vulnerable to false beliefs?
Q: Who is someone you’ve gained wisdom from? What did they teach you?
THE GRACE GIVER
For Paul, the goal is maturity, but the way to maturity isn’t a straight path. It’s a windy one, and we will experience failure along the way. When we fail, we often respond by condemning ourselves (“You’re a failure, and you’ll always be one.” “Why would anyone ever trust you with anything?”) or blaming others (“It’s not my fault.” “You should have known better.”) Sadly, the church doesn’t always respond well to those who fail. Many have turned away from the church because they felt judged or condemned by Christians.
Paul, however, challenges this attitude of condemnation. A believer’s first instinct should be love and grace, not judgment and condemnation. This doesn’t mean we don’t confront sin. Sin needs to be confronted, but this happens by speaking the truth in love and working together to build one another up.
Q: What kind of self-talk do you engage in when you fail? What do you tell yourself?
Q: Why is love and grace a better response than judgment and condemnation?
GRACE IN ACTION
God doesn’t call perfect people. He chooses and uses failures. A great example of this is Peter. His life shows us that Jesus gives us hope, even when we fail. Peter often stumbled along the way and even denied Jesus three times. But Jesus never gave up on Peter, because He had big plans for His disciple. In Jesus’ eyes, Peter’s failure wasn’t final. Because of this, Peter went on to become an important leader in the early church and was a faithful servant until the end of his life.
Jesus showed Peter grace. And God calls us to do the same. Extending grace to others is an action. When we extend grace, we give others a glimpse into the heart of God. The clearest picture of grace is the cross, where Jesus said, “Despite your failures, I’m not giving up on you. I have a plan for your life that gives you a hope and a future.” The gospel is a story God calls us to live out in our day-to-day lives. In things big and small, we can build one another up in God’s love by extending grace.
Q: Why is it difficult to extend grace to some people? Who is someone God is calling you to extend grace to?
Q: What could you start doing to encourage others to get in the game and use their gifts for God’s purposes?
Ask God for wisdom as you grow in maturity together. Pray for the group to have unity and for the desire to speak the truth in love and build each other up in Christ.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
Read Ephesians 4:17-5:21 and consider what it means to walk in love and new life with Jesus.
Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their life.
Truth: A Doctor’s Scalpel
“The truth must not be used as a club to bludgeon people into acceptance and obedience.”1 Rather, truth is more like a surgeon’s scalpel. When someone shares the truth in love, those painful incisions are for our good. A doctor carefully uses her scalpel to help her patient, and we should do the same for others.
Pastor and author Paul Tripp offers this definition of true love: “The Cross of Jesus Christ is the only model you need of what love does in the face of wrong ... loves moves toward you because you are wrong and need to be rescued from you. In moving towards you, love is willing to make sacrifices and endure hardships so that you may be made right again and be reconciled to God and others.”2
The Place of Doctrine
Doctrine refers to teaching about Christian truth that has been passed through the generations by believers. The source and authority for Christian doctrine is the Bible.3 Contrary to common misconceptions, doctrine isn’t cold and lifeless, but rather it instructs us how to live well. That’s why, with few exceptions, Paul’s letters always start with doctrine and move to application.
Evidences of Maturity
In his commentary, Warren Weirsbe cites four evidences of maturity based on Ephesians 4:14-16: Christlikeness (“the members of the church grow by feeding on the Word and ministering to each other,”) stability (“the maturing Christian is not tossed about by every religious novelty that comes along,”) truth joined with love (“it has well been said that truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy,”) and cooperation (“we realize that, as members of one body, we belong to each other, we affect each other, and we need each other.”).4
1. Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2269.
2. Paul Tripp, “True Love,” Paul Tripp Ministries, May 13, 2015, accessed August 13, 2017, https://www.paultripp.com/wednes- days-word/posts/true-love.
3. The authority for Christian doctrines is the Bible itself. In formulating doctrine, the church takes other authorities into consideration. Experience often reveals the need for doctrinal attention, and true Christian doctrine is to be lived out in faithful Christian experience, not just received as matters of intellectual interest. Reason is also important in doctrinal formulation, for the tools of reason are indispensable to the task of expressing biblical truths in doctrinal form. Tradition also plays a role, for every generation of Christians inherits patterns of belief and practice from previous generations. We do not begin with a blank slate unformed by received traditions.
Nevertheless, the Bible cannot function merely as one authority among others. The Bible is the controlling and ultimate authority for all matters of Christian belief and practice.” R. Albert Mohler Jr., “Doctrine,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 436.
4. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 38–39.