Without unity, a church will not grow. According to Paul’s outline of church life in Ephesians 4, unity among believers is essential to a thriving church. His line of thought from verses 1–3 (“be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”) through verse 13 (“until all of us attain to the unity of the faith”) all the way to verse 16 demonstrates the importance of healthy relationships among church members.
Two words in verse 16 highlight how essential it is for our relationships in church to be unhindered. They are translated “being fitted and held together” in the NASB95; the ESV says, “joined and held together”; the CSB, “fitted and knit together.”
The body of Christ in any given locale is supposed to be continually fitted and knit and held and joined together. Put all this together with the subject and verb of the sentence and you get, “The whole body, being continually fitted together and being continually held together … causes the growth of the body.”
“Fitted” is a rich image. Stone masons, for example, are able to erect walls using irregularly shaped boulders. Each stone is chiseled, scraped, and smoothed—fitted—so that it sits flush with those adjacent.
Likewise, church members should have close connections with one another. Hoehner in his excellent commentary on Ephesians says, “As the ancient masons used an elaborate process of fitting stones together, it is certain that God’s grace carefully fits together persons with one another in order to bring inner unity that can allow them to grow together.”1
“Knitted” (or “held”) is also a metaphor. To knit is to bring separate pieces together. Philosophers knit lines of thought together and draw a conclusion. Churches knit individual people into a unified whole.
Yet another component of this packed verse emphasizes connectivity: “joint.” Paul says that “every joint supplies.” Just like the human body functions because bones and muscles are joined by ligaments, the body of Christ carries out the purpose of its Head through church members who are closely connected to one another.2
A thriving church will have members who aren’t necessarily all close friends, but who will be in fellowship with no barriers and no bitterness between them. Healthy relationships are essential to the growth of the body of Christ.
This article was originally published in the March/April 2022 issue of Bible Study Magazine. Slight adjustments, such as title and subheadings, may be the addition of an editor.
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