And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 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. Ephesians 4.11-16
There can be no growth for the Christian apart from the church. There simply is no such thing because God has designed His church to be equipped and to grow by the means He has given. And He has not given some abstract or impersonal means to His church for her maturation. He has given people with a variety of gifts that are to be used for the sake of building up the body of Christ. It is nonsense, therefore, to think that one could be removed from these means—the means appointed by God for the growth of His people—and make any progress in the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. It would be as if a plant, removed from the soil and hidden from the sun and barred from water, was expected to grow. It is easy to see the foolishness of expecting a plant to grow up into maturity when cut off from all God has given it for life, yet we are often blind to the foolishness of expecting ourselves to grow up into Christ divorced from His church. The church is the means by which we together will reach our God-appointed end—bearing the image and likeness of Christ.
No longer is our humanity held in bondage to sin and death and decay. It has been redeemed by the only true God who became the only true man that in knowing Him, we might become like Him.
And consider how the apostle equates “the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God” and “mature manhood” and “the fullness of Christ.” To what end does God in Christ save us? That we might simply know Him? Or that we might become like Him? The apostle makes it clear it is the latter. It is not enough as he considers these things to conclude that the end of salvation is faith and knowledge. He must go on to say that it is mature manhood. But what kind of manhood? What kind of humanity? It is the kind of humanity that has been assumed and redeemed by Christ, the humanity that Christ now fills with the fullness of His resurrection and redemptive power such that it is a new type of humanity. No longer is our humanity held in bondage to sin and death and decay. It has been redeemed by the only true God who became the only true man that in knowing Him, we might become like Him. No longer are we children, tossed to and from by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, we are mature men and woman who God has established firm and secure in Christ and in the fullness of the humanity He came to redeem.
In being brought to maturity in Christ, we now participate in the life of love that He has had eternally with the Father and with the Spirit. The love that flows through the Trinity extends now to us as we are hidden in the incarnate Son, yet it is ours not simply to be enjoyed. Love that is simply enjoyed is faulty and imperfect love. The love of God we know in Christ we now speak and display for one another, and in this way we grow in our likeness of the One who is love.