A few years ago, some friends gave me a copy of The Commentaries of Origen and Jerome on St Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (by Ronald E. Heine, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). They give me this book for two reasons: 1) They knew that I loved Ephesians and 2) They wanted to give me something written by someone as old as me. (Thanks again MaÃ«l and Cindy… I think.)
Occasionally, as I’m reading through this commentary, I find something that is very helpful. For example, consider this passage from Ephesians:
…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 4:16 ESV)
According to Heine, Origen wrote the following as an analogy to help readers understand what Paul is saying (note, this passage actually comes from Jerome’s pen, but is supposedly copied from Origen):
Now another example may be brought into the same analogy to clarify that which we wish to be understood. A child grows up and, unperceived, matures in time to full age. The hand will have increased in size, the feet will undergo their growth, the stomach, without our knowledge, is filled out, the shoulders, although our eyes are deceived, have broadened, and all the ‘members’ throughout the parts thus increase according to their ‘measure’ yet in such a way that they appear not to be increased in themselves but in the body. (p. 180-81)
I think this is a very good way of explaining what Paul writes. As a person ages from childhood toward adulthood, his or her body naturally grows together, each part growing as it should.
This is way it should be in the church: each part growing together. In fact, as with the child growing to an adult, the growth of one part should be related to and comparable to the growth of the other parts.
But, what if one parts grows while the other parts remain stagnant? What would we say about a person whose hand grows larger, but his or her feet remain the same size? What if someone’s head grew, but their torso never changed? We would immediately recognize that something was wrong.
Can we recognize the same types of “abnormal growth” in the church? Are some parts growing while others are stagnant? Do we consider this normal?
The church will not grow and build itself up in love until each part of the body is working together and growing together.
1) Do you agree with Origen’s (Jerome’s) analogy? 2) What do we do if some parts of the church are not growing while others are growing quickly?