In various social sciences, gravity models are used to describe certain behaviors that mimic gravitational interactions. For instance, one model communicates the decline of interaction between two locations when the distance is increased. In other words, a neighborhood that is nearer to a particular market will have far more interaction with that market than a neighborhood that is far away. (Yes, scientists figured this out.)
It is called a gravity model because the behavior of gravity illustrates the behavior of interaction between two points. The more distance between two objects, the less interaction they have. In these cases, gravity is used to bring simplicity to more complex concepts.
All models are meant to work this way. They simplify, clarify, and exemplify. They represent. They standardize. They demonstrate. Models bring light to something otherwise dimmed by unfamiliarity. They can also bring life to something that is otherwise desolate. Without models, some subjects are out of reach. We simply cannot grasp or picture them with information alone.
In most science classrooms, there is a small-scale replica of our solar system. Each planet is held in place by a thin metal pole that extends from a middle stem connected to the sun. It is designed to model what we are unable to see with our own eyes—namely, proportionate planets circling a large sun. No one assumes that this small plastic copy of the cosmos is the real system. No one looks at the sun, maybe three inches in diameter, and says, “Wow, the sun is smaller than I expected.” Rather, we hold the model but grasp the big idea. We get a sense of the planetary system and are awestruck at its enormity and perfect harmony. Models serve this purpose.
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 4:15-16
The Preeminent Pattern
Paul loved to talk about Christ. Addressing the church at Corinth, he said, “I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom,” meaning fancy and persuasive words, “for I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). Everything else mattered very little to him unless it was in tune with what Christ desired. To him, Christ is everything, and everything is for Christ.
You can see it all over his writings. In fact, he named “Christ” at least five times in the first three verses of Ephesians! Christ is authoritative and faithful (Eph. 1:1), gracious and peaceful (Eph. 1:2), blessed and heavenly (Eph. 1:3). Consider the remaining six chapters of the book. There are about 50 references to Jesus by name and nearly four times that including pronouns. The references to Christ in Ephesians outnumber its verses!
Read how Paul described Christ in his own words:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.Colossians 1:15-20
Paul was only making the obvious point. Christ is preeminent. He surpasses everyone and everything. He is the first, the greatest, the highest, the foremost. There is none more perfect, more distinguished, more honorable. All things were created through Him because there was no greater way. All things came after Him because there is no one before Him. He is the head because there is no one wiser, no one with more power, no one who has more authority. In Him dwells the fullness of God, and only in Him are all things reconciled.
There is no other way to measure perfection than to make Christ the standard. He is the picture of perfection, the model for maturity. While “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:15).
The Persistent Perfection
Since Christ is our perfect picture, we are to be “imitators of God” and “walk in love as Christ loved us” (Eph. 5:1-2). Using “walk” to describe the way we live our life before God is suitable when we acknowledge that Christ is the “head of the church” (Eph. 5:23) and “we are his body” (Eph. 5:30). He takes the lead, and we do the walking. So, we should “walk in a manner worthy” of His name (Eph. 4:1).
This is why Paul urged us to do “as Christ” time and time again. We are to walk as Christ walked (Eph. 5:2), love as Christ loved (Eph. 5:25), lead as Christ led (Eph. 5:23), and care as Christ cared (Eph. 5:29). To put it in Jesus’ words, “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
There is a sense in which all who are in Christ are perfect already. “For by a single offering [Christ] has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). This is a positional perfection. Because Christ is perfect, all who are in Him before God are also perfect. God applies the perfect life of Christ to us. Yet, we are still practically imperfect, which is why the writer of Hebrews described us as “being sanctified,” or being made perfect. It carries the idea of completion and “the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). In other words, we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).
For every positional truth in Scripture, there is a corresponding practice to follow. For instance, we are spiritually alive (Eph. 2:4-5), but called to live the life (Phil. 1:21). We are made righteous (Rom. 1:17), but told to live righteously (1 John 3:7). We are children of God (Eph. 1:5), but need to act like God’s children (1 Peter 1:14-15). We are cleansed (John 15:3), but must cleanse ourselves (2 Cor. 7:1). We are in Christ (Eph. 1:3), but make every effort to abide in Christ (1 John 2:28). The list goes on. Positionally speaking, we are perfect. Practically speaking, we need to be perfected.
Peter said that we will “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). The more God glorifies us in Christ, the more He is glorified. This is what Jesus meant when He said He has given us the glory that He received from the Father. It is the perfecting work of Christ joining and holding us together to be conformed into His image and likeness. We are growing up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ. Picture Him. Imitate Him.
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