Growing in Christlikeness

“But speaking the truth in love, may [we] grow up into Him in all things.” —Ephesians 4:15

OUR text emphasizes the importance of growing up into Christ in all things. One of the characteristics of the fallen human nature is to be biased in viewpoint, and this sometimes is true even when we consider Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. If by nature we enjoy indulging in controversy, we could easily think of Jesus from this standpoint—recalling his encounters with the scribes and Pharisees—and conclude that this is what it really means to be a follower of the Master. If we are mild of disposition, we may think of Jesus from the standpoint of his kindness and patience, and conclude that ‘there is what true Christlikeness means. But we are not to be satisfied to grow up into Christ in one thing alone, but in all things; and we can do this only by observing every facet of his perfect character.

Solomon wrote concerning Jesus that he was “altogether lovely.” (Song of Solomon 5:16) He was not lovely along one or two lines, but he was lovely in all things. There was no defect in his character at all, as that character is revealed in his contact with the world, with his disciples, and in his work of proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom. And this, the Scriptures indicate, was true of Jesus even in his prehuman existence, where we find him quoted as saying, “I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.”—Prov. 8:30

Early in his human experience, even before he reached the status of manhood, we find Jesus’ interest in his Heavenly Father’s business indicated. He was taken to Jerusalem by his parents, and when they were ready to return they could not find him. Finally, however, they did find him in the temple discussing the things of God with the religious leaders there. And when he was mildly upbraided by his parents, he said, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49) One of the characteristics of Jesus was his delight to be about his Father’s business. It was prophetically written of him, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”—Ps. 40:8

Jesus’ Prayer Life

One of the facets of Jesus’ life of perfection which we do well to emulate was displayed by the manner of his prayers, and the situations which prompted him to turn to his Heavenly Father in thanksgiving and to seek his guidance. Jesus was praying at the very beginning of his ministry—at the time of his consecration, when the heavens were opened to him. (Luke 3:21) That symbolism of the open heavens suggests enlightenment of mind and heart, and Jesus received that enlightenment because in his prayer he indicated his desire to do the Father’s will. So it is with us. If we want the Heavenly Father to guide us by his Spirit, we must be willing whatever the cost may be to follow his leadings—that is, what he reveals to us as being his will.

The situations which prompted Jesus to pray are revealing. As was frequently the case, he was surrounded by people seeking his help and sounding his praise. This was generally true with respect to the common people, who were not influenced by their religious leaders. It was on one of these occasions when his popularity was at a peak that Jesus “withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.” (Luke 5:16) There is a timely lesson in this for us. Too often we go to the throne of heavenly grace only in times of discouragement or distress. But here we find Jesus praying when everything was going well, and when he was at the height of his popularity.

It is doubtless true of us that we need our Heavenly Father, and the help and guidance we can receive from him, when things are going well for us and our families. If we were unemployed or ill, or other hardships had come upon us, we would instinctively go to the throne of grace; but do we think of our need of the Heavenly Father when we are prosperous and healthy, and surrounded by friends, and enjoying the sweet fellowship of brethren? Such times as these call for our keeping close to the Lord, because these conditions are such that the great Adversary might easily creep in upon us unawares and turn our minds and hearts away from God.

Seeking Guidance

Another occasion on which Jesus went to his Father in prayer was when he selected his apostles. (Luke 6:12) We read that he spent the night in prayer and the next day he chose his apostles. He was certain that the Father heard him at this time, as he always did, because near the close of his ministry he referred to his apostles as those which the Father had given him. He recognized that they were not in reality his selections, but the Father’s selections—the gifts of God to him and to the church for carrying on the work of the ministry.

Do we have such confidence in God’s answer to our prayers? At times the answer to our prayers seems obvious and direct, and we rejoice in our Heavenly Father’s loving care; but at other times it is different. But we should wait on the Lord and realize that he knows what is best for us, and that in due time he will guide and help us in the things for which we pray, if we are in harmony with the Father’s will. With Jesus there never was any question about this point. Therefore, he knew that the Father heard him always.

Jesus was always under attack from the scribes and Pharisees. On one occasion he recounted that they had likewise persecuted John the Baptist. John the Baptist lived on a special diet which the people in general did not understand or appreciate, and they said that he came neither eating nor drinking and charged that he had a devil. With Jesus it was different. Jesus ate with the people, even with publicans and sinners at their feasts, so they charged him with being a glutton and a winebibber.

In connection with the recounting of these circumstances Jesus lifted up his heart to his Heavenly Father and said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” (Matt. 11:25) It was because Jesus was humble and childlike that his Heavenly Father had honored him with a knowledge of his plan and with the privilege of co-operating in the outworking of that plan. It is on this condition also that we can be assured that the Heavenly Father will guide us in the truth, and give us the privilege of being co-workers with him. Being critical of others, and especially of those who show evidence of consecration and sacrifice, is not the way to attain the favor and blessing of the Lord.

Another well-known example of Jesus’ life of prayer is found in John, chapter 17. It is here that he prays on behalf of his disciples, saying, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth.” (John 17:17) He prays that they may be one as he and the Heavenly Father are one, and that the Father would love them as he had loved him, and that they might be with him where he was in the kingdom. How wonderful it is to realize that Jesus had thus prayed for us!

In Gethsemane Jesus prayed that if it be possible the cup which was before him pass away without the need of his drinking it. (Luke 22:41-44) But even here he wanted the Father’s will done. “Not my will, but thine, be done,” was the conclusion of this prayer. Later when he left Gethsemane and saw that he was about to be arrested and without doubt put to death, he said, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”—John 18:11

Then, of course, we remember Jesus’ model prayer, an important part of which is, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”—Matt. 6:10

Loyalty to the Father

Jesus’ loyalty to his Heavenly Father and to the Father’s will is demonstrated by the manner in which he conducted his ministry. He knew from the prophecies of the Old Testament when his ministry was due to be concluded by his death, and up to that time he avoided going into those sections of the country, especially Judea, where his enemies were plotting to kill him. This was not because he was afraid of them, or was withdrawing from the terms of his covenant. His explanation was, “My time is not yet come.”—John 7:6

When the time in God’s plan for Jesus to consummate his sacrifice drew near he did not hesitate to go into Judea, even into Jerusalem, where he knew that he would be arrested and put to death. His explanation then was, “My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.” This was not because he was less prudent or cautious than before, but because he was following the outline of his Father’s will for him and he was ready, when the time came, to allow his enemies to apprehend him, try him, and put him to death.—Matt. 26:18

Another incident in the ministry of Jesus which illustrates his loyalty to his Heavenly Father and to his plan is found in Matthew 10:5,6. Jesus was sending his disciples into the ministry, and he said to them, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” While Jesus was an Israelite and naturally loved his people, he also loved the Gentile world. He loved all mankind, and it would not be by choice that he would instruct his disciples not to carry the Gospel of the kingdom to the Gentiles.

Jesus knew, on the other hand, that a special period of favor had been set aside for the Israelites—a period that would end soon after his death. He knew that it would be disloyalty to God and to his plan to ignore this, and to tell his disciples at that time to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Later, after his death and resurrection, he did instruct his disciples to go into all the world, beginning at Jerusalem; but for the time being he knew that this was not the Father’s plan, so he restricted the activities of his disciples, as well as his own, to conform with the Father’s will.

Jesus Did Not Speculate

Jesus did not speculate concerning the time features of the divine plan. There is an important lesson in this for the Lord’s people today. When Jesus was asked about the time of his second advent he admitted that he did not know. He stated that only the Father knew this. What a noble example we have here! There are times when we may give the impression that we do know something about the hidden things of God’s plan, whether we do or not. But Jesus was humble, loyal to his Father, and what the Father had not revealed to him as yet he did not hesitate to say, “I do not know.” This was an evidence of his strength of character—not of weakness—and we would all do well to follow this example.

Jesus’ humility was further displayed by his statement, “My Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28) And again, in John 5:30, we find Jesus saying, “I can of mine own self do nothing.” The Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-8 tells us that Jesus “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death.”

Jesus’ humility led to his full submission to the will of his Heavenly Father. We read concerning him, “When he was reviled, [he] reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” (I Pet. 2:23) Jesus admonished us, in connection with his humility, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”—Matt. 11:29

Jesus was loyal to his Father and to his Father’s Word under the severest temptations. We read that he was tempted in all points like as we are, yet was without sin. (Heb. 4:15) One of the severest of Jesus’ temptations came to him near the beginning of his ministry when he was tempted of the Devil. He had fasted for forty days, and the suggestion by Satan that he turn stones into bread could not be turned down lightly; but he replied to this temptation, saying, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”—Matt. 4:4

Then, in spirit, Jesus was taken to a pinnacle of the temple and asked to jump from this high altitude, with the subtle assurance that his Heavenly Father would take care of him. But again he followed the Word of his Heavenly Father, saying, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”—Matt. 4:7

Then, again in spirit Jesus was shown all the kingdoms of this world, with the suggestion made that if he would fall down and worship Satan, these would all be his. His quick reply was, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matt. 4:10) Jesus knew that according to the divine plan he would one day inherit the rulership of the world, but he did not propose to run ahead of his Heavenly Father and attempt to take over this rulership at the behest of Satan, his Adversary.


Jesus was compassionate in his attitude toward those to whom he ministered. Referring to the great crowd who followed him to the lakeside, it is said of Jesus that “he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36) Jesus ministered to them the Word of God all that day and then served them with temporal food besides, because he was compassionate.

In the shortest verse in the Bible, we read that “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Yes, he was “a man of sorrows” because he felt the sorrows of others. This spirit of compassion was manifested in all his miracles of healing and his raising of the dead.


In a prophecy of Jesus, calling our attention to his complete dedication, we read that he was consumed by the zeal of his Father’s house. (Ps. 69:9) In John 9:4 Jesus is quoted as saying, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” In John 4:34 Jesus is quoted as saying, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.”

Part of Jesus’ work in the service of his Heavenly Father was his ministry to his own disciples and the display of love which we find in that ministry. In John 13:1 we read, “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.”

So in all these facets of the Master’s perfect character we are to endeavor to be like him. We are to grow up into him in all things

giving our all, all the time, until the Father says, “It is enough, I can now give you to be a channel of blessing to the world.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |