A Gift From God - Part Two
Scripture: Ephesians 4:7–13
A Gift From God-Part TwoEphesians 4:7-13
Sunday, January 22, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith
When we moved into this new church about six years ago, I was happy to see that my office had a private bathroom - shower included. Well, sort of. You see, from the time I began using it, the water flowed out nicely up top, but it had a tough time working its way through the drain. I eventually stopped using the shower when the drain became so clogged that the basin would no longer drain itself empty. Anthony tried - a plumber attempted snaking out the drain, all to no avail.
Yet we have some dedicated men at this church who are always up for a good challenge. They were determined to find out why the drain became impassable. They studied the church's plumbing system. They removed one of my bookshelves. They cut through the wall and into the pipes only to find last week a full-sized showerhead lodged into one of the tubes.
And as I was thinking about that bizarre story, our passage from Ephesians 4 came to mind. A showerhead is created to serve a very specific function. However, when it refuses to serve as it is designed and finds itself in a place it doesn't belong, the entire system is thrown into disarray. The same can be said for Christians and their misplaced and lack-of involvement in the church.
Paul has finished his theological section of Ephesians in chapter 3. Over the past two weeks we began to cover the practical section of Ephesians in chapters 4-6.
First we learned about the need for all of us to be unified. That each of us has a part to play. Chapter 4, verse 3, that each of us must be "diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." And how do we do that? We each live out the Gospel traits that the Holy Spirit produces. When we are all, verse 2, humble, gentle, patient, tolerant and loving, there is absolutely no reason we should have disunity in our church or our homes. After all, this should come as no surprise to us because this is, verse 1, only "[walking] in a manner worthy of [our] calling."
In the eyes of the Lord, we are one with each other (verses 4-6).
This week I heard a story about a murder in a Chinese restaurant. And when the case came to court they began to question the eyewitnesses. One particular man of Asian descent who saw what happened was examined by the prosecutor. "Did you witness the murder?" To which the man replied, "Yes." "Is this the knife that was used in the murder?" "Yes," the man said. "Is this man right here that is being charged the one who committed the murder?" The Asian answered, "I'm not sure." "What do you mean that you are not sure, you did see happen, right?" To which he said, "I saw it happen, but all of you Englishmen look alike to me."
Why do we in the church oftentimes only see our differences? Why can't we be like this Asian man and see each other as we are, ultimately alike - redeemed by the blood, united with Christ, loved by God, adopted into the same family?
Colossians 3:14, "Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity."
Yet as we learned last week, as much as we should be one with each other, God wants our unity to be a celebration of our diversity within that oneness as well. Uniformity does not exalt Christ. Christ is exalted when we work together in harmony with the core Gospel truths we believe, while celebrating our various ethnic backgrounds, personal convictions, economic standings, gender and age difference and spiritual giftedness.
The church is compared to a human body with Jesus being the head (verses 15-16). Many, thousands of different body parts, yet all of them working in harmony under the brain's marching orders to function for one singular purpose. Each body part is to be content with its role and each body part is expected to operate in order for the body to function. When each body part works, the whole body rejoices. When one body part fails its assignment, the whole body suffers.
Last week in verses 7-10 we learned that Jesus Christ has given to each of His people in His grace from the time that they are saved a diverse blend of spiritual gifts that they are to discover and then use in a ministry to serve within His spiritual body. Let me say that again, if you are a Christian, you have been given by Christ spiritual gifts that you are expected to use.
As we learned last week, God has given each of you individual graces of spectacular origin. Do you know your part in the body? I believe the best way to determine that is to consider the many ministries of this church (bulletin insert). Consider serving in the area that you believe will bring you the greatest joy. Contact the ministry leader identified on the insert. They will be happy to hear from you! Start using your spiritual gifts. They are not meant to be used on yourself. They are to be used, 1 Corinthians 12:7, "For the common good."
Remember what I told you last week? When I was a teacher I could flunk those who refused to work. When I was a coach I could bench them. When I managed a large aquatic facility I could fire them. I can't do any of those things to you. You are all volunteers! So what motivation do I have to get you to work? Very simple, I have the words of God that I presented to you this morning - His command and the great promises of His grace (verse 7) and your reward. My friends, if you are not excited about being directly commissioned, gifted and empowered by the King of the Universe to do His will, there is not much more I can do to get you engaged.
So as I promised you last week, let's spend the remainder of our time finishing up last week's sermon. We'll be covering points 3, 4, and 5 on your sermon outline. Our goal this morning, our "big picture idea" for the children taking notes, is to understand and appreciate the spiritual gifts God has given His children and use them in our service as Christ directs us to build up His spiritual body.
3. Sampling Of The Gifts (verse 11)
If verses 7-10 covered the spiritual gifts in general, Paul will now get specific and focus on a few of the spiritual gifts and their purpose in the church. That's why in verse 11 we see the word, "some." Look at verse 11. "And He gave [not "all," but] some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers."
These gifts are specifically singled out because they are the ministries of the Word of God and thus provide the church with equipping (verse 12) and the protection from false teachers (verse 14). They are the gifts specifically that enable others to successfully use their gifts so the church (as we read this in its context) may be united, healthy and mature.
All of these gifts in verse 11 are rather well-known to all of you.
Apostles - In 2:20 they are the foundation of the church with Christ being the chief cornerstone. In 3:5 they are the ones who received direct revelation from Christ and passed it down to us. There were the 12 Apostles, Matthias who replaced Judas and the Apostle Paul (as one untimely born). To be an apostle in the formal sense, you needed to be personally chosen by Christ and a direct witness of His Resurrection. It's safe to say the office was unique, served its function and no longer exists.
Prophets - Prophets are ones that brought new revelation from God either in a divine truth or something that was about to occur or expounded upon a truth already given by God. In 2:20 and 3:5 of Ephesians, Paul combines the apostles with the prophets. Again, I believe this shows it was a New Testament foundational gift that has passed once the church was established and the Word of God was completed.
Evangelists - Just like there was in the formation of the church, evangelists are still needed today to plant churches and bring people into the church. Evangelists are those who share the Gospel to see people get saved. And while we all have that responsibility, some are uniquely qualified by God to do so. In a sense, all evangelism is simply carrying on the work of the apostles.
Pastors and Teachers - Although pastoring and teaching are two spiritual gifts, based on the Greek grammar, most scholars believe Paul here is talking about one specific office - the pastor-teacher. The pastor-teacher is what I do along with eight other very dedicated men at this church. Pastor simply means shepherd. It is our responsibility to be used by the ultimate shepherd of the church, Jesus Christ Himself and through Him care for His people. And the biggest responsibility (as alluded to in the words "pastor" and "teacher") is to be used by God to shepherd you by teaching you through personal example and verbal instruction from the Bible.
4. Purpose Of The Gifts (verse 12)
Let's move on to our fourth point. What is the purpose for those gifted in evangelism and pastor-teacher? Verse 12, they exist "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ."
"Equipping" means to make someone adequate. The word was used in its day for setting bones. "Saints" means "holy ones." That's Christians, you, declared holy through the work of Christ in removing all your sins at Calvary and giving you His perfect righteousness.
Let's stay with our metaphor. The church is like a human body. Each of us is a body part specially designed and uniquely gifted by God to serve His purposes. But unlike the human body, the church body parts needs to be trained, encouraged and directed as to how they need to function. In a sense we all assist in that process, but that is formally and ultimately the responsibility of the pastor-teacher.
It's not our job as pastors to do all the work ("That's why we pay you!"). That's why there is a diversity of gifts given. It's our work to help you do your work. We are here to help you by God's grace and for His glory to become a better servant in the church and better evangelist and better defender of the faith and better student of the Bible and better prayer warrior and better spouse and better child and better individual of wise decisions and better demonstrator of godly character. The list continues. Calling pastor-teachers is the Lord's way of serving His people and serving others through His people.
Simply put, God gives the church evangelists so that they would share their faith outside the church, but here in the church help Christians to be better evangelists themselves. And God gives the church pastor-teachers so they will help the church be the mature and equipped servants that God wants them to be.
This is how we must see God's plan for the church! As one of the pastors, I am only one part within the body seeking to use my gifts. Maybe I am more visible than others, but I am not any more necessary. All body parts need to function for the body to properly operate. My prayers are no more effective than your prayers. God's love for me is no greater than God's love for you. The church is not about venerating your pastors. It's not the body of Pastor Randy. The church is the body of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the One driving the bus, not me. Jesus Christ is the ultimate leader of the church. Jesus Christ is at the top of the pyramid, not me. Jesus Christ is the Shepherd of the church. I am only an undershepherd. My job is not to point you to myself. My job is to point you to Christ. All my decisions and counselling are to be Christ working through me. I am not the head. Jesus Christ is the head. The church is His body and it is His desire, verse 12, that His body be built up. And He only seeks to use my frail and humble service to build His body, to accomplish His eternal purposes and to show forth the excellence of His name. This is how Jesus, as He promised in Matthew 16:18, will build His church.
5. Result Of The Gifts (verse 13)
As we move to the final point, verse 13 furthers the reason why God gives His present church evangelists and pastor-teachers. Or we can say, what does "building up of the body of Christ" look like? Verse 13, "Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ."
Who is this spoken to?
Verse 13, "We all." What's the goal for "w'all" according to verse 13? Why does God give the church evangelists and pastor-teachers? Answer - to equip the church to serve, to be unified in the faith, to see Christ's teaching, to see His character developed in us and to know Christ better. It's about spiritually maturing in Christ so that we would no longer (verse 14) be a spiritual "child." It's reflecting Christ more as a person and church as we understand and show in a greater way what God has achieved for us already.
What does God want? A spiritual body composed of growing, unified, active and mature believers. And since He is the Head of the church, it's safe to say that that should be our goal as well.
Let me conclude with four very practical "take-aways." First, are you diligent to preserve the unity of the church? That means that you go out of you way to make sure both you and others and contributing to the unity of the church body. Don't tolerate the four (biblically sinful) unity killers - gossip, false teaching and chronic complaining. Second, discover and use your personal spiritual gifts. Use the sheet I provided and get involved in a ministry if you are not already doing so! Third, understand your pastors' responsibility is to equip you to be all that God wants for you. Please pray for us, support us and apply our biblical instruction. And fourth, grow spiritually toward being a mature disciple of Christ demonstrating the fullness of Christ in you (share discipleship materials).