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Ephesians 4:7-16: One Body, Many Gifts Print E-mail
Sunday, 26 November 2017

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Let me begin this morning with a statement that you may or may not agree with: ĎYou faithfully exercising your gift at TBC is just as important as me exercising my gift as the pastor.í The health of this church depends just as much on you and your service as it does mine. And that is not because I view my calling as unimportant or because I am trying to get out of work as your pastor! No, I want to work hard in using my gifts here as pastor, but I believe it is just as important for you to use yours as well. Theologians have called this idea Ďthe priesthood of the believerí and more recently some have used the language Ďevery member ministry.í The idea is that every single member of the local church is necessary for the growth and health of that church. Everyone has an important part to play in the sanctification of the body.

What has led people to such a belief? I believe it is clearly taught in passages like 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4. Paul teaches in each of these passages the importance of members faithfully investing in other members with whatever gifting they may have. Paul includes instructions for pastors and leaders, as we will see in Ephesians 4 this morning, but he also has instructions for the rest of the church as well. And if we are going to walk worthy of the great calling that we have received through faith in Christ (4:1), then we must use our gifts at the local church level. We must be invested in one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. So then, what does Paul teach us about gifts in our passage this morning? I think we can summarize it with three statements.

First, the Lord gives various gifts to the local church (v. 7-11)

Paul begins the second half of his letter with a strong call to unity. We are to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit because there is one body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, and God. Our shared faith in Jesus unites us as believers. But that does not mean that we are all identical. No, there is one body, but many parts, which is what Paul emphasizes next. Look at verse 7. Each of us were given grace for ministry. Such ministry does not look the same from person to person, but it was given to each one of us. In other words, we are different people with different ministries, but we have all been given grace so that we can carry out those ministries for the good of each other.

Paul supports this teaching by citing Psalm 68:18 and then offering some comments. Look at verses 8-10. There are several difficulties with understanding these verses. First, it seems as if Paul misquotes the Psalm. Listen to Psalm 68:18. Paul changes the second part from receiving gifts among men to gave gifts to men. So whatís he doing? I think the best explanation is that Paul has the background of Numbers 18:6 in his mind when quoting this Psalm. That verse speaks of God taking the Levites and then giving them as gifts to Israel to serve them. It seems as if Paul sees that idea in Psalm 68 and then applies it to the church in Ephesians 4. God has captured us through our faith in Christ and has now given us as gifts to each other. Second, all of this happens through Christ who descended to the lower regions of the earth. Although some have taken this to mean that Jesus went to Hades, I think the better interpretation is that it is simply a reference to Jesusí incarnation. He humbled Himself by taking on flesh and dying on a cross. And following His resurrection, He ascended far above all the heavens.

And what was He doing through His death and resurrection? He was capturing a people to be His own. He has taken leaders from these people, just as the Father took the Levites from among Israel, and has given them back to the church as a gift. Look at verse 11. It is hard to identify each of these roles/offices, but it is clear to see that they all involve leadership at the local church level. The apostles and the prophets are the foundation (see 2:20). The evangelists and shepherds and teachers are leaders as well. Christ has given us such men to lead the church. And notice that the people themselves are the gifts. We donít just value someoneís ability to lead or teach, we value the person. They are the gift. But why has God given us a gifts to one another? It is that question that Paul answers next.

Second, the purpose of these gifts is to build up the local church (v. 12-16)

Why did Christ give leaders and teachers to the local church? We see the answer in verses 12-13. Look at those with me. The goal of local church ministry is the building up of the body of Christ. It is to work and use our gifts to encourage and build up one another until we reach maturity in the faith. We have to grow in our knowledge of the Son of God. Paul uses the analogy of physical growth. We all start out as infants in the faith. We have much to learn about the Bible and about Jesus and all that He has taught us. We have to learn those truths. And we donít just learn them to get smarter. No, the goal is that we will become mature in our thinking and our acting. We will learn of the depths of Godís love for us so that we can show that love to one another. We will marvel at His service until it drives us to serve. We will be humbled by His obedience, even obedience to the point of death on a cross, until we strive for obedience in all that we do. We donít just teach disciples the commands of Jesus, we teach them to observe the commands of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20). We must grow up in the faith. Our goal at Trinity is to be faithful disciples who are making faithful disciples. We do this together as a local body.

Such maturity is important so that we can avoid what happens to the immature. Look at verse 14. If we do not grow up in the faith as a community of believers, then we will be exposed to every wind of doctrine. Without maturity, we will lack discernment. We will not know the difference between a biblical teacher and an entertaining or charismatic teacher. We will be drawn in by those who are only trying to deceive us with flattery and conceit. We will surround ourselves with ministers and ministries that make us feel good at the expense of truth. But what we need is the truth spoken to us in love. Look at verses 15-16. We need the truth. We need the Bible. We need doctrine and theology and ethics. We need these so that we can grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. We need the truth in love for growth, so that the local church builds itself up in love. The goal is growth. The purpose is maturity. The local church has been given gifts of grace for ministry so that they can labor together to build up the Body in love.  

Third, each gift must work properly to accomplish the goal (v. 12-16)

Yet, how will the local body be built up? How will we grow into maturity? Letís go back through these verses and see what Paul says. Look again at verse 12. Now pay careful attention to what Paul is saying here. The leaders have not been given to do all the ministry in the local church. No, the leaders are to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Well, who are the saints? (Not just a football team in New Orleans or a select group of Ďsuper-Christiansí throughout the ages.) The saints are the rest of the believers in the local body. If you are a member of Trinity Baptist Church, then you are a saint here. And if you are a saint here then you are called to do the work of ministry here. Our leaders are to equip us for such work, but they are not to actually do the work all by themselves. Every believer is a priest. Every member is a minister. We are all called to do the work of the ministry here.

And as we have seen, we do that work by speaking the truth in love. We donít back down from the truth. We donít compromise so that people will feel good. No, we hold fast to the truth. At the same time, we donít use truth as a hammer either. We donít get impatient with people because they arenít growing as fast as we would like for them to. We donít set up a hierarchy of people who know the truth and those who donít. No, we love each other into the truth. We struggle with each other and pray for each other and confront each other. We keep speaking the truth to each other. And we keep speaking it in love. We are committed to that ministry until we obtain maturity, which will not be complete until the Lord returns.

Of course, the key in all of this is for every part, every gift, to do what it is called and equipped to do. Look at verse 16 again. Notice that phrase: when each part is working properly. Brothers and sisters, every single one of us is included in that phrase. The question is never, ĎDo I have any ministry to do at Trinity?í No, the question is always: ĎWhat ministry am I called to be doing right now for the building up of this Body?í That ministry might change over the years, but every single one of us has a role to play. We are all called to do the work of the ministry, to work properly, for the edification of our brothers and sisters.

There is a weighty privilege and responsibility in what Paul teaches us in this passage. Here is the sobering truth: Our sanctification depends upon one another. My sanctification depends upon your sanctification and your sanctification depends upon my own. We are such an individualistic society that such statements sound odd to us. Yet, when it comes to the growth of the local church, we are all dependent upon each other. So let me ask you: how are you working to build up this Body? If you are here and are not a member, then I encourage you to join today. Covenant with us to build each other up in the faith. If you are not a Christian, then turn from your sins and trust in the One who served you by dying on a cross for your sins. Then join a church and fight for the sanctification of your brothers and sisters in Christ. If you are a member, then how can you use your gifts to build up our Church? We all have a part to play. By Godís grace and strength, may we work hard together for the building up of the Body of Christ. Amen. 


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 02 January 2018 )

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