While interviewing a young African-American soldier on the
eve of Desert Storm, an ABC correspondent asked, “How do you
think the battle will go? Are you afraid?”
“We’ll do OK.
We’re well trained,” the soldier said, gesturing toward his
fellow GIs. “And I’m not afraid, because I’m with my
other soldiers shouted, “Tell him again. He didn’t
The soldier repeated, “This is my family; we’ll take
care of each other.”
A general to these soldiers added this advice: "We
have to start thinking of America as a family.
We have to stop screeching at each other, stop
hurting each other, and instead start caring for,
sacrificing for, and sharing with each other.
We have to stop constantly criticizing, which is the
way of the malcontent, and get back to the can-do attitude
that made America.
We have to keep trying and risk failing to solve this
We cannot move forward if cynics and critics swoop
down and pick apart anything that goes wrong to a point
where we lose sight of what is right, decent, and uniquely
good about America" (Powell).
The general's advice also applies to the body of
Christ. We would do well to stop finding fault with each
other and strive for unity, maturity, and stability (Powell
quoted in Larson/Elshof).
Our lesson this morning comes from Ephesians, 4:7-16.
It's a section of the book which is very interesting
and has prompted much discussion.
There is no consensus among commentators (even among
our own brethren) as to what exactly is happeing here.
So my interpretation probably has its flaws.
You are most welcome to take issue and share your
thoughts on this difficult passage.
We will focus on what might be called interesting
descriptions for church members that arise from this
Let's begin with verse 7: "But to each of us grace was
given according to the measure of Christ's gift."
Grace was given to each of us, but what kind of grace
is being discussed here.
You see, in Eph. 2:8, Paul talks about a saving
grace, but in Eph. 3:7, Paul talks about a serving grace.
Paul said that he became a minister or literally "a
servant" according to the gift of the grace of God given to
him. So, this
sounds like God's serving grace is what gave Paul the role
of a minister.
This role that Paul was given is a called a gift.
Verse 7 would then be affirming that every Chirsitan
is given some serving grace or role to fulfill in the body
of Christ. So the
first interesting description is that every member is
grace-gifted for a particular and specfic role in the body.
Do we know any more about what roles Christ gives?
Look now at verse 11: "And He Himself [i.e. Christ] gave
some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some
pastors and teachers."
Most of the time we think about gifts in the New
Testament, we think of miraculous manifestations, such as
speaking in tongues, or healings, or prophesying some new
revelation from God.
But , we see in this passage that gifts can involved
roles as well.
Now apostles and prophets we've seen before in Ephesians
because 2:20 calls them the foundation upon which the temple
of God or church has been built.
Look at Romans 12:6-8: "Having then gifts
differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us
[Then Paul mentions two gifts already mentioned in
Ephesians, prophesy and serving, but now note what eles he
adds in verses 7-8 (and these don't seem to be miraculous).]
"he who teaches, in teaching, he who exhorts, in
exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads [or
another version has supervises] with diligence; he who shows
mercy, with cheerfulness."
So putting Ephesians and Romans together, we find
these roles given as gifts which could be applicable for
today: servant, evangelist, elder, teacher, exhorter, giver,
supervisor, and sympathizer.
So Christ gives each of a us a role to fulfill
through His serving grace.
Brother Lynn Vanderveer serves in several roles here
in our congregation: he's our exhorter in worship, he's our
youth supervisor, and he's an adult Bible class teacher.
Now, Lynn and others here fulfill several roles, but
this passage shows that each of us has been given serving
grace so that each of us can fulfill at least one role.
Recently, one brother in Italy told me: "I can't
stand in the pulpit and preach, but I have donated much
money to pay for the floor on which the preacher has stood!"
Yes, that's the spirit.
You see, this grace-gifted brother saw his role as
one of giver to strentgthen the body.
If your role to this point has been only that of
simply a pew-warmer, then realize that Christ wants you to
be so much more than that!
We can all be servants, if not even more!
Jesus has given you the gift of some role to fulfill
that will bless the church here!
How can such a bold statement be made?
Well, notice what follows.
The Apostle Paul really wants to underscore what
Christ has done.
Let's read 8-10: "Therefore, He says: 'When He
ascended on high, He lead captivity captive, and gave gifts
to men.' Now
this, 'He ascended'--what does it mean but that He first
descended into the lower parts of the earth?
He who descended is also the One who ascended far
above all the heavens, that He might fill all things)."
Paul goes to the Old Testament and quotes a passage
to back up his previous affirmation about Christ giving
imagery Paul uses here is that of a victorious army which
takes its prisioners back to their home base, and then they
take the spoils from the battle and give them to the
soldiers who fought or to other citizens.
The part of the passage that is translated "descended
into the lower parts of the earth" is a little misleading.
It would be better to translate the passage: "he
descended to the
lower parts, which is, the earth.”
Christ came to this earth, and then He ascended above
all the heavens, whatever the number Paul may have had in
mind (this means that Jesus is at the highest place, and He
fills every realm where any demon or any pagan god could
claim to rule).
Paul wants to show that Christ is the supreme Conqueror Who
has given the spoils of His warfare to members in order for
them to build up other members! You get to enjoy the role
that the serving grace of Christ has provided you from His
powerful victory—servant or whatever more it may be!
You are grace-gifted, so rejoice in that truth!
Now let's read verses 11-12: “And He Himself gave some to
be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some
pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for
the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of
“The exalted Christ has given His gifts to the church so
that by building His body, immaturity and instability will
increasingly be left behind. ... 'The ministry was given not
only to enable the church to grow but also so that it would
be able to resist any forces that might corrupt or destroy
“It is the men themselves, not their special abilities, that
Paul envisions as Jesus' gifts to the body.
There are four roles mentioned here. ... The work of
the apostles and prophets was absolutely essential in the
maturing of the body of Christ [since they taught and
directed the church].
While there are no more apostles and prophets in the
biblical sense [today], these members continued their
ministry through their written records.
[Everything needed for our spiritual growth] is
recorded for us in the pages of the [New Testament].
The function of these members who were Christ's gifts
to the church still continues as we listen to them from the
Jesus' third gift to His church was the
'bearers of good news,' these men traveled from community to
community, telling the lost about what their God had
accomplished for them [and all people] at Calvary.
... The apostles and prophets laid the foundation by
revealing God's truth; the evangelists through the ages
built on the foundation by winning people to Jesus by using
that truth. The
final gift Jesus gives to the body are the
The word “pastor” here does not refer to a preacher
that runs the church, but it refers a role in the New
Testament also called elder, bishop, or overseerer.
“Whereas the evangelists goes from place to place
converting folks to Jesus, the function of the shepherding
elder-teacher was to remain in one place and nurture those
converts in their new faith. ... What general would call all
of this soldiers together, instruct them in the principles
of war, and then send them back home to eat chicken dinner
while he picks up a rifle and goes off to fight?
That is not the general's job!
His task is to instruct, to train, and to provide
leadership so that the soldiers can be properly equipped to
do their job on the battlefield.
Likewise, these gifted men Jesus gives to His church
teach the saints the will of God [and the skills necessary]
so that the saints can do the work of ministry” (Bullard)!
“... for the equipping of the saints for the work
of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
So a second description of members is that
they are body-trained.
This approach of elders and preachers training
members has some far-reaching implications doesn't it?
First of all, it means elders and preachers should be
at the forefront of all teaching and training within the
church. As a
brotherhood, we are failing miserably in this area because
too often we think we can hire a preacher to do all the work
involved in the ministry of the church!
We are letting the general do all the fighting!
According to this passage, this is NOT the way it is
supposed to work.
If more elders throughout our churches were doing
more teaching and training, just think how much more could
Secondly, if our leadership here is failing in our
teaching and training, then we need your feedback!
We have a suggestion box in the foyer.
Why don't we start using it?
You might write a note like: “When are we going to
have some training on how to do personal work?”
Or “Could we have a quarterly study dedicated to our
understanding the errors of other religious groups?”
Or “Is there anyone who can train us as to how to
answer questions that we get on the job?”
If leaders are to equip, then help us to understand
what we need to be doing to better equip you!
Yes, you should be body-equipped.
Now note why you are to be equipped. “ ... for the
equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the
edifying of the body of Christ.”
We are equipped for the work of ministry and for
the edifying the body.
You are body-equipped to become servants of all and
helpers of other members.
Here we see that we are being described as
Being servants and helpers is the the responsibility
of ALL the saints, and all the saints are all the members!
How do we honor Christ?
We do it by being others-oriented!
We have been equipped not to focus on ourselves, but
“After an accident in which she lost her arm, Jamie refused
to go to school or church.
Finally, the young teen thought she could face her
preparation, her mother called her Sunday school teacher and
asked that he not call attention to Jamie.
The teacher promised, but then he got sick on Sunday,
he had to call a substitute.
At the conclusion of the lesson that day, which was about
inviting friends to church, the substitute teacher led the
class in doing the hand motions to the familiar children’s
poem: Here is the
church, Here is the steeple, Open the door, And see all the
Jamie’s eyes filled with tears.
A thirteen-year-old boy sensed Jamie’s pain and knelt
beside her. With one hand apiece, they supported each other,
making the church, steeple, and people.
Together they illustrated what real church is” (Waters in
Isn't it grand to be a member of Christ's church where we
are: grace-gifted, body-equipped, and others-oriented!
Now notice why we must all work together in verses 13-14:
“till we all come to
the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of
God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the
fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children,
tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of
doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness
of deceitful plotting.”
“God has a purpose [for the members of the body].
He wants them functioning for a reason.
When God's people are properly trained, then their
unity of faith and their knowledge of Jesus will be such so
that all of them become mature or perfected.
We are no longer infants but all-perfected.
“God is not looking for professional religionist
[Jesus saw too many of them in His day called the
is He interested in developing just a group of church-goers.
Rather, what He wants is a whole family of children
just like Jesus, who live in conformity to the image of His
Son (Rom. 8:29).
The more we become all-perfected, more like Jesus in
our lifestyle, the more mature we are as a body of
Immature people look out only for themselves.
They seek their own needs.
But believers who have been equipped are becoming
more and more like God's Son.
They love, they give, they sacrifice, and they hurt
with others as Jesus did.
As each member discovers his or her Christ given role
in the body and begins to fulfill that function, serving
others as they have been equipped, that member is helping
the body to mature.
All are becoming all-perfected.
Everyone begins to manifest greater discernment and
Immature churches, like immature children, are so gullible
and terribly undiscerning.
They do not know how to distinguish what is good from
what is bad.
The mature church, on the other hand, will not be caught up
in every new religious fad that comes along.
Instead, there will be a steadfastness about them
that gives them the conviction to stand on what they
When members are all-perfected, they are grounded in
their convictions, and it is hard for others to shake their
another description is all-perfected.
ell, how does this continual maturity take place?
Look at the next
verse: “But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in
all things into Him” In
contrast to the false teachers who use cunning craftiness
and deceitful plotting, Christians are to act just the
false teachers “deceive others to make their own gain, [but]
Christians are to hold forth the truth in order to bring
spiritual benefit to others ...” (Foulkes).
And here's another interesting description: we are
people who want our lives to be truth-personified.
The more we stress, and defend, and uphold the truth
with a benevolent, kind, and humble spirit, the more we will
continue to grow and to mature and to become like Christ,
who always had the perfect response of truth in love on
every occasion that He confronted.
“There was once a Scottish evangelist who had lived a
life that was anything but Christian.
Once, just before he was about to enter the pulpit in
a church in Aberdeen, he received a letter that recalled a
shameful series of events that he had been engaged in.
The evangelist's stomach turned.
It concluded by saying, 'If you have the gall to
preach tonight, I'll stand and expose you.'
The evangelist dropped to his knees, and then a few
minutes later was behind the pulpit.
He began his sermon by reading the letter from start
to finish. And
then he said, 'I want to make it clear that his letter is
I am ashamed of what I have read and what I have done.
And I come tonight, not as one who is perfect, but as
one who is forgiven.'
Then he continued to preach and drew others to Christ
as a magnet draws iron to it” (Barclay in Swindoll).
Jesus told Pilate in John 18:37: “... for this
cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness
to the truth.” When
we have the courage to uphold the truth in love, we are
acting very much like Christ!
Let's be truth-personified in all our relationships
with each other!
Now look at what comes next: “... may grow up in all
things into Him who is the head—Christ”.
We are going to
That's what Paul is saying when He speaks of Christ
as being the head of the body.
Paul is not providing an anatomy lesson, but He's
saying that just as the head controls the actions of our
physical bodies, so Christ is the center of command for the
church, which is His body.
The head gives the command to the body; Jesus calls
all the shots concerning our behavior.
Jesus' teachings set our standards above those of our
culture. We are
He is the source of our spiritual growth.
Our power is not in our programs, not in our
organization, not in our promotional campaigns.
These can be helpful at times, but the real source
behind the body's growth and development is our Lord Jesus
Christ! We must
be applying His teachings, listening to His voice, following
His example, living out His directives.
In the church, we are all-perfected,
truth-personified, and Christ-controlled!
Now notice the concluding verse in this section: “from
whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every
joint supplies, according to the effective working by which
every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the
edifying of itself in love.”
This passage seems to sum up all that has gone
whole body is joined and knit together in Christ.
“Every joint supplies” sounds like those church
leaders who are equipping the body, and then all the
members, every part doing its share, contributes to the
growth and the strengthening of the entire congregation
One commentator notes: “The focus here is on the body as a
whole growing up and maturing, continuing in a positive
direction they have already started in.
One of the keys to the process is, of course, love.
The phrase 'in love' is placed last in this long
sentence and is thereby emphasized” (Witherington).
Everyone in the body is love-focused because
Christ's love constrains each member to act in love!
Someone once asked Vince Lombardi what it took to
have a winning team, and he replied that it went beyond the
fundamentals and plenty of discipline.
It required the third ingredient: each team member
caring for one another.
You've got to love each other.
Each player has to be thinking about the next guy and
saying to himself: 'If I don't block that man, Tom is going
to get his legs broken.
I have to do my job well in order that he can do his.
... The difference between mediocrity and greatness is the
feeling these guys have for each other.'
In a healthy and maturing congregation, each
Christian learns to care for the other members.
As we take seriously Jesus' command to love one
another, we contribute to [an effective congregation]”
(Stinnett in Rowell).
Being love-focused also means going out of our way to
welcome our visitors.
In all things, we are to be love-focused.
We would do well to stop finding fault with each
other and strive for unity, maturity, and stability in the
describes members of the church as: grace-gifted,
body-equipped, others-oriented, all-perfected,
truth-personified, Christ-controlled, and love-focused.
Let's take a lesson from the geese.
“By flying as they do, the members in a flock of
geese create an upward air current for one another. Each
flap of the wings literally creates an uplift for the bird
One author states that by flying in a V-formation,
the whole flock gets 71% greater flying range than if each
goose flew on its own” (Harmon).
When are we going to realize that we as individuals
will get more living range when we serve together in
Christ's body, which will create an uplift for one another
and cause us to do more than we ever could alone?
What a great advantage Christ offers to all peoples
through His church!
Knowing this advantage begins by being
Have you become His follower?
Have you been immersed into the name of the Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit, as Jesus commanded disciples should
be? Will you
allow Him to add you to His church, His body?
Remember, we are not asking you to become a
professional religionist or just a church-goer, but to
become a part of whole family of children striving together
to be just like Jesus!
“This is my family.
We'll take care of each other.”
Won't you join our family right now?