- Gifts To Build The Body (verse 11)
- a. Apostles
- b. Prophets
- c. Evangelists
- d. Pastors and Teachers
- Signs Of The Body Being Built (verses 12-16)
- a. Christlikeness (verses 12-13)
- b. Maturity (verse 14)
- c. Truth With Love (verse 15)
- d. Cooperation (verse 16)
Ephesians chapter 4 again, Ephesians chapter 4, and we'll begin reading from verse 1 to get the context of the passage again. It's so important that we don't misinterpret any verses of the word of God, and as we go from week to week it's very easy to do that as you maybe forget a little bit about what you learnt the week before. It's interesting to know that, indeed, all the verses and words that we have been reading already in this portion - we've gone from verse 1 right through to verse 10 last week - all of this thus far, and all that we will read tonight through to verse 16, is one sentence, one rambling sentence in the original Greek language. So, although there's so much in it, and we break it up week by week because there are so many truths found within it, it's important to realise that this is a unit in itself, speaking of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ - and we mustn't lose that as we go from week to week.
So let's look at it, and read it as all one sentence, the punctuation that we have within the King James Version is not in the original Greek Scriptures - we learnt about that last night. These have been inserted by scholars, some of them inserted well, some of them inserted not so well. But let's think of this all running together as one Greek sentence - verse 1: "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love".
The title of our message this evening, as you can see from your study sheet, is: 'Body Building'. If you were to turn this evening to a well-known verse, 1 Timothy chapter 4 and verse 8, you would read - perhaps you've memorised it - 'Bodily exercise profits a little: but godliness is profitable for all things'. I think what that could mean is this: the physical body, to exercise it is an option; but to exercise the spiritual body, individually and corporately, is a requirement - it is necessary! We are thinking of the body of Christ, which is the church of Jesus Christ. Paul said the physical body, to exercise it is an option; but the spiritual body of Christ, to be exercised within it is a necessity.
The trouble is that we have a problem: we have a tendency within the church today to make requirements options, and to make options requirements. We turn things on their heads, the secondary issues and things that perhaps are not so important, we labour on them, we lean on them, we make them more important than they ought to be - sometimes for reasons of separation, reasons of legalism. But things that are requirements, things that are deeply important for the growth of the church of Jesus Christ, and for the growth of the spiritual believer individually, are ignored as optional.
What are the gifts that we learnt about last week? You remember we saw, two weeks ago from verses 1 to 6 if you look down at it, that the church of Jesus Christ is a unified body, an organism, created by God for good works to show forth the glory of Christ's Father and, yea, He Himself. It is a unified body, and the eye cannot say to the ear: 'I have no need of you'. We are made up of many members, but it is one body in unity - and because of that we have to guard that unity. The unity has already been created by the Lord Jesus Christ through His Spirit, we cannot create that unity, but what we ought to do is guard it day-by-day within the fellowship of this assembly and all assemblies. We are to guard that unity and make sure that we give no occasion for the devil to get a foothold in it.
Then we learnt from verse 7 to 10 that, although the church is a unity and one body, it is made up of individuals. Although there is uniformity in the body in a sense - because it is one body, it is Christ's body - there are individuals making it up. We are all different - and we learnt last week that Christ, in His grace and in His mercy, went to the cross, suffered for our sins, defeated our accuser and our adversary, was buried and our sins were buried, He rose from the dead, and then He walked among men for 40 days, and then He ascended to glory. When He sat down at the right hand of God He led captivity captive, and was able to dispense the Holy Spirit, and with the Holy Spirit He dispenses spiritual gifts. He dispenses different gifts to different believers. Although there is uniformity within the body, there is individuality with the gifts that are given.
We're looking this evening at the further parts of this passage that ask the question: what are the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives? What specifically are these gifts? When these gifts are given, and when we recognise them, how do we know if they are working well within the assembly? In other words, these gifts that are given to build the body, what are they and how do we know that they are building the body? How do we know that these gifts are being used to their full extent, and being used well? That's our two points tonight: what are, number one, the gifts to build the body? Secondly: what are the signs of the body being built?
It is the job of every preacher of the word of God to make these pages, that are 2000 or so years old, relevant to you and to me. As I've already said, as we've come to prayer this evening and asked God's help, that the Holy Spirit may apply His words to our hearts - that means that these pages have an individual application to your life and to mine. Now, we're coming to a Bible Reading tonight, and I hope that you're here that the word of God may be applied personally to your life. It's my job to make it relevant to your life, but that's all I can do. It is your job to open your heart to the Holy Spirit, to let Him show you its relevance and show you how it applies to you. Now, with that in mind, your question this evening, in the light of this portion of Scripture, is this: how can I be most effective for Christ? How can I utilise my spiritual gift to the full extent of the edifying and the building up of the church of Jesus Christ? How can I be most effective? If you aren't asking that question, what are you doing here?
Now I mean that sincerely: if you're in membership within this assembly, or any assembly, or you frequent an assembly in particular, and you come week after week and you're not asking the question: 'How can I be most effective to Christ?' - why do you come? Christ has given spiritual gifts to build the church, He has given you and I a specific - perhaps one at the very least, many at the most - gifts to build up the muscles of His eternal church. So, in the light of that, how do we build the body? We looked at how Christ in His grace gave gifts to the church - after Paul depicts how the Lord, through the valley of humiliation, through the descent of proclamation - you remember all that we went through - in the parade of jubilation, how He went in triumph over all His enemies: sin, death, hell, and the grave. How He led captivity captive: the devil, the world, and the flesh that led us captive was made a captive by Christ through the cross, the resurrection, and the ascension.
Now, what gifts - you remember the Roman general coming back from triumph, from his wars, and dispensing gifts, all the spoils of the battle, to those who followed him, those who were loyal to him. So, what are the gifts that Paul is speaking of? Verse 11: 'And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers'. There are five lists within the New Testament, listing the gifts that are given by the Holy Spirit of God. If you want to jot them down, you find it in Ephesians 4 verse 11 here, 1 Corinthians 12 verses 8 to 10, 1 Corinthians 12 verse 28 to 30, Romans 12 verses 6 to 8, and finally 1 Peter 4 and verse 11. This is a list of the gifts that the Spirit of God gives, by no means is it an exhaustive list.
I want you to see the uniqueness of verse 11 of chapter 4 of Ephesians to all these other passages, and you can look them up when you go home. This verse is not so much speaking of gifts that are given to people, but it is speaking specifically of people who are given as gifts. Do you see the difference? It doesn't describe a particular ability given by the Spirit, but it describes individual people: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The Lord Jesus Christ, as He came from the triumph, as He paraded in jubilation, as He gave the spoils to His church through the blood of His cross, through His resurrection and His ascension - not only did He gave spiritual gifts to individuals, but He gave spiritual men as spiritual gifts.
To that end, that gives us a little peek into what these spiritual gifts are that Christ gives us. If you look at your study sheet, you see that the first two are: apostles and prophets. I've called these two gifts 'foundational gifts' within the New Testament Scriptures. Now what do I mean by that? If you turn to chapter 2 of Ephesians that we've studied already, and verse 20 of chapter 2, it tells us about Christ's glorious church, that it is: 'built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone'. We saw many weeks ago that there is Christ, the chief cornerstone, and Christ is the one in all His dimensions who dictates the measurements and the shape of the rest of that building - everything is built on Him, but there is the cornerstone and on top of the cornerstone is the foundation. Now, what is the foundation? The apostles and the prophets.
Those two gifts that Paul lists in verse 11 are foundational to the church of Jesus Christ. Look at chapter 3 and verse 5 for another example. God revealing this great mystery of the church, which is never revealed - we don't find the church in the Old Testament: 'Which in other ages was not made known', verse 5, 'unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit'. This was the mystery being revealed, this was an epoch, this was a changing in the ages of all ages, where the church of Jesus Christ - God's mysterious holy secret - was being revealed to men and women. It was revealed first in the apostles and the prophets, they were foundational members of the church.
The difference between numbers one and two on your sheet: apostles and prophets; and numbers three and four: evangelists, pastors and teachers - are that evangelists, pastors and teachers are continual gifts to the church. Now, we'll tease that out a little bit later, but let's look at the apostles first of all - number one. The word 'apostle' in the Greek language simply means 'sent one with a commission', one who is sent who is anointed to be an ambassador, a representative. Often we get confused in the New Testament, young people often do it - and older people - and we talk about the 12 disciples of the Lord Jesus, which is a generality, that is not exact. Because the 12 within the Scriptures - and you can read about them in Matthew 10 verses 1 to 4, an account of them all - the 12 are the apostles. The Lord Jesus had many disciples, but He had only 12 apostles - because 'a disciple' simply means 'a follower', or, 'a learner', 'a scholar in the school of Christ'. But an 'apostle' has a bigger meaning, the Greek means 'someone who is divinely appointed and anointed to be God's representative'.
So, you can see first all how the apostles are different than disciples, how the apostles can be said to be foundational members of the church of Jesus Christ. Now, let's see something more about these apostles. Turn to Acts chapter 1 for a moment, Acts chapter 1 and verse 22, and if memory serves me correctly - when I was looking up the website that I've been telling you all about - there are some strange people, and they're not all from the Iron Hall, that visit it! They sign this guest book, and I think - if I'm right in thinking this - there was one person who called themselves 'Apostle So-and-so', and it was a woman as well into the bargain! But we'll not say anything about that - chapter 1 and verse 22. Now, this alludes to the qualification of one of Christ's apostles: 'Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection'.
Now, what is the context of that passage? Judas has died, one of the twelve, they need another apostle - and we're not going to get into the debate tonight about whether Matthias should have been made an apostle, or whether Paul was the twelfth apostle or not, that's for another night. The thing that we want to see here is that the qualification that they laid down was that: this one who would be chosen of God must be ordained as a witness with us of His resurrection. An apostle had to be a man who had witnessed, in person, the Lord Jesus Christ rising from the dead. Turn again, if you don't believe me, to 1 Corinthians chapter 9 - there should be more pages rustling than that! First Corinthians chapter 9 verse 1, and Paul defending his apostleship - for he was an apostle - said: 'Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?'. He was converted, and he was made an apostle, after Christ's death - so to see the Lord Jesus necessitates that he saw the risen Lord Jesus, and we know from Acts 9 that he did in his conversion experience.
Turn to 2 Corinthians, this time, and chapter 12 - and we see another qualification of an apostle. Second Corinthians 12 and verse 12, Paul again says - knowing, as he is an apostle: 'Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds'. So, one of the marks of the apostles is not only that they saw Christ in His resurrected state, personally, not just saw Him in some vision or in their mind, but personally witnessed the bodily resurrection of Christ - but they also were gifted with special abilities to perform miracles. That means that there are none today. You don't need to be Einstein to work that out - they laid the foundation, and don't forget that although they are dead in the body, they are not dead in the spirit! All of the apostles that you read about in Matthew 10, at this moment are in glory, and they are still part of the church of Jesus Christ. That means that they are still the foundation of the church of Jesus Christ, and if they are still the foundation why do we need to lay another one in making more apostles? We don't need to do it.
Then we speak of prophets, but before we go on to that let's just say that the definition of an apostle - you might say: 'Well, are we not sent ones?'. That is true, we are sent ones, and in a sense we have been called to the apostleship of spreading the Gospel, and being sent as ambassadors for Christ preaching the message of reconciliation. But, although we have been sent, we cannot take the official title of the office of apostle - that's important. No-one can take those titles. Let's look at the prophets. Now most people think that prophets are people who look into crystal balls and tell the future. Well, they don't look into crystal balls, but they have an ear with the Almighty. Yes, that is part of their work, they can have an ability at times to tell the future - but, primarily, that is not the meaning of what a prophet is within the word of God. Literally, in both Hebrew and Greek, the word 'prophet' means 'to speak forth', 'to foretell', 'to proclaim'.
What do they proclaim? Now, let us take a lesson from this: they proclaim nothing but the word of God. Don't minimise that. My friends, that is so important to realise: that these prophets, whether in Old Testament or New Testament, they had a direct revelation from God which we very seldom get, if ever get, in this lifetime. A direct revelation from the Almighty, the words of God - as the Scripture says - were put directly into their mouths, and they were faithful in proclaiming what God told them. We read in the word of God that these unique people, these prophets, assisted the apostles in the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ.
Now, we learnt some weeks ago that these are not Old Testament prophets that we're talking about. These are New Testament prophets - it would be a nonsense to say that before the church began, that the Old Testament prophets were the foundation of the church, when the mystery was not revealed. We've learnt that that cannot be possible, so what we're talking about here are New Testament prophets. Think of it: they did not have a New Testament, they could not go down verse by verse and expound the word of God as we have the privilege of doing this evening. Therefore, how where they guided? How did they know how to make decisions? How did they know how to worship and form an assembly? How did they know how to win the lost? Because God communicated with them directly through those who had the gift of prophecy.
A literal translation of 1 Corinthians 14 and verse 3 is this: 'This gift of prophecy was for edification, for encouragement, and for consolation'. You may have the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and I do not minimise anyone's experience of God the Holy Spirit - for I do not want to put the sovereign God into a box - but let me say this: generally God does not speak to us immediately today. God speaks to us 'mediately', through a medium. The Spirit of God who has inspired these pages for our benefit, when God wants to speak to you He will not bypass or contradict His own inspired word by His Holy Spirit. Now listen: there are no apostles today, there are no prophets today, but what we do have is the apostle's doctrine and the word of prophecy - we have the word of God.
In that light, we can proclaim it all we like - and that's what astounds me: we have a greater gift than the prophets had in their day! Yet many men want to call themselves prophets, and prophesy this, that and the other, and miss the mark many of the time - when we have the definite, absolute, authoritative word of God, and if we preach and proclaim it we'll never go wrong! That is New Testament prophecy today, for the way in which we prophesy is to take the word of God and to preach it! The old puritan got it right when he wrote the book: 'The Art Of Prophesying' - he was speaking about how to preach the word of God, how to prophesy: to proclaim the word of God abroad! We have a warning from the word of God in Revelation 22, that if we add to the prophecy of God's word, of God's prophecy, if we take away from it, we run the danger of losing our own souls!
Now, I want you to see this: these two individual gifts, these people given to the church, were unique. They were given as foundation stones at the birth of the church, but we have been given two other types of people that are to build upon their work, and to continue it in the day and age in which we live. Those are three and four: evangelists, and pastors and teachers. What is the evangelist? To put it literally, the translation literally from the Greek is 'bearers of good news', 'bearers of the evangel' - the 'evangel' is the good news, the good tidings of the Gospel. Those who bear that message are evangelists. It necessitates to be an evangelist, that you take that good message of the evangel from place to place. You don't lock it up in a church and close the door every Sunday night, that's not an evangelist. An evangelist goes out and about in the highways and the byways with the Gospel - and that, I feel, is our mistake today. We are holding it ourselves, we are not throwing it recklessly, as the seed of the sower, all over the place.
Someone has called the evangelist 'the obstetrician of the church'. He operates in new births. Sadly that name 'evangelist' has been brought shame upon it by tele-evangelists, and all sorts of strange creatures who bring shame upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must beware of losing the thought and the power of this title and this person that is an evangelist - a man who is gifted in making the Gospel of Jesus Christ simple, making it clear that men and women can understand it, making the Gospel relevant, bringing it down to parabolic language just like the Lord Jesus Himself - so that even the smallest, the youngest, simplest, immature child can understand. The evangelist is a man who can motivate fearful Christians, who can take them and show them how to share their faith, not feeling persecuted of themselves within themselves. He is one who can equip others to preach the Gospel, to spread the good news - and when he is one-to-one, in individual contact with an unconverted person, he is one who is able, gifted by God, to diagnose their spiritual state.
He is one who is able, by the Spirit of God, to probe the conscience. One who is able to encourage conversion and repentance within the heart of an unbeliever. He is one who can show them assurance of their salvation, and impart to them the fact that if they call upon the name of the Lord from the depths of their soul, God will save them. All pastors are not evangelists - they are to do the work of an evangelist, but they are not necessarily gifted evangelists. Often I hear people say - individual Christians - 'Well I'm not an evangelist, so I can't witness. I don't have the gift of sharing my faith with others'. Listen: you are to be a witness, you may not be an evangelist - not all Christians are called to be evangelists - but all Christians are called day-by-day to be a witness.
Fourthly: pastors and teachers. Some scholars looking at the Greek word believe that this is one word 'pastor-teacher'. The Greek structure seems to indicate that. Some would say that because Paul doesn't repeat the word 'some', he says: 'some, apostles; some, prophets; some, evangelists; some, pastors', and he doesn't repeat 'some teachers' - 'pastors and teachers'. But on the other hand, in the rest of Scripture, sometimes it appears that these are two separate gifts. So a person can have the gift of being a pastor, yet maybe not be particularly gifted as a teacher - or person can teach the word of God, and perhaps not have a pastor's heart. I happen to believe that the two ought to be together.
If the evangelist is the obstetrician of the church, this is the paediatrician. After the obstetrician, the evangelist, delivers the new babe in Christ; the paediatrician, the pastor-teacher, comes along and he tends and cares and nurtures that little child. He gives it a touch here, and a kind word there, and a gentle prod to encourage it to do the right things - yet when that little baby is going to fall, or when the child is affected with disease, he is a strong person that is able to hold them up, strengthen and protect them. The word 'pastor' in the Greek literally means 'shepherd' - and every pastor, and every elder, within the assembly of Jesus Christ is an under-shepherd to Him, their chief head is the Lord Jesus Christ. We could look up passages to prove that, but we don't have time this evening - but the pastor is to tend the flock, to care for the flock, to preach and teach the word of God, and to feed the flock.
Let me say this: that is the top priority of the pastor-teacher - to feed the flock! For the pastor is to protect, the teacher is to provide and preserve. The only way that he can do that is through the word of God, to feed by the word of God, to nourish his sheep by the word of God, to lead by the staff of the word of God, and to discipline them with the rod of the word of God. No amount of entertainment, good fellowship, or any other gimmicks, will substitute the word of God. Listen to what Christ said to Peter: 'Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my lambs' - three times! He is not a social worker, he is a preacher of the word of God. He does not need to be college trained - and I do not despise it, for I got a lot from it - but let me tell you this: that a college, or a university, or letters after your name, does not make you a pastor! Only the Holy Spirit can make one, for it is a spiritual gift!
I remember reading a book in my college days that was instrumental in God lighting a spark that should be brighter at this time, but at least He lit it way back then. It's out in the kitchen, you can buy it after the meeting tonight: 'Why Revival Tarries' by Leonard Ravenhill. As I read that book God literally broke into my heart and challenged me about what He was able to in my life, if I would only let Him. One of the quotes by Samuel Chadwick, that you find within that book, is this: 'The church that is man-managed, instead of God-governed, is doomed to failure. A ministry that is college-trained, but not Spirit-filled, works no miracles'. Perhaps in my novice-ness, I pinned it to the notice board in the college, for that's where it counts. Spirit-filled, anointed of God.
One writer had lunch one day with a College President in America. The president was mourning the fact that biblical exposition was going out the window in the pulpits of America. He said this: 'I would get on my knees and crawl across America to find someone who will teach my students to preach the text of the Bible!'. That same author goes on to say that he heard recently of a pastor who begins his preparation for Sunday morning and Sunday evening on a Saturday night in front of the television in his armchair. He goes on to describe how many pastors - and I doubt it's happening here also - have only two to three years worth of sermons, a whole barrel of messages from God - and they dip in and they recycle them, and usually they do it in succeeding churches. He goes on to say: 'Lame sermonettes produce Christianettes'.
Our duty here in the assembly is to feed you with the word of God. My friend, this is what Paul is getting at. This is how the church will grow: it will not grow through mechanisms, and systems of church growth that you will read in a book. We said it last week, that the mechanism for church growth in the New Testament is feeding people with the word of God. He emphasises that by showing: 'The men that I gave you were not strategists, they were not business minds. These men were what? Apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers, and evangelists'. The significance of what Paul is saying here is that teaching is essential to growth, leadership is essential. What you are to do as the word of God is preached in this place - what will change the Iron Hall, what will change East Belfast and the whole of Ulster, is if you receive the word of God, if you note what is being said, and if you put it into your life!
Secondly he shows us how we can see the signs of the body of Jesus Christ being built. Verse 12, look at it: 'For the perfecting of the saints' - these are given for what reason? How do we know that they are working? 'For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ'. Now, if you were to look at that verse you would nearly think that it was given for three reasons. But I want you to take out all those commas and full-stops, or whatever is there in that verse, and let it all run into one as it does in the Greek. For it's speaking of one thing: 'For the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ' - it's the one thing.
What is that one thing? Listen: when the body of Christ, with the gifts of Christ, work together with Christ, the church grows. There is a process: gifts are given, why? To equip. Then, when the saints take the gifts that Christ has equipped them with, and begin to serve with those gifts - thirdly, what will happen is that the body will be built up and growth will happen. Now, there is a myth - and I don't care what evangelical circles you go to, this myth exists, and even in the Iron Hall I'm sure it exists - and it's that the church is some kind of a pyramid structure, and at the top is the pastor or the elder, or the elders. There they are at the top, and they are the one who is to do the work of the ministry that you find in verse 12. They are the little 'popes' at the top of the scale. There is this mentality of the bus driver - maybe the pastor's driving the bus, and everybody's in the seats behind, and he's taking them wherever he wants them to go. That is false! That is not in the New Testament, that's not found in the word of God - and I believe, honestly from the depths of my heart, that this is one of the greatest hindrances to the gospel of Jesus Christ that there is at this moment in this place! The church cannot operate as a body if you're relying on one group of men.
Vance Havner said these powerful words: 'Christianity began as a company of lay-witnesses. It has become a professional pulpitism, financed by lay-spectators'. Yes, and I add this: the labourer is worthy of his hire, but he goes on to say, 'nowadays we hire a church staff to do the full-time Christian work, and we sit in the church on Sunday to watch them do it'. Every Christian is meant to be a full-time servant! There is, indeed, a special ministry for pastors, teachers, and evangelists - but for what? Verse 12: 'for the perfecting of the saints, and for your ministry'! That's what it means! Not for my ministry, not for the oversight's ministry, but for the ministry of the body of Christ working together as one. What is the bottom line? The bottom line is this: Christ has given you a gift, and Christ has given you a gift to be used within His church. There are many ministries within our land that need to be utilised that have never been tapped. There are ministries to prostitutes, there are ministries to unmarried mothers, there are ministries to poor people, disabled people - ministries that you couldn't even imagine, that we have not even thought about, that need to be thought about!
Some object and say: 'Well, there is the invisible church, and surely some other fellowship within the whole world is going to fulfil this ministry of the invisible church'. I'm reminded of a pastor who had a visitor one day, one of these freelance missionary types. He was asking for financial support, and the pastor says: 'Well, what group do you associate with?'. The man said: 'I associate with the invisible church'. The pastor says: 'Well, what church are you a member of?'. The man said: 'I'm a member of the invisible church'. The pastor began to get suspicious, and then he added: 'Well, when does the invisible church meet, and where does it meet?'. The missionary began to get a little bit annoyed, and he says: 'Well, your church isn't the one true church, I belong to the invisible church'. So the pastor said: 'Well, here's some invisible money to minister to the invisible church'. Now, you're laughing at that, but that's a lot of Christians - the way they behave. 'I belong to the invisible church, and all I see is an invisible gift'.
My friend, you have a gift, where is it? Is it being used within the church of Jesus Christ? For if it is you will find that that there - one - will be Christ-likeness. Look at verse 12 and verse 13: '...edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ'. You don't call a pastor, you don't appoint elders, so that they do the work - I am not being paid to do the work, I'm being paid to teach you and edify you, and show you how to do the work! That is one of the signs as to how we are growing.
I have an overhead up here - I want Jonathan just to switch it on - a strange diagram (probably because I drew it), but what it depicts is simply this: here you have the pastor-teacher in the centre, and by the ministry of the word of God week after week he - hopefully - is affecting a small amount of people. I don't expect to affect everybody, but those small amount of people are to go on to affect other folk, and those other folk are to go on - and you see this mechanism that God has invented, that Paul has revealed to us as a mystery, is self-propagating. It is self-producing, and as we produce the word of God up here and teach you, you're meant to go away, put it into your lives, produce it in your lives, affect other people, teach it to other people, influence other people - and before you know it the New Testament has exploded!
What is happening is the next overhead - that's what's happening, isn't it? Now, maybe that spot isn't me on my own, but maybe it is a group of people - and I think, and some folk have done it, if you list down the people that are involved within the service here in the Iron Hall, you will get all the same people doing all the jobs. Now, my friend, that is not the way the New Testament operates. That is not what we are taught, we are told this: that we're not to be sponges soaking things up, but we're to let the Lord Jesus Christ grab our full sponges and squeeze them out!
One of the signs of that happening will be maturity - verse 14: 'That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men'. We will be stable, we will be mature, we'll be steady, we'll be focused, we'll know what we want within the church of Jesus Christ. That will guard against three dangers - if we are mature in Christ we can be sure that we're not immature. Now listen: a person that is in fellowship and is not serving Christ within the assembly, is an immature Christian. They are still a babe in Christ - imagine a baby that never grew, imagine a baby that never exercised! Scientists and doctors have shown us now that if the child doesn't get exercise, the child will stay approximately the same size - it will suffer, it will be susceptible to diseases, and not only will there be the danger of immaturity, but there will be the danger of instability. You know what that is: every fad, every new thing under the sun that comes along, they believe it. Every new teacher and every new book, every new craze that comes along your path, you fall for it - you're blown to and fro like something in the wind.
It's like the wee fellow in the toy shop, isn't it? His Mummy brings him in and he sees this thing, and then all of a sudden this colour catches his eye, and this noise - he doesn't know what he wants! Eventually his Mummy says: 'Will you pick something till we get out!'. So he picks something, and as soon as she buys it he wants something else - or as soon as he sees another child with another toy that's what he wants! John MacArthur calls many Christians today 'Baby Christians' - you know why, I've said this before, because they crawl along the ground and the first thing they find, they put it in their mouth. Isn't that right? My friend, if you're matured, if you're using your gift, you will be built up in Christ and you will not be immature, you will not be unstable, and you will not be deceived by the quacks and the cults that are about to deceive. Listen: the cults and the false churches are filled with ex-evangelical Christians! If they were fed on the word of God, and living the word of God, they wouldn't have been deceived.
Thirdly: there will be an evidence of truth with love. This is a participle, and it literally reads like this: 'truthing-love' - truthing-love! That's right! To truthing-love! It's joined together, it's not speaking of truth on its own, it's talking about doing truth - and if you want to maximise growth in the local church it will be practising and living out truth, where the Spirit of God is free to work in us, that our lives are transparent, they are honest, and everything we do and say lives up to it. A preacher was once asked: 'What do you think is the best translation of the New Testament?' - and like that, he replied: 'My mother, for she lives it out'. Are you living it out?
Finally: co-operation. Verse 16: 'From whom the whole body fitly joined together', you see that, 'fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth' - all of you are important! That's what I want you to see! Every single one of you has a gift! You've been ordained of it by God for a reason: that you use it within the assembly of Jesus Christ. My friend, are you using it? I want you all to make a decision tonight. I don't know what it would be like to stand before the judgement seat of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not be asked by Him: 'Did you use your gift?', but be asked: 'Do you know what your gift is?'. Imagine being given a spiritual gift, through the death and resurrection and ascension of the Lord, and not know what it is to use it for the building up of the church. Let us all say as Solomon: 'And behold, I purpose to build a house unto the name of the Lord'.
Let us bow our heads, and let's consider - each of us individually - are we utilising the gift that God has given us? He has promised that He has given us at least one. My friend, the word of God indicates that on that day when we stand at the Throne many of us, more than we could ever imagine, will suffer loss. If you're not using your gift, you can be sure that you'll lose your reward. Ask God to reveal to you how and where you can use it. May you use it from this night forth.
Our Father, we thank Thee for what it cost Christ to give us the gifts that He did. What a tragedy it would be if He paid His very life, and we didn't use the prizes that He gives us. Lord, help us and give us grace, in Jesus' name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the eighteenth tape in his Ephesians series, titled "Body Building" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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