Dr. Steven Lawson has said, “We live in a day, in which there are many spiritual light weights, who have light, fluffy, superficial thoughts about God, that just blow like a tumbleweed across the horizon of the church. We want to come back to deep thoughts about God, great and grand thoughts about who God is, as He is presented in His Word.”
With this in mind, consider these words from our text today, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ...” (11-13)
In Ephesians 4:11-16 we find that…
The church is to be growing.
We are to have our minds fixed upon Christ.
We are to attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.
We are to mature into manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
This is accomplished through the gifts of grace that Christ has given to the church. The gifts that Paul speaks of in our text this morning are:
the foundational teachings of the apostles and the prophets (Ephesians 2:20; 3:6)
the evangelist who proclaims Christ’s message to those who need to hear and respond to the good news of the gospel,
and through the shepherds and teachers who labor in the church for the building up of the body of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-16 states,
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Last year, John MacArthur gave a series of sermons in which he reflected back upon the last fifty years of his ministry at Grace Community Church. In those sermons Dr. MacArthur preached from a small number of biblical texts that have been the most important passages for him as a pastor and for the well-being of their church. Ephesians 4:11-16 was one of the passages that he preached from.
It was upon remembering this, that I returned to this text with a greater appreciation for the impact that it should have upon me as your pastor. And it made me consider the long term impact that it should have upon the ministry of Community Church for many years to come.
What we will consider today should not be quickly forgotten. It should not be set aside and neglected. Like Dr. MacArthur and his congregation, we should pattern our lives and ministry according to it. If we leave today and do not reflect upon and apply this passage we will be like the man that James speaks of when he says, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:23-25)
When we come to the second half of Ephesians we can assume that Paul is giving us a glimpse into the life of this congregation. Paul begins to give them ways in which they are to apply the grace of God in their lives.
This grace that we have talked about in the first half of Ephesians results in a healthy, growing, stable and mature church.
This grace is to result in a church that is...
not driven by every wind of doctrine,
through human cunning,
and through deceitful schemes.
Rather, the church is to grow up in every way into Christ.
As we come to Ephesians 4:11-16, we may assume that Paul is speaking in such a way...
as to either correct their thinking
or to prevent them from drawing false conclusions concerning what they have already heard.
#1 - For example, Paul has talked about the grace that every believer has received and some might have begun to think that they do not need teachers in the body of Christ. Maybe they had concluded that if we all have the Spirit of God then we do not need teachers to train the body of Christ.
I once heard the story of Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer. Dr. Chafer served as the first president of Dallas Theological Seminary. Many have referred to him as a man whom God used as an effective evangelist and as an eminent theologian. Very few, if any, ever think of Dr. Chafer as a great worship leader.
However, when Dr. Chafer was a pastor he led the congregation in singing and also in preaching. One day a godly old lady came up to Dr. Chafer and said, ‘Pastor, you are doing way too much! You need to not do so much. You shouldn’t be leading worship and by preaching sermons. You should find someone else to preach the sermons.’
Apparently, some in his congregation did not realize that their pastor was a better teacher than he was a worship leader. Just as today today some may not appreciate the teaching gifts that have been given to the church.
#2 - Paul may be writing because there were some in the church who had begun to think too highly about certain gifts within the church and had begun to neglect the other gifts that are needed in the church. Therefore, Paul comes to them and reminds them of the grace gifts that Christ had given to the church and how these gifts benefit the church to do the work of the ministry.
It is not uncommon to talk to people when they are leaving a church and find out that the opportunities to use their gifts in a church were restricted so that they ended up feeling like they needed to leave and go somewhere where they would be able to use them.
Confusion over these sorts of things in Ephesus would have made these Christians vulnerable and would have…
caused them to not mature to complete manhood,
or to have failed to attain to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
As a result, they would be tossed too and fro by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Recently, there was a story in the news about a four year old child who was found in a boat all alone. Apparently, his mother had drowned and this child was in a boat by himself when he was found. It is a tragic story. My heart beats faster every time I consider both the loss that this child is experiencing and the great danger that he was left in through the tragedy that had happened.
A church who is not progressing toward maturity in their knowledge of Christ will be driven to and from by every wind of doctrine.
It is like being a small child, alone in a boat, being driven by strong winds while surrounded by alligators in the water. The thought is horrifying.
It is to prevent this sort of thing that causes the apostle Paul write to this church and remind them that Christ has given to His church teaching gifts so that they will be equipped, built up, and matured.
They are to “grow up in every way into Him who is the Head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body to grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)
The gifts that Christ has given to the church are the apostles, the prophets, the evangelist, and the shepherds and teachers.
Why has Christ given these teaching gifts to the church?
Ephesians 4:12 says in the New American Standard Version says, “...for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ...”
These gifts are given for the equipping of the saints to the building up of the body of Christ.
We are to be equipped to serve.
We are to be built up in Christ so that we can speak the truth in love (15).
Which results in the nourishment and growth of the body of Christ.
These teaching gifts are designed to equip the saints.
To equip means to set, to mend, to fix, and to restore the body of Christ; so that we can be healed and made healthy for God’s use. The Word of God is taught so that Christians can be mended. strengthened and matured.
When we come to Christ we have theological problems that will hinder our healthy growth. When we first come to Christ we are weak and unhealthy people. The Word of God is preached to us so that we can be repaired, restored and our broken lives re-set. (Proverbs 3:5-8; 4:20-22)
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson says, “The Word of God does its own healing, cleansing, transforming work on our sinful and broken lives. The result is that through its exposition the preached and received word strengthens the fellowship of believers and builds it up in unity, knowledge of Christ, spiritual height, and balanced growth until it comes to spiritual maturity.”
These gifts are given for the work of ministry (deacon).
2 Timothy 2:20-21 says, “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”
Imagine for a moment just how sin robs the people of God of the gifts that God would desire to see operating.
How many families cannot serve the church because their home life is a wreck?
How many ministers will have to step down from ministry because of some sin that will end their ministry?
When the Word of God is ministered and received the body is mended and prepared for ministry.
The Word of God is preached to build up the body of Christ so that the people can go and do the work of ministry. The primary responsibility of the pastor on a Sunday morning is to the congregation and not to the unbeliever. The preacher is to preach the scriptures so that the body of Christ is built up.
At one of the former churches I attended they forgot this verse. Eventually, all of the leaders in the church could be heard saying, “We are here for the unsaved and not the saved.” This simply is not the case. The church is to come together to read the Word, to sing the Word, to preach the Word and to see the Word through the sacraments. And through these things the body of Christ is built up.
How long are these teaching gifts to be used?
Till we all attain to the unity of the faith.
Dr. John Stott, “Just as unity needs to be maintained visibly, so it needs to be attained fully...The more we know and trust the Son of God the more we will grow in the kind of unity with one another that God desires.”
Till we all attain to the knowledge of the Son of God.
How many husbands can say they fully know their wife?
Can any wife say that they fully know their husband?
How much more then, do we need to know the Word so that we grow in our understanding of Christ.
Until we all attain to the measure of the fullness of Christ.
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson - “This is the biblical understanding of the preaching of the Word of God. Its goal is not merely educational but transformational; it informs the mind in order to touch the conscience, mould the will, cleanse the affections and sanctify the whole of life.”
What will these teaching gifts produce?
Stability in doctrine.
(v.14 – so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and from by every wind of doctrine) Well taught people cannot be easily fooled and mislead even by human cunning, craftiness and deceitfulness! We need to know what we believe and why we believe it; so that we will be stable. (Dr. Steven Lawson - We live in a day, in which there are many spiritual light weights, who have light, fluffy, superficial thoughts about God, that just blow like a tumbleweed across the horizon of the church. We want to come back to deep thoughts about God, great and grand thoughts about who God is, as He is presented in His Word.)
What might be leading you away from God? Legalism, some sin, what fear is paralyzing us, etc.
These gifts effect our speech to one another
Ephesians 4:15 – speak the truth in love...
To speak the truth we need to know the truth. To love, we need to display the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:25-26, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
These gifts should effect our growth in Christ
Ephesians 4:15-16 - “...we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Martin Luther King Jr. - “We have a mandate both to conquer sin and also to conquer ignorance (by the Word of God). Modern man is presently having a rendezvous with chaos, not merely because of human badness but also because of human stupidity (ignorance of the Word of God)...If modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war and eventually transforms his earthly habitat into an inferno such as even the mind of Dante could not imagine, it will have resulted from downright badness and also from downright stupidity.”
We have learned this morning that this sick and broken world needs a healthy and maturing church.
The body of Christ will never live in a world that is not filled with chaos which will attempt to toss us to and fro.
Nor will we live in a world free from human cunning, craftiness and deceitful schemes.
May this world never be without a church that in being equipped, built up, and attaining to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.
We, like Martin Luther King Jr. can lament and mourn the ignorance of the world and the destruction that this stupidity produces; but let us each take personal responsibility to insure that it can never be said that such ignorance of God’s Word is found in the church. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the Head.