Edification of the Church"
1. The People God Gave to the
Church (verse 11)
2. The Purpose of the People God gave to the Church (verses 12-16)
We are in the midst of a series on the church. Our first message was on the "Glory of the Church," in which I sought to give you a sense of the preciousness of Church. Jesus Christ, Himself, loves the church and gave Himself up for the church. He has guaranteed to bless it and to build it for His own glory. My goal was to lift high the church of Christ and give us a sense of purpose in our efforts to plant Rock Valley Bible Church.
Our second message (last week) was on the "Worship of the Church." In that message, it was my goal to present before us the parameters surrounding our worship of the Lord. The Father is seeking true worshipers and our worship must be, as Jesus said in John 4, in Spirit and in Truth. May God be pleased with our worship at Rock Valley Bible Church, as we seek to worship God, as He is, a Spirit, and as we seek to worship Him in truth.
You remember that I separated the activities of the church into three different categories: Upreach, Inreach, and Outreach. Last week, we looked at our Upreach (i.e. our worship). This week, we will look at our Inreach (i.e. our walk).
There are lots of things that churches do. In our visiting of churches in recent weeks, here are a few of the Inreach activities of the churches: Bible studies, choir rehearsals, retreats, conferences, men's basketball, workshops, prayer meetings, ... The list goes on and on. These are all good activities. These are all activities that we will do. But in the midst of doing all of these things, we need to have our eyes focussed upon the purpose of it all. Without purpose, we could end up running around here like chickens with their heads cut off--lots of activity, but little purpose.
What is Rock Valley Bible Church trying to do? We are seeking to build up the body of Christ. We are seeking the edification of the church. There is no better passage in all of the Bible that gives us a better picture of this, than Ephesians chapter 4:11-16.
11 And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
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 fulness of Christ.
14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him, who is the head, [even] Christ,
16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
This passage is all about the growth of the body of Christ, the church. Notice in verse 12, that Paul speaks of "building up the body of Christ." In verse 15, he notes that "we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him, who is the head, [even] Christ." Also, in verse 16, that he writes about "the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love"
Though the metaphor used here speaks of the building the church, when applied to people, the same word is often translated, edifying the church. An edifice is a building. To edify someone is to build up another. It is from these phrases that I have entitled my sermon this evening, "The Edification of the Church"
My plan tonight is to simply step through these verses with you, while being heavy on the application of these principles. Let's look first at ...
1. The People God Gave to the Church (verse 11)
To build the church, God has given different types of people to the church. In verse 11, we have four types of people which God has given to the church.
All of these men are gifts to the church. They are gifted people to lead the church.
The Apostles and Prophets were foundational to the establishment of the church. Paul wrote earlier, "You are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone" (Eph. 2:19-20). The mystery of God was directly "revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit" (Eph. 3:5).
Not much is said in the Scripture about evangelists. This term is mentioned only three times in all of Scripture. Here in Eph. 4:11, in which the Bible says that God gave them as gifts to the church. In Acts 21:8, Philip is called an evangelist and Timothy is told to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5). Simply put, these are those who are given by God to proclaim the good news of the coming of the Messiah, in all its fulness, as Timothy and Philip did.
The last group of people that God has given to the church are pastor/teachers. These probably aren't two different groups of people, but one. Most of your translations will bear this out. You will see each group of people separated by the word, "some" (i.e. "some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers"). The pastors and teachers are probably the same people.
These pastor/teachers are responsible for teaching, guarding, guiding, shepherding, helping, and caring for the flock. They are pastors in that they are shepherds of the church of God. They are teachers in that they are responsible for instructing the church of God. Their goal is to bring about maturity in the body of Christ, which Paul stated in Colossians 1:28 very succinctly, "we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom that we may present every man complete in Christ." Paul's goal for the people of God was maturity. This was the prayer of Epaphras, "that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God" (Col. 4:12).
The best way to describe their role is that they are to "equip" the people of the church, which we will examine in our next point, ...
2. The Purpose of the People God gave to the Church (verses 12-16)
This word, translated "equip" is translated in various different ways.
KJV - for the perfecting of the saints.
NIV - to prepare God's people.
NASB, NKJV - for the equipping of the saints.
This word is katartizw (katartizo), which encompasses both the sense of fixing what has been broken or making something what it ought to be. When Jesus called the apostles, they were fixing their fishing nets (Matt. 4:21; Mark 1:19). In ancient Greek literature, it is used of fixing broken bones. This picture is applied to people as well. Paul uses this word to describe the restoration of a sinning brother (Gal. 6:1). Peter uses it to describe God's ultimate perfecting of believers, "the God of all grace, ... will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you" (1 Peter 5:10). Furthermore, the Bible also uses this word to describe the process of repairing churches, which have fallen into disunity (1 Cor. 1:10). The church is not to be like a ripped garment, with each part looking frazzled on the end, but it is to be sewed together and complete.
This is how I view myself as your pastor. It is my responsibility to fix you when you are broken and to make you what you ought to be. Whatever it takes, I see this as my role....Whenever, however, wherever. I want to be there to help. My skills and abilities are at your disposal. Whether that means helping you with computer problems. Whether that means helping you move. Whether that means a ride to the airport. Whatever else you might think up. Suppose your car strands on the interstate, use your cell phone and wake me up, I'll come and get you.
But primarily, my job is to impart to you the word of God. Those things that I might help you with are only a means to demonstrate my love and care for all of you, so that I might have credibility in the message I bring to you. I will always seek to teach you what the Bible says and press it to your conscience.
This past week, I almost finished building my office in my garage. In past weeks, I have been a carpenter, a dry-waller, and a painter. This week, I was an electrician. I was wiring up my electrical outlets. In order to do so, I carried several tools along with me: a couple of screw drivers and a pair of needle nose pliers. When it comes to role as your pastor, I view myself as man with only one tool in my carrying case. The tool is the Word of God and I need to do whatever I can do to get you to believe the words of this book. These are the very words of life. They are precious and we need to value them above silver and gold. The best thing for you do is to come to know these words very well. I want to impart them to you.
I know that I have spoken about this before, but it drives the way that I preach to you. I am ever struck with how my authority lies in the truths of the Bible. As a result I try very hard to clearly teach the text before us, so that when you go away from this place, you might look at the text and say, "That's what it means alright!" The need of the moment is to teach you how to take apart your Bibles verse by verse, phrase by phrase, word by word, and understand them! That is why I believe in expositional, verse by verse preaching.
To be honest with you, I struggled with this sermon a lot this past week. You can ask Yvonne. We had many conversations about what to address tonight, but it wasn't quite working. ... until I finally decided that Ephesians 4:11-16 was going to be the text I would preach to you this evening. I tried to find some topical things to impart to you tonight, but I simply couldn't put structure to it. But when I decided upon a text to expound and to allow my practical exhortations to come from there, my message flowed freely from there.
The best way to equip for godliness is to learn and apply the word of God to your lives. I want to equip you in every way to this task. You remember Paul's prayer? "We keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete (katartizw, katartizo) what is lacking in your faith" (1 Thess. 3:10). That is my desire. But this goes beyond just me.
The ministry of Rock Valley Bible Church must always have this emphasis at its core: equipping people for godliness. Whether it is our Sunday schools, ladies' gatherings, men's gatherings, or in our homes, our goal must be to equip the people of the church for practical Christian living.
We focus much of our attention on Men's Equippers, because it is the men who are responsible for leading their homes. Yet, in the homes, you parents need to be equipping your children. However you choose to do this. Many of you send your children to AWANA, which is great (we do to), but it is your involvement which will help your children the most. You need to demonstrate how to take the word of God and apply it in your home! You need to show your children how to do this. Family worship is a great opportunity for this as well.
How is equipping to take place? Look more closely at verse 12. The leaders are given to the church, "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ." I like to call this, "the great pipeline of the church." One action leads to another action, which leads to another action. The leaders are to equip the saints for the work of service. As people are equipped in this role, they will serve others in the church. When others are served in the church, the body of Christ will be built up.
Notice a few observations....
1. The primary focus of our equipping is service.
Verse 12 reads, "... for the equipping of the saints for the work of service." We are being trained to serve. There is a purpose in this equipping, a goal to be reached. We aren't merely equipped to think right (as important as that is), we are called to action. We are called to service.
We aren't simply equipped so that we can spout doctrine back to somebody. We aren't simply equipped so that we know the confessions of faith. We aren't simply equipped to merely believe these truths. We are called to action. We are called to service. This is what I trust that God will do through His word. He will make us all to be servants.
Like Jesus, who didn't come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Like Jesus, who took the apron of a slave and washed the disciple's feet (in John 13). Like Paul, who served the Thessalonians by working night and day so as not to be a burden to them (1 Thess. 2:8).
The leaders of the church are to equip the saints for the service in the church. Too often, pastors are expected to perform their duty by serving the church all by themselves. I knew a man, who was on the pastoral search committee of a certain church. The church had just released their current pastor and was looking for another one to take his place. With regard to the previous pastor, this man confessed to me that they called him to be their "big gun" at church (i.e. to do it all). He recognized the error of their way. It isn't the pastor in the church who does all of the work.
We see an illustration of this in the early church. In Jerusalem there was a problem with the overload of the apostles. They were seeking to equip for ministry and do the ministry also. But there came a point, when they weren't able to serve tables for the widows in Jerusalem. In Acts 6, the apostles said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. ... we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (verses 2 and 4). It wasn't that the apostles were lazy (in fact they were unable to perform all of the work ahead of them). It wasn't that the serving of tables was too low a job for them, as though they thought themselves to be the elite apostles. It was simply an issue of priority. It was an issue of understanding their roles. Their priority was prayer and the ministry of the word. Other things were getting in the way.
Again, we see this in a practical level in Exodus 18. Jethro gave advice to Moses to appoint judges to ease Moses' burden of leading the nation. Again, Moses could have done the work, but it was an issue of priority. His priority was in leading the nation, not in deciding judicial disputes.
Notice that on the one hand, this eliminates the distinction between the clergy and laity, because the laity are to perform works of service. Yet on the one hand, the distinction between leaders and congregation exists in that there are differing roles for each person. (You do know that the difference is between the clergy and laity, don't you? The clergy are paid to be good, but the laity is good for nothing!)
But you know how this works don't you? It isn't like I have to take this club called the word of God and beat you over the head until you serve within the church. The Bible says, "you need to serve, so serve." The Bible says, "you need to love others, so love others." No, it isn't like that at all.
I do what Paul did in Ephesians. I take the word of God and explain to you of the marvelous riches of kindness that we have in Christ Jesus,
... who chose us before the
foundation of the world (1:4),
... in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (1:7),
... who made us alive together with Christ (2:4),
... who, in the ages to come, will show us the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us (2:7),
... who gave us our faith, that we might boast in God (2:8,9),
... who brought us near by the blood of Christ (2:13),
... through whom we have our access in one Spirit to the father (2:18),
I press that upon you and ask, "how else can you respond?" Those who have been shown great mercy are to show great mercy to others. This manifests itself in service to others. C. H. Spurgeon said, "The heir of heaven serves his Lord simply out of gratitude; he has no salvation to gain, no heaven to lose; ... the child of God works not FOR life, but FROM life; he does not work TO BE saved, he works BECAUSE he is saved" (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 13, pages 495-496).
Yet, since we are sinful people, we won't always want to correctly apply the wonderful truths of the gospel to our lives. We need to be reminded and instructed in the way we should go. Paul reminded them of these things in his epistle. "I entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called" (Eph. 4:1). For the last half of the book, Paul explains to them how a worthy walk looks. As Paul pressed the people to serve the church, so I press you to service for the church. Yet, remember, that our service is a response to our salvation, not a work to get it.
My second observation ...
2. The goal of your service is to build up the body of Christ.
Again, verse 12 reads, "... for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ" (4:12). The church is built in our service to one another. You serve within the church and the church is built by Jesus Christ.
To give you illustration of this, you might think of all of us as bricklayers. As you serve each other, you are laying bricks in building the church. Paul considered Himself as "wise master builder" who laid the foundation of the church in Corinth, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:10-11).
The Gardens and Iversens recently moved. Those of you who helped move them in laid a few bricks for Rock Valley Bible Church. This is what all of our service does. whether serving in the nursery, giving a meal to others, washing nursery toys, making a phone call, encouraging your children play together, praying for others, sharing a meal together, writing notes of encouragement to each other, going out together, spending time with one another, or helping one another in any way, it all is used by Christ to build His church.
Jesus uses even a simple word of encouragement to each other. "Encourage one another, and built up one another, just as you also are doing" (1 Thess. 5:11). Even if your service doesn't catch the eye of others, Christ will use it to build His church. Your service to one another (i.e. "Inreach") actually is the means which God uses to build His church.
I want you to catch this. When you look at your involvement at Rock Valley Bible Church, you can look at it from different perspectives. You can come and say, "Hey, what's in it for me?" "What am I going to get from it?" Or, your can come and say, "Hey, who can I serve today?" "How can I build up Rock Valley Bible Church today?" As I mentioned last week, we live in an entertainment society, where we often ask the question, "so, what's in it for me?" But, with involvement in the church, the answer is different. You need to ask, "so, what can I give today."
The church isn't merely a social institution. You can get that in many different ways (hobbies, clubs, sports, ...). Many of you are involved in social institutions, for which I would commend you to continue as a means to enjoy yourself and to have opportunities to spend good time with the unsaved, so that you might preach the gospel to them. The church isn't a social institution, it is a serving institution!
There are great needs in the establishment of a church. I read the following this week and thought that I would share it with you to demonstrate the great needs that we have as a church. It is entitled, "You know you're in church planting when ..."
1. The phone number of the church and parsonage are the same.
2. Every piece of furniture has to be put away after the service.
3. Your spouse is ill--and attendance dips 20 percent.
4. Your attendance matches the temperature - in January.
5. Your first visitor in two months comes on the Sunday three families are gone-
-and you're preaching on tithing.
6. Anything that breathes is counted in Sunday attendance.
7. Your favorite Bible verse is "Where two or three are gathered together ..."
8. You say, "Will the usher please come forward."
9. You awake from a dream in which everyone who has ever visited your church comes back.
10. Even buckets of air freshener on Sundays cannot remove the smell of smoke and seat remaining in the rented sanctuary from the other six days.
11. You need to speak to the church chairman, Sunday school superintendent, and treasurer--but he's gone this week.
12. Infants can crawl from the nursery to the pulpit in 19.3 seconds.
(Rich Geigert, as quoted in Humor for Preaching & Teaching from Leadership Journal and Christian Reader, pp. 198-9).
You want to help build the body of
Christ? Serve others in the church.
3. The building is ready for inspection when we reach maturity.
We are to continue in our service ... "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 fulness of Christ" (verse 13). The Greek word here describing our attaining something is used often in Acts to describes arriving at one place from another (Acts 16:1; 18:19, 24; 21:7; 25:13; 27:12; 28:13). The church is on a journey. It is on a journey to maturity. When it gets there, it will be ...
(2) A Mature man
(3) The measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
This is quite a calling.
Though we won't get there until Jesus comes, but we must march
on. We must march on to arrive at ...
The unity of the church has been one of the predominant themes in Ephesians. Simply look at chapter 2 to see this.
Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," [which is] performed in the flesh by human hands-- [remember] that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both [groups into] one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, [which is] the Law of commandments [contained] in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, [thus] establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner [stone], in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit."
The mystery is that Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [There is] one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
Time and time again, Paul is merely emphasizing that the body of Christ is one body. In the text above, I have sought to emphasize this by bolding those words which hint at the unity of the body of Christ. It is both Jew and Gentile. We need to seek to attain to this unity of our calling.
This would have been immensely difficult for them with the coming together of two cultures, both Jews and Gentiles. In our congregation, each of us have a lot more in common than the Jews in Ephesus had with the Gentiles. We all come from generally the same culture. Even if we had other ethnic groups come and join our church (which would be a wonderful thing), our diversity doesn't come close to approaching the diversity that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles in the early church.
Paul's vision here is for service and harmony in the church.
(2) A Mature man
Paul is describing a mature, fully grown, healthy man. Notice that Paul views the church as a singular entity. In some sense, individualism in the church is a mark of immaturity.
(3) The measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ
What does this mean, "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ"? In the most simple sense, it means full Christ-likeness.
In some sense, we, as a church have already arrived at the fulness of Christ, as we are in His body, "the fulness of Him who fills all in all" (Eph. 1:23). We have arrived in our position in Christ, but we also need to seek to arrive at the fulness of Christ in our practice as a church.
Notice that the burden of Paul's message here is that we haven't arrived.
In verse 14, Paul gives some characteristics of what we will look like when we arrive.
(1) We won't be children. We will be mature, like a mature man, rather than an infant.
(2) We won't be "tossed here and there by waves" (which is one word in the Greek). The picture here is of an object floating on the top of ocean waves, driven by the water, whichever way it is pushed, flitty-floaty. James 1:6 speaks of the doubting man as the one who doubt's are like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. The child is vulnerable to the persuasions of others.
(3) We won't be "carried about." The picture here is of a child being born along in her mother's arms. Wherever mom takes her, that's where she goes. When we arrive, we will find complete stability, which isn't subject to the trickery of others.
But notice that our protection from these things come from the pipeline! Leaders equipping saints, who serve! It is the practical functioning of the church which protects. It appears that Ephesus eventually encountered troubles because they sought mere doctrinal truth, apart from the practical application of it (Rev. 2:4). Both are needed to protect us from the dangers that come upon the church. The truth is believed and practiced.
Notice also that when we are rightly applying the word of God, ...
(1) We will discern "every wind of doctrine." The same wind that stirs the ocean water along doesn't phase the posts on the pier, which are planted deep into the ground. The church that is grounded in the truth and practice will stand firm.
(2) We will discern the trickery of men. This describes those who are given to playing games of chance (i.e. dice playing and gambling). In the church, there is no need to guess and gamble. We have the truth of the gospel as it is revealed in Jesus Christ. Jesus will transform those He saves to serve His church to its building.
(3) We will discern the craftiness in deceitful scheming. There are many that come into churches seeking to deceitfully scheme to obtain their own desires. But when those in the church are simply serving one another, the self-serving one will become readily apparent.
(4) We will be truthful. This is the characteristic of the believer in Jesus Christ. His behavior is altogether truthful. He speaks the truth, believes the truth, and lives the truth.
Proper teaching and proper response will manifest itself in service to others in the church. When there are those in the church who receive teaching and are void of service, it will become readily apparent.
Finally, let me simply ask, "Who builds the church?" Will our service (in an of itself) build the church? No. Jesus Christ is the builder of the church. "We are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:15,16). As we labor to serve and help one another in our efforts to edify the church, we must realize that it is Jesus who strengthens us for the task as well as actually building the church as well.
This sermon was
delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on October 14, 2001 by
For more information see www.rockvalleybiblechurch.org.