A) God’s Work in the Church (Ephesians 4:11-13)
- The Bible Teacher's Commentary
What is discussed in these verses is the followup of what God has done on the cross through Christ. We would expect the resurrected Lord Jesus to remain on earth but He didn’t. Instead we know Christ’s Spirit came upon His people and live through them. Christ is living Himself out through our lives. And so Christ in a real way is living His life out on earth through our lives. This is the concept we see in Christ being called the head and Christians His body. We are good stewards when we understand and cooperate with Christ’s purpose.
Christ established this extension of His ministry through working in each of our lives. We will see how this takes shape here in verses 4:11-13. A major shaper that has impacted every believer is the way Christ has distributed His spiritual gifts to His people.
3. The Final Goal God has for His People
We gain a much better understanding of how the whole picture looks here in Ephesians 4:13. We find that Christ has a purpose in mind when He gives gifts to the church. The instruction that God has made to equip the church should not be replaced by skits and movies. God did not give us a group of play writers but of preachers, apostles, pastors and prophets. This is the vehicle through which growth can come for it is the God-ordained means of bringing His truth to His people.
If these instructors are not rightly living out their calling, then the church will be weak. If the pastor, for example, believes the church can grow because he is a good administrator or winsome preacher, then he will ultimately fail. It is true he might be able to make a big congregation, but he will not have Christ’s fullness. When these equippers focus on what they feel is right and on their natural talent, they can forget to do what God has appointed them to do. Instead they need to realize their gifts and positions are from God for a very specific purpose.
We must return to God’s way of doing things. God has appointed to bring grace to the church through the right functioning of the apostles, evangelists, prophets and pastor-teachers (did you ever notice how we, including me, often only say pastors but here it is in fourth place). Our goal is not to get people out to church but to teach them so that they themselves can serve. Our belief must not change in this modern age. The battle still is truth against falsehood, light against dark which includes the many false notions about the church. The church is only irrelevant when the truth is no longer entering the people of God through the means God has ordained.
All of us need to know the Word of God and how to use it to minister our own gifts. By growing the numbers of people able to serve and minister, we begin to overwhelm the forces of darkness. In this sense, the key is in numbers. Satan’s forces are limited. If each church went from 1% of its people on fire for the Lord and ministering in love to a 40% level, Satan would have a hard time holding back the work of God. Of course if it was just one church, then more forces could be sent there. But if there are many churches that are living according to this pattern here in Ephesians 4, then the forces of darkness are easily overwhelmed. Revival breaks out.
The problem is not that the society is too dark and evil but only that there is not enough light. The church can awaken overnight and be the instrument God changes the community in literal days. All that the church needs has been given. We just don’t believe it.
Many Christians have lost hope by the sad things that they have seen happen in among the people of God. They think that such a grand picture of a church is for a distant heaven. The apostle, however, does not give us this picture at all. Paul is talking about now! The time of transformation is now! We have totally missed it when we think it is for another day. In this case, our goal might be just to get by rather than as it says here in verse 13 to grow in the fullness of Christ. We might be able to criticize the church for not being this or doing that, but then we need to come back to our own lives. We can ask ourselves, “Are we truly seeking these three things for our own lives?”
• Attain to the unity of the faith
If I am seeking the unity of the faith, then I myself will live by faith. I will love others because they are God’s people even if I do not get along with them well. I will seek God to teach me all the truths that I need to know so that I can rightfully carry out my work of ministry. Faith is always unifying because it constantly calls us to go beyond our own way of treating others and to care for others as Christ would.
• Attain to the knowledge of the Son of God
If I am seeking the knowledge of the Son of God, then all other goals in life have become unattractive. What once occupied my mind and heart, is now gone for I have tasted of the love of God. Nothing compares with Christ! We want more of Christ rather than less. Away with church politics, infighting, jealousies, etc. We just want Christ!
• Attain to a mature man to the measure that belongs to the fulness of Christ.
If I am to be a mature man through which Christ fully lives, I need to focus on my growth (fosters humility) rather than past experience (fosters pride). We want Christ to be known through our lives rather than us being known. We desire God’s love to radiate to others through our lives.
Do you see what I see? Now is the time for change! God wants to reveal the glory of Christ in His body now. This means that God is looking for opportunities to reveal His glory through His people. We do not need to doubt that God is ready to bless any of His people who seriously seek the mission for which Christ died. Christ is alive and wants to live His full glorious love out through His people.
Again and again, we need to return to the process through which this unity of faith, this knowledge of the Son of God and the maturity comes about. It will come through both the right instruction of apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers but also from God’s people who have caught the vision of what they can be in Christ. Our churches and leaders always could be so much better. But they are not going to get better as long as we criticize what they are not doing. We need to set ourselves straight by the grace of God and prayerfully go ahead so that He might revive our leaders and fellow saints. Dream much of your church being like the fullness of Christ.
But why doesn't the church look like this? We shall see the answer for this in the next section on Ephesians 4:13-16. Next =>
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Biblical Foundations for Freedom
Paul J. Bucknell