Working Together Ephesians 4b
The Master’s Carpenters Shop
Imagine the Master Carpenter’s tools holding a conference: Brother Hammer presides, but several suggest he leave the meeting because he is too noisy. Brother Hammer replies, If I have to leave this shop, Brother Screw must go also. You have to turn him around again and again to get him to accomplish anything. Brother Screw then speaks up. If you wish, I’ll leave. But Brother Plane must leave, too. All his work is on the surface. His efforts have no depth. To this, Brother Plane responds, Brother Rule will also have to withdraw, for he is always measuring folks as though he were the only one who is right. Brother Rule then complains about Brother Sandpaper: He ought to leave, too, because he’s so rough and always rubbing people the wrong way. And so goes the discord.
In the midst of all this discussion, in walks the Carpenter of Nazareth. He has arrived to start his day’s work. Putting on his apron, he goes to the bench to make a pulpit from which to proclaim the gospel. He uses Brothers Hammer, Screw, Plane, Rule, Sandpaper, and all the other tools. After the day’s work, when the pulpit is finished, Brother Saw arises and remarks, Brethren, I observe that all of us are workers together with the Lord.
Last Sunday morning we learnt that God wants us to Walk Together. We saw 3 important grounds for Christian Unity; Holiness, Meekness and Oneness. In today’s passage Paul continues talking about unity. He discusses the Spiritual Gifts that God has given to believers so that we can Work Together in the Church. There is a great diversity of gifts and therefore many ministries in the Christian Church. Just like our body has many different organs. Yet these many gifts should work together in unity. Today we will see 2 things; Firstly, The Gifts For Unity and Secondly, The Growth From Unity.
1. The Gifts For Unity
a. Gifts For Believers
Ephesians 4:7-8: But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.
One point that we must not miss in this passage is that it is God who gives the spiritual gifts to His children. 3 times in this passage it says that God gives gifts. He chooses what gifts we will receive. God is in complete control of the gifts and their functioning. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6: There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. Paul doesn’t list all of the gifts in Ephesians chapter 4. 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 have much larger lists. Paul’s main point here is that God has given different gifts to believers to enable Christ’s body to grow into maturity. How does the believer discover and develop his gifts? By fellowshipping with other Christians in the local assembly. Spiritual Gifts are not toys to play with.
They are tools to build with. And if they are not used in love, they become weapons to fight with, which is what happened in the Corinthian church. Christians mustn’t live in isolation, for after all, we are members of the same body. To exercise a spiritual gift a believer must be in the body of Christ. My heart functions well. Yet it can do so only while it works inside my body. If my heart went and lived by itself I would die. So would my heart. I need my heart and my heart needs me.
1 Corinthians 12:14-26: For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, because I am not a hand, I am not of the body, is it therefore not of the body?
And if the ear should say, because I am not an eye, I am not of the body, is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.
And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Paul compares the possessors of spiritual gifts to members of the human body because as the members of our body are none of our doing or deserving, neither are the spiritual gifts we possess. They are God’s gifts entrusted to us for a purpose. If that purpose isn’t fulfilled, His gifts are wasted. What’s the use of having an eye or a hand that doesn’t serve the entire body? A test of the genuineness of any gift is whether it benefits the body of Christ as a whole, or only the possessor. Does it tend to unite the body or to divide it? Does it make members who are different from us feel estranged or fellow members with us of one and the same body?
b. Gifts For the Church
Ephesians 4:11-12a: And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints.
An apostle, ajpostovlo", was one sent with authority. The 12 saw the risen Lord and were appointed by Him to serve as apostles. Eph 2:19-20: says that they laid the foundation of the church. How? By planting Churches, writing the New Testament, overseeing the early Church and establishing Church government. They spoke with Christ’s authority and confirmed the Word with miraculous signs. Apostles ceased with the death of the 12. Only 1 foundation is needed.
Missionaries serve in a similar way to the Apostles, but don’t have an apostle’s authority.
Prophets, profhvta", worked alongside the apostles in laying the Church's foundation. They preached the Word by direct revelation because the New Testament didn't exist yet. Acts 13:1 lists 5 prophets, Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen and Saul. Paul told the Churches to test all prophecies to ensure they were from God. Prophecy ceased after the writing of the N. T.
Evangelists - eujaggelistav" boldly proclaim the Gospel. They preach on sin, righteousness and judgment. Unlike the other spiritual gifts evangelists exercise their gift primarily outside the Church amongst the lost. Acts 21:8 tells us that Philip was an evangelist. Those who don’t have this gift are still commanded to evangelize the lost. We are all witnesses.
Pastor, poimevna"/ Teachers, didaskavlo" - Elders, Bishops Shepherds, and Pastors all refer to the same office. Pastors have 2 responsibilities. Firstly, the word pastor means shepherd. One who watches over the sheep. Pastors lead the flock watching out for wolves. Secondly, as teachers they feed the flock by teaching God's Word. 1 Timothy 1:3 says that Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to pastor the Church there.
God has given gifted people to the Church to equip it for ministry. Evangelists, Pastors and teachers prepare God’s people for service. The word equip, καταρτισμός, means to prepare, restore, or mend something. The saints don’t call a pastor and pay him to do the work. They call him and follow his leadership as he, through the Word, equips them to do the job. The members grow by feeding on the Word and ministering to each other.
The Pastor as the Tool Man
You see them driving around most urban areas and even venturing out in small town USA. Their destinations are automotive garages and any other place of business that uses tools. Most of the vehicles are large vans or panel trucks and carry such logos as Snap-On Tools, or Matco. What if it were the job of these drivers to rush from place to place tightening, untightening and doing all the actual mechanical repairing of the vehicles? Imagine the mechanics in these shops calling on the tool man every time they needed a bolt tightened or a screw adjusted, sitting around waiting for them to arrive and do the work. It is a comical scene based on the ridiculous; hundreds of mechanics waiting for the help of few exhausted and distraught tool men.
The truth of the matter is, these tool men in their vans only provide the tools. It is the mechanics who do the work. Sometimes we in the local church can actually get caught up in a similar comedy of errors. A church can look to their pastor as the one whom they hire to do their ministry for them. A pastor can also be at fault for allowing himself to be like the misguided tool man trying to do it all himself. The truth of the matter is, in God’s economy of work in the local church it is the individual people in the congregation who are called by God to do the bulk of the ministry. The pastor’s job is to equip them for their ministry. He teaches the members how to use the tools that God has given them.
Do you know what spiritual gift you have? Are you thankful for it? Are you being equipped by regularly sitting under God’s Word? Are you fully using it for God’s glory?
2. The Growth From Unity
Ephesians 4:12: for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
The work of the ministry is Christ’s Service. Verse 12 makes it clear that the work of the ministry is done by the saints, not just pastors and teachers. People with the gift of helps are needed around the Church. Others are needed to serve and help at fellowship teas. Mercy is an important gift to help those who are grieving. All gifts are needed in the body of Christ. We need each other. We must also realize that no one has all the gifts.
At work we use all the members in our body. Our legs help us move around. Our eyes enable us to see. Our tongues help us to communicate. Our hands do various tasks while our heart and internal organs provide the food and nourishment that all of our muscles need. People with missing or stationery limbs are called handicapped. Naturally, they can’t accomplish as much as others. Our bodies must work together to serve us.
1 Peter 4:10-11a: As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Chris.
Too often, we as Christians fail to realize how influential our lives can be on the lives of other people, including other Christians. We should live our lives with a daily goal of producing faith in others. John Bunyan, the renowned author of Pilgrims Progress conveys the idea of influence quite beautifully with this quote: Christians are like a row of flowers in a garden that have each of them the dews of heaven, which, being shaken with the wind, they let fall at each other’s roots, whereby they are jointly nourished and become nourishers of each other. Christians should remember that our spiritual growth and strength not only comes from regular bible study and prayer, but also from using the talents and spiritual gifts that God gives us to encourage and equip others.
Ephesians 4:13: 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;
Christian maturity is Christ-likeness. What’s more, God wants every believer to come to maturity. The word come, καταντάω, means to arrive at a place or destination. That place is of course Christ-likeness. Romans 8:29: For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Paul shares a few trade marks of maturity in Ephesians 4:13.
The Unity of the faith. The first mark of Christian maturity amongst believers is unity in the household of faith. When we cooperate with our brethren we are making sure progress towards spiritual maturity. In verse 3 believers are told to make every endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit. Christian unity requires our faith and the Holy Spirit’s power. Unity means that we walk together in the Spirit.
The Knowledge of God’s Son. The word knowledge, ἐπίγνωσις, means a full knowledge. The kind of knowledge of a mature adult has, not a child. It means that we get to know Christ more fully and personally; not just in our head but in our heart too. Put plainly we grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ. God reveals Himself to us over the course of time. He reveals Himself through the Word and also the circumstances of life.
The Stature Of Christ’s Fullness. God’s aim for every believer is that we become conformed to the image of His Son. The name Christian means little Christ. God wants us to reflect the beauty and glory of His Son to a lost world. These 3 things equate to a perfect man. A mature Christian is the idea that Paul presents. Someone equipped to serve God.
Ephesians 4:14-16: 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, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 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.
Christian stability results from Christ-mindedness. The word children is νήπιος from which we derive the English word nappy. This word means infant or baby. Infants need a lot of care. They make a lot of noise and mess. God wants us to grow into mature adults. Hebrews 5:12-14: For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Mature believers are not gullible like children. Believers who know Christ well and know His Word well won’t be easily led astray. The word tossed, κλυδωνίζομαι means to surge or fluctuate back and forth. It describes a float being tossed about in the waves.
There are religious quacks waiting to kidnap God’s children and get them into their false cults, but the maturing believer recognizes false doctrine and stays clear of it. The cultists do not try to win lost souls to Christ. They do not establish rescue missions in the slum areas of our cities, because they have no good news for the man on skid row. Instead, these false teachers try to capture immature Christians, from local churches, particularly churches that do not feed their people the Word of God.
No Easy Way To Maturity
Have you ever seen a straight river? Canals are straight, but all rivers seem to be crooked. We call it meandering. Why are rivers crooked? Because the natural tendency of a river is to take the easiest way around any obstacle. So rivers are always crooked, and they always run downhill. Some people are like rivers. They are too lazy and immature to put forth much effort into walking with God. For them it’s easier to watch T.V. than to pray and easier to read their newspaper than their Bible. It requires dedication on for us to grow up into out Head, Jesus Christ. It takes effort on our part.
2 Peter 1:5-8: But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mature believers practice God’s Word. They grow in Christ-likeness being transformed by the Spirit of God and the Word of God. Their lives reflect the loveliness of Jesus Christ to all those around them. They speak the truth in love and therefore avoid useless arguments. They seek to build others up rather than score points in a debate. How do they live this way? By ordering their lives according to God’s Word. Mature saint’s stand up for Christ at work and in the community. They don’t mind being ridiculed. They are always ready to give an account of their hope in a gracious manner. The fruit of the Spirit is evident in their lives. They forgive the faults of others and don’t keep a record of wrongs done against them.
Mature believers think of others not themselves. Babies and young children only think of themselves. They never think of anyone else. Have you ever met a baby that said, mum I know that your tired I’m going to give you a break today? I will look after myself and let you rest. Never. Instead, they cry out to be fed or pampered. The same is true with baby Christians. They think about themselves. Yet mature believers make a difference in the body of Christ. They are always adding to the body by their Christian service and gracious manner. Barnabas was called the son of encouragement because he always helped others in their faith.
The one another commandments show us practical ways that we can minister to others in the body. These things help us to do our part in making the body grow. Every one must do their part. We can all give an encouraging word to someone, comfort the grieving, and help those struggling. (These were on the back of the bulletin on 12 December 2004)
One Another Commandments
Love one another (12 times), serve one another, greet one another, bear with one another, forgive one another, bear one another’s burdens, be kind to one another, submit to one another, teach one another, admonish one another, comfort each other, edify one another, stir one another up to love and good works, exhort one another to assemble together, confess your faults to one another, pray for one another, don’t lie to one another, have compassion for one another, be hospitable to one another, minister your gift to one another, be kindly affectionate to one another, in honor giving preference to one another, wash one another’s feet, be of the same mind to one another, have the same care for one another, do not judge one another, receive one another, admonish one another, increase and abound in love for one another, exhort one another daily, do not speak evil of one another.
What practical ministry are you doing in the body? Everyone has a gift to use, a ministry to share. Are you encouraging Church growth by doing your part? Am I doing this? Are you keeping the one another commandments? Am I seeking to build the body up by ministering to others? Are you doing this?
Ephesians 3:20-21: Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.