Practice what you Preach: Mature in your faith

In the previous article, we looked at the importance of living out your faith and building unity and peace among your fellow believers. This lesson will be a continuation of what was begun because Paul develops this idea in the rest of chapter 4 of Ephesians.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ ; 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 fullness of Christ. 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 ; but speaking the truth in love, 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 what 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.

From this text we see that there are 3 main teachings on how to “practice what you preach” by living out your faith on a daily basis, creating unity and peace among the body of Christ. Let’s look at them one by one and while we do we will see how each aspect is possible.

I. God is the One who has made it possible for us to practice what we preach.

He has given us absolutely everything that we need in order to live out our faith daily. “How has He done it?”, you may ask. Well the answer lies in the text. He (God) has given us:

  • Apostles (one sent forth on behalf of another with specific orders and a specific message) God has given the gift of apostleship to certain members of the body of Christ so that they can deliver the message of the King, the Word of God, to the people in need. The foundation of their ministry is the Word of God. Their calling is to take the Word of God to the people and teach it to them. When the people hear the message and accept it, he then trains them, building them up in their faith, equipping them to serve others, to minister to others like they were ministered to. The apostle is known today as a missionary or church planter. Usually men and women who answer the call for foreign missions and church planting are the ones who have been equipped with the gift of apostle and trained to reach others for Christ, not just evangelizing but also raising up leaders to lead the church in the future.
  • Evangelists (a herald of good news, one who brings a message to others) God has equipped certain members of the body of Christ with the gift of evangelism. (This does not mean that they are the only ones who share the Gospel with others because all believers are called to do this). They have a special desire to be around lost people in order to share the message of salvation with them. They usually work hand in hand with the pastor-teachers of the church. They catch the “fish” and then the pastor-teachers teach them (train them) the Word of God, building them up in their faith, leading them to maturity so that they themselves will begin to serve others. The “message” of the evangelist is nothing other than the Word of God. So again, we see that God has given us the Word of God and then has placed members in the body of Christ to go out into the lost world and get us, bringing us into the body, where He has also placed members who will train us in the Word so that we can be equipped to serve others.
  • Prophets (again, we see that God sends people to speak on His behalf, prophet means one who speaks on behalf of another) God has equipped certain members of the church to deliver His message. Usually those who have a special ability to preach the Scriptures in a clear and easily understandable way have this gift. Again, the foundation of their message is the Word of God. This Word is preached and explained by the prophets so that the members can understand It, be equipped by It, and challenged to serve others.
  • Pastorteachers (a pastor is a leader, one who cares for and feeds others, in a spiritual sense) The pastor-teacher leads the people of the church. He does this by feeding them spiritual food from the Word of God. His job is to equip the believers and teach them how to serve one another and others. His manual is the Word of God and his text book for the “flock” is also the Word of God.

Let’s see how this was applied in the First Church.

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day     about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers . . . And all who     believed were together and had all things in common. . . .  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:41-47)

They accepted the message preached by an evangelist. Then they devoted themselves entirely to the Apostles’ teaching (the Word of God). As a result, they were equipped to serve others, and they did so, and that is why God was adding to their numbers on a daily basis.

As we are trained and equipped by the Word of God and begin to serve others, we see several things happening:

  • building up the body of Christ (both quantity and quality)
  • unity in faith (we are all on the same page, with the same goal and focus)
  • unity in knowledge (the Word of God gives us this knowledge)
  • we mature in our spiritual lives

II. The proof of our maturity is seen in our attitude and actions.

Verses 14 and 15 explain what maturity and immaturity look like. First we will begin with immaturity:

  • like children (children do not want to serve others, instead they want to be served by those around them)
  • tossed here and there by (no stability in life, up and down with the weather)
  • every wind of doctrine (teaching) easily deceived by false teachers and false teachings (both religious and secular) Here are a few examples:

Jesus is not God
He did not resurrect in bodily form
You can be saved and live as you please
Evolution (all higher life forms evolved from lower life forms)
Comprehensive sex education
Condoms are close to 100% effective in protecting from STD’s
Everything is relative
Capital punishment is a sin
You can be a Christian and a homosexual
You can be a Christian and live with a person of the opposite sex (as a husband and wife live together)
The list could go on and on

The mature person is not like the immature one; he is the exact opposite. He is not like a child (he wants to serve others instead of being served). He is not deceived by every wind of doctrine because he has been trained in the Word of God. He can spot false teaching (religious and secular) from a mile away. He walks in the truth (the Word of God) and speaks the truth to others, motivated by love and not condemnation. He constantly grows toward maturity in Christ, all the days of his life.

III. God uses the human body as a teacher, to help remind us of these principles always.

What better choice than the human body? All of us have one, and have a basic understanding of the importance of unity, growth, and maturity. Each part of the body has to do its part, serving the other parts so that growth can take place and things can get done. If the members of the church see themselves as part of a body then each one will want to mature and do his part to serve others so that the body will be healthy and the ministry will get done.

What about you my dear friend, where are you in this process? Are you on the outside waiting for someone to bring the message to you? If you have heard and received the message, are you being trained and equipped in the Word of God? What priority does Bible study have in your life? Do you come to church to be served (by the pastor or deacons etc) or do you come to church to be trained and equipped to serve the others (in and out of the church)? God has made it possible for you to hear the message, receive It, be trained in It, and take it to others, how have you responded to this great gift that God has given to us? May God help us grow in our faith and have a passion for the Word and serving others.

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2 comments on “Practice what you Preach: Mature in your faith

  1. I like much of what you stated here but I see an issue that I feel must be raised. It seems some of what you state is not consistent with scripture. Or perhaps I am misreading it or reading too much into a particular aspect of what you wrote. For example in the section on evangelism it seems the basis for what you write is a contorted Great Commission. What it sounds like you are saying that we are, indeed, called to live out the Great Commission but what that looks like is “go and bring people into your church so that others, in particular the pastor, can disciple them and then baptize them and teach them to obey.” But that isn’t what the Great Commission says… We, believers, are called to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them obedience. We may not want to but not doing so is in disobedience to this verse. So your message as far as I read seems to say disobedience is OK because you don’t feel as though God gifted you in that area. Or perhaps our concepts of making a disciple is different? Perhaps your idea of making a disciple is to bring somebody to church but mine is to get them to love and follow Jesus. And then I ought to feel justified in baptizing them because the scripture tells me to. I ought to feel obligated to teach them to obey because doing so would be in obedience to the scripture. So what you seem to be teaching here is that some of this verse applies to us but not all.

    I guess the real beef I have is that you have overlaid church traditions (think Pharisees) onto scripture regarding what each of the roles means and who does them. You stated “they”, who received the Word, received it from an evangelist but they received it from the Apostle Peter. So then what is Peter, an apostle, an evangelist, a prophet, or a pastor or all of the above? I really don’t think it is biblicaly sound to take the church structure and then fit those roles into these titles. It should be that the role we play, the position we fill, ought to be driven by the activities of those who filled them in the scripture. For example, your general definition of a prophet is right in that this is one who proclaims God’s word but what then is the difference between a preacher and a prophet?

    I think we must be careful in the use of words like prophet if we really mean a preacher in today’s context versus a Prophet as in Isaiah and the other prophets who were recognized for a specific role they played in representing God versus a preacher who teaches from the Prophets but shouldn’t be called a prophet so as not to be confuse with the other Prophets and not to confuse those he addresses with what he is actually presenting, i.e. was Harold Camping a Prophet or a prophet or neither? He is obviously not a Prophet (as in OT Prophets and John the Baptist) but neither was he necessarily a prophet though many might consider him to be one because even though he taught many things from scripture he also taught things against scripture like being able to predict the end time. Ellen G. White was considered to be a prophet so her words were elevated to be equal to scripture but should they be? As far as I know, I can have an inspired message to give by the Holy Spirit based on what the Prophets of the past and all of scripture says but not a new revelation from God. It seems to me all of the Prophets have had a revelation that was more than what I get and obviously what Harold Camping thought he had but didn’t really because God proved him to be a false prophet. In other words if I am not saying something new that God would either uphold or deny miraculously, as when John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and the dove came down on Him, then I am merely proclaiming what has already been proclaimed so therefore I am not a prophet in the same sense that the Prophets in the OT and John the Baptist are.

    I like your application questions but I really think your message has been diluted because you have force fitted today’s church context into those positions of the past. Apostles are those early proclaimers such as Peter, Paul, et. al. Prophets are those early proclaimers designated as Prophets as we have in the OT and John the Baptist. Evangelists and pastors, preachers are more general titles and at least in the church context could be one in the same but (my opinion) is based on who we are talking to, i.e. from the pulpit would be the pastor or preacher but going door to door or in other contexts we are evangelists, i.e. in order to make disciples I think we are all called to this position and equally so we should all be prepared to answer for our faith while doing so.

    I think the impotence of the church today, the reason we see our society sliding ever further downward, is because we have diluted God’s Word by inserting church tradition. We have made the believer impotent by causing them to believe that some of the words don’t necessarily apply to them, i.e. ALL of the Great Commission, because only the pastor can do those certain things. We don’t teach obedience in the church as in our response out of love, not obligation, as a response to maturity in our faith. You kind of hint at it but the message hypocritically says one doesn’t have to obey all of it as I have pointed out). In Mt 23:15 Jesus declared a woe onto the Pharisees for going out of their way to make converts only to make them twice as much a child of hell who wouldn’t get into the kingdom of heaven. Do we not do that to some degree by overlaying our church traditions and hierarchy onto God’s word and dilute what it means to carry our cross, die to self, and learn to obey (not out of obligation but in response to how much we of love God) so that our church leaders can lead a congregation? I’m not saying to get rid of our brick and mortar churches but we all need to reexamine our understanding of scripture and repent in those areas where we let church tradition neuter the believer and ultimately teach disobedience.

    • No, that is not what I tried to communicated at all. God calls all of His followers to make disciples. When you accept Christ as Lord and Savior then you receive the Holy Spirit and are born again. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit, you also receive at least one spiritual gift. The spiritual gifts can be divided into two categories; 1) speaking gifts 2) serving gifts. The gifts mentioned in this passage and article are the speaking gifts, which are to be used in the local church. Part of the ministry of the local church is to train and equip the body to go outside the walls of the building and make disciples. It is hard to make a disciple if you are not trained. Jesus spent over 3 years training His disciples to be able to make more disciples. The church is the training ground to equip people to make disciples. All Christ followers are called to make disciples. Part of the process of making disciples is evangelizing the lost. Not everyone has the gift of evangelism but everyone is to share the Gospel. The Evangelists are to train others to share the Gospel. As people accept the message of the Gospel, what do you do with them if you do not know how to teach them? Take them to a teacher or bring a teacher to them. We see this very thing happen in Acts with Barnabas and Paul. God has equipped teachers with the gift of teaching to be able to work together with evangelists et. al in getting the message our and training the new believers. God loves the local church and we, as His followers, will love her as well. Can you really say, “I love Jesus but I hate His wife.”?

      In order to fulfill the role, you must first have the gift. If an evangelist is placed in the role of pastor-teacher, the people are not going to grow much beyond the message of salvation from sins past, present, and future. If a pastor-teacher is an Evangelism pastor, he is not going to reach out to the lost as much as he is going to want to reach in and train the believers.

      A preacher is one who explains God’s message. Preacher is not in the Bible, like we use it in the organized church of today. When we think preacher, we think pastor. I preacher might very well be a prophet. In fact, a prophet would be a good fit for a preacher.

      A person with the gift of prophecy is not someone who predicts the future. He is someone who explains God’s message as found in the Bible.

      In Acts, there were pastors like Peter and James. There were evangelists like Philip. There were apostles (missionaries) like Paul. The entire order of the church comes from Scripture. Not everyone has the same gifts and no one has all the gifts. That is why Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit used the example of the human body to explain Christ’s bride, the church.

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