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.
- Pastor–teachers (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.