December 4, 2022
Something to Contribute – Part 2
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Ephesians 4: 7 - 16

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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.

More From This Series


Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Ephesians 4:7-16. Now several of my friends and I have been talking, they have started a four-week series on Christmas and I told them that I’m going to stick with Ephesians. The reason I’m sticking with Ephesians is because this passage you’re in is a passage all about gifts. Christ is the gift that keeps on giving because here in this passage we’re told that He who descended in humility and His Death and resurrection, ascended and when He ascended, He gave gifts the gift of the Holy Spirit, who then gives the gifts of the Holy Spirit to us so that we can carry on the work that Jesus began to do. So this fits within Christmas. It’s all about God’s continued giving through the Holy Spirit. Why don’t you stand in honor of God’s Word and follow along as I read Ephesians 4:7-16, a message I called Something to Contribute.
You realize this morning that you are here at this season in Kindred’s life to contribute something, to contribute money, to contribute your gifts, your talents, your ability to serve, to help us grow up into a stronger, better expression of the body of Christ. That’s what this is all about. Listen, but to each one of us, that’s 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 man. Like this, He ascended, what does it mean? But that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth. He who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens that He might fill all things and He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
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. That we should no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried abide with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of man in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but speaking the truth and love may grow up in all things into Him who is the head Christ. From whom the whole body joined and knit together by which every joint supplies according to the effect of working by which every part does its share.
Question, are you doing your share? By which every part does its share causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself and love. So reads God’s Word and you may be seated. If you know me, you know I’m a fan of Winston Churchill, the man, the leader, and the communicator. He was known as a great writer, but he was known as a better persuader. The master communicator, he roused the British people during those dark days of 1941. In fact, his persuasive power was on full display during a broadcast on February the 9th, 1941 when he sought to rally the spirit of the British people and he made an appeal across the pond to the President of the United States who at that time was Roosevelt. And he asked for military and economic aid for Britain in her darkest hour.
1940, the Panzer divisions of the German army invaded Denmark, Norway. One month later they invaded France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Netherlands. They all fell like dominoes. By June of 1940, France had signed an armistice with the Nazis. One day later, Hitler toured Paris to celebrate the German victory over France. The last man standing was the United Kingdom, Great Britain. The British people were scared, they were next to be targeted. Invasion was imminent in the spring of 1941. So with that Churchill takes to the airwaves, rallies the British people and appeals to President Roosevelt. In fact, he uses words from a poem from Longfellow that President Roosevelt had sent. He says this, “We shall not fail or falter, we shall not weaken or tire.” And as that broadcast came to an end, Churchill in a classical manner used the short specific powerful sentence to appeal to the President of the United States and the American people.
Remember what he said, “Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job.” Every British schoolboy has been taught those words in their history classes. Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job. And to his credit, to the freedom of this world, Roosevelt responded in March 11, 1941 with a land lease bill to aid Britain. And history tells us, without that land lease, Hitler would never have been defeated. Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job. But as I thought about that, there’s a spiritual parallel that brings us right into the context of Ephesians 4:7-16. Because here we read about Christ giving the church the tools necessary to finish the job which He started. See, He descended and gave himself a ransom for many and He set out to build a church according to Matthew 16:18. Then He ascended, and having ascended He sent the Holy Spirit as a gift to the church who then give gifts to the church, tools to finish what Jesus started. That’s where we’re at.
In fact, in Ephesians 3:20-21, we’re told that the church exists by Christ and for Christ for His glory in all generations, forever and ever. Jesus set out to create a community of redeemed people from around the world that would reflect His grace and His glory within history and out into eternity. And to accomplish that goal, Jesus has equipped His church to advance the fulfillment of the great commission. That means that you and I under the Holy Spirit are now the arms and legs of Jesus. We are His body, the mystical body of Christ and Christ is building His church through the evangelism and discipleship of the church.
Spiritual gifts, that’s our subject. They’re not toys to play with. They’re not weapons to fight with. They’re tools to build with. Your spiritual ability, your spiritual capacity, your spiritual gifting is not for your enjoyment or exaltation. It’s for your employment and the mutual benefit of the church. Now that’s amazing. What Christ is going to do at this junction in history, He’s going to do through you and me. He has ascended and the Holy Spirit has descended and He’s inhabiting each one of us and He’s equipping us and gifting us to carry on what Jesus began to do and teach in the Gospels. Listen, there’s no plan B, we are it. If the great commission’s going to be fulfilled, if the Kingdom of God is going to be advanced, if the glory of Jesus is going to be known among the nations, we are it. That’s why your lack of involvement or your absence from the church is a vote to close its doors.
God’s work in the world centers on God’s work in the church where He puts each of us to work. And for the church to work, each of us must work the works that God ordained for us to do, Ephesians 2:10. I was struck by this kind of dramatic image that Tony Evans employees in an interview he gave about his church in Dallas in the 700 Club. Here’s what he said, “Everyone who joins our church must take a ministry. Stop, you can’t join Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas unless you sign up for a ministry. Everybody who joins our church must take a ministry. You cannot become a member if you don’t agree to serve because then you want to say, ‘Preach to me, pray for me, sing to me, but expect nothing from me.’ That’s the existence of a leech. If you’re going to benefit from the Kingdom, then you’ve got to be a giver to the Kingdom. That’s what spiritual gifts are all about. That’s what we’re all about.”
That’s pretty dramatic. The image of a leech on a body sucking the blood out of that body. But Tony Evans sees non-involved Christians in the life of a church like leeches on the body of Christ, dramatic, maybe even offensive but real. Because Paul tells us here we’re all equipped to do the work of the ministry. Paul tells us that each part of the body supplies what is necessary, plays its part, does its share of the growth of the body. When you and I don’t do our part, when we don’t do our share the church has weakened and the purpose of Christ in the world is being hobbled and halted. Let’s come back to this very, very important passage. That’s why I’ve gone slow-mo on it last week, this week, next week. So vital, so important because you’re so vital and you’re so important, you have something to contribute.
Now we put the text in context, I’m not going to rehash that. I’m not going to re-warm that dinner, but basically he’s been talking about unity, he’s talking about keeping unity and he’s arguing here, here’s how you keep unity. We all use our diverse various gifts for the benefit of each other. So that means everybody’s playing their part, which means the whole benefits from the all. That’s how unity is fostered and preserved. I made that statement, if you’re rowing the boat, you won’t be rocking the boat. We’re all pulling in the same direction, all helping. We’re united, we’re a team, we’re a body that’s fully functional. We looked at this passage under three headings, the Distribution of The Gifts, the Description of The Gifts, the Design of The Gifts. Now I don’t want to go back to where I was.
Well, I want to pick up a little bit about The Distribution of Gifts. We said several things about spiritual gifts. I want to just reinforce this and kind of say a couple of things I didn’t get to say. Number one, every Christian has sovereignly been given at least one gift. Some of us have more than one gift, one capacity, one ability, one enablement to serve the Lord in a way that’s very effective. We read here verse seven, but to each one of us, grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Same in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 1 Peter 4:10, which means that we’re all indispensable. You can’t do without me and I can’t do without you and we can’t do without each other. That’s why when the church is called to gather, we need to gather and when we gather we need to serve, we need to contribute, we need to share.
We’re all indispensable. But that also means we’re all different. We’ve all got different gifts. We’ve all got one gift at least maybe more, one spiritual enablement that enhances the life of the church and builds the body. But we’re all different. Some of us are hands, some of us are feet, so to speak, from 1 Corinthians 12. So the implication is you need to be content with who you are and accept what you’re not. God made you with certain abilities, didn’t give you other abilities. You don’t get to choose your gifting, that’s chosen for you sovereignly and at the will of the Holy Spirit and you need to accept that. You need to bloom where you’re planted. You need to find the slot that God has designed for you to fill. Have you found that at Kindred? Have you discovered a while ago whether in this church or another church, this is what God made me to do within the body and I’m doing it and I’m loving it because I was made for this. This is my slot, my this is what I do best. And you don’t look to the left or the right.
Listen, you need to be you because everyone else has taken. Write that down. I need to be me because everyone else has taken. I’ve got natural abilities and I’ve got spiritual gifts and they’re unique to me and they’re gifts from the risen Christ and they are determined by the will of God and I submit to that. I’m going to be the best that I can be for God. You need to be you for everyone else’s taken. You need to be the best you you can be in Christ. Don’t be a copy, be an original. You’re a child prodigy of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He’s given you gifts unique to you. You’re gifted. Be yourself in Christ. Thomas Schreiner in a wonderful book on spiritual gifts teaches New Testament at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky said this, “We should not long for greatness that God doesn’t intend us to have, but find contentment in our lives by not overestimating our gifts or wishing for gifts that He has not given to us.” That’s a good word.
Number two, these gifts are the spoils of Christ’s victory over sin, death, and hell. That’s that whole thing about Him descending to the lower parts of the earth in His death and burial and then His resurrection, ascending and giving gifts through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Number three, we were given these gifts at new birth. Number four, these gifts are communal in focus and not individual. Number five, and I want to come back to this, we need to make a priority of discovering these gifts. You’ve been given a gift. Have you unwrapped it? Do you understand where you fit best within the body of life of a church? Now we can serve the Lord outside our gifting, right? We’ve said this. Look some of the gift of mercy, it doesn’t mean you don’t be merciful. Some have the gift of teaching, it doesn’t mean that mothers don’t skill their children and fathers don’t disciple their sons. But we are gifted to excel in a certain area for the mutual benefit of the body and we need to discover that that’s a priority.
And you know what’s the wonderful thing if we discover that as a priority, it sets the priority of our life. It’s the wonderful thing about a spiritual gift that sets the agenda for you. These abilities and capacities help us focus our time, passion, direction within life. Look, I don’t know about you, one of the things that I think is challenging in life is to keep the first things, the first things. There’s a lot of things you and I could do, but there’s only some things we must do and there’s a few things we really do well. And life’s too short to be going round in circles, spinning your wheels. You need to put your life in gear and head in a direction that’s God ordained and spiritual gifts will set that direction for you, they’re wonderful that way.
Among the many things we could be doing, we need to always focus on the one or two things we must be doing and our spiritual gifts help us to determine that. Last time we were together was we talked about unpacking our spiritual gifts. We said that will require desire, discovery, and development. I’m going to add a fourth dedication. Let me go to Romans 12:6-8 to help you see what I’m talking about In a corollary passage on spiritual gifts, Paul says this, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given.” Similar language to Ephesians 4:7. Having then gifts differing to the grace that is given, let us use them. If prophecy let us prophesy in proportion to our faith or ministry, let us use it to our ministry. He who teaches in teaching, who exhorts in exhortation, He who gives with liberality. What’s the point? Discover your gift and then pour your energies into the gift you have. If it’s prophecy, prophesy, if it’s exhortation, exhort, if it’s teaching, teach, if you’re a leader lead.
And again, that’s not to say we can’t serve outside our gifting, but it is to say that is a priority, that’s Acts 6:4. Could the apostles have served tables? Yes. That wasn’t beneath them just wasn’t the best use of their time. They wanted to pour their energies into the Word in prayer because God had gifted them to that end. And apostles were a unique group of men that helped the church uniquely. We must give our best to where we serve best. Again, if you’re gifted in teaching, it doesn’t mean all you do is teach.
I think I’m gifted in teaching. Don’t answer that. I’m enjoying the thought of that, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do other things, but it does mean across a week that’s my focus, that’s my priority. Nothing gets to take me away from that unless you know it’s a clear, clear emergency because that’s a priority. That’s where I serve the Lord best. And what’s true of me in that arena has got to be true of you. Let me tell you a story I think will illustrate this and we’ll move on. It is said, I read about this, that Walt Disney was ruthless in cutting out anything, although good, in a movie that competed with what was best. Here’s an example. A man by the name of Ward Kimball was in one of the animators on the classic Snow White in the seven Dwarfs and he worked for 240 days on a four and a half minute sequence. It was a part of the movie where the dwarfs make soup for Snow White and they nearly burned the house down. Now you remember that? No, because it didn’t get into the movie. It was cut.
It was good, Kimball had put really good work into it, but Disney felt it disrupted the flow of the movie, the story, and he cut it, lay on the editing floor. He was willing to sacrifice good things for the best of things. Steve Lawson, my friend, writes of that story, “When the film of our lives is played by God on the final day, will it be as great as it might be? A lot will depend upon whether or not we eliminate good things to make a way for better things, things that God wants His children to do.” That good, isn’t it? And when it comes to our gifting and our calling, that helps us edit our life in a manner where the movie of our life will be good viewing in the last day. That’s the distribution. What about the description of the gifts?
This is where we’ll finish today and pick up the design of the gifts next time. In verses 11-12, we have a description of the gifts. And He Himself Christ, gave to some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry. It’s very interesting, is it not, that the focus is on gifted people, not people with gifts. The gift in Ephesians 4 was gifted people, people with particular leadership skills for the benefit of the church. Now there’s a debate reading about, are we talking about five people or four? I take it to be four. I’ll make an argument for this. It’s not a hill I’ll die on, but I think you can make an argument dramatically that pastors and teachers can be read pastor-teachers or teacher-pastors. We’ll come back to that.
Here’s the thing I want you to notice, but just the importance of leadership and the gift that leadership is to a church. Christ has looked at the church, He’s determined its needs, so it might grow up in stature and edify itself and love, and He has determined its need of a body of men, particularly apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers that the church indeed may be equipped, encouraged, and indeed extended. It would remind me of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, where we’re told that the Christ on high who has given us these men for the benefit of the church, would encourage us to esteem them highly from the Christ on high. If you read that passage, it says to esteem those highly who are over you and the Lord for their work’s sake.
I love what E.M. Bounds says, “We are constantly on a stretch, if not a strain to devise new methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the church and secure enlargement for the Gospel. The trend of today has a tendency to lose sight of the man. Sink the man in the plan or organization. God’s plan is to make man far more of Him than anything else. Men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.”
And we have this here in Ephesians 4, Apostle Paul has talked about unity, the keeping of unity, the growing of the church, and he doesn’t deal with methods so much as he deals with men, gifted men from the Christ who has ascended. Now, two things, the people involved and the purpose involved. Let’s go through these different people that are described here. Number one, apostles. Frankly we could spend a lot of time in this, but I’ll just cut to the chase. I think this is fundamentally dealing with the 12 disciples and I would add into that the Apostle Paul. These were men uniquely called and commissioned by Christ to be His direct representatives in the world. You can read about that in Mark 3:13-14, Galatians 2:7-8.
Now they were a unique body of men. I’ll make an argument for that. Number one, because they had each seen the risen Christ, had physically encountered the risen Christ. 1 Corinthians 9:1, 1 Corinthians 7-9. That’s one of the marks of an apostle. They had encountered the risen Christ. Paul was arrested, stood up by Christ on the road to Damascus. Another thing was their ministry was distinguished by signs and wonders and miraculous powers that authenticated the messenger and they authenticated the message. You can read about that in 1 Corinthians 12:12 and especially Hebrews 2:1-4, which talks about how the apostles were attested by miracles and signs and wonders as they spoke for Christ. I limit this group to these men because they wrote the balance of the New Testament under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
They’re a unique body of men, I would argue. I think it’s our church’s position. I know it to be our church’s position, they have no successors. See, we’ve got pastor-teachers in our church, we’ve got deacons in our church. We have no apostles. There’s no successors to apostles. They were a unique body of man. The gift and the office was temporary. In fact, we read in Ephesians 2:20 that they’re in the foundation of the church. Having built the church on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself, the chief cornerstone. Number two prophets. Are we talking about Old Testament prophets or New Testament prophets? Well, the context tells us this is a gift that Jesus has given post-resurrection, the one who ascended. So we’re not dealing with Old Testament prophets dealing with New Testament prophets. Who are they? Well, they were a body of people who became a conduit for the revealing of God’s will to His people prior to the completion of the biblical canon.
They were alive when Scripture was still being spoken and written. They provided comfort and counsel to the church. 1 Corinthians 14:3. But like the apostles, I believe that office and that gift ceased because again, along with the apostles we’re told in Ephesians 2:20 that they’re in the foundation of the church, Christ being the cornerstone. And so I believe that apostles and prophets have been supplanted by the next two gifts, evangelists and teachers. See the church no longer needs new revelation, that’s why we don’t need prophets. The canon has been complete. Inspired Scripture in itself is able to equip us onto every good work. So the church doesn’t need prophets with new revelation. The church needs pastor-teachers who take what is already been revealed and preach it because it’s sufficient, it’s authoritative. It covers all matters of faith and practice.
I believe that apostles and prophets were temporary gifts no longer in existence. And these gifts along with some other gifts ceased in the first century. That’s why our church would be pegged as Cessationist. Now you’d have to qualify that, God is still miraculous, God can do miracles, but when it comes to certain gifts that mark the New Testament church, they’re no longer normative and certain offices and certain gifts are no longer in existence. They’re in the foundation. The Scripture is complete and the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God to create the church of God and instruct the people of God.
Listen to Harry Ironside, a great old brother and writer. You do not lay a foundation for a building every few stories. You get that image? The apostles and the prophets are in the foundation. How many foundations does a building have? One. There’s not a foundation on the first floor and then a foundation on the second floor and the third floor and the fifth floor. And you know what? There’s only one foundation and it’s not repeated throughout the stages of the church’s history or growth. So the apostles and the prophets existed. They were wonderful gifts to the church but now their gone. Let me finish Harry.
Ironside’s quote. You do not lay a foundation for a building every few stories, but the foundation is built once for all and then the superstructure is erected. Long ago, 1900 years ago, the apostles and prophets fulfilled their ministry and we were no longer looking for new apostles or prophets.
When you turn TBN on, you’ve got some prophet or apostle, turn the dial, go and watch a sports game or something. It’ll be more edifying. Number three, evangelists. Evangelists. Now everybody used to evangelize. Remember what I said last week when we’re talking about spiritual gifts, it’s not the only thing you do, right? You know we’re all to evangelize. We’re all to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. Even pastors are called to do the work of an evangelist in 2 Timothy 4:5. Everybody in the church is to be involved in the Great Commission. We are always to be ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within us. But some within the church really excel here and God uses them in a significant manner and they typically see more people saved through their ministry than most their soul winners.
They’re gifted bit like Philip in Acts 8:26-40, Acts 21-28. They’re restless until people find their rest in God. They’re hungry to see people saved and it’s their food and their drink like Jesus in John 4:32. Today that would include the fact of preachers of the gospel, church planters and foreign missionaries. Just to bring it home, He may put Living Waters into that category and [inaudible 00:30:48] and Mark and Ray and people who excel in that area who are able to connect with people on the street make an impact for the gospel. Church Planters, evangelists, the Billy Graham’s, the Greg Laurie’s. These are gifted people who benefit the church.
Number four, pastor-teacher. I’m going with four rather than five. We read here and some pastors and teachers. Although it doesn’t come out in our English versions, those two words are governed by a definite article and the conjunction [inaudible 00:31:27] or [inaudible 00:31:28] can mean that is or in particular. Here’s how I would read that and some pastors, in particular teachers, so teachers qualify pastor, teachers explain pastor, it explains the primary rule of a pastor. In other word pastor means shepherd. Someone who cares for the flock, leads the flock, tends to the flock, but functionally and primarily feeds the flock.
Isn’t that what Jesus said to Peter in John 21:17, He’s signing off going to heaven. He says, Peter, what? Feed my sheep. You’re a pastor-teacher. Now you’re an apostle, but you’ve got two gifts, you’re a pastor-teacher. I want you to feed my flock. And you can read about Peter in 1 Peter 5 as an elder. The pastor leads god’s people into the green pastures of God’s Word. We may deduce from that, or I do at least you need to think about this, that the pastor’s fundamental role is to focus himself on the people of God on the teaching and preaching of God’s sufficient, sovereign, and saving word. We’ve said this before, if you go to 1 Timothy 3:2 or you go to Titus 1:9 where you have a profile of the New Testament leader, we would call him an elder or a pastor, a shepherd, or a bishop, an overseer.
While his character is described his giftedness is not really gone into very much, but one gift is mentioned or one ability is underscored, the ability to teach. You notice that 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:9. I would add to that 2 Timothy 2:2 where Timothy is told to teach others to be faithful man, that they may be able to teach others to be faithful. The ability to teach rings like a bell throughout the pastoral epistles. When Paul writes to Timothy, He says, “Look, you need to be a workman in the Word that’s approved of God and unashamed.” Paul write into Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:17 says, “You know what? The church should be thankful for elders and pastors and leaders who rule well, especially for those who labor in the Word and doctrine.” Here’s a yard stick to measure the effectiveness or the quality of a pastor.
Now when it comes to a pastor nice is good, organization, good, vision, good, caring for people, loving on people, good, accessible, visible, good. But when it comes to a pastor theologically protective against false teachers described as wolves, best, true to the Word, best, an expositor and preacher of the text, best. In fact, if you go to Acts 20 Paul’s leaving the elders at Miletus and he says, “Look, I was with you. I preached day and night. I didn’t take anything from you. I wept, I curred. I went from house to house and taught you. I’m leaving you and I’m concerned because wolves are coming and I’m going to commend you to the word of His grace which ables to build up the saints.” There’s that theme. I want you to be theologically protective. I want you to be true to the Word. I want you to preach and teach God’s people.
Back to our text. Did you notice that the gifts mentioned here are all Word gifts? Word gifts. The apostles taught, prophets revealed the will of God, evangelists preached the gospel, pastor-teachers expounded the revealed Word. I think that’s striking, isn’t it? Something to underscore in a day of diminished preaching where expositions are being made shorter and shorter and worship time and singing is overtaking the proclamation of God’s Word and all kinds of antics are going on in all kinds of churches. Most pastors don’t even put a pulpit in front of them. Not that there’s any verse that says you need a piece of furniture, we call a pulpit. But there’s something symbolic I think in having a pulpit in the center of the stage because it means the Word of God is central. And it needs to be because here we have the risen Christ who has assessed the needs of the church and He has given them these four ministries all centered on the Word.
See, if you look at the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I think they fall into three categories. They’re sign gifts, which I believe have passed because they authenticated the messenger and the message. Doesn’t mean God’s not miraculous just means there’s not people you go to who are especially gifted in the miraculous. Sign gifts, serving gifts, and speaking gifts. And here there’s one emphasis, the speaking of the Word of God, the reception and dissemination of the Word of God. In fact, that’s what brings about the establishment of this church. When you go to chapter 1 and verse 12, you read, you were first to trust in Christ, in Him you trusted after you heard the Word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, and having believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit. Someone came to Ephesus, preached the Word, people got saved, then they congregated and a church began to flourish by the preaching of the Word of God for the preaching of the Word of God.
We did it, didn’t we? In the Book of Acts 6:7, Acts 12:22, Acts 28:31. What’s the book of Acts? It’s a record of the church’s growth from a small number of people in an upper room to a worldwide body of believers who are reaching into the very top levels of Rome. And if you read that, you’ll read and the Word of God prevailed and the Word of God was multiplied and Paul taught the Kingdom of God no one hindering him. Christ has assessed the need of the church and supplied it amply throughout its history with man with speaking gifts. Verse seven says that each one of us were given a grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Christ looked at the church and its needs and He supplied that need by gifting man to preach the Word. Jesus made pulpit work central to His life and the vitality of the church.
Remember our study in Mark’s gospel, Mark 1:14-15, Jesus emerges out of the hidden years and the years of obscurity. You know what it says? And Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God in Galilee. He emerged the preacher, His ministry centered on the preaching of God’s Word and when He ascended, He left the church still focused on the centrality of the preaching of God’s Word. Feed my sheep, go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Listen to these words by Steve Lawson. I just finished a book of his called Called to Preach. It’s a little long, but I think we need to hear it and I think you’ll be able to resonate with it. Many of you have come to our church hungry for God’s Word, complaining about the lack of exposition and focus on preaching in churches you were once part of.
“When the pulpit is strong,” Steve says, “The church has strengthened and her witness to the world is fortified. But when the pulpit is weak, the church languishes in spiritual listlessness and society suffers also. The modern church has largely forgotten this truth. Church leaders took the secular marketplaces for ideas to revitalize the work of God. Endless pragmatic strategies attempt to resuscitate the church, but each worldly remedy is deficient in reaching the goal. The truth remains that which is born of the flesh is of the flesh. What is widely overlooked is that God established long ago the primary means of grace to be the preaching of His Word, both in the Old and New Testaments. The chief method God uses to carry out His redemptive work is the Spirit-impaired proclamation of biblical truth. Nothing must be allowed to supplant the primacy of the pulpit, not if the church is to flourish.” Amen.
Ephesians 4, four gifts all focused on speaking proclamation. That’s why we love the story, don’t we, of have Luther and the Protestant Reformation. When Luther’s asked to explain that the spread of Protestant theology across Europe undermining the papacy, turning countries upside down inside out. I mean if you looked at Luther, he wasn’t the explanation. Even the brilliant Calvin wasn’t the explanation and the courageous Wigley. No, here’s what Luther said, “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise, I did nothing. I slept the Word so greatly weak in the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing, the Word of God did at all.”
Quickly, the purpose involved, the people involved the purpose. Verse 12, I’d love to develop this more, but we’ll take a few minutes and wrap this up. Four, to this purpose for this end, for this cause these gifts were given, and they’re all speaking gifts, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. The word equip there was used of the mending of nets by fishermen, the setting of a broken bone by a doctor, the furnishing of a room, or the preparing of a garment by a seamstress. It’s all to do with preparation and setting something in order. Why were these gifts given and the two that exist today evangelists and pastor-teachers? One is focused on obstetrics, the delivery of the child in Christ and the other pediatrics, the growing up of the child through the preaching of the Word of God.
The purpose is to equip the saints, and that’s primarily the role of the pastor-teacher. Listen to this, don’t enough time to develop this, but we’ll say enough. It’s the minister’s job to get everyone in the church to minister. It’s the pastor’s job to get everyone in the church to do their job. That’s just fundamentally it, the pastor equips the saints through the preaching of the Word of God, through discipleship, through training, helping them discover their gifts, their role, their place in the body, and then they minister and everybody is edified.
The one-man ministry doesn’t work. The role of the pastor is not to do all the work. His work is to get the body to do the work. I like the old westerns and typically they kind of run along the same line most of the time. Some little town being menaced by some thug or a band of bad boys and everybody’s cowering and they’re afraid and they don’t know what to do. And somebody says, “You know what? We should get such and such.” And so they go and hire a gun or in the case of the Magnificent 7, several guns, and they deputize these guys and then they slip back into the little grocery store or their little restaurant, they look through the lace curtains and watch the gunfight unfold. And then they all appear when the bad guys are being dealt with.
And you know what? It’s great entertainment. It’s bad theology in the sense that many churches think the pastor’s that way, hired guns. You know what? We’re very weak here. I haven’t seen anybody see if they’re baptized in a while. Let’s get ourselves a hired gun. Let’s go to a seminary and pick a guy and he’ll do it and we’ll watch. We’ll pay him. We’ll try and take care of him and love on him, but he’ll do it. No, the right pastor will come and work his tail off and love the people of God. But the right pastor will get you to do it by equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry. I love the balance of this passage, it puts a value on leadership. Churches don’t grow without leaders who are equipped by God to preach the Word and lead the people. But their job is to lead the people into leadership themselves, to help them discover their giftedness, their unique role so that together, pastor and people, shepherd and sheep grow up together in the field.
It’s the World Cup. Don’t tell me the England score. I’m going home to watch it. Not that I’m really rooting for England, I was rooting for the United States, but we run up against the Dutch and that was it. But I was thinking about the World Cup. I was talking to a young man in the church that I played on the soccer team with here for a while. I played with several guys in the church up until about six years ago, and then I hung the boots up, just getting too old. Took me several weeks to get over a groin injury. And I was taking Advil before the game and June was giving me a rubdown and I was just getting too complicated, so I ended it. I stopped and went to golf. But towards the end, our team actually had won several of the competitions. We played seven aside behind the Orange Mall there, and we were pretty good, but towards the end we kept getting beat, which is no fun.
I want to tell you this. We got beat, not because we weren’t good, not because the other team was superior, but towards the end we had a really skinny roster. There’s some nights it’d turn up and there’d be five of us and you really need about 8 or 9 or 10 because that’s fast football. You’re in for five minutes, you go out and suck on oxygen, you go back in. And we had nobody. And so Jerry, me and the guys, five of us playing the whole time totally exhausted like dogs with our tongues hanging out. We’re getting beat, not because we were bad, we had no subs. Our bench was not deep. We really beat ourselves. Here’s my last challenge to you. I pray you’re a joy to pastors, it’s not a criticism, it’s not a scolding. But if you’re here, would you continue to help us deepen our bench so that it’s just not a few people running around exhausted?
I think God’s given us enough people here to do some great ministry. And if we all could find our slot, we all accept who we are and how God has gifted us and not what we’re not, and be what we are, be you everyone else has taken. You’ve got a unique role under our leaders to help us together grow this church into something significant so that until Jesus comes Kindred Community Church will have a lasting impact and influence in North Orange County and further afield, amen.
Father, we thank you for this passage. We feel we haven’t rung all the truth out of it, but what we have encountered is challenging. What a task you’ve set before us, the discipling of the nations, the winning of people to Jesus Christ, and then growing them up in the faith. But we thank you. You’ve given us the tools to do the job. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who dwells us. Thank you for the gifts and capacities he’s given us. Help us to discover them. Help us to unwrap these gifts and help us to take these tools and go to work discipling children, building body muscle by loving one another, evangelizing our neighborhood, partnering with missionaries and missions across the world. So, so much to do and yet so much undone.
But we thank you for the ever-expanding capacity of great Kindred Community Church. So help us to take this passage seriously. Lord, help us to fill the bench, so to speak. Help us to get into the game. We don’t need to be exhausted as a church, we can be strong and impactful because we’re all working together in the fullness of the things that Christ fills us with. Lord, we just thank you for our pastors, our elders who are equipped to equip the saints. Pray for our classes, our core classes, our leadership tracks. Thank you for our youth ministry, our catechism of our children. Lord, we pray that we would equip one another for the work of the ministry. We are your hands. We are your feet. There’s no plan B. We pray these things in Jesus name, amen.