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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 verses seven through 16. If you’re visiting with us this morning, we are in a series on Ephesians called Life Together. This is our third go-around with Ephesians 4:7 to 16, Something to Contribute, that’s what we called it. And the reason we have stayed in it lower in the month of December and many churches are focusing on Christmas.
Here’s a passage about God’s continued giving, right? God gave his son and through what Jesus Christ did, Christ offers us the gift of eternal life. But we know that Christ then ascended to the right hand of God and gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit. And with the gift of the Holy Spirit, we were given gifts of the Holy Spirit, so that together, as we minister, and bless one another, and the Church grows, and so, it’s appropriate that we stay here. Wrap this three-part sermon up on Ephesians 4:7-16. Let’s stand in honor of God’s word and read the passage together. And then we will expound it.
Reading from the new King James’ translation of Holy Scripture. Ephesians 4:7. “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 man.”
Now 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 pastor and teachers. For the equipping of the saints, for the work of the 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 a about with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of man, 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 effect of working by which every part does its share causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
So reads God’s word. You may be seated.
Branch Rickey was the owner and the manager of the old Brooklyn Dodgers. He was the man who broke the color barrier when he introduced Jackie Robinson into professional baseball. In fact, if you’ve seen the movie 42, and it’s a great movie, you’ve been introduced to Branch Rickey. He’s the character played by Harrison Ford.
Branch Rickey was an interesting man. He had earned two undergraduate degrees and a law degree at the University of Michigan. He was a Methodist layman, a sir, he neither drank nor cursed, but he was also known for his wit, his humor, his insights.
And this comes to the surface when he was sent on a scouting expedition to look at a particular picture. And he writes this scout report on the picture and it says this: “He was born premature and he has never caught up.”
That’s a good insight.
“He was born premature and he never caught up.”
That’s funny. But what’s not so funny is the fact that many Born-Again Christians have fallen behind in their spiritual growth. There’s much catching up to do in their discipleship, in their worship of God, in their understanding of the Bible, in their view of and in their participation in the Church. They’re saved, but they’re stuck. They remain little children.
I think it was Graham Scroggie who said that, “Too many Christians are stuck between Easter and Pentecost. They’ve got saved, they’ve got redeemed, their sins have been forgiven, but they haven’t fully understood the next step. That indeed, Christ wants to change them from glory into glory. Too many Christians have a basic elementary understanding in Christ, but they continue to struggle with the sins of their old life without victory. They come to church but they’re not intricately involved in the life of the Church and its ministry. They’re not growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus.” That’s a sad reality.
Warren Wiersbe says this, “Spiritual maturity is one of the greatest needs in churches today. Too many churches are playpens for babies instead of workshops for adults.”
After over a quarter of a century of ministry, I’m convinced that spiritual immaturity is the number one problem in our churches. God is looking for mature men, mature women to carry out his work. And sometimes all he can find is little children who can’t get along with each other. That’s a problem. It’s a problem today, and it was a problem yesterday in the early church.
Christians were saved and stuck, even then, still in their spiritual diapers. Not growing from childhood, to adolescence, and into maturity in the Lord Jesus Christ.
That was Paul’s complaint, right? Write it down one, Corinthians 3:1 to 3. He says, “I’d like to write to you as those who are spiritual, but right now your carnal, your division, your jealousy, your lack of humility, and the exercise of spiritual gifts, it bothers me. I want to feed you with strong meat, but you’re still in spiritual diapers sucking on the milk bottle. We’ve got to help you move on.”
[inaudible 00:06:23] complained by the writer to the Hebrews, could have been Paul, maybe Luke, Barnabas, but in Hebrews 5:12 to 14, again, he complains that they are still in their spiritual diapers, still sucking on the bottle, when they could be chewing down and chomping down on real meat and growing.
That’s why in several places in the Hebrew letter he says, “Let us go on to perfection.”
Let’s go on. Now, did you have come to Christ? Let’s go after Christ. Let’s take up our cross and follow him.
Look, just as any parent wants to see their child grow beyond infancy into adulthood, so our Father in Heaven wants to see us grow in the likeness of His Son. There are stages of growth that you and I have got to go through spiritually just like we’ve got to go through physically. There’s childhood, there’s adolescence, there’s adulthood.
In fact, it’s interesting in I John 2, verses 12 and 14, John addresses three categories of Christians, three stages of spiritual development. Listen to these words, “I write to you, little children,” there’s the first category, “because your sins are forgiven, you for His Namesake. I write to you, fathers,” there’s another category, “because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young man,” there’s a third category,” because you’ve overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children because you’ve known the Father. I write to you, fathers because you’ve known Him who is from the beginning. And I write to you, young man because you are strong and the Word of God abides in you and you’re overcoming the wicked one.”
You see that? So, there’s the little children. There’s the believer that’s just being born again. And the thing they love about their Christian life, their sins are forgiven. And they’re rejoicing in God’s grace, and God’s mercy, and that’s great.
But John says, now we’ve got to get the little children into another category, young men. Adolescents, growing up, and these young men, these Christians, are the kind of people who are into the Word and the Word’s abiding in them, and they are putting their old life behind them, and they’re going into this new life in Jesus Christ, and the wicked one is being defeated.
And then the little child becomes a young man, and the young man becomes a father, becomes a stalwart in the faith, knows his Bible. Is walking in fellowship with Christ. Is discipling others.
See, that’s one of the great marks of maturity. You who have been discipled then turn around and begin to disciple others. You become a spiritual parent to other believers.
But the main thing I want you to see is, there’s stages of spiritual development. And the question is this morning, where are you? Are you in the right category? Are you just a young believer, a little child? That’s fine.
Or are you a little child, but you really should be a young adult? Or are you a young adult but you really should be a father?
So with that said, let’s go to Ephesians 4, because Ephesians 4:7 to 16 is all about growth, and how it comes about, and how you and I make these transitions across the stages of spiritual maturity.
See, what does Paul say here, in verse 14? “I don’t want you to be a child any longer.”
And what does he say in verse 13, “I want you to be a perfect man. I want you to grow from childhood to adulthood in the Lord Jesus Christ. I want you to mature. I want you to develop.”
And he’s made an argument that that comes about through the implementation of spiritual gifts in the life of the body. The immediate context is the role of the pastor/teacher, feeding the flock, giving the Word to the Church. And the Word helps the Church grow. And as you and I minister to one another through our own spiritual gifting, the Church grows, and matures, and edifies itself. So that’s the context. He’s talked about unity, and talked about diversity, and now he’s talking about maturity. Unity without diversity is a dull uniformity. Diversity without unity can spawn anarchy. And that’s why unity and diversity needs to be balanced by maturity. And that’s the verses we are looking at.
Paul’s challenge to the Ephesians is that they must never be content just to have escaped Hell. They should never be content just to reach Heaven. They’re not to put their feet up after coming to Christ. No, they are to grow into full stature in Christ, verses 12 through 13, “We must go on in the Christian life until the life of Christ is fully realized in our life.”
So, let’s come and look at these verses. We’ve been looking at the distribution of gifts. We’ve looked at the description of gifts. And now from verse 13 through 16, we’re going to look at the design of the gifts.
And the design of the gifts is the maturing of the Church, the growing of the body of Christ, the developing of the disciples, the design of the gifts. Remember what we said, but it bares repeating: spiritual gifts, propacities, abilities beyond your natural strengths, endowed by the Holy Spirit and the Risen Christ at your conversion, intended for you to use for the growth of the Church.
Spiritual gifts are not toys to play with and they’re not weapons to fight with. They are tools to build with. We see this here, having talked about the grace and the gifts of the Ascended Lord. And we’ve identified some of those gifts. In today’s church, it would be evangelists and pastor/teachers. Those gifts were given for the equipping of the saints to do the work of the ministry. So that look at verse 12, “the Church would be edified and would come into unity of the faith and grew up in the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that it would speak the truth in love.”
Verse 15, “That it may grow up in all things into him who is the head. So that as we minister to one another,” verse 16, “It causes growth of the body and the edifying of the Church in itself in love.”
That’s our context.
If you were to I Corinthians 12: verse seven, “Each one of us is given the manifestation of the spirit for the common good.
I Corinthians 14:12, “Since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the Church.
I Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in the service of one another.”
Gifts, talents, abilities, spiritual were not given to be paraded and polished by us in an act of self-promotion. Spiritual gifts were not even given for self-fulfillment and satisfaction, although ministering in your gifting is a joy, but that’s not the purpose, that’s a byproduct. Gifts were not given for you and I to promote ourselves. They were not given for our self-fulfillment. They were given to strengthen the Church. They were designed for the maturing of the Church. Pastor/teachers serving the Church through equipping the Church for ministry, leads to the Church serving one another and building one another up, which leads to a mature body of believers.
By implication, by the way, the Church, this church, any church is stunted in its growth when people fail to show up, when people fail to pitch in, when Christians don’t come, don’t serve, don’t give, they are a dragging anchor on the ministry. Hopefully, that’s not you, because the reason Christ gave you eternal life and gave you spiritual capacities, so that you might bless the Church.
Now, since we’re talking about growing up, and maturing, and developing. Here’s four marks quickly that will help you and I measure how we’re doing. Are we moving through those natural transitions of little child, young adult, father? And what’s true individually needs to be true corporately.
Here’s the first mark of maturity. Look at verse 13, what I call conviction. If you’re writing notes, there’s four C’s this morning, conviction, Christ-likeness, compassion cooperation. Those are the marks of maturity. Now, you won’t reach perfection in any one of these categories, but if you want to know if you’re moving in the right direction and God’s at work in your life, there will be increasing conviction, Christ-likeness, compassion, and cooperation.
The first one’s conviction. Verses 13 and 14, “Till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. And we’re not tossed about by every wind of doctrine.”
So what’s the first mark of Christian maturity? It’s not speaking in tongues, it’s not words of knowledge. It’s theological clarity. It’s theological conviction. Maturity is marked by what Paul calls unity of the faith. We’ll come back to that. And then he says, “Maturity is marked by doctrinal discernment, that you can tell truth from error and you can spot a pastor-teacher who’s a gift from Christ, from a false teacher who’s cunning and deceitful.”
Let’s break those ideas up. Unity of the faith in the knowledge of the son of God. The word faith here is not being used of your personal trust in Jesus. We all need to exercise a trust, and a confidence, and a dependence upon Christ for our eternal salvation, right? I get that. But that’s not the focus here. This word faith is being used here as a body of truth. It’s used that way in Jude 3, right? “The faith once delivered to the saints.”
Faith can be used in the New Testament of adherence to a body of theological convictions that represent the true Gospel. And that’s what I think’s going on here.
In fact, if you go back to chapter four and verse five, you have, right, “One Lord, one baptism, one faith, one body of truth, one Gospel. There’s not several gospels, there’s not iterations of the truth. There’s one truth, and one Gospel, and one faith. And it’s centered on the person of Jesus Christ, Who is the embodiment of truth.
And so, at a baseline, what are we talking about here? At the least, we’re talking about doctrinal unity around the Gospel, the coming of Christ through the incarnation, His virgin birth, His sinless life, His sin-atoning death, His burial, and physical resurrection, all tied into His first coming.
Then Christ ascends and he sends us the Holy Spirit to form the Church, regenerate, baptize, indwell, equip. And then the coming of Christ a second time is part of this faith, when he comes back to make all things new. That’s at least what we’re dealing with here.
And mature believers believe that. And they grow in their knowledge of that. And I’ll tell you what, they are theologically decisive. Ask them a question on the basics about the Bible. Is it the Word of God? Ask them a basic question about was Jesus virgin-born? Is Jesus more than a man? Is he the Son of God? Was he the incarnate Word? And you go through these doctrines and that mature believer will begin to address that, because they’re theologically decisive.
And here’s the other thing I just want you to notice. This is a unity around doctrine. Have you heard it said, “Doctrine divides, love unites.”
It’s not true. Doctrine doesn’t divide. According to Paul, it unites. It becomes a rallying call for the true child of God. They hear the voice of the Shepherd spoken in the Word and they rally, John 10.
If you go to Acts 2:42, the early Church, it says, “They continued and devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine.”
And later on, you’ll read about they had singleness of heart, and gladness of heart, and they were of one accord.
Doctrine doesn’t divide. Doctrine is a rallying call. It’s a point where we anchor ourselves. The knowledge of the Son of God speaks here to a heart absorption of the truth. It’s an experiential encounter through the objective word, where, through prayer, Bible study, and obedience, our knowledge of Christ experientially grows. We believe it. We believe it to such a degree that engages our emotions and will, and we live it out, and experience it.
There’s another aspect of this. A mature believer is therefore no longer a child susceptible to deception, whose mind can be easily turned in all kinds of directions. Notice we’re not, “… to be tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of man, and the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” Did you notice that? Paul wants us to be aware that that is a danger, a clear and present danger. There are those outside the Church working their way in and those within the Church trying to draw disciples after themselves and they are marked by trickery.
That’s a Greek word that means to play with cards. It’s a card trick. The idea of wind of doctrine means to be twisted or twirled in a wind like a leaf. And there are people who are cunning, and crafty, and deceitful. Who take elements of the Gospel and then they add stuff to it that destroys it. Or they take stuff from it and make it hollow.
And throughout the Church’s history, you’ve had fads and trends of false doctrine. We’re warned in II Timothy that, “a time will come and we will not endure [inaudible 00:21:30] doctrine, but heap to themselves teachers having itching ears.”
So that sounds interesting. Have you read the latest book that God’s a black female? That was the shock, wasn’t it? What kinds of stuff going on in the Church.
And Paul says, “Now, a young Christian can be hoodwinked. And we need to guard the flock and help the young believer. But we’ve got to help them become discerning and doctrinal, so they don’t get blown about by every wind of doctrine, and the next theological, shiny object.”
Immature believers can get carried away by the latest and greatest theological fad. So Paul says, no, God wants us childlike, but not childish. See, God wants us childlike. What’s the mark of childlikeness? Humility, innocency, trust. They’re all beautiful qualities. And Jesus says, “I want that in you, those who belong to My Kingdom.”
But childishness, that’s a whole different thing. One of the marks of childishness or of infancy is they change. They think they want one thing, and then they see another thing, and therefore they want that thing. Take your child into Baskin-Robbins and the 31 flavors, and you’ll be there for 31 minutes as they decide, “Is it vanilla? I want chocolate. No, I want strawberry.”
Or they’re playing with a nice toy and their content until they see someone else playing with a different toy. And they’re unstable and they’re always shifting their opinions.
Paul says, we don’t want that. Mature Christians have a solid theology. They have a good conviction about the great fundamental doctrines of the Church. And that maturity about the Word comes through in interaction with the Word.
Listen to me. You will not be a mature Christian if you don’t encounter the Word of God, if you don’t read it, if you don’t meditate it, if you don’t sit under its preaching. If you don’t think it out theologically, if you don’t come to know the great doctrines of the Church regarding the Person and Work of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit, and what Christ achieved on the cross, and what God has done from eternity past, and what he’s going to do in the eternity future, at the second coming of Jesus.
You need to interact with all of that, because I Timothy 3:16 to 17 says that, The Word of God is able to make us wise unto salvation. And then having come into salvation, it’s able to equip us onto every good work, so that we might be complete and mature, lacking in nothing, equipped onto every good work.”
What’s the means of grace? The chief means, the preaching, the interacting with God’s Word. It’s I Peter 2:1 to two, “Newborn babes in Christ desire the sincere milk of the Word, by which they may grow.
Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
We’ll get to Ephesians 5:25 at some point. And we read that the bride of Christ is to be washed in the water of the Word. You’ve got to be constantly washing yourself in the Bible, getting the filth and the grime of life around you, that’s trying to attach itself to you, and worm its way into your heart. We got to be cleansing ourselves. Putting away malice and filthiness. We desire the sincere milk of the Word, so that we can grow.
Listen to these words by Warren Wiersbe, since I quoted them earlier, this is helpful. “Your Bible provides exactly the diet you need to become a mature, balanced Christian. God’s Word is bread. Man shall no live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. God’s word is milk. A newborn babe, desires the pure milk of the Word so that they can grow. The Word of God is solid food. I feed you with milk and not with solid food.”
I Corinthians 3:2, “And the Word of God is honey. Its words are sweeter than honey.”
And Wiersbe says this. “Perhaps these four images of God’s word,” right,” milk, bread, meat, honey, perhaps these four images of God’s Word suggest stages in our spiritual growth as newborn babes, as new Christians we receive and swallow the milk given to us by others. It’s pre-digested and it’s prepared. And we sit under it. And we are nursed through it and by it.
As we grow older, we learn to appreciate and appropriate the bread. And we can end up feeding ourselves. With further growth, we learn to chew on the solid meat of doctrine and theology.
Pediatricians warn us that honey isn’t good for babies, but it doesn’t take long for a child to discover the sweet things available in the cupboard. However, we aren’t ready for the sweetness until we take the bitterness with it. Remember, life has to be balanced.
Think that’s good, right? Childhood, young adult, father. Milk, bread, meat. Where are you in your Christian life regarding those things?
Talking about the Word of God, let me quote, some of us heard this live at the funeral of a brother here, Lonnie Wick, whose son was in from Europe, a TMS grad, a friend of many of us. And at his father’s funeral, he remembered what his father had shared in the early days of his ministry, as he headed off with his young family to Europe to be a witness for Jesus Christ.
Here’s what his father Lonnie said. “What a joy to see your growth in your faith, and to see your desire to obey God, and do his will. Always let God’s word be your guide in all your pursuits. Spend time in It each day. Always balance your knowledge with action. People will fail and disappoint you, but God will always be faithful. When making an important decision, go to His Word. When you’re discouraged and the outlook seems dim, go to His Word. When your faith is challenged and you don’t have answers, go to His Word. As our world changes and the winds blow through the Church, issues become clouded and confusing, go to His Word. When the days seem long, and you’re tired, and the task ahead impossible, and you feel like quitting, go to His Word. God’s Word is a constant source of strength, and encouragement, and contains all we need to be what Christ wants us to be. You’ll always be in my prayers, son, I’m proud to have you as my child. Always obey God’s Word, whatever the cost. Always go to His Word.”
That’s what we’re at here, go to His Word. It’s a light onto your path and a lamp unto your feet. It will equip you unto every good work.
Number two, we’ve got to speed up, Christlikeness. Here’s another thing that maturity produces and another measure, that we would come into the unity of the faith, the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect Man, to the measure of the stature, of the fullness of Christ. Maturity then, is measured by nothing less than an expounding conformity to likeness to Jesus Christ. Christ in all his glory, that is Christ glorified. He’s the target we aim for. We want to reflect His grace, His glory. The corporate body of Christ is to reflect the head.
John MacArthur, “The Church in the world is Jesus Christ in the world, because the Church is now the fullness of the incarnate body in the world.
Ephesians 1:23, “We are to radiate and reflect Christ’s perfections. Thus, the goal is that the Church would grow to complete Christlikeness, so that when the world looks at us, they get a glimpse of Him.”
See, that’s what the Church is. We’re not His Body. The incarnate Christ is at the Right Hand of God. He now indwells this body, the Church, made up of various parts. And we’re to grow, we’re to take on His likeness, so that the world still sees Him and then counters Him through us. That’s what maturity is. That’s what growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus is.
In fact, let me tell you what that looks like, how you bring that about. Look at verse 15, “Speaking the truth and love may grow up in all things into Him, who is the head.”
Into Him who is the head. That’s got to mean submitting to his Lordship? He’s the head, right?
Chapter 1:22 and 23, “He’s got authority over the Church. He commands our actions and our reactions.”
What we’ve got to do, we’ve got to grow into that.
On the front end of our Christian life, we tend to embrace Christ as our Savior. But we’ve got to grow in the knowledge of Christ, our Lord. And we’ve got to submit to His Lordship and do His will.
One writer was very helpful here. Think about this. A baby’s head, a brand new baby, a little newborn, the head is always larger than the body. Have you ever noticed that? Proportionally, a baby’s head is much larger proportionally to the body. But as that child grows, the body begins to fill out and grows into proportion to the head. And it’s a wonderful analogy.
Paul’s taken that analogy. Christ is the head. He’s perfect, He’s fully formed, He fills all things. And we need to grow into that as His body.
In our thought life, we need to take on the mind of Christ. In our emotional life, we need to be self-controlled, at peace, patient, and loving as Christ. In our physical life, we need to work hard like the carpenter’s Son. We need to rest. We need to be modestly dressed. We need to eat. We need to be morally pure. In our relational life, like Jesus, we need to cherish our friendships, and honor our parents, and submit to civil authority, and love our neighbor, and forgive our enemies. In our spiritual life, like Jesus, we need to honor the Lord’s Day and keep a Sabbath. We need to be selfless in our service, fasting and praying. We need to be in fellowship with those in Christ. We need to love the Scriptures. And we need to be involved in discipleship and evangelism, like Christ.
That’s what it means to grow into the head, in all things.
How are you doing? Are you looking a little bit more like Jesus this week, this year? That’s the measure. It’s not how many meetings we have come to, many sermons we’ve digested, or we worked through 600 pages of a systematic theology, which are all helpful, by the way, all means of grace, in no way am I denigrating those. I’m just saying what have they produced? The outcome is Christlikeness.
You know the story, I think, of the mother who was preparing pancakes. And her two sons, Kevin and Ryan, were fighting over who was going to get the first one. What’s new? The mother was bothered by this. And so she stopped mixing the pancakes. And decided to use this moment to teach her sons something. And she says, “Boys, I want to ask you a question. If Jesus was here, what would he do?”
They all shrugged together. And she said, “I’ll tell you what He would do. He would insist that his brother gets the first pancake. And then He would wait for the next one.”
And the boys nodded in agreement. The mother went back to fixing the pancakes. And the older brother, Kevin, turned to the younger brother Ryan, and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus.”
See, we like it when others are Jesus to us. We love their patience, and their kindness, and their sacrifice. We love that. Give me more of that. That’s so immature if we don’t return it and minister to the body in a manner that glorifies Christ.
Compassion, third mark of maturity. Look at verse 15. Okay, “We need to come into the unity of the faith. That’s conviction. We need to grow up in the measure of the stature of Christ, that’s Christlikeness.”
And now in verse 15, “We’ve got to speak the truth in love that we may grow up.” That’s compassion and tenderness.
Now, you’ll see the conjunction. But speaking the truth in love, that means he’s drawn a sharp contrast to verse 14. See, there’s error out there. We’ve got to embrace the truth. And there are men out there who are cunning, and loveless, and harmful. And we’ve got to avoid them. And we’ve got to be those who embrace love, along with embracing truth.
In fact, this is a participle that could be translated truthing in love. Truthing in love.
Having put a premium on truth over error, Paul now balances that to make sure that truth is balanced with love. We’ve got to commit to both truth and grace. As we find that in the life of the Lord Jesus truth becomes hard, and cold, and even harmful, and it’s not softened by love, because it’s ungracious. But love, if it’s not strengthened by truth, becomes unfaithful.
John Stott puts it better than anybody. I’m going to take time to read his quote, because I think a church like ours that’s theologically heavy, and driven, and defined by exposition of the Word, and we’re willing to be courageous, and outspoken for Jesus Christ in a cancel culture. We need to hear this balance.
Here’s what he says. “There are those in the contemporary church who are determined, at all costs, to defend and uphold God’s revealed truth. But sometimes they are conspicuously lacking in love. When they think they smell heresy, their nose twitches, and their muscles ripple, and the light of battle enters their eye. They seem to enjoy nothing more than a fight.”
“Others, in opposite. They’re determined at all cost to maintain and exhibit brotherly love. But in order to do that, they’re prepared to sacrifice the Gospel’s central truths of revelation. Both these tendencies are unbalanced and Unbiblical.
Truth becomes hard if it’s not softened by love. Love becomes soft if it’s not strengthened by truth. The Apostle calls us to hold the two together, which should not be difficult for Spirit-filled believers, since the Holy Spirit is, Himself, the spirit of truth. And on the other hand, He bears fruit in people’s lives, the first of which is love.”
Isn’t that good?
When you and I are walking in the spirit and taking on the likeness of Jesus Christ, we’ll be known for both those things. This irrevocable commitment to truth, this beautiful, tender expression of love. Since truth is centered on Christ, who is the truth, and since Christ is the manifestation of God’s love, we need to demonstrate love in the preaching of Christ, the truth and manifestation of love. And anything less than that is not very valuable, right?
I Corinthians 13:1 to three, “Do we need to be reminded of the danger of being right and at the same time being wrong? Though I speak with the tongues of man and of angels, but have not love, I become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love,” what does Paul say, “I’m nothing.”
Whoa. Man, is there no middle ground? No. Where love is present, it doesn’t matter what’s absent. And where love is absent, it doesn’t matter what’s present.
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned but have not love, it profits me nothing.”
So Paul says, “Let’s be truthing in love. Let’s not be immature. Let’s not be cold and theological. Let’s not be soft and sentimental. Let’s be truthing in love. Let’s be full of grace and truth.”
Remember Haddon Robinson did just reinforce that idea that truth without love is less than valuable. He gave this illustration of, imagine a Sunday morning. Somehow you’re a bit distracted. You’re not tracking with the pastor. You’re looking at your watch. Well, let’s not waste all your time, so get your bulletin, and grab that part of the bulletin where you can write on, and write a row of zeros. And if you’re still distracted, keep doing that until you fill the page. And then we’ll get you working.
Here’s what we want you to do. We want you to add all of those zeros up. Bring your best thinking to that and add all the zeros up. What do you get? Nothing. Zero.
But then he says, here’s what to do. Take your pen and write the unit or the digit one in front of the first zero. Now, I begin to add it up. First zero is a 10. The second two is 100, the next three are 1,000. Keep going.
You see what the value, the number one added to all those zeros? And he says that’s what love does. That’s the value that love brings when it’s added to truth, and evangelism, and apologetics, and discipleship.
I think we try to strike that balance here. I want to commend you. But I just want to exhort us to be better.
See, when someone visits Kindred at the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023, here’s what I want them to go away thinking or saying.
Number one, “They teach the Bible faithfully at Kindred Community Church. You find the truth there.”
But I also want them leaving saying, “You know what? They are kind people. They’re gracious. They’re warm. They’re inviting. I didn’t get in and out of there, without someone talking to me and offering to help me.”
That’s what we want folks. That’s why Francis Schaeffer calls love the final apologetic. Because Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you, so that the world might know that you’re My disciples.”
I’ll tell you what, it’s hard enough to get people to put their faith in Jesus Christ. We make it all the harder when we don’t show love.
Time’s gone, cooperation. We’ve kind of touched on this. I’m not going to spend a ton of time on it. Verse 16, because throughout these three sermons, on this passage, we’ve reminded ourselves that we have been given gifts to minister to one another, so that we all mature, and grow up, and develop and medify in the body.
Each one of us has a gifting, a call to serve to one another. That’s what verse 16 is saying. You know what? When God saves you and places you into the Church, it’s like when he put that first man and woman together, he fitted their body parts together, wonderfully made, right, intricately put together.
And Paul takes that image of the body and he applies it to the Church, and he just says, “As there are no redundant parts in your body, there are no redundant Christians in the Church.”
We’ve all got a role to play. We’ve all got a contribution to make. We’re all critical. You’re absolutely critical to Kindred Community Church. What God wants us to do, we will never pull off unless you help us do it. That’s what verse 16 is saying. Each of us are critical, just like every part of our body, seen and unseen, large or small, it all contributes to the health and effectiveness of the Church. We are not only dependent upon Christ, we are dependent upon each other.
So, as we close, there are to be no passengers or spectators in the Church. Just as there are no redundant and superfluous joints and ligaments in the human body. Everyone has a role to play, something to share, a contribution to make, so that Kindred Community Church and the believers in it go from childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood, and we become this attractive, robust witness for Jesus Christ.
You need to use your giftedness.
Listen to this little parable. It’s a story about four people in a church. One was called Everybody. The other one was called Somebody and the other one was called Anybody, and the other person was called Nobody. Now, listen to what happens.
The church had a financial responsibility and everybody was asked to help. Everybody was sure that somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but you know what? Nobody did it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done. Then the Church grounds needed work. And Somebody was asked to help, but Somebody got angry about that, because Anybody could have done it just as well. And after all, it was really Everybody’s job. But in the end, the work was given to Nobody. And Nobody did a fine job. On and on this went, whenever work was to be done Nobody could always be counted on, Nobody visited the sick, Nobody gave liberally, Nobody shared their faith. In short, Nobody was a very faithful member.
Finally, the day came when Somebody left the Church and took Anybody and Everybody with them, guess who was left? Nobody.
Paul’s driving at that in verse 16.
Let’s pray. Lord, we thank you for this passage. One, we thank you for the gifts that You’ve given us, the gift of Your Son and the gift of eternal life, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
We thank you for the gift of evangelist and pastor/teacher, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body.
Lord, help us as a pastoral staff, as a body of elders and deacons to minister to this church, to equip them, to give them the best chance at growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus.
And I pray that each member of the Church, who are priests before You, would embrace that challenge. That they would not remain a nobody, but they would become a somebody, who’s helping everybody, so that the Church might grow into full stature in the Lord Jesus.
Lord, if we are hitching a ride today on the church bus, help us to change. There’s no room for passengers. We’ve got things to do, there’s ministry to accomplish, there’s gifts to apply.
And so Lord, this Christmas, may we surrender ourselves, offer ourselves as a gift to you, in the use of our gifts given by you to grow the Church, to make a noise in the community, to attract people to Jesus Christ. And we pray these things in His Name. Amen.