This evening in our series on "THE CHURCH and " we're looking at the church and growth and Ephesians 4.7-16. Introduction Do we want to grow as a church? And the emphasis here in Ephesians 4 is primarily on spiritual increase rather than on numerical growth - about growth in unity, in maturity and in love, about growing up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. Though both spiritual and numerical growth are vital and often numerical increase will follow the spiritual as the church lives in love and shows the truth in love. Do we want to grow as a church, as Christians and help others to grow? It is certainly easier, more comfortable and less costly not to grow. Well God wants us to grow both as individual Christians and as a church. In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul tells us that God wants his church, his people to grow and that it is God who gives the growth. He argues there firstly that the church is a family and the goal is maintaining unity and growing in maturity. Secondly he argues that the church is a field and the goal is quantity. And thirdly he argues that the church is a temple and the goal is quality. Do we share God's goals? And if so are we making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace, as it says here in Ephesians 4:3, and unity in the faith (v.13) - for there is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all - for we are not to keep unity at the expense of truth. And what gift or gifts have each one of us been given by Christ to build up and grow his body here and are we using them to that end? (See vv. 7, 12 & 13 ). You see how do we grow as the body of Christ? Paul here in vv.1-16 of Eph. 4 makes 3 basic points: by being Christlike (vv.1-2), by maintaining unity (vv.3&13) and by each part doing its God given work (vv 12&16). Yes it's God who gives the growth but we all have a part to play according to the grace we've been given. In 1 Corinthians 3 it was Paul who planted the seed and Apollos who watered it "as the Lord has assigned to each his task". And Ephesians 4 teaches us that the way the whole body grows is for all its members to use their God given gifts. Look at verse 16:
"From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love (i.e. from Christ alone, as head, the body derives its whole capacity for growth and activity and its direction), as each part does its work."
We thank God for the unity there is here at JPC and for the many who are using their gifts but are we all using our God given gifts for the growth and upbuilding of the whole body? Is each part of the body here doing its work? Well that leads us on to my first heading which is v.7 of Eph. 4: First, "TO EACH ONE OF US GRACE HAS BEEN GIVEN AS CHRIST APPORTIONED IT" (verse 7). Look at vv. 6&7 and contrast them. Paul turns from all of us to each of us - from the unity to the diversity of the church and to the fact that Christian unity is enriched by the diversity of our Christ given gifts. We are to keep and maintain the unity of the Spirit. But there is diversity in unity. We don't all have the same gifts and tasks. To make each dependent on others in the body of Christ, God has ordained not uniformity, but rather a variety of gifts for members of the body. As Calvin has written:
"No member of the body of Christ is endowed with such perfection as to be able, without the assistance of others, to supply his own necessities".
Note the first phrase of this verse: "To each one of us". To each of us, to everyone of us who are members of the body of Christ is given different gifts for the benefit of all. Note too the word grace. "To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it." Paul uses the word grace here in the sense of his use of it in Eph. 3:2 & 7-8. There and here it is the "privilege of a special calling in the service of God". Saving grace is given to all who believe and trust in Christ. But this is service grace - the grace which equips God's people to serve - and that is given in differing degrees according to the measure of Christ's gift. In his wisdom the Lord portions out different kind of gifts to different members. And the word grace implies that there should be no boasting about our different gifts, for none of us has anything other than what we have received unmerited from Christ. So from what we read in v.7 it is clear that no-one has all the gifts. No-one on the staff, no homegroup leader, no children's and youth team member, no musician has all the gifts. So you can't leave everything up to the leader of that particular ministry and neither can they do everything themselves. Let me stress again from this passage - no member of the body is without some spiritual task and spiritual gift for it. Look again at v. 7. Paul says, "To each", not to ministers or leaders alone, "grace has been given as Christ apportioned it". Did you know that we are really all charismatics in the body of Christ? The word 'charismatic' comes from the Greek word 'charismata' which means gift. And the word 'charis' means grace. Here Paul states that all Christians have been gifted by the grace of God. So
"according to the New Testament the whole church is a charismatic community. It is the body of Christ, every single member of which has a gift or charisma to exercise or function to perform" (Stott).
The unity of the church is due to charis, God's grace having reconciled us to himself, but the diversity of the church is due to charismata, God's gifts distributed to church members (cf. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12) But perhaps you're unsure what your gift is or how you can serve and use your gift here at JPC for the benefit of all. Well do talk to one of the staff or your Focus or Home Group leader. Which leads us on to my next 2 points. First my second heading, which is v.11: Secondly, The ascended Lord Jesus Christ "gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers" (verse 11). As Paul makes clear in vv.7-11 and in his quotation from Psalm 68, which we read earlier, the giver of the gifts is the ascended, victorious and exalted Christ who is filling the universe and ruling the church. And now Paul tells us some of the specific gifts he has given to his church. "He gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers" He gives people who proclaim the Word of God and lead, to build up the whole body into his fullness. And note that all five gifts have something to do with the ministry of teaching. For it is primarily teaching which builds up the church. Today we might not have apostles or prophets in the original sense - for apostles were those personally chosen by and eyewitnesses of the risen Lord and prophets were those who were a vehicle of God's direct revelation. But there are evangelists to preach the gospel and there are those who are pastors and teachers who tend the flock and expound the Word, those who are gifted for the day to day building up of the church. More are desperately needed. "Nothing", writes John Stott, "is more necessary for the building up of God's church in every age than an ample supply of God-gifted teachers." Today the need in the worldwide church is great. Many congregations in this country are not being taught the Bible. Is God calling and gifting some of you here tonight to be teachers of his Word, to be pastors and teachers in his church, to be evangelists? Will you obey the call and exercise the gift, with prayer for the enabling grace of the Holy Spirit. To be those who exercise their ministries in such a way as to help other members of the church to exercise their own respective ministries. Which brings us on to the purpose of these gifts in v.12, which is my next heading. Look at v.12: Thirdly, "To prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up " (verse 12). And continuing with v.13,
"until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ".
So v.12 states very clearly why Christ gave these particular teaching related gifts to his church. Firstly to prepare or to equip God's people for works of service and secondly what is done for God's people and by God's people is for building up the body of Christ. So church pastors are not to monopolise all ministry themselves. No, they are to multiply ministries. How? By helping and encouraging all God's people to discover, develop and exercise their gifts. And by enabling the people of God to be a servant people, ministering actively but humbly according to their gifts, so that the body of Christ may be built up. I asked earlier if you know what your gifts are. Again if not why not talk to one of the pastors. The 5 gifts which we've looked at so far are not the only gifts. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:4 says that "there are varieties of gifts". In the 5 lists of gifts in the New Testament 20 distinct gifts are mentioned, such as doing acts of mercy (Rom. 12:8), administration, faith and message of knowledge. And even those lists are probably not exhaustive. We are all to use our God given gifts, which are all service gifts, not for our own selfish use which could be divisive but to build up the body here and we ought to be able to find support and training in those works of service from those who lead. You see I wonder what our model of the church is? Is it a pyramid or hierarchical model or is it a bus model where everything is concentrated in the hands of one man? Well the New Testament model of the church is not a pyramid or a bus but rather a body. As we've seen already tonight the church is the body of Christ, every member of which has a different function or ministry. A few years ago in one American Episcopalian church in Connecticut their Sunday bulletin had on its front cover the names of the Rector, the Associate Rector and of the Assistant to the Rector. Next came the line: 'Ministers: the entire congregation'. The way the whole body grows is for all its members to use their God given gifts. And these gifts are so beneficial to both those who faithfully exercise them and to those who receive their ministry that the church becomes more healthy and mature. I say again are we using our God given gifts to build up the body? And are you being prepared for works of service? Are you making the most of the opportunities there are such as Parish Visiting this week and next? Or the more regular opportunities in children's and youth ministry, or in showing hospitality, or in serving tea and coffee at the end of the services, or working on the PA team etc. etc. All spiritual gifts are service gifts. They are given for the service of other people. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12:7:
"To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good".
They are all given to build up the church. As we've seen from v.12 we learn that the primary gifts are teaching gifts and that their purpose is to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. But what does Paul mean by building up the body of Christ? Look at v.13 again: "so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ". The word "until" suggests that the building up of the body of Christ will not happen overnight, rather it will be a lengthy process, probably involving much hard work and prayer, leading to unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, to literally mature manhood, and the measure of the fullness of Christ. There will be unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God meaning that there will be a corporate common conviction about the truth of Christ and his word and a growing together in our knowledge of him. There will be maturity in unity which comes from us knowing, trusting and growing up into Christ, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. This unity is to be maintained visibly and attained fully. The more we know and trust the Son of God, the more that we grow in the kind of unity with one another he desires. Then our witness to the world will be strong as Jesus prays for us in John 17 that all of his disciples may be one. And our maturity will grow both individually and corporately for the church is to grow up into adult stature - the measure of the fullness of Christ. The goal to which the church will one day fully attain. And if we're growing in unity and maturity, in the knowledge of the Son of God and the fullness of Christ, then we will no longer be infants which is my final heading. Fourthly, "Then we will no longer be infants " (verse 14). Then we will no longer be immature Christians
"tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming".
Something which still happens in the church today as people follow the latest theological fad or are thrown off course by distorted teachings and heresies, and sometimes by those who are deliberately deceitful and misleading. Verse 15:
"Instead speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head that is Christ."
How does the church grow into maturity? By truth and love. By literally truthing in love, i.e. by living and doing the truth in love. Our life together as the body of Christ is to be truthful and loving. We are to uphold God's truth, which is so critical today, in love. There is no other route than this to a fully mature Christian unity. So in contrast to doctrinal instability we should be speaking the truth in love in order that we may grow up into him who is the head, that is Christ, from whom the whole body, v. 16, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. The emphasis is on the Head on who we are to depend, into whom we are to grow up and from whom the whole body grows when each part is working properly. Christ is at work fitting and joining the whole body together. He provides sustenance to it through every contact according to the needs of each single part. He enables the body to make its own growth so that it builds itself up in love. We are to look to, depend on and grow up into him.