Yesterday was our last Sunday in the United States for a couple of years. We were blessed to worship with Stones River Church in Murfreesboro (our sending congregation). The preacher mentioned Ephesians 4 kind of in passing, and I thought I’d take some time to read it this morning.
Reading then turned into a 3-column study. And that’s what I’m sharing with you guys today. Here is Ephesians 4:7,11-13 in my own words:
Christ has graciously given each one of us gifts to use in his church. Some will be apostles and some prophets, others evangelists and still others pastors and teachers. We are meant to use these gifts to prepare our communities for service. When we encourage and help one another serve others — THAT’S when we will find Christian unity. THAT’S when we will be spiritually mature. THAT’S when we will truly act as the body of Christ. (caps mine — as is the translation itself, I suppose…)
What I’ve Learned
- Grace is described in this passage not as the gift of eternal life or forgiveness, etc, but as the ability to help other Christians.
- Christ determines what specific gifts and abilities each of us receives. This doesn’t initially strike us as being fair. But, then again, we look at things in terms of the individual and not the group — and in terms of grace somehow being fair (which by it’s definition seems to necessarily be untrue).*
- Clearly, the point of our gifts is to encourage and build up other Christians.
- It seems extremely unlikely that any one small group (much less large congregation) would find a single individual possessing all of these gifts and, therefore, able to encourage and build up the church on his/her own. [Yet we often seem to function (and hire people) as if this is the case.]
- We build up the church by preparing one another to serve others. That means we serve one another by helping one another serve others. That’s an awful lot of service, and I’m just not sure that’s what we see.
- Unity seems to be a result — in one way or another — of service. It is NOT described as a result of a group of people believing the same things. Spiritual maturity is reached when we live Christ into our communities by serving those communities. [For more on the subject of unity, read this or this.]
- A lot of people these days are suggesting a better reading of this idea of a “five-fold ministry” would be to see it as a “four-fold ministry.” They believe pastors and teachers are the same people. That’s worth thinking about, at least (and if you know Greek, perhaps, even looking into further).
- Tony Woodall, the preacher at Stones River, suggested we’d do well to see this “five-fold ministry” list of gifts in terms of function, rather than in terms of position. He said it this way:
Your thoughts? Why do we prefer attempting to reach unity by believing the same things? Where is service on our list of priorities?
* Also, we’d probably do well to read the parable of the vineyard workers being paid “unfairly.”