Summary: Jesus’ design for His church is that…every member is a minister.
I know that many of you here this morning are really excited that football season is just around the corner. I know I’m looking forward to seeing how my favorite teams fare this season. As the season approaches, I’m reminded of how someone once described a football game:
22 men down on the filed in desperate need of rest and 50,000 people in the stands in desperate need of exercise.
What we’ll discover together this morning is that one misplaced comma has led a lot of people to believe that the church is to operate like that as well – that there are a few paid professionals who do the work of ministry while everyone else sits on the sidelines and cheers them on. But Jesus never intended for his church to operate like a spectator sport. In fact, today we are going to discover that…
Jesus’ design for His church is that…
every member is a minister
And since that is true, that means that if I really love my church, then I must actively participate in the ministry of my church.
We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get right to it. Go ahead and open your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 4. As I indicated last week, we want to come back to this chapter again and look at a different aspect of this important passage. Last week, we primarily focused on what this passage taught us about discipleship – the process of becoming who Jesus would be if He were I. And we saw how effective discipleship requires the participation of the entire body. It’s not something we can do successfully just on our own.
But this week we want to focus more on the purpose of discipleship. Why is it that Jesus wants us to become mature disciples?
I want to begin with a verse that I didn’t read last week – verse 7 – because it provides us with some needed context for what we’ll cover this morning:
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
(Ephesians 4:7 ESV)
Paul tells us here that each and every disciples has been uniquely gifted with God’s grace. Each of us have been graced with gifts, not based on our worth or merit, but rather based solely on how Jesus decides to allocate those gifts. Paul confirms that idea in another one of his letters:
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…
(Romans 12:6 ESV)
As we’re going to see this morning, Jesus doesn’t gift us with His grace just for our own personal benefit. As the Head of His body, Jesus knows what is good for His body and so He sovereignly bestow gifts on every single disciple based on what is good for both the individual and the body as a whole.
With that in mind, let’s move on to verses 11-12, which should be familiar to us from last week:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
(Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV)
What we learn here is that not only did Jesus bestow gifts on the individual members of the body, He also bestowed gifts on the body as a whole in the form of certain people whose role is to equip everyone in the body put their gifts to work. You’ll notice that there are four particular types of people with leadership gifts that Jesus gives to His church – apostles, prophets, evangelists and shepherd-teachers.
It would be easy for us to spend the rest of our time focusing on the nature of those roles and trying to determine which ones are still operational in the church today, but frankly all that would do is provide us with a bunch of information that really wouldn’t do a whole lot to help us actually apply that knowledge.
For our purposes, what I do want to point out is that the underlying Greek grammar it pretty clear that the position of a shepherd-teacher is only one position that combines both of those roles. And here at TFC, that is the role that God has given me. I am to shepherd this body primarily through the teaching of God’s Word for the purpose that we will examine further in just a moment.
So let’s summarize what we’ve learned so far:
What Jesus does for His church
• He bestows gifts on every individual member
• He bestows gifts on the body as a whole
The next thing we need to determine is why Jesus does this. What is His purpose in gifting both individuals and the body as a whole? Those questions are answered in verse 12. I want us to first look at that verse as a whole and then take a more detailed look at some of the key words in that verse.