Summary: Christ’s Gifts to the Church 1) Come in different packages 2) Help us grow stronger; 3) Keep us working together
Do any of you know what will happen in six months? Today is the 25th of June, which means that in six months it will be the 25th of December: Christmas! If you’ve already noted that Christmas is only six months away, you’re probably the kind of person that can’t stand having to wait to open presents. Thankfully our text this morning tells us that we don’t have to wait until Christmas to receive and open presents. Christ has already given gifts to the Church. We’ll learn today that these gifts come in different packages, help us grow stronger, and keep us working together.
So what are these gifts from Jesus that come in different packages? The Apostle Paul tells us in the first couple verses of our text. “It was [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers… so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11, 12b). Workers in the public ministry are Jesus’ gift to the Church and they come in different packages in the sense that they all have different talents and different emphases in the work they are to be doing. Local congregations like St. Paul’s in Calgary will gladly concur that called workers are God’s gift to the church, for they are eager to welcome into their midst their new pastor and his wife after having been without a pastor for about a year.
Because pastors, teachers, and staff ministers are Jesus’ gift to the church, God wants us to treat them with respect. The writer to the Hebrews went as far as saying: “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).
Now before Pastor Vogel and I start to think of ourselves as “God’s gift to the church” in the sense that you should be thankful to have us as your pastors, we’ll want to remember the purpose for which God has called us to be pastors. Paul said that we are “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12). Although the writer to the Hebrews said that a congregation is to obey its called workers, this does not mean God has called us pastors to be your king. The fact is he has called us to be your servants.
But isn’t that a contradiction? Why is the congregation to obey and respect its called workers if they have been called to be their servants? The contradiction clears up when we compare the pastor-parishioner relationship to what God says a husband-wife relationship is to be (Ephesians 5). Just as the husband is to be the servant-leader of the family and the wife the servant-helper, so the pastor is to be a servant-leader in the congregation while the parishioners are to be servant-helpers.
Now this does not mean that parishioners are to stand on the sidelines simply cheering the pastor on in his work and throwing him a water bottle whenever he gets thirsty. Church members are to work alongside their pastor and one another as they carry out God’s mission. Paul made that clear in the last verse of our text: “From [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16).
Paul’s comparison of the Church to the body is not an unfamiliar one. He points out that Christ is the head of the Church while we are his body. But we’re not all the same part of the body. Some of you are ankles; others are elbows. Pastors? We could be described as the red blood cells. Just as red blood cells carry oxygen to every part of the body so that muscles and nerves can function, pastors are to carry God’s Word to God’s people so that they are equipped for their work.
For pastors to work properly they need to ensure that the message they share with their members is truly God’s Word. Did you notice the emphasis Paul placed on correct doctrine in our text? Paul urged the teaching of correct doctrine so that “…we will no longer be infants, 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. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:14, 15). Correct doctrine is as important for the health of the congregation as is nutritious food important for the health of the body.