Summary: All Christians are called into God’s Church. And all are given gifts that they may play their part in the life and ministry in the Church. Each person’s gifting needs recognition, not least by church leadership
In that passage from Ephesians chapter four that we heard, Paul begins by saying that he wants his Christian readers to live lives that are worthy of the calling they have received; lives which are ’worthy’ in the sense of being worth-while and of refelcting that calling- that their calling by God will not seem to have been fruitless. Our lives should be something of value.
This is an important first point that Paul makes, not just to those first-century Christians in Ephesus but also to us here in Newark in the twenty-first century. We have received so much from Christ. To live an unworthy life is an offense to Christ who gave so much and did so much for us.
So that’s how Paul begins this section, but then goes on to show us that this life is to be lived out in the fellowship of the church. Paul goes on by speaking about the unity of the church; the underlying unity of the church and then he goes on to speak about the gifts that Christ has bestowed on each member of his church, so that they can fuflfill that purpose, and therefore that that life, that ’worthy life’; that life which is a response to the love that has been shown in Christ is a life which is intended to be worked out in the framework of a Christian fellowship.
We cannot be effectve Christians in isolation, but Paul, in verse 3 of chapter four, says: Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, going on to speak of the one body, the one Spirit, the one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father. Paul makes a great statement, a great acclamation of Christian unity; a great acclamation of all that unites true Christian believers; an acclamation of that which is the basis of the church and of Christian fellowship; the bais of those who have been called by Christ.
And here I want us to stop and look, in parentheses as it were, at what the church fundamentally is. The church is there as part of God’s plan for Christians. But- what is it? The church let us remember is Christ’s foundation. The hymn writer has it:
The church’s one foundation
is Jesus Christ, her Lord.
Jesus founded the church and assuredly we will find something in the Gospels about that. The church was not an afterthought. Let us go back for a few moments to Matthew and chapter 16. There is that incident when Jesus says to his disciples, Who do people say that the Son of Man is?. And they come up with the answers like- John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then Jesus turns to his disciples and says, What about you? Who do you say that I am? That’s the question they have to answer for themselves; it’s the question that everyone has to make their answer to. It’s a question which each one of us in this church has had to answer for themselves. And if there be any who hasn’t then I would urge it on you here and now: do not rest until you have made your answer. What do we do with him; what do we make of him? How do we respond to him?
Among those apostles it was Simon who came out with the answer You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus replies Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.
On that rock Jesus built his church. Jesus uses that word ’church’, so let us stop to think what that word ’church’ really means. We need to understand the word in the original Greek of the New Testament. The word was ek’klesia- from which we get words like ’ecclesiastical’. It’s a compound word. ’ek’ and ’klesia’. The ’klesia’ but means ’called’ in the sense not just of name but of vocation, and the church is the ’called ones’ but the ’ek’-klesia or the called-out ones. The ones called out from the world, called out to be Jesus’ disciples, followers; the ones who will work for him and his purpose which is the salvation of men and women
So: What then is the rock on which the church is founded. It is not of course the person of Peter, and thence of Peter’s successors. No: Jesus was making a play on words, on the word ’petros’ (which we find in ’petrol’) which is the Greek word for ’rock’. Peter got that name for the confession he made: “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. It is that confession which is the foundation of the church.