Summary: Ephesians talks about "gifts" that Jesus gave to the church. This sermon looks at the peculiar nature of those "gifts."
OPEN: Several years ago, when Russell Blowers was the preaching minister at the East 91st St. Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, he gave an intriguing description of what he did for a living. At this particular meeting, it was customary for each member to give their name and tell what their occupation was. Blowers reportedly rose in his turn and said these words:
"Hi, I’m Russ Blowers. I’m with a global enterprise. We have branches in every country in the world. We have our representatives in nearly every parliament and board room on earth. We’re into motivation and behavior alteration.
We run hospitals, feeding stations, crisis pregnancy centers, universities, publishing houses and nursing homes. We care for our clients from birth to death.
We are into life insurance and fire insurance. AND We perform spiritual heart transplants.
Our original Organizer owns all the real estate on earth plus an assortment of galaxies and constellations. He knows everything and lives everywhere. Our product is free for the asking. (although you will never have enough money to buy it.)
APPLY: The church as a global enterprise? Well, yeah. I guess that makes sense. Jesus once described the church He had come to establish as being "...like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches." Luke 13:19
In other words, the church was going to start small. Then it was going to grow... and when it out grew it would have a wide influence. It was going to change nations, alter cultures, and renew lives of men and women across the face of the globe.
I. Now, this wasn’t going to happen by accident. Anything of this magnitude would require extensive planning and investment. This "global enterprise" was going to happen because Jesus intended to invest heavily in the church’s beginning - not only by purchasing its property with His blood - BUT, by something else that He did. Jesus didn’t just set the church in motion and then walk away. He did invested even more in its beginning...
Ephesians 4:8, 11 & 12 tell us: "... ’When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’ ...It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up."
When Jesus "ascended on high... He gave gifts to men."
What were those gifts?
* Pastors & teachers
Illus: About 3 years ago now, the Elders here had to make a decision. Should they start putting money towards the new sanctuary that the congregation had dreamed of for so long (they are presently meeting in a fellowship hall), or should they hire new staff member to help the church grow - a youth minister. They hired the youth minister.
Now I think they made the right decision. Brad & Beth have made a noticeable impact on this congregation and we’ve benefited greatly from their service here.
But when the Elders made their decision in favor of a new staff member they did so partly because that’s the example Jesus set for them.
When Jesus began His church, He invested - not in buildings (the early church reportedly did not have a building for its 1st 300 years of existence) - but in staff.
Now, who were these new staff members that Jesus "gave to the church?"
II. Apostles & Prophets are the 1st two mentioned here. And I have to admit to making a change in how I’ve viewed them recently. I used to think that the Apostles mentioned here were missionaries. (Apostle in the Greek literally means "one sent").
In the days of the New Testament, there were two kinds of Apostles. There were Christ sent Apostles, like Matthew, Peter, James, John etc. And, there were Church sent Apostles: missionaries like Barnabas, Silas and Luke.
AND I used to think that the Prophets mentioned here in Ephesians 4 were pulpit preachers, like me (Evangelists I saw as being equivalent to our modern day "Revival Speakers").
As I said, I used to think that... but I don’t think that anymore. Part of the reason for the change in my "theology" was a comment Paul made earlier in Ephesians where he wrote that Jesus "built (His church) on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone" Ephesians 2:20.
Now what did Paul mean by that (that the Apostles and Prophets were the foundation Jesus built His church upon)? No scholar would dream of saying that preachers and missionaries are the foundation of the church. But many believe that the Apostles & Prophets mentioned in Ephesians 2 were another way of talking about the Bible. Apostles representing the New Testament and the Prophets representing the Old.