Conclusion

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Over the past several posts we have seen how the local church is an essential component to the growth of the believer.  The reality is that when God’s people utilize God’s ordained instrument the results are unbelievable.

There are three specific, positive results that are revealed by Paul in Ephesians 4: 13 – 16 with the condition that they will come to be if the members of the church body will faithfully exercise their individual spiritual gifts.

  • The church will be unified and loving (v. 13).
  • The church will become mature and wise (vv. 13-15).
  • The church will become effective and successful (vv. 15-16).”[¹]

In light of these statements it is imperative that we recognize that this success is not necessarily equal to the success as would be defined by the world.  However, this success will be exactly what God has planned for that particular ministry.

Romans 12 is another passage to consider when attempting to understand this concept.  In Romans 12: 3 – 8, we find the Apostle Paul exhorting the Roman church to utilize all of their gifts for the effectiveness and efficiency of the ministry.  Paul makes it clear in verses 4 – 5 when he says, “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:  so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”[²]

Therefore it is imperative to recognize what God’s plan is and then, as God’s children, follow this plan while utilizing their individual God given gifts. When we take God at His word and follow His plan be prepared to see amazing things take place in our own individual lives while also in the lives of those around us both individually and corporately.

[¹] Wayne Mack & Dave Swavely, Life in the Father’s House, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), 158-159.
[²] Romans 12:4-5, KJV.
©2013 Mark Davis

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The Medium of Growth

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Within the context of the local church there are several pieces that can, and should, encourage the spiritual growth of the believer.  Those things can range from the pastoral leadership to the people you sit next to during the service to the appearance of the facilities, inside and out. 

While it is certainly healthy to have all of those “things” being just right, the reality is that the pin-point aspect that should encourage spiritual growth, and thus being seen through all of the peripheral items mentioned above, is the Word of God itself.

The Bible speaks much about the value of itself but we will focus only a few key passages in this post.  In 2 Timothy 3: 16, the Apostle Paul states that “All scripture is profitable….”  In making this statement, Paul is most definitely including the writings of the Old Testament (the Law) in conjunction with the writings of the New Testament.

No matter how you attempt to translate what appears in our English Bible as “All Scripture” you will find that “all” means all and “Scripture” is referring to the writings found within the canonical Bible.

As we follow this idea to the next step, we need to explore what these writings are profitable for.  Paul’s statement continues by saying that it is profitable for “doctrine [teaching], for reproof [rebuking], for correction [adjusting], for instruction [training] in righteous-ness.

Thankfully Paul does not stop at this point but he continues on to tells us for what purpose these things are profitable.  In verse 17 he tells us that they are profitable in order to guide the man of God to be “perfect [proficient], thoroughly furnished [equipped] unto all good works.

This plays out in a number of different ways in the local church today but John 17:17 provide some great insight here that helps us see exactly why it must be central.  The words of Jesus Christ read “Sanctify them [make them holy] through thy truth: thy word is truth.”  This verse provides a concise view of what medium must be used in order to see growth in the body of Christ.  The Word of God is the only medium that will not change and is profitable for many things (2 Timothy 3:16).[¹]

Paul, in Ephesians 4:15, exhorts the reader to be “speaking the truth in love”.

When true lives are married to love, the Spirit is free to do his work, and the result is wonderful.” [²]

The sufficiency of Scripture must be relied upon in both the life of the teacher and the life of the student (all believers).  If this reliance is not found on one side of this equation the effectiveness of the medium of growth greatly diminishes.

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[¹] Not only is God’s Word profitable for instruction in righteousness (which is what we all love about it) but it is also profitable to reprove and correct us when we make those wrong turns that we are all prone to make in life.
[²] R. Kent HughesPreaching the Word: Ephesians, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1990), 136.
©2013 Mark Davis

<< The Goal of Growth

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The Goal of Growth

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The ultimate goal of the preparation of the saints and the work of their ministry is the building up of the body of Christ.”¹ This building up of the body ultimately finds itself producing a great level of unity within the body of Christ.  This unity allows for believers young and old to be able to come together around a common goal and push forward.

As the local church (the body) grows toward Christ-likeness individually, the corporate unity begins to take place.

Having established that the gifted people were given to the church for the immediate purpose of preparing all the saints to minister for the building up of the body of Christ, Paul explains the need for the process to continue until attaining the goal that believers mature to the measure of the fullness of Christ.”²

Maturity does not always equate to unity nor does unity always equate to maturity.  Many times one will make the other to be more likely, but they can be used synonymously.  Full maturity that is to the measure of the fullness of Christ cannot humanly be experienced this side of eternity, but it is extremely necessary for the believer to continue to strive toward that end.  Paul explains in verses fourteen and fifteen the importance of growing individually so that the whole body can function as it was designed.  If one part has failed to develop as it should then failure is eminent and thus the entire body will suffer.

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¹ Frank Thielman, Ephesians, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010), 280.
² Harold Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), 551.
©2013 Mark Davis

<< The Means of Growth

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The Means of Growth

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Having briefly explored how gifted leadership is essential to the growth of the church in verses 7-11, Paul begins explaining how that takes place in verse 12.  In this verse the process of discipleship is established as the means for growth.

He says quite simply that God has given gifted leadership to the church ‘to prepare God’s people for works of service’ (v.12a) – or as it literally reads, ministry.”[1]

The word commonly translated as equipping is the Greek word karartismos which “basically refers to that which is fit, is restored to its original condition, or is made complete.”[2]  Christ, through His divine power, “hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness,” however, those things must be honed through the sound teaching of the Word by those that have been appointed to be over the body – the leadership.[3]

This teaching can be done from a pulpit, classroom, one-on-one, e-mail, instant-messenger, etcetera.  Regardless the means, this teaching must be taking place.  The body of Christ is the most obvious people-group that such teaching would take place in.  Although the ministers of the church are ultimately over the teaching material and training times this does not have to be done only by the church staff.

Many times a fellow lay person would be the best person to work with another lay person in order to immediately break down barriers and see God’s Word do a great work.  This can be one of the most rewarding relationships a believer can have.

When a believer takes a personal interest in a fellow believer, it causes both parties to think and study so that they can be better equipped and therefore would be able to equip others also.

The Bible speaks specifically to these types of relationships in Proverbs 27:17 and 2 Timothy 2:2.  Within both of these passages it becomes apparent that believers can have a great impact on each other and not be considered “official” church leadership or staff.

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[1] R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Ephesians, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1990), 134.
[2] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 152.

Leadership; The Essential Component for Growth

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In order for God’s purpose to be accomplished through His chosen instrument, the Church, it is imperative the appointed leadership be setting a proper example.  God has called out men to be the leaders of His Church.  These men must meet specific qualifications (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1) and exercise the gifts that have been given to them.[1]
God has supplied each of His children with grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift (Ephesians 4: 7).  This grace “is measured out to be consistent with what is necessary for the operation of Christ’s gift.”[2]  Therefore, due to the measure of grace that has been bestowed upon the believer, there should not be an assembly production of Christians.  True, genuine disciples are not manufactured, rather, they are develop one relationship at a time.
In verse eleven of this passage, Paul makes it clear that there are specific gifts of Christ that have been given to the whole Church:  “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”[3]  God provided these specific offices “for the perfecting [equipping] of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying [building up] of the body of Christ.”[4]  While all of these gifts are not still active today, the principle behind having several offices still stands.[5]
In order to train the believer to follow after Christ and to do the work of the ministry, it takes many individuals actively involving themselves in this process.  The men that hold these offices must not be ignorant about spiritual gifts in their own life or the lives of those that they have been called to oversee.  This entire idea can really be summed up with a statement by Wayne Mack, a very influential and Biblically sound author.

Ignorance about spiritual gifts in the life of any particular believer is harmful to the church because that believer has been gifted by God to play a unique role in the body, and the individual himself suffers because his usefulness and joy in Christ is dependent upon his exercise of that giftedness.  On the other hand, if you as a Christian understand the truth in God’s Word concerning spiritual gifts and practice it, you will make a significant contribution to the success of your congregation and experience increasing personal fulfillment in your walk with Christ.”[6]

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[1] R. Kent Hughes really does a great job at including some real life examples so that the reader can really get a grasp on what he is trying to communicate through his statements.  It is imperative for the leadership of the church to not only meet a set of criteria but to also live out that criteria daily, regardless of what setting they are found in.
[2] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 135.
[3] King James Version, Eph. 4:11.
[4] Ibid. Eph. 4:12.
[5] From what I can tell of my study, the offices of an apostle and a prophet do not fit the biblical model that is still in place today.  This is not due to tradition but rather due to the plan that God had for that particular office and thus that purpose has since past.
[6] Wayne Mack & Dave Swavely,  Life in the Father’s House, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), 145.
©2013 Mark Davis

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