|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000|
|Dr. Barber has already explained that God is the one who produces the unity in the Body of Christ (the church). In this article he explains the gifts that God has given us to enable us to preserve that unity.|
We are talking about preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One of the most sensitive and precious things that the Spirit has done for us is that He has bound us together in the bond of peace.
In verse 3 Paul says, “being diligent to preserve,” not produce. We cannot produce unity. He produces unity. We preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. You see, the Holy Spirit is the divine ligament that binds us together. We are to preserve that unity. “Preserving” has the idea of urgency, be alert, be awake, preserve, be sensitive, watch out, protect it at all costs.
Now we do that by the way we behave towards each other. That is in verse 2. Not a single one of those characteristics is of man’s capability. It is what God gives a man, the ability and the capability of doing. The humility in verse 2 is what God produces within a man. It is the character of Jesus Himself. That humility, that gentleness, that patience and that forbearance of one another in love is something God the Holy Spirit has to produce. We preserve the unity of the Spirit as we are willing to be filled with the Spirit of God, thereby, the Spirit continues to hold us together.
Secondly, we preserve it by the way we believe. In verses 4-6 the word “one” is used seven times. That flames the cardinal doctrine of what we hold to and what gives us identity. It says in verse 4, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” We have covered all of that.
The third thing we see of how we preserve the unity of the Spirit is by the way we are built together. The reason I say it that way is because in chapter 2 he says we are the household of God. We are the temple of God. As odd as it might seem, we are one in the Spirit, however, we are diverse in our gifts. It is amazing how God did that. He didn’t throw away our personalities. He didn’t throw away our individuality. He gave us gifts to accentuate those things. He made us uniquely different in the body of Christ. When I am filled with the Spirit of God, when I am aggressively letting my gifts work in my life and the ministry that God has given to me, even though we are diverse in some strange, mysterious way, I am actually preserving the unity of the Spirit.
We saw the ultimate source of this diversity in the last study. Whose idea is this anyway? Verse 7 tells us that it is the Lord Jesus Christ. It was His idea. We are different because He wanted us different. Our gifts are different because He wanted them to be different. Ultimately, He is the source of all the gifts, even though I Corinthians 12 says the Spirit really dispenses the gifts. Remember, Jesus had to ascend in order to send the Spirit. Then the Spirit comes and He cuts the pie the way the Lord has told Him to cut that pie. Every one of us have different gifts. Some of us have more than one. But the source of them all is the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at verse 7: “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” So we know that He is the source ultimately of all the diversity of gifts.
Secondly, the ultimate sacrifice that was required so that we might have these gifts was the fact that Jesus came, paid a terrible price on the cross and resurrected from the dead.
But He had to ascend before we could have our gifts.
Now, the whole point of this is in verses 8-10. “Therefore it says, ‘When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.’ (Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.)” Paul is simply saying He stooped down to the very lowest depths He could stoop. He came down as far as He could come down. Now He has been exalted as far as you can be exalted. He is the one now who has been given all authority over every principality that is under His feet. Now He is the giver of our gifts.
Look at what it cost God for us to be a gifted member of the body of Christ on this earth. Hebrews says He went back to the Father by His own blood. The Father saw that blood. Then there was satisfaction with the Father that sin had been paid for and the Lord Jesus was given a name above every name. Now He stands to rule over all as the God-man. Now we can understand what it cost Him in order for us to be a part of His body and in order for us to have the gifts and the ministry God has given to us. Think about it for a second. If you are not functioning in the gift God has given to you, if you haven’t even stopped to consider that you are a divine part of a One Body on this earth, then friend, it is almost like slapping God in the face. You are insulting Him by not being willing to accept the portion of the pie that He gave to you and also to function in the gift that is uniquely given to you.
Well, the ultimate sacrifice that was required was the Lord Jesus had to die, resurrect and ascend to the Father before these gifts were made possible to all of us.
Now in verse 11 Paul narrows the scope to one more point about these gifts. I want us to see the ultimate standard of the gifted individuals that make up the body of Christ. What you are going to see is where we are headed with all of this. What are the gifts for? What is the goal? What does God want for us with all the gifts which have been given to the body of Christ? Look in verse 13: “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.”
Let me explain that. In other words, until the whole body is able to stand up, function and bring visibility to Christ, then we have not yet reached that goal. What God wants with these gifts is that every gift function. He is not pleased when gifts are not functioning in the power of His Spirit. What He wants is for the body, His body, the church on this earth, to rise up and give visibility to the Lord Jesus, not to ourselves, not to our denomination, only unto Him.
The goal of the body of Christ then is that the whole body come to its full maturity in Christ. Now if that is going to happen, we have some work to do. If everybody has been gifted, then all those gifts are going to have to function. When a person discovers his gift, it is out of being surrendered to the Lord Himself. When he begins to live that exchanged life, then God begins to burden him in certain areas. He begins to pinpoint the gifts that God has given to him. We have got a lot of work to do if the body is ever going to reach the stature of the fulness of Christ, to where every gift is functioning and where the church on earth is bringing visibility to the Lord Jesus Himself.
There are three things about this standard that God has for us. First of all, in verse 11 I want you to see the Master’s men who are given to the body to help it mature to the fulness of Christ. “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” He changes from grace gifts, which are bestowed upon men, to gifted men being bestowed upon the church. He is not talking here about gifts. He is talking about gifted men assigned to the body of Christ to help the body attain to that standard—the measure of the fulness of Christ.
He begins by mentioning apostles. We have already been told in Ephesians who these apostles and prophets are. Go back to 2:19. They are connected with the infant church way back when the church was just being founded and was beginning to grow. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord.”
Now, who are these apostles? There were two kinds of apostles: primary apostles and secondary apostles. Now let me explain to you what I am talking about. A primary apostle was called and commissioned by the Lord Jesus as His own sent-out one. These were the primary apostles. He called them Himself. He sent them out and commissioned them Himself. Now remember, Paul was one of these. Look in 1:1: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” In other words, he didn’t go to school and study how to be an apostle. It was God’s will that he be sent out and commissioned as an apostle. These were the ones sent out by Christ Himself. In First Corinthians 15:8 Paul says, “I am an apostle, born out of due season.” Paul was saying, “I am not one of the original twelve, but yet in a sense I am. God is going to use me to give doctrine to the church.” So when he spoke, he spoke in the authority of a primary apostle. Primary apostles were men who witnessed the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. If you didn’t witness the Lord Jesus Christ resurrected in that day, you could not qualify to be an apostle. They had to have seen and witnessed the resurrected Christ.
You say, “Now wait a minute. When did the apostle Paul witness Him?” On the road to Damascus. God appeared to him, and he immediately realized who it was that he was dealing with. He repented, and God commissioned him as His apostle.
They were given the task of imparting the New Testament truth to the church by direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God. Now this was the assignment of these early primary apostles.
There were also secondary apostles, who were also called apostles. The secondary apostles were intimately associated with the primary apostles. It was the primary apostles who give us doctrine. The secondary apostles, however, were right there along side of them for that period of time. Let me give you some illustrations. Acts 14:14 mentions Barnabas as an apostle. Silas, in I Thessalonians 2:6, is mentioned as an apostle. James, the brother of Christ, in Galatians 1:19, is mentioned as an apostle. I only picked three. There are more mentioned in the New Testament. These secondary apostles were intimately acquainted with the primary apostles. All of them were associated with that early infant church.
Now many people say, “But the word ‘apostle’ simply means sent out. Isn’t there the sense that people are sent out today?” Certainly there is. But in the sense of the apostle and prophet of this day, they are over with. They are associated with the infant church. They were given by God for the early maturing of His body on this earth.
Secondly, Paul mentions the prophets. Remember, apostles and prophets are associated in the same group in 2:20. The prophets he speaks of here spoke by direct illumination of the Holy Spirit. God would illuminate them and they would go and speak what God had put upon their heart to the early church. Their task was to proclaim New Testament truth before the completion and distribution of the New Testament. On occasion, they would foretell something. Just like their Old Testament predecessors, they would foretell an event that was about to happen.
Paul said they are associated with the early church. We are living in a time when people don’t endure sound doctrine. They would rather have somebody walk in and say, “Hey, I’ve been with Jesus.” Well, I have too. He lives inside of me. I didn’t have to go get Him. He is already here.
New Testament prophets, which he is speaking of here, did not foretell, they forth-told truth. That is all they were there for. A prophet came down and told Paul, “Don’t go to Jerusalem. I believe God has a message for you. Be careful.” He foretold that. That’s fine. They declared forth the message of the gospels. The apostles guided the church in the way it ought to go. The prophets guarded them in what they ought to know. Those are the two groups that worked with the early church.
Well, thirdly he mentioned evangelists. The last two groups, to me, are the functioning ones today. They are the ones that God wants to minister life and truth to the church through. Verse 11 says, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists.” It seems to me the evangelists and the pastor/teachers worked side by side in the local church in doing their task in their assignment of maturing the body of Christ. Let me show you why. You see, some people think an apostle is the missionary, the one sent forth. I don’t. I think the evangelist is.
An evangelist in the New Testament was the one who went out and brought the people who were lost to Christ. They were church planters. They were missionaries in every sense of the word, whether it was in the neighborhood or whether it was around the known world of that day. They would lead them to Christ, plant a church and then structure it so that they could be discipled and grow up in Jesus. Then they would move on to another church. They always stayed with the people they ministered to. It wasn’t a hit and miss proposition. That is not the same thing that we think of evangelists today.
Every church needs a ton of these people. Timothy was told to do the work of an evangelist. Philip was called an evangelist. Those are really the only two times we can see illustrations of evangelists in Scripture. An evangelist was one who went out with a burden to reach the lost. He brought them into the church, got them set up and moved on after a while when they were structured.
Then along comes the pastor/teacher to pick up where he left off. He takes them and grows them into their maturity in the faith. One of the problems we have so often is the people who are the gifted evangelists get on the people who are the gifted pastor/teachers and make them think they are not doing what God has called them to do. All of us are commanded to evangelize. I am not saying we’re not. Every time I get on a plane, I say, “God, I will share with whoever is on this plane whatever you want me to share with them.” Every time He gives me an opportunity to share with someone it is not an unsaved person. It is a believer who has not been helped to grow up in his faith. I start smiling the moment I hear it. I say, “God, you are exactly what you say you are.”
Now you put an evangelist on that plane. He will never run into a discouraged Christian. He will run into a lost old deacon who thought he was a Christian, or a Sunday School teacher who never met Jesus. That person will sit right beside that evangelist. It will only take a second until he is leading him to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that person will come to know Christ.
Listen, we need to work hand in hand because once you have led a person to Christ, once you have got him to where he can begin to grow, then what are you going to do with him? I will tell you what an evangelist is going to do. He is going to turn him over to a pastor/teacher and take off looking for somebody else. That is the way God designed it.
Then we come to that gift that I am a little more familiar with in verse 11: “and some as pastors and teachers.” Now, you say, “Why do you put pastor and teacher together?” Every one of these gifts has a definite article in front of it. When it comes to “pastor and teacher,” there is only one article for both of them. That automatically hyphenates them and puts them together. You can’t have one or the other. You have got to have both of them built in. A lot of people say, “Well, we have a great pastor at our church, but he can’t preach a lick.” Have you ever heard that? Friend, that person should have never been in the pulpit to start with. Just because he cares about the body does not mean he is gifted and qualified to grow the body up into maturity. People with that kind of gift should be working alongside somebody in that ministry, but not in the pulpit. Churches have fallen apart all over our country because the people in the pulpit don’t have a gift of teaching the people and growing up and equipping the body. Now remember who cut the pie. God did.
So you have your evangelists, then you have your pastor/teachers. These are the Master’s men. Instead of gifts bestowed upon men, we have got gifted men bestowed upon the church. Why? So that the church can begin to grow and come into the stature of the fulness of Christ. It is required to be equipped, so He gives the equippers to the church.
We also see the Master’s plan. What are the evangelists and pastor/teachers doing? Look in verse 12: “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” I want to take that apart and just look at it. Every saint has a grace gift. Does that mean they are using it? Not necessarily. As a matter of fact, you know they are not. If they were why would He give these people so they would start using them? How are they going to learn to use it? God gave gifted men to help people be equipped so that their gift might begin to function and they can walk and live inside of that gift when it comes to ministry to the body of Christ. Every saint needs to understand and be equipped in using his gift. The word “equip” is the word katartismos. That is the word used in II Timothy 3:16- 17.
How do you equip somebody? A lot of people say, “To train people you need to have seminars and tell them the methods, etc.” Now wait a minute. The word “equip” is always associated in the word of God with the word of God. You cannot be equipped apart from the word of God. Understand that. Look at II Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Guess what the word “adequate” and “equipped” is? It is the same basic word as katartismos. It is the same word that he uses over in Ephesians.
Well, now wait a minute! Paul says “equipped for every good work.” The whole thing is that the body of Christ rise up and begin to work, out of the gifts that God has given, the deeds that God wants to do through them, the ministry out of the gifts that God has given. What comes first, the work or the word? The word. God has sent gifted men to the church in order to get people up under the Word of God and get them relating to Christ properly so that they can begin to exchange their lives. Then they begin to function in their gifts so that the whole body reaches to the stature of the fulness of Christ. That is what it is all about, folks. “Well, I don’t think you have to do it that way.” That is okay if you want to try another way, but that is the only thing I can find in Scripture. The only way we are equipped is when we are up under the authority of this book. We bow to it. Whatever it says we do. We are surrendered to the Spirit of God who lives within us. As a result of that, the Spirit begins to fill us with divine ability. He energizes our gifts and gives us the ministry we are looking for. Then the body of Christ can mature and rise up to the stature of the fulness of Christ.
Paul goes on to say in verse 12: “to the building up of the body of Christ.” The word is oikodome. It means the literal building of a house. The house is built externally by evangelism. It is built internally by the pastor/teacher equipping the saints to mature and to walk in that relationship with Christ. So we see the house being built through gifted men given to the church to equip the body for the work of ministry. Acts 20:32 says, “I commend you to God and to the word of His grace which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” What builds up the church? The word. What equips the church? The word. God has sent gifted men to the body of Christ to do just that. There is no ministry until people are up under the Word of God.