|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000|
|Dr. Barber continues his examination of the role of spiritual gifts in the body of Christ.|
If you somehow disconnect the prayer of chapter 3:14-21 from what is going on in chapter 4, you have done a great disservice to this passage. Paul has prayed a prayer that is dynamite. It sums up what he said in chapters 1, 2 and 3 and sets up what he is saying in chapters 4, 5 and 6. The crux of the prayer, the very foundation of it is verse 16 and 17 of Chapter 3. Paul prays that they might be strengthened by the means of God’s Spirit with power. The word “power” means divine ability for the works which are required: “to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.”
Now you say, “How do I do that? I want to get in on what God is up to. I don’t want to be working for Him. I want God to work through me. How do I do that?” Verse 17 of his prayer says, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” The word “dwell” means that He might be made to feel at home. How do I accommodate Jesus in my heart? By my faith. What does that mean? To put it in simple terms, by my willingness to obey His word and His will, by my surrender and submission to Him, I am accommodating Him in all the areas of my life. Thus, I begin to experience His power, His presence and His ability in me that I do not have apart from Him.
When we do this, when all of us are walking in the Spirit, when we are strengthened with His power, we are in fact preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. Now what am I talking about? In 4:3 Paul says, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” You see, the Holy Spirit is the divine ligament that holds you and me together. As I am filled with the Spirit and controlled by the Spirit, and as you are controlled by the Spirit, we are preserving the unity of the Spirit. It begins to be made manifest in the way we behave to each other. 4:2 says it begins to be manifest by what we believe. We are identified and defined by our doctrine.
Chapter 4:4-6 says we are also identified and defined in the way we are being built up as the dwelling of God. Each of us have different gifts. When we are filled with the Spirit of God, those gifts operate. They were given by the Spirit. Some of us have more gifts than others. Some of us have gifts that are clearly seen. Some of us have gifts that are behind the scenes. God is the one who cut the pie. None of us should ever want somebody else’s gifts or feel bad about the gifts that we have. They are given according to His grace gift. Everything we have that God has given is worth dignity in our life. Therefore, whatever gift you have and whatever gifts I have, we ought to be grateful.
When these gifts properly function the body is being built up and we are preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. It is incredible to be so diverse and yet so one. That only happens when the Spirit of God is empowering us. The key for every believer is submission, surrender to the Spirit of God in every area of their life. Then the work of the ministry takes place. Then we tap into the divine ability God has given each one of us.
Let’s make sure we are very clear what Paul is teaching in verse 12. There are three things about these gifted men God has given to the church. The apostles and prophets gave us our doctrine. The evangelists build it externally. The pastors-teachers carefully explain and teach that doctrine building the body up internally. First of all, let’s look at their tasks. What is the task of these gifted men? Well, it says it very clearly in verse 12: “for the equipping of the saints.” The assignment given to the gifted men is the equipping of the saints. What does it mean to equip the saints? The word “equip” there is the word that describes the completion of the process. It implies the process itself, but it describes the completion of a process, the process being fully preparing someone for a task of which he is assigned. In other words, they are assigned the task of fully preparing, developing and equipping saints for a task that God has assigned unto them. This is the assignment of the gifted men to the church.
As I was studying this, a thought came to my mind. How do you equip people who don’t want to be equipped? Then it hit me. If you will stay inside the context of what Scripture says, it already answers the question. Go back to Ephesians 1:1. Paul already tells you the saints he is talking about. When you are to equip the saints, what kind of saints are there to be equipped? “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, [Now watch the last phrase] and who are faithful in Christ Jesus.” As soon as I asked the question, God gave me the answer: “You cannot equip people who don’t want to be equipped, but you can equip the saints who are faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ, those who are seeking what He wants in their life.”You know, it is like setting thetable. I can’t make my children eat, but we can definitely put the food out there. So what Paul is basically saying and what I am saying to you is, you cannot make people eat. You cannot make people grow. Only the people who are faithful will grow. Only the people who are faithful can be equipped by the proper teaching of God’s Word.
Now, how are they to equip? We know their task is to equip. How are they to equip? II Timothy 3:16-17 has a powerful phrase right at the beginning of it, “all Scripture.” That word “all” is a wonderful Greek word. It means “all.” “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” What comes first, the word or the work? It is very obvious. Until a person is being equipped in the Word of God, he is not equipped. If you disconnect Ephesians 4:12 from the prayer in chapter 3, you have missed the point. When does the Spirit of God empower us with divine ability to minister to one another? When Jesus is made to feel at home in a person’s life; when a person is profiting from having surrendered to God’s Word; then the Word produces the work that is eternal.
Now what is their task? Their task is to equip the saints. That is why we try to get people in the Word. Until we get up under the authority of the Word of God, you can forget the task the church has, and you can forget the gifts ministering. You can have polished programs with polished results, but you do not have the good works that God can produce through a surrendered life. Equipping comes from the Word of God.
Why? Let’s go to the second point, and I think you will understand the thrust of their task. What is their task? Equipping the saints. What is the thrust, the aim, of their task? Well, the aim is very clear. He says it in Ephesians 4:12: “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service.” That word “service” is better translated “ministry.” You probably say to that, “Ministry! You mean to train those who have gone to seminary and are ministers?” No. That idea says the only ministers are the people who have been to school to learn how to minister. That is ridiculous. As a matter of fact, many people who have been to school don’t qualify. What is a minister? A minister is any believer surrendered to Christ and empowered with divine ability. That ability enhances his gift and through that gift reaches out and serves and touches somebody else inside the body of Christ. A minister is a surrendered believer. What is a missionary? A surrendered believer. They are synonymous. Whether it is across the street or around the world.
Every person who is a believer and is surrendered has already been given a gift. Now that gift is operable. He ministers. He has a mission of reaching others for Christ. Isn’t that incredible? God has given gifted men. It is one thing to have a gift. It is another thing to be in a position where God is letting you use it. There is a huge difference.
A lot of people go through a spiritual gifts class and say, “My gift is mercy. My gift is serving. My gift is [whatever].” Well, you may know what it is, but if you are not under the Word of God, if you are not profiting from it, if you are not surrendered to the Spirit of God, you have no ministry at all. What you are doing is going to burn at the judgment seat of Christ. It is only what God does in and through you as you cooperate with Him, surrendered to His Word, empowered by His divine ability that ministry can ever take place.
Now, why would He give gifted men to equip gifted believers for the work of the ministry? “I thought you had a church staff to do the work of the ministry.” As a matter of fact, there is not any one individual who has enough gifts, enough time or enough energy to do all the work that is involved in ministering to the saints in the local and universal body of Christ. God says, “I’ve got them out there. They are everywhere. You do what I tell you to do. If they are seeking Me, and are faithful, then they will be equipped to do what they are called to do. You’ve got a good thing going when the people are being equipped for the work of the ministry.”
I think one of the greatest pictures is Romans 12:1-8. It shows how you need to be equipped, it shows the attitude that comes from being equipped, then it shows the gifts that flow out of being equipped. Romans 12:1 says, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice.”
Friend, that is the attitude of worship: “God, it cost you everything to give to me what I have. I am giving everything back to you. I am presenting my body as a living sacrifice.” Now when that happens, look out. You are about to become useable real quickly. You are not useable until you come to this attitude. Romans 12:1 goes on to say, “accepted to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” When you start worshiping Him, look out. Ministry is about to take place.
There is presentation in Romans 12:1, and in verse 2 there is a renovation and a transformation. Watch. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
“You mean if I am not presented to God as a living sacrifice, if I am not in the Word letting it renew my mind, if I am not being transformed, I know nothing about the will of God?” That is absolutely right. You cannot test it. You cannot know it until you are willing to submit and let it be what God wants it to be in your life. That is an incredible thought here. How many people are missing this? They are not surrendered, therefore, they are missing it. They have come up with a form, but they don’t have any idea of what the ministry is all about.
In verse 3 Paul speaks of what has happened to him. “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think.” All of a sudden, you stop coveting somebody else’s ministry and somebody else’s gift and remember, “Hey, God cut the pie. If I got a small piece, it is alright with me. I’ll take it.” You don’t become high-minded. All of a sudden, you no longer know how to run the church. All of a sudden, you no longer now how to administrate somebody else’s gift. You just fit into the slot God has given to you and you begin to think of yourself like you ought to think. Verses 3-6 go on to say, “but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly.”
Then Paul mentions the gifts down through verse 8. Just look at that, and I won’t get any further into it. You start off with a presentation, a renovation, a transformation, and an attitude of humility. Suddenly you begin to realize that you are not the big shot anymore and you just simply fit in as a team player in the body of Christ. Then you begin to realize, “Hey, this is why I am different than him and he is different than me. We are gifted differently. We are different individuals.” We begin to fit in to a ministry God begins to develop in our lives.
Now when you have gifted men equipping, and the body, who is gifted, responding and being equipped, you’ve got a good thing going. That is exactly what God designed it to be. The task of the gifted men is to equip the saints. What is the thrust of that task, the aim of that task? For the work of the ministry.
God has given gifted men to equip, but you can’t equip somebody who doesn’t want to be equipped. If you are not faithful, if you are not seeking what God wants in your life, if you have just chosen to be miserable, that is your choice. But if you have chosen to be that way, you are going to continue to be that way and it is going to get worse. At some point you are going to say, “Hey, wait a minute. Maybe God’s will is good. Maybe it is acceptable. Maybe it is perfect. I would like to get in on it.” Get on your knees. Surrender. Get under the Word, and God will enrich your life like you did not think was possible. That is the whole aim, the thrust of their task. The work of the ministry is not just something you do in serving somebody else. It is what God does in you. It brings all your joy to you. This is what God does to thrill your life as you become a part of what you have been hoping somebody else would do.
In I Peter 5, Peter instructs the elders and says, “Listen, guys, don’t do for the flock what the flock is designed to do.” I can name real quickly pastors who have gone by the wayside because of churches who have said, “No, sir. You will not equip me. Bless me if you can.” They have sat and soaked and run some poor guy flat into the ground. Why? Because they thought it was the whole bunch paying him to do what they were gifted to do. Folks, it is never going to happen until faithful saints begin to seek Him and want to get in on His will which is good and acceptable and perfect.
What is the test of their task? Look at the verse. What are they for? The equipping of the saints. For what? The work of the ministry. How do you know it is happening? He says, “to the building up of the body of Christ.” The word “building up” means to build a house. I am beginning to understand what contractors go through. They have to put up with subcontractors and people who won’t show up on time. How do you build a house when you are supposed to have the plumbing go in on Tuesday and the carpet go down on Thursday, but the carpet doesn’t show up for three weeks and the plumber doesn’t show up for two weeks? What are you going to do? The house just doesn’t seem to get off the ground! Everybody has got to contribute at the right time and the right place. Then in a coordinated effort the house can be built. That is exactly what he is saying. You have got to have a building superintendent who tells them what to do and tells them where to put the stuff. You have got to have the people to do the job. If everybody is functioning in the place that God has given grace to function, then the house, the body of Christ, is built up.
Do you know how to tell when it is not working? When you come to any church and find a lot of people who sit and soak. They are all telling somebody else what they think needs to be done in that church. You’ve got one of two problems. Number one, the Word of God is not adequately taught or number two, you have got a lot of saints who are not faithful and who are not willing to get busy about dying to self and getting in touch with what God is up to. They are people who have lost their joy, friend. You have to go back to where you have lost it. Remember, if you are filled with the Spirit, you are also dominated with joy. It goes along with the package. If you are not surrendered to Christ, then there is obviously no joy in your life. You won’t get it when I do what you are called to do. You will get it when you get in touch with doing what God has assigned you to do. The joy comes in serving Him. The joy comes in seeing His gift manifested in your life.
Well, when the Word of God is prospering and the people are profiting from it, then the saints of God are going to be ministering through the gifts they have. That is the picture Paul is trying to draw. The gifted men are equipping, the gifted body is ministering and the whole body is being built up. This is what the church is supposed to be in the 20th century. That is what we are all about.