Whereas Ephesians 4:1-6 speaks about the unification of the body, Paul discusses how we are unified but not uniform in verse 7. Each Christ follower has been given a Spiritual gift, and if we aren't using that gift, then the body suffers. We are without excuse if our lives aren't bearing fruit for God?s kingdom. And because gifts are essential for accomplishing God's plan for the church, they should not be ignored.
Believed the Truth? Received the Life? Then Walk in the Way.
Getting a Grip on What it Means to Love God
Believe What He Has Done, Be Living Like He Has Done It
The Blueprint of the Church, part 2
The Blueprint of the Church, part 1
A Reasonable and Right Response to His Radical, Redemptive Love
The Divine Dimension of Love
The Breadth, Depth, Width and Height of Puppy Love
A Suffering Steward in a Cell: What was True of Paul Ought to be True of Us
Things into Which Angels Long to Look
Lord, we want this time this evening to continue to be glorifying to you. We thank you for your Word which instructs us, that we might not be left to folly or the best opinions of men. We are not blown to and fro with every wind and wave of doctrine, because we have the dogma of God himself. We want to interpret it correctly.
We want your Spirit to teach us. We want to yield to it and not be lovers of just the sound of it, but people who apply it to our lives. May we not just love you in word and in tongue but in deed and in truth. Teach us now your Word. Put it on my tongue, that we might go forward in truth. In Christ's name, amen.
Let me show you what's going on in Mark, chapter 11. Look with me down there at verse 15. It simply says, "And they came to Jerusalem." They being Jesus and his boys, the Twelve, and their followers.
"And He entered the temple and began to cast out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple. And He began to teach and say to them, 'Is it not written, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations "? But you have made it a robbers' den.'"
This is the end of Christ's four-year ministry here on this earth. If you remember, he started his ministry in much the same way, but we've come to find out that the temple under the leadership of the Pharisees was like a child's closet. It was cleaned when Mom came into the room and said, "Pick it up. Get it straightened out. This is how it should look. Let's get it together," but when Mom goes out of that room, over a period of days, and in this case just a period of years… Christ again walked through his house, and it was in shambles all over one more time.
What we're going to look at tonight is what he would say if he walked into our house. I'll make a couple of quick observations just for fun as a little hors d'oeuvre as we begin. He says, "My house should be a house of prayer, not a house of preying, where you prey upon people, where you manipulate them, where you ploy their emotions, where you draw on their weaknesses and exploit them for your own exaltation and well-being. You should not do that."
He says, "My house should be a house for all nations, not just for the Jews. You don't accept the currency and the tithes and the money offerings of folks who come who aren't of your people." In fact, they wouldn't accept the common currency of the day, and what they'd do is they had a tremendous business set up and said, "If you want to offer offerings to God, you need to go ahead here to where the moneychangers are, and you need to use our exchange rate, and we'll give you temple money you can offer as a tithe."
You can imagine how advantageous the exchange rate was to those individuals. He said, "You have made this place exclusive when it was supposed to be a place where all nations were to be encouraged and drawn to me." As I look around, part of what we are as a church is where God has placed us, and we shouldn't feel guilty that there are not a bunch of Asian people in our body if we don't have a lot of Asian folks around us in our daily circle of friendships.
Maybe there are not a lot of black people we run into. Maybe there are not a lot of Filipinos. Maybe there are not a lot of Canadians near us, but I will tell you this: if the reason those people are not here is because they are not welcome, we have a serious problem. Yes, we don't make them change their money, but do we make them adopt to our culture? Do we make them want to look like us, talk like us, sing like us?
This is a place for all people. This is God's house, not white America's house. All we need to do is take a heart check and say, "Lord, is there anything we can do to better improve the fact that this is a place where all men feel free to come and worship?" Now it is true that there will be different expressions everywhere you go and that some people will enjoy worshiping in different environments, and that's okay.
But if we said simply… The reason the elders are behind this service is because we said that's not the only way to worship. We want all people to express their love for God in their own language, in their own way that's just as genuine, just as sincere. Will we welcome individuals here? We must. What would Christ say if he walked in here tonight to us?
Let me go a step farther. What would he say if he walked into our staff meeting? What would he say if he walked into our elder meeting and saw the way we, as a people, were structured? What would be his word to us? What would be his word to you, as an individual who sat in the pew? Would he have a spurring to do? Would he have some words of comfort? What would he say to you?
Flip with me now to Ezekiel 33. What we must avoid is to come week in and week out and hear good truth… It's good truth not because of what Kurt or I do with it; it's good truth because it's God's truth. Hopefully, we're communicating it in a way that makes sense to you, feeding the sheep. We'll talk more about that. Look at what it says in Ezekiel 33. Start with me in verse 30.
We don't want to just look back and go, "Whoa!" to those Jews who ran the temple back during Jesus' day who didn't keep the temple in order. It was like a child's closet that constantly got out of whack. We must ask ourselves, "What is our temple like? What is our home like, and what would Jesus say if he came in here today to us?" Let's not be guilty of what was going on in Mark 11, and let's for sure not be guilty of what was going on in Ezekiel's day.
Ezekiel 33:30: "But as for you, son of man…" That's a name for Ezekiel. "…your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, 'Come now, and hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord.'
And they come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people, and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. And behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not practice them."
We, in our country, love to find somebody who can teach God's Word in a way that we go, "Come now, and hear the Word of God." There are men in Dallas we are blessed to have, left and right, church after church, and they are like a sensual song to many people who go and sit underneath them, and they love it. They go, "You've got to hear this guy teach." But if all we're doing is hearing a nice song and turning it off, we have a major problem.
Look at the last verse. God says, "So when it comes to pass—as surely it will—then they will know that a prophet has been in their midst." What he commanded Ezekiel to say were words that were true, words that maybe weren't fun to hear, but he said, "If they enjoy listening to you speak, then speak my truth, because my truth will come to pass, and they must prepare themselves." Earlier in the chapter he said, "Be a faithful watchman."
If the watchman stands on the corner of the city's walls and watches for what is coming and cries back to the people and says, "Beware! Here comes judgment," and the people don't respond, then, he says, he will hold the blood on the hands of the people who do not change, but if the watchman just preaches what is convenient or if the watchman is too lazy to go, if the watchman is too lazy to stay alert and rightly communicate what is true, then, he says, he will hold the people's blood on the hand of the watchman.
It says in the Scriptures that a teacher will incur double judgment. Part of the reason for that is not only is he lazy in his own sense if he doesn't study God's Word and apply it to his own life, but if a teacher doesn't rightly interpret God's Word, rightly divide the Word of truth, when he teaches others, he's going to drag them down the same road of destruction. If a watchman sleeps on his shift, not only does he die by the sword of the enemy, but so do all of the people who counted on him.
It is our heart's desire during the time we teach God's Word here that we're not just a sensual song. We hope it's fun, we hope we laugh, but we hope we respond; that we are not like a child's closet that comes, and every now and then we get it straightened for a moment, but we drift right back. We're going to look at a passage in Ephesians tonight that is the central passage for what a church must look like.
Paul talks about it in every single one of his epistles, but he absolutely hypes it here. He goes into exquisite detail here. This is his most significant statement of what we need to be as a church. He's telling us to clean our closet. We have studied through Ephesians, and we are now in Ephesians, chapter 4. We must now discern what he would say about us, as a church, if he came and evaluated us.
Are we what he said we should be to be sure the book of Ephesians is our bridal portrait? It is indeed the best we will ever look, but we ought to make it our goal to stay as beautiful as we can and as much like the glorious bride he has called us to be that we can be. I'll say it again. If you're just stepping in here tonight and have not been with us through the preceding weeks, you would be stepping into a place in Ephesians where a legalist would begin.
He would rush right to Ephesians, chapter 4, and begin to teach the commandment section, but we did not do that. We spent week upon week in Ephesians 1-3, because that is where the wealth and the heart of Christianity was shared. See, the heart of Christianity is not what men can do for God. Please listen to me. It makes us different from every other world religion, because we are not a religion; we are a relationship, and a relationship that is initiated by God.
The heart of the gospel is not what you can do for God. The heart of the gospel is Ephesians 1-3. It is what God has done for man. It is what God has done for you. So, we have in Ephesians 1-3 our wealth, and you have to get chapters 1-3 down before you go to chapter 4. Chapter 4 is our walk. Chapters 1-3 is our doctrine; chapters 4-6 is our duty. Chapters 1-3 is our heavenly calling; chapters 4-6 is our earthly walk. Chapters 1-3 is our orthodoxy; now 4-6 is orthopraxy.
Do not try to conform the hands of men without first dealing with their heart, because as we said the last time we were together, dead men cannot march. It doesn't matter who their commander is. If he goes to a graveyard and says, "Let's go. Let's move. Let's take the mountain," if they are dead, they will not get up and go. God says, "Do not try to conform dead men to be spiritual people. They must first be born again. There must first be a work, a life that indwells them that can take them forward."
That is what chapters 1-3 are about. It is the wealth of God. His banner over us is love. He takes those of us who were dead in the graveyard of sin and has raised us now to the throne room of grace. Verses 1-6 in chapter 4 have been the pavement which will get us to verse 7, where we pick up this week. Verses 1-6 talked about how you begin to respond to this incredible truth of what God has done for men.
It is, if you will, the Cupid's arrow, as I said. Until you are hit by it, until you are really struck by God's truth, you will never have that reflex response of obedience and stewardship. I would beg you not to. I would beg you not to pretend to love God until you've been hit by Cupid's arrow, until he touches your heart, until you've been hit with the sword of the Spirit in your heart and you understand what he has done for you and how he loves you.
Then it will be as if you're sitting on a doctor's bench with a healthy knee, and he hits you right where he needs to hit you, and your knee just jumps right up. That is what'll happen to you if God's Word takes root in your heart, but apart from that, it will be nothing but a ball and chain to you. His banner over you will not be love; his banner over you will be a leash, and he will snap it, and he will tell you to heel, and you will be a disgrace to him and a scourge to all who have only you to look to about what Christianity is.
So, verses 1-6 in chapter 4 is the first reflex response to being struck with the truth of God's love, and it basically talks about, especially in verses 1-3, "This is, then, how you should walk. This is the right response to the breadth, width, depth, and height of his love." It talked about our unity and how we are all one. We mentioned that perfect unity.
In the Bible, the number for perfection is seven. So you see seven different ways that we are one. That was Christ's great prayer. Remember that in John 17? "Father, I pray that they would be one. Even as you are in me and I am in you, that they may all be one, that the world might know that I am, basically, who I claim to be: God in the flesh who came to die for their sins, that they might be reconciled to us."
If we are not unified perfectly, then the world would go, "You know, I don't know who the Messiah is. I don't know who the Savior is. I don't know who hope is, but it is not Jesus, because look at them fight. Look at them bicker. Look at them slander. Look at them struggle for acclaim and self-promotion. It is not Jesus who is the way. It might be David Koresh. It might be somebody holing up in Montana, but it is not Christ, because I do not see his people looking like he said they would look if he was who he said he was."
Nietzsche, the great atheist of the twentieth century, essentially said it this way: "Before I believe Christians have a Savior, they will need to look a whole lot more saved." All I would say to Nietzsche is, "Yes, maybe some of us need to apologize about the way we represent to you who we are, but ultimately, you are without excuse, because we are not the final word. The final word is Jesus Christ, and it is he who we must pursue to be our standard."
In wrapping up last week, we are told to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called. That is what we should do as Cupid's arrow hits us. There's a story of a guy who was walking out, and he was handing tracts out left and right to people. Finally, a man took it who could not read. He picked up that tract and said, "What's this?" The guy said, "That's a tract." He said, "What's a tract?" He said, "Well, that'll explain to you the gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ, how he can change your life and how he changed mine." The guy said, "I can't read tracts, so I'll just watch your tracks."
It is a completely biblical idea that you might be the only Bible somebody ever reads. What would be the message they get? Let me tell you. It should be a message of hope, a message of love, a message of truth, a message of forgiveness, a message of reconciliation, a message of peace, and the place that you learn those things should be right here in the church. The only way you'll learn those things is if the church does its job. Let's see how we're doing.
If you were ever in a philosophy class, you might have had a philosophy professor walk up and ask you, "What is the most important part of an ox cart?" To which, as they got quiet, students would have begun to speak. They would have looked at each other, and somebody would have said, "Well, the most important part of an ox cart is the ox." Another one would have said, "No. The most important part of the ox cart is the frame." Someone would have said, "No, it's the axle." And someone would have said, "No, it's the wheel."
What is the most important part of an ox cart? The most important part of an ox cart is the blueprint. You could do away with the ox. You could do away with the wood frame. You could do away with the wheel and the axle, but if you have the blueprint, you can always reconstruct. You can always make it look like what it ought to be.
What is the most important part of a church? Think. Is it the choir? Is it the organ? Is it the church softball team, God help us? Getting whomped every night over there in the co-ed league. What is the most important part of a church? It is the blueprint. It is what we ought to be, and you're about to see the blueprint right here.
We looked in verses 1-6 at the unity. Now you're going to move into diversity. We looked at how we are unified. Now you're going to see how we are also unique. Look at verse 7. "But…" Meaning, contrast. "…to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift." Let's read through where we're going tonight, and then we'll stop.
"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 the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…"
There's your blueprint, or the beginning of it. What Paul is going to do… In fact, if we had time, I would go all the way through it tonight, because the paragraph doesn't end. In fact, the sentence doesn't end until verse 16. Verses 7-16 is one sentence in the Greek. We're going to cut it off right there at verse 12. Paul is going to tell you two basic principles tonight, and then we'll come back and get the third major one next week. Don't miss it.
He's going to tell you you want to know what is true in number one, what must be true to see that developed in number two, and what it should look like if one and two are properly applied. That's what we'll hit next week when we go to verses 13-16. Let's just start right here: "But to each one…" We talked about the body in verses 1-6. Now we're going to talk about the individual parts. We're going to talk about the leg. We're going to talk about the hand. We're going to talk about the arm and what is true of them.
It says in verse 7, "To each individual in the body…" I said it already. We are unified, but we are not uniform. There is a difference and a distinction among us. Though we are one, we are diverse. "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift." What's he saying there? He is saying a truth. Every single Christian is gifted in a spiritual way. Let me say it again. Every single Christian in this body is gifted in a spiritual way.
If you do not take the gift you have received and if you are not applying it, then the body is suffering. You need to know this. There are some of you who have been given a large measure of giftedness. In fact, it says in a singular way that you've been given a gift, but some of you, when you opened your gift there was a plethora of other gifts inside of it. Others of you have been given just one small gift. All that you are commanded to do is use it to its fullest.
Back in the New Testament times, there were several different measures. There was the omer. There was the kab. There was the kor. There was the ephah. There were all different measures. Some of you received an omer, the largest portion. Others of you just received a kab, but every single one of you received a gift.
First Peter 4:10 says it this way: "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." Let me give you something that's really encouraging tonight. Flip with me to Matthew 25. I want to show you something, because you kind of go, "Man, that's not fair that I haven't been given what Billy Graham has been given. I haven't been given what some other man has been given."
It does not matter. You need to know this: you have been gifted, and you've been gifted by a sovereign God. That God decreed to give you certain things in a certain way that is full of perfection and is right for you, and all he is concerned about is if you use it rightly. That is the first significant thing that must happen in a church that is going to be built according to Christ's ways: that every individual has received a gift.
In chapter 25 of Matthew, look at verse 14. We're not going to go through this whole thing. I want to show you something, though. It's a parable. It's called the parable of the talents. "For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one…" To each one he gave a different measure.
Now look at what happened to these men who all received a different measure of the master's possessions. It says he gave to each one according to his own ability, and he went on his journey. He did not overwhelm. There is not a single one of you who is asked to do something you cannot do. It's an amazing thing about the life of Christ. Toward the end of his life, he said, "All that the Father has given me to do I've accomplished. It is finished." How many of you go to bed after one day and can say it's finished?
How about Paul? "I have fought the fight. I have finished the race. I have perfectly appropriated the giftedness which God has given me." Some of you guys have ten, some five, some two. You've been given different measures, but each according to his ability. None of you are overwhelmed. None of you are overburdened.
A perfect loving God who knows you intimately has given you just what you need to completely please him and to completely be satisfied and full in your service. Now, it's not to you to decide (we'll get to this in just a moment) about what you should have received or what somebody else received. It is up to you to do one thing. It is to be faithful. Period. Now look at what happens.
"Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the ground, and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. And the one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, 'Master, you entrusted five talents to me; see, I have gained five more talents.'"
Now look at verse 21. "His master said to him…" Listen to his reward. "Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master." What did he give him? An encouragement. "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in a few things. Now you will get the many." Look at what happened to the guy who did not have what he had at the beginning but responded in the same way. Look at verse 22.
"The one also who had received the two talents came up and said, 'Master, you entrusted to me two talents; see, I have gained two more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'"
It sounds like I reread verse 21, does it not? Mark this down. Be encouraged that when different measures of gifts are given to different people and they are faithful with them, the reward is identical. So you're not being ripped off because you're not Billy Graham. You are not being ripped off because you're not John MacArthur. You are not being ripped off because you are not Howard Clark.
If you are not gifted like those great men, then you do not need to worry that you're going to only get to live in some zip code in heaven that's not quite as affluent as where Billy and Howard are going to get to dwell. All he says to you is "Be faithful with what you have, and I will put you in the finest place there is." Now let me show you a contrast to that. Turn to Luke 19. Remember this: when there are different measures given, there is the same reward given for faithfulness. Look at verse 11.
"And while they were listening to these things, He went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. He said therefore, 'A certain nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas…'" So, 10 different guys got the exact same thing.
"…and said to them, 'Do business with this until I come back.' But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to reign over us.' And it came about that when he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him in order that he might know what business they had done.
And the first appeared, saying, 'Master, your mina has made ten minas more.' And he said to him, 'Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, be in authority over ten cities.' And the second came, saying, 'Your mina, master, has made five minas.' And he said to him also, 'And you are to be over five cities.'"
Do you see this? When an equal amount has been given, the reward is different based on how you were faithful with it. There are certain things we have all received the same measure of. It says in Ephesians 4 every single Christian has received the gift by the grace of God, according to the measure given him by a perfect Sovereign God, in order that you might not be overwhelmed.
It is also a spiritual truth that every single Christian has been given certain things that are identical to all of us, and we all have the same opportunity to be faithful with those things. What are those things? It is a life we have a time. We have a day. We have 24 hours in every day. Every single one of us has the same amount of time to develop in our relationship with him, to know Christ and to make him known.
Every single one of us has the same truth of the gospel, which is the power of God to salvation. What are you doing with it? It doesn't matter what your measure of giftedness is in this sense. It now matters what you're doing with what we all have. There is a different reward when there is a similar opportunity.
So know this. Do not be discouraged that you may not have the gift of Chuck Swindoll. Be consumed with being faithful that you have the gift of Kevin Ainsworth, if you're Kevin Ainsworth. Be consumed that you have the gift of Craig Mattson, if you're Craig Mattson. Be consumed that you have the gift of Jack Worley, if you're Jack Worley, and be faithful with it. Let me just give you some truths about spiritual gifts.
Here's the first one: spiritual gifts are sovereignly given; therefore, they should not be sought. You do not need to seek spiritual gifts, because they're sovereignly given. So don't seek them. Here's another one: spiritual gifts come from the Lord (they are God's gifts); therefore, they should not be exalted. We love to do this. We love to change our focus on the gift instead of keeping our focus on the Giver of the gift.
I am grateful for Tom Nelson. I'm grateful for Howard Clark. I'm grateful for Chuck Swindoll. I'm grateful for servants like Nancy Brandt, but if I adore and lift them up and worship them, I have forgotten that gifts are from God and I need to worship the Giver of the gift and not the gift itself. Spiritual gifts are from God; therefore, they should not be exalted.
Here's another one: everyone has at least one gift (we've said that now); therefore, we are all without excuse. Finally, I'll give you one more: spiritual gifts are essential to accomplishing God's program for his church; therefore, they are not to be ignored. I'll say that one again. He starts about what the church should look like by simply saying, "You have all received a gift." Spiritual gifts are essential to accomplishing God's plan for the church; therefore, they should not be ignored.
Do you actively pursue using your gift? If you do not, first, you are embezzling from God, and secondly, the body is suffering. If you, as a leg, refuse to operate, we must walk with a limp. If you, as a heart, refuse to beat, we must be colder than we were intended to be. If you, as a finger, refuse to point and to pull and to touch, we are less than God intended us to be as a body, and we are suffering for it.
Now look at what it says here. This is kind of an exciting passage. Look at Ephesians. It says in verse 8, "Therefore it says, 'When he ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.'" If you look in your margin, you'll see that's a quote from Psalm 68:18, but what he's really doing is taking that whole psalm and condensing it and rewording verse 18 to tell you that, basically, Christ does what every conquering king has done; that the reason you have gifts is because you are a servant of a conquering king.
In the time of Christ, what would happen is when kings would go out and fight, they would destroy the land and take captive the land and all the bounty and the booty that would go with it, and they would bring it back. They would march into the city, riding a white horse, and behind them there would be a train of captives.
All that they had brought in from the great slaughter and all that they had wreaked from going through the city would be distributed amongst the faithful who had supported them in the time of battle, who had sent them supplies, who had protected the homeland while the king was gone, and the king would give gifts.
That's exactly what it says Christ has done. He has taken those who were captives. In fact, he says that in Christ coming and dying… He writes a little commentary on that. He goes on this. Look at verse 9. "(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 the heavens, that He might fill all things."
What he's saying is what is true of David in Psalm 68 is typical and prophetic of Jesus Christ and what he had come to do. Colossians 2:15 talks about how when Jesus Christ came, he came to conquer Satan, sin, and death. Probably specifically what Paul is talking about here… We sing it often. One of our favorite songs to sing is "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High." "You came from heaven to earth, from earth to the cross, from the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky. Lord, we lift your name on high."
What actually is in mind here is that he indeed did come… He descended from heaven to come to earth, and then even went a little bit farther, but he ascended from earth into the grave of the earth. In doing so, he defeated Satan, he defeated sin, he defeated death, and now he returns with those who were formerly in bondage, captive to Satan and sin and death, and he has led us back as a conquering King and offers us gifts.
I'll tell you what I also think is true. In fact, turn very quickly to 1 Peter 3. I'll show you something kind of fun. In the Old Testament, when an individual would die, it never said he went to heaven. An Old Testament saint, when he had a funeral, they did not do what we do, and that is to place them with Christ in heaven. The early church fathers believed and the Bible has revealed that, basically, until Christ had defeated Satan, sin, and death, men would go to another place, a holding tank, if you will. It's called sheol in your Bible, the resting place of the dead.
Now in sheol there were two separate parts: lower sheol and upper sheol. Lower sheol was where there was judgment. It is where the angels that were perverted and had rebelled against God and the wicked of the day were stored as they waited for God's final judgment, but there were others, when they were righteous, it says, "And he was gathered…" You'll see this again and again. It says that Jacob was gathered to his fathers. You'll see that Isaac was gathered to his fathers, that Sarah was gathered to her fathers.
It's called paradise. It is called the bosom of Abraham, who is the father of the faith. You are gathered into the bosom of the father of the faith, and you are kept there. Look at 1 Peter 3. It says in verse 18, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison…"
What he's saying right there is not the same word as evangelize. He did not go and evangelize spirits now in prison. It's a different word. It is he went, and if you will, he said, "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah! I am King, and you've messed up in lower sheol. I have conquered you." Then he went to upper sheol, and I do believe he led captive a host of captives, those who were in the grave who were still conquered by death because Christ had not yet taken away the sting of death, as Paul says he did at his own crucifixion. "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"
I do believe that what Christ did is he led those Old Testament saints with him to heaven. Their bodies themselves await resurrection, but they are with him, I believe. He took captive a host of captives. So, what Christ did during those three days between his death and his resurrection and then his ascension is he went and freed all of those who were in the bosom of the father of the faith, in the bosom of Abraham. There's some debate about that, but that's neither here nor there.
This next thing is here nor there. Look with me in verse 11. This is what he did. Basically, you have a conquering King who has given you gifts. He has given individual gifts to believers. There are two different places in Scripture where the spiritual gifts are explicitly laid out (maybe three): 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. I believe there are twelve spiritual gifts, five speaking gifts, and seven serving gifts, and those five speaking gifts and seven serving gifts…
You'll see again and again in the Bible, 12 is the number of administration. There were 12 apostles. There were 12 tribes. There are 12 gifts we need to use within the church. To not use one of them is disobedience, and we mock at the King who graciously gave them to us. We mock at his wisdom in apportioning them. We mock at the need for him to go and conquer that we might have what he has desired to give us.
We have all, as individuals, been given gifts as believers, but now look at what he says here for a church, that the church also is a place where not only are individual gifts given to believers, but gifted men are given to the body. There are gifted men who are given to the body. Look at verse 11. "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers…"
Very quickly, all that means is there were men who were apostles. We know there were 12 apostles. That literally means ones who were sent forth. They had seen the resurrected living Lord. They were authenticated by the work of God. We see that there are 12, and we find in Revelation that those 12 men will have a special role in the kingdom and the administration of God's eternal rule, or millennial rule, specifically.
So those 12 were set, and they had a specific function. They were the foundation upon which he built the church; that Christ himself being the cornerstone, the apostles, and then we'll get to a second, the prophets, being the foundation upon which he had built. In a technical sense, there are no more apostles. In a funny sort of way you can say we are all apostles. We are all sent forth. Jesus says, "Even as the Father sent me into the world, now I send you."
But we are not New Testament apostles, and you would be mistaken to call yourself an apostle. But there were gifted men who were given to the church that the blueprint of the church might be built. There were also prophets. In a technical sense, these men no longer exist. Before the Bible had been closed, before the Scriptures had been given to us, there were men who the Spirit immediately spoke to, as a church gathered in New Testament times, that they might teach truth so the people would respond to what God said.
In a technical sense, that New Testament prophet is no longer with us today, but in a non-technical sense, if a prophet is one who speaks truth, who knows all wisdom and mysteries (like we do as we study the Bible), we are all prophets, in a sense, but not in the truest sense, and you'd be mistaken to call yourself a prophet today. But we all must learn to speak the truth. We're commanded to do that. In fact, we'll get to that at the end of next week.
So, then you get to two that did exist then and do exist now. The first is an evangelist. They're the Billy Grahams and the Luis Palaus of the day, men who took the truth of the apostles and the prophets and went and spoke. They took the gospel of God, which is the power of salvation to all men, and they preached it. They founded churches left and right, and after those churches were founded, there were other gifted men who came and administered to those churches, and they are pastor/teachers.
The word pastor is specifically poimen in the Greek. It is the same word as shepherd. It literally means a shepherd. A pastor has two responsibilities. This is my role today. It's Kurt's role. It is Howard Clark's role. We are pastor/teachers. We are shepherds. We are here to provide care, and we are here to teach.
We are here to provide guidance, but we are not here to use you as a stepping stone [audio cuts off] might be free, that you might be equipped, that you might grow to be [audio cuts off] in a Protestant church in America three years before they move on. They don't understand their job as a pastor is to provide, first, the care God intends them to have. It is what he said to Peter. He said, "Do you love me?" He said, "Yes."
"Feed my sheep. Do the work of a shepherd. Do you love me?"
"Lead my sheep. Do the work of a shepherd."
It is the job of a pastor to feed the sheep. One man has said (and I agree with him) not to feed the giraffes. When we come in here, we're to make it available to you. We're not to go up here and put it up there and make it so high that you would say if it's foggy, it must be brilliant. We're not to feed the giraffes; we're to feed the sheep.
We're not to beat the sheep. Have you ever been in a church like that? You go in, and a guy just waylays you left and right. He stands in the back to shake your hand. You go in the back and go, "Oh, Pastor." You offer him your bloody stub. "That was good, Pastor. Thanks a lot. Oh, I needed it. It was good. Thanks for beating me today." A lot of you grew up in that kind of church.
Now, there are truths that need to hit you. Maybe Ezekiel 33 was a truth that kind of hit you, but I say that because I love you. Sometimes the pastor needs to break the leg of a sheep, but he cares for it and nourishes it and brings it back. It is the job of a pastor/teacher… Catch me now. Here's where we're going to make a major jump.
A pastor/teacher is not here to pontificate so you can sit and absorb day in and day out. A pastor/teacher is there to care, to shepherd, to guide, and to get out of the way. The sheep do not call and hire the pastor to do the job of the church. That is a perversion. There was a reformation that happened about 400 years ago, and we only reformed the Word of God. There needs to be another reformation that happens again on the work of God.
It is not my job to do the work of the ministry. It is the sheep's job, and I am a sheep. In a sense, the pastor is only a steward. There is a greater Shepherd who I am a servant of. It is never called the pastor's flock. It says in 1 Peter 5, "Shepherd God's flock among you." I am a steward of that flock, and Kurt is a steward of that flock, and we are to feed you, but we are not to let you hire us to do the job of the ministry. It says what we're supposed to do in verse 12. We are here for the equipping of the saints.
Now I'll tell you this. You need to know this. The word for pastor and elder and overseer is all the same. Those men in the church have to be men who are modeling for you what ought to be done, and if those men are not doing that, then we have a severe problem. We, as leaders in the church, have to be showing you and equipping you and teaching you the Word of God and helping you use your gift that the body might grow, that the blueprint might be built the way God said it should be built.
That word for equipping is used a couple of different places. I'll show you one place. Galatians 6:1. Read this with me. It's the same word for equipping. "Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness…" The word for equip is sometimes the word to restore. There are times when a pastor/elder, a shepherd, needs to restore.
It's the same word used in Matthew 4 when Jesus came upon some of the disciples and they were mending their nets. They were equipping. They were restoring, mending their nets. Some of you, God love you, we have to restore you. You have come from a broken and beaten past. You don't know how to get along with people except to manipulate them and intimidate them. I need to restore you by the Word of God back to what God intended you to be. We need to help you.
This weekend, I was down in San Antonio to speak at a thing for First Evangelical Free Church down there and was doing some stuff with them, and my muffler blew out. I went into a Meineke muffler shop, and I got under the car with the guy, and we were talking about my muffler, and, brother, did he have to restore my muffler and everything else underneath there, but that's neither here nor there now.
We're up there and we're looking, and all of a sudden, this guy starts talking to me, and the phone rings. It's just he and me in the shop. He answers the phone. He goes, "Yeah?" His demeanor changed from being a really outgoing, friendly guy to kind of, "Yeah. All right. You can call me later. All right." He hung up.
"It's the wife. Well, not really my wife. I've been living with her for six years. We have a 2-year-old. We bought a house out there by her mother's house. It was the biggest mistake we've ever made. Her mom runs her life; therefore she runs mine. I'm not living with her right now. We're separated." The brother just kind of spills for two minutes. He goes on to tell me about all of the problems with his life.
He said, "I'm not calling her this time. We go through this cycle again and again, and I always call her. I'm not going to call her." I had just gotten through telling that guy about how I really didn't know a lot about cars, and I asked if I could stand underneath there and he could show me some things, and I watched him replace my muffler and do some other things. I learned more about cars in those few little minutes.
He said, "Oh, you should know this. I know this because it's my job." I sat there after he told me about his broken marriage, and I said, "Can I tell you something?" He said, "What's that?" I said, "You know, I don't know how to restore a muffler, but restoring a marriage is part of my job." He says, "Oh, is it?" I said, "Yeah, it is."
He goes, "What do you do?" I said, "I'm a shepherd." I didn't use that word. I said, "I'm a consultant." No, I didn't. "I consult people about spiritual matters, help them mend their nets." I went on to say to that guy, "You know, part of what you're doing, the strategy your brother is giving you… Here's the reason he's telling you not to call your wife.
You guys are in a mode where you manipulate this person to get her to act in a way that's tolerable for a while, and after a while, the stakes have become so high, what you have to do to get her to act in a way that's acceptable to you is no longer going to be worth it, and you're eventually going to walk away from your relationship. Aren't you tired of hurting her? Aren't you tired of her hurting you? Aren't you tired of hurting your 2-year-old son?" He goes, "Yes."
I said, "Can I help you learn how to mend your marriage?" I shared the gospel with the guy, and I shared with him some biblical exhortation about what God intends for his life to look like as a man of God. I kid you not. A ministry set up there at Meineke. It wasn't a minute later that a kid walked up, and he had to get his car fixed really quickly. The guy said, "As soon as I'm done with this one." He goes, "I don't have time."
I turned to him and said, "No, this guy is honest. Stay here." He goes, "Well, I have to go. My girlfriend had surgery on Monday, and now she has slipped into a coma. She's in Corpus Christi. I have to get there." I don't usually do this, but I just went, "What kind of surgery was it?" He said it was an abortion.
So Jason and I sat and visited, and I mended his nets with him, shared the gospel with him, encouraged him about how to take his broken life and put the pieces back together, offered hope for his girlfriend Judy, and gave them an opportunity to begin to mend their life and offer to them the forgiveness and reconciliation and hope that is in Jesus.
That word equip is what we are here to do. Second Timothy 3:16 is the other way. It says, "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." It is our job to equip you. The church in America is set up, unfortunately… We have lost our blueprint. Follow me on this.
The church has to be made up of a couple of things. There is management and there is mission. There is structure and there is spirit. There is form and there is function. We in America have form out the ear, and we have management out the ear, and we have red tape out the ear, but there is not a lot of ministry. There's not a lot of equipping, where people's lives are built, their nets are mended, and they are equipped to become men of God.
A lot of times, we feed into that mediocrity. We let you come sit, sit, sit, sit, sit. If I had my way… In fact, this is the heart behind the home churches. We would have one time… If you want to come and sit on your duff, God bless you. You're welcome to do it, but we would do it one time a week, period, and there would be no other classes for you to go to sit in and listen.
We would run with the people who are ready to be faithful, and we would say to you, "Let's get involved with a home church," where two things can happen. Men and women can rise up and use their gifts as shepherds to build into others' lives, as God intended you, the laity, to do, as we equip you as pastors.
Secondly, what would happen is you, individuals… If you're hurting here tonight (and there are some of you who are hurting), I can't touch you. I don't know you're out there. I can't listen to your problem and pain…unless you're in a Meineke muffler shop with me next time I'm in San Antonio. But somebody can, and that is the heart behind these.
We would simply say this. We are here to gather and celebrate one hour a week, and other than that, if you're serious about growing, we'd love to equip you, but you must make an effort to come. We're not going to let you go from one to another where you can sit and listen, but you must be equipped.
There should be one rule for a leader, for an elder, for a pastor: If you're not playing the game, you do not make the rules. Period. It is awfully hard for me to tell you to be a discipler and an evangelizer unlike your elder, unlike your pastor. That should be the only rule, once you meet the biblical qualifications of character and men full of the Spirit, etcetera. We should be able to say, "If you're not playing the game, you cannot make the rules."
Elders and pastors are not about management. They are not about form. They are about equipping, that the church might be built, that you can use your gift, that you might find yourself faithful on that day. Do you know what happens when you don't have elders and pastors who are doing their job? I'll tell you what happens. They have to do one of two things. They either have to teach a contrary message or they have to lower the standard to meet the mediocrity of the American church. I just can't stay in that very long.
We are not here week after week just to make you feel good about showing up. We are here to equip you, and we have to begin to set ourselves up with the blueprint God said you should set yourself up with: to move with the movers, to go with the sheep that want to grow to be shepherds themselves, that you would become adequate, equipped for every good work. Gang, there is a plethora of opportunities in this town for you to run from one place to another. We've talked about that before. If you go back, we are told that we should be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
That means you commit to stay to be with others, that you are patient and longsuffering with other sheep, that you find a shepherd who will touch you and guide you, that you might become equipped, mended, and restored, that your marriage would work, that your relationships would begin to work, that your heart would be softened, that your voice would speak eternal truth and you could become all God intended for you to be, that you could grow into the fullness of the one who released you and gave you a gift, that you would be restored to your righteous place as a co-regent to reign and rule with Jesus Christ, that you might become one who could shepherd others and use the gospel and the time we all have in a way that you will hear one day those words, "Well done. You have been faithful in much. I will give you much more." We have to do that for you.
What we're going to celebrate is a memorial about what that great winning King did as he went and took captive those who were captives. He released us from our bondage, and he did it by coming from heaven to earth. He who ascended first descended, from the heaven to the earth, from the earth to the cross, from the cross to the grave, that you might know him, that you might be restored, that you might be one of his sheep that comes into his pasture. He is the Good Shepherd that lays down his life for the sheep, that you could then receive gifts, that you could become great in his eyes and forever know him personally. Let's pray.
Father, we are grateful for what you have done. We are grateful for what this picture is. We are grateful for the opportunity we have to look and see what you intend for us as a church to be. We know that every single individual who has responded to this gift of the one who has first descended that he might ascend… He has led forward a host of us and given us gifts.
We want to respond, having been struck by the truth of this Table, by the truth of the banner of love which is over us. We want this Cupid's arrow to change our lives. We want to be men and women who respond rightly to this Table. We thank you for the great privilege tonight to celebrate the one who descended to earth, to the cross, to the grave, that we might know you personally.
We thank you for this reminder, and may we, because of it, be more committed than ever to the blueprint of Scripture, that we would begin to look like you intended for us to look like, that you wouldn't have to come here and say, "You're fine with the form, but you're weak on the function. You are punctual, but you are not full of life and equipped."
We don't want that to happen. So we prepare our hearts for this time. We confess our sin, and we are grateful that our sin is dealt with by the one whose body was broken on our behalf. In Jesus' name, amen.
Most people are desperately looking for answers to such age-old human dilemmas as violence, greed and racism; not to mention personal pain and disappointment with our own duplicity and lack of fulfillment. In this series on the book of Ephesians, Todd Wagner challenges us to open our eyes to the truth that Christ has called us to be part of a completely new society called the Church. Our highest calling then is to be men and women whose lives have been regenerated and empowered through faith in Christ. Our 21st century challenges are not unlike those faced by followers of Christ in first century Ephesus. The Apostle Paul, author of this letter to the Ephesians, emphasizes that the problem with the Church then and today is not that God hasn't given it everything necessary to be successful in its mission. Rather, our problem is like that of a wealthy miser who dies of starvation rather than dip into the abundance of resources at his disposal. Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged by this ancient letter that adroitly analyzes the plight of Christ's bride, the Church, and then paints a vivid portrait of what we can - and indeed do - look like as His redeemed people. This volume covers Ephesians 3:1 through Ephesians 4:32.