Equipping the Saints

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,[c] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

Today, we will study the relationship between the pastor and the body to equip the Church to do the ministry they are called to. Ephesians 4:11-17 God has called men to oversee the local Church through the centuries. As we will see, a church can often become stagnant and not continue to grow in its faith, and God calls us out through prophets. Paul writes of the different offices that we can say are PASTORS in Ephesians, and some scholars have looked at them as spiritual gifts he was writing about because these are offices that the Holy Spirit has called men to.

1.       Let's break down what the 4 offices Paul is talking about

a.       Apostles – These were messengers or sent ones. The original Apostles saw the resurrected Christ, but as John Calvin saw it, the office of the Apostle is "Important to the building of the body." Peter, Paul, and James are strong examples

                                                               i.      Today, the Church has godly examples for today. Their hearts are on the Church and how to build healthy relationships within churches to see them thrive and grow in spirit and numbers to reach their regions.

b.       Prophets – it's easy to think of the OT and the people with this title. Still, today's scholars believe a prophet today is someone who speaks the truth in a situation. Like someone saying that if we continue doing (blank), then (blank) will happen. Anyone who proclaims God's will. Phillip is an example.

                                                               i.      They're not afraid to call a spade a spade, and they've said things that came to be true in the life of the capital C church. Both Apostles and Prophets lay a foundation for the Church today.

                                                             ii.      Churches have people called with these gifts to help guide and direct the Church.

c.       Evangelists – these are more like missionaries and have a strong desire to see the lost come to a saving knowledge in Christ. They are known for preaching the Gospel. Most church planters today are strongly gifted in this area. Timothy was enormously blessed in this area.

                                                               i.      Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, DL Moody, Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, and George Whitefield are well-known Evangelists from different eras and have all been influential on the whole Church. These first three offices also belong to the entire CHURCH, Capital C.

d.       Shepherds and Teachers are the most common and belong to every local Church. The word pastor comes from the Latin Pasture, also translated as Shepherd. They guide and teach the body to become mature in their faith and able to turn around and disciple others. John the Beloved, Jesus is called the chief shepherd.

                                                               i.      The local Church is the pastor's responsibility, and he has to tend to the spiritual needs of the people, teach them the Gospel, and obey God's commands.

                                                             ii.      A Pastor is called to guide the Church in their growth, pass on knowledge, help answer questions, and even suggest books to help Christians grow in their relationship with God.

2.       Called to be equipping the saints. Think of any complicated job. Doctors and nurses have specialized training in biology, medicine, and other areas to diagnose and care for a person's health. Teachers have specialized study in the area they teach. Sports athletes have specialized training and instruction to become their best. Why are Christians any different? Paul says that Leaders equip the saints for the work of ministry. So what does that look like? Knowing your spiritual gifts – many churches had moved away from this for unknown reasons about 40 years ago, and it peaked in the 1990s. Knowing what God has specifically gifted you is a crucial asset to the local Church, this church body. Many churches start to fall into a tailspin when the people are given positions they're not gifted in or when they struggle to understand what and where God's calling them to. A Pastor can fail when he doesn't recognize a person's giftedness in certain areas that God has put there to help the people grow. Knowing your spiritual gift helps you mature – There are stories of people who have been Christians for many years. Then, one day, they have an epiphany that they're not as mature as they thought. In the biography No Compromise, Melody Green writes that her husband, Keith Green, had become a Christian in 1975, but he held on to many things he had been in and taught. He was a Christian, but as Melody writes, they learned they were still baby Christians who were still "drinking Spiritual Milk, and not chewing on Spiritual Meat." It wasn't until a mentor came by his side and got Green to read books by Charles Finney, DL Moody, and Billy Sunday that Green became convicted of his growth and began with sincere and earnest conviction to study the Bible and share the Gospel with others.

3.       Discipleship + Equipping = Growing – Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:2 his desire to see the Church there in Corinth grow. Still, he knew that there were a lot of things that needed to happen in between. "I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now, you are not yet ready." And what was going on that they weren't ready?

a.       They argued over who their discipler was, Paul or Apollos. Paul answered them as 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 "After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God's servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It's not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What's important is that God makes the seed grow."

b.       Why is it important to understand that Christians have growth cycles in Discipleship? In colleges, those who study to be a teacher take courses on human development to understand the stages of life from birth to death.

                                                               i.      We know from Paul's Letters to Timothy and Titus he says that new Christians are not to be put in leadership. Why? They can fall into the sin of pride because they haven't learned how to apply Jesus' teachings to their lives.

                                                             ii.       It would be like giving the keys to your car to a 5-year-old and expecting them to drive to Chicago with no problem or having a 2-year-old perform open heart surgery. We know they're not ready as mature adults and care more about cartoons, spending time with family, and playing with friends at those ages.

                                                           iii.      The Bible shows that a pastor is essential to guiding Christians in their growth, but God the Holy Spirit does the growing. One thing we see is language in the Bible about growth. The language the New Testament writers used was like human growth. Peter and the Writer of Hebrews wrote to two churches that hadn't seen any growth beyond being spiritual infants.

1.        The Hebrews writer says, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the {Word} of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil" Hebrews 5:12-14

                                                           iv.      Today, more than ever, there are many false teachers out there. Paul, as an Apostle and Prophet, warns Timothy and us that we must be prepared. 2 Timothy 4:3 A literal translation from the Greek is this "For there will be a time when they will not endure sound teaching, but according to their own desires, having an itching ear, they will gather around them teachers to suit themselves and indeed they will turn away from hearing the truth, and will be turned aside unto myths." This is why it's crucial to study the scriptures.

Ending: Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All scripture is God Breathed. It's useful for teaching, correcting, and training. So that the people of God may be equipped and prepared to do His work." In the next few months, we will look at beginning Bible Studies to help lead and guide you in furthering your growth as a church. In the meantime, where can we begin to understand? The Gospel of John is a great place to learn about who Jesus is and His ministry, the same church we're called to continue. Another great book to begin with is Romans. Romans is considered the primer for the Christian faith, where many of our doctrines and theology come from. Last, I would say Ephesians. As you can tell, it means a lot to me because reading this letter helped me see what a pastor's call to his flock is about. Make time to pray daily, like in our relationships with our spouse or best friend. You can't build up on it if you don't spend time together. Prayer is talking to God, and reading His Word is listening to his words. 


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