In Ephesians 4:11-16 the apostle Paul describes in great detail the nature and mission of the church with its goals and responsibilities. Where many people point to the Great Commission as the marching orders for God’s people in this day and age, I believe this is a mistake, or at least incomplete. Jesus offered a brief summary statement, but Paul gave us a detailed explanation of exactly what our Lord meant and how it would be accomplished. What that means for us today is that if we are going to know what our Lord, who is the head of the church, desires of his body, we must understand this passage and strive to practice it with diligence and the determination to follow through until he returns or calls us home.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Eph. 4:11-16)
If you read that whole passage in one breath you did it right. Just kidding! Paul wrote one very long sentence in which he explains that Christ himself gave gifted men to the church to bring his body to wholeness and maturity. It is interesting that the emphasis is not on the church’s leadership but on its membership, whereas we often elevate the importance of the church’s leadership over that of the members. This is certainly not the only way in which we can get this wrong, but it is one error to which every church and every Christian is susceptible. Even a casual reading shows that it is the saints themselves who are the ministers of the church, not the office-holders, but when was the last time you referred to yourself as a minister of Jesus Christ? Indeed, we call pastors ministers, and we speak of a man in seminary as “training for the ministry,” but doesn’t this just confuse the issue as Paul describes it? I think we would do well to retire that language and begin to think of ourselves and every Christian as a gospel minister who has been called to the work of the ministry. Over the next several weeks, we’ll take a closer look at these verses and attempt to get a better understanding of the roles of the church’s leaders and members, but today I’d like to offer a word of advice from Bible teacher and preacher Harry A. Ironside. “Do not be content to come to the meetings and just be a spiritual sponge. Fill up, and then let the Lord do some squeezing. Give it out to somebody else, and then you will be carrying out the true principle of New Testament ministry.”