Building A House!

Ephesians 4:11-16

Samuel Brengle has given us something interesting:
"The best neighbors I know are my two hands.
They have lived on opposite sides of the street for many years, and they have never had a 'row'.
If my left hand is hurt, my right hand immediately drops all other business and rushes across the way
to comfort it and to help it out of its trouble.
If one happens to hurt the other, the other one that is heard doesn't get in a huff and say,
"Here, I will not stand for that; you cannot treat me that way," and get in a fight.

No, no, no.
They are good neighbors.
My two hands are members of one another.
And Christians should be like that.
They are members of Christ's body.
They should be as loving, as forbearing, a sympathetic and helpful towards each other as are my two hands."

Some have likened the church to a jigsaw puzzle.
Each puzzle piece has protrusions and indentations.
The protrusions represent our strengths – gifts, talents, abilities,
and the indentations represent our weaknesses – false, limitations, shortcomings, undeveloped areas.
By themselves, the individual pieces may look a bit strange at times; but when they are joined together
they produce a beautiful picture or pattern.

The apostle Paul said there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of us all – one picture.
And each of us makes up his or her part

You can spend hours putting a puzzle together, and then discover that a few pieces are missing.
That is totally frustrating.
If the picture is to be complete, each individual piece is vital.
Each makes an irreplaceable contribution.
And when each piece is in place, not one is conspicuous.
Together, they blend to form the whole picture.
And it should be in the body of Christ.

Up to now in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul has been reminding us that all Christians are united in Christ.
We are part of a dwelling place of God in the Spirit, called the body of Christ.

In chapter 4. he calls on us to manifest or display that spiritual unity in our relationships,
explaining there is a direct correlation between that call to unity and the spiritual gifts that Christ has given us.
Spiritual gifts are at the heart of the strategy of Christ for building His church.

They establish the foundation of the ministry.
They form the heart of the ministry.
They achieve the goal of the ministry.

Let us look at the foundation of the ministry.

Ephesians 4:11-13: "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; 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 launched the fullness of Christ
."

This verse ties directly back to verse 7: "But to each one of us grace was given according
to the measure of Christ's gift
."
Speaking of those gifts, Paul says that God has gifted some as apostles, some as prophets,
some as evangelists and some as pastors and teachers.

Really there are two types of spiritual gifts.
Some are spiritual capacities given to each individual, and some are spiritually gifted individuals
who are given to the church.
In other Scriptures, we read of individual gifts such as mercy, faith, exhortation,
administration and generosity.

Here we read of gifted individuals who are given to the entire body – apostles, prophets,
evangelists and pastor-teachers.
Of these four categories, only two are still in existence.

The apostles (meaning, "sent ones," existed during a specified period of biblical history.
These 'sent ones' were the twelve men chosen by Christ to follow Him and be eyewitnesses
of the Resurrection – along with Matthias who was chosen later to replace Judas.

The term, 'apostle' was also applied in a more general sense to a few other outstanding leaders
in the early church, including Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy.
Individuals in both groups were authenticated by "signs and wonders and miracles." (2 Corinthians 12:12)
but neither group was self-perpetuating.
As these original apostles died out, the gift of apostleship disappeared.

The prophets were also specially gifted people, and they differ from those who have the gift of prophecy.
The ministry of the prophets went far beyond the ministry of the gift of prophecy as described in 1 Corinthians 12.
Sometimes, the prophets spoke a revelation from God (Acts 11:21-29),
and sometimes they simply expounded upon a revelation that had already been given.

Like the office of apostle, the office of prophet phased out as the written record of the New Testament
phased in – just as the Old Testament prophets phased out four hundred years before the birth of Christ.

The apostles and prophets filled in the gap, ministering the gospel and the revelation of God
about a hundred years after the crucifixion of Christ as the New Testament was completed
-- the apostle John completed his epistles, including Revelation, about AD 90.
After the New Testament Scriptures were completed, there was no more need for the apostles and prophets,
for God's revelation was complete and have been placed in the hands of His people.

The cornerstone of the church is Christ Jesus, upon whom the foundation was laid
by the apostles and prophets.
When those functions were completed, there was no more need for these gifts.
Next came the building of the church itself – which meant the spreading of the gospel and the teaching
of the saints, calling for the gifts of evangelism and pastoral preaching.

To evangelize is 'to proclaim the Good News', hence those who are gifted and called to do so
are called evangelists.
In the days of the early church, when the message of the gospel was unknown outside Jerusalem,
evangelists were traveling missionaries and church planters.
They led people to Christ.
They taught new believers the Word.
They established and encouraged the local body and moved on to a new territory
– much like our missionaries today.

Once there were believers to be taught and local bodies to be led, pastors and teachers were needed.
There is strong evidence in the original language that these two words referred to one person
– the pastor-teacher – one who both shepherds and teaches.
It is important to understand that pastors are not to do all the work of the church.

The pastor-teacher's responsibility is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.
Ministry belongs to the church as a whole, of which the pastor-teacher is only one small part.

It is unfortunate that many in the church takes a view of one pastor.
He had been called to a small church in the rural West, and after conducting his first
Wednesday evening prayer meeting, he asked one of the deacons to close in prayer.
The deacon replied, "Pastor, that's what we pay you to do."

Many do see the ministry of the sole job of the pastor-teacher – that's what they hire him to do.
Churches who take this perspective will strangle, abbreviate and retard the ministry of their particular church.

In most churches it takes many volunteers to do all the ministry carried out in a typical week.
Look around in your own congregation.
You could not possibly afford to hire enough people do the work.
Add to this the fact that God has gifted a multitude of His people to minister;
and He wants to enrich and fulfill us by using us in those ministries for which He has gifted us.

Also, ministry does not take place solely within the context of local church activities.
Ministry occurs in the workplace, in the marketplace, in the neighborhoods,
and in the government and in the schools.

Our mandate is to move beyond ourselves, to reach out to the world around us.
As we continue to grow, we must expand the number of people who accept personal responsibility for ministry,
so that we will have the people resources necessary not only to accommodate our own growth,
but also to reach out into the world around us.
Only then will we grow into local fellowships that are doctrinally stable, emotionally healthy
and mobilized for effective mutual ministry.

Take a look at the heart of the ministry.

Primary task of the pastor-teacher and church is to equip the saints.
We need to be equipped in what we know.
We need to be equipped in how we live.
We need to be equipped in what we can do.

From the saints who are equipped, God raises up elders, deacons, teachers, helpers, counselors,
administrators, disciplers, givers, evangelists and every kind of worker needed for the Lord service.
When believers are equipped, the entire body is built up in the unity of the faith, spiritual maturity
and in the knowledge of Christ.

A knowledge of Christ does not mean salvation.
It means a deeper, experiential knowledge that comes from walking with Christ and getting to know Him as Lord.
Even Paul, after walking with the Lord for many years, said, "I count all things to be loss
in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ… Not that I have already obtained it,
or have already become perfect, but I press on
…"
(Philippians 3:8, 12)
While it can and must begin to characterize our lives, the knowledge of Christ is a lifelong pursuit.

As believers, we want the fullness of Christ in our lives.
We want peace, love and joy.
We want to love God with all our heart, soul and mind.
We want to be spiritually mature.
With the fullest of Christ, our lives will be richer, fuller, more meaningful, and would give more glory to God.

But, we cannot know the fullest of Christ in our lives unless we become part of a vital group of Christians.
And we cannot experience the fullest of Christ in our lives unless we become involved in ministering to others.
This doesn't mean we have to teach a doctrine class.
We can greet people at the door of the church during services.
We can take meals to the homebound.
We can visit the sick.
We can help someone to learn to read.
The possibilities are endless.

We can help those who cannot return the favor.
We can give to those who cannot repay.
We can care for those who cannot care for themselves.
We can teach those who lack knowledge.
We can counsel those who need guidance.
We can cheer those who are lonely.
We can encourage those who are discouraged.

Now we cannot automatically always have joy, peace and love, but we cannot have joy, peace and love
without ministering to others.

And we must remember that one congregation cannot meet everyone's needs.
It takes the body of Christ at large.
It takes unity with diversity.

Not every church can sponsor a recovering-alcoholics' support group, but some can.
Not every church can support an overeaters' anonymous, but some can.
Not every church can offer a day-care ministry, but some can.
Working together, employing our diversity of gifts and resources, we can support and minister to each other,
even as we reach out to minister to the world around us.

Now look at a healthy, spiritual body.

In 539 BC Cyrus, king of Persia, massed his army on the border between Persia and Babylonia,
swept down from the mountains, and conquered the awesome Babylonian Empire.
As the Persians moved into the territory, they made an amazing discovery:
thousands upon thousands of Jews living in Babylonia.

Seventy years earlier Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army has swept across the entire eastern end
of the Mediterranean Sea, crushing every civilization in its path.
Among them was the nation of Judah and its capital of Jerusalem.
In a brutal strategy common at the time, the Babylonians destroyed the city and enslaved anyone
who might make a valuable contribution to their culture – such as educators, artists, craftsmen and others.
They transported those slaves to Babylonia.
These Jews lived in captivity and multiplied for the next seventy years.

Then Cyrus came upon the scene, and then within twenty-five years the Persian empire
had stretched from India to Ethiopia, from the Caucasus Mountains in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south.
But their philosophy of government was even more impressive than their military deeds,
for the Persians fostered peaceful coexistence among the nations of the Empire to a policy of tolerance.

In keeping with this policy, Cyrus not only permitted the displaced Jews to return to Jerusalem,
but allowed them to rebuild their city and reinstate their temple worship and the sacrificial system
of the Mosaic Law.

One of these Jews of the Dispersion was a well-educated young man named Ezra.
Ezra was the son of one of the families taken into captivity years earlier.
Knowing the prophecies of Nehemiah, which had predicted the captivity, the seventy-year exile,
and the return, Ezra was thrilled that the hope of restoring the temple, and reinstating the sacrifices
in reviving the worship of Jehovah.

Before the city and the temple could be rebuilt, Ezra knew that the returning Jewish people
would have to be rebuilt.
They needed a knowledge of the Mosaic law and an understanding of their national heritage
before they would have the courage and commitment for such a monumental undertaking.
So Ezra dedicated himself to the task of restoring the people of Israel and to becoming
the kind of person who could be used by God to rekindle national pride and spiritual fire in His people.

In order to do this – that is to be used by God in the lives of the people – Ezra studied
the Law of the Lord, and practiced the Law of the Lord.
He taught its statues and ordinances throughout the land.
Studying the Law gave him biblical knowledge.
Practicing the Law gave him a biblical lifestyle.
Teaching the Law gave him a biblical ministry.

Ezra knew what he needed to know, and he became what he needed to be,
and he did what was needed to be done.

So there is a lesson here for us also.
If we want to be people that God can use to rebuild the lives of others, we need a biblical knowledge,
a biblical lifestyle and a biblical ministry.

Ezra's lifestyle grew out of his knowledge, and his ministry flowed out of his lifestyle.
Our lifestyle will never go beyond our knowledge, and our ministry will never go beyond our lifestyle.

So when we move this principle from the individual to the church, we see that a healthy church
must be doctrinally sound (knowledge).
A healthy church must also have a balanced spiritual growth (lifestyle).
And a healthy church must have committed and mobilize members (ministry).

This sermon has been adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White