Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 4:12 (Holman) . . .for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,
This is the task assigned to the four officers (4:11). “Training” referred to a craftsman who fashioned something into what it was meant to be. Our task is not to entertain, but to teach with a mind to help people fix what’s wrong in their lives.
Preachers assume something is lacking in their every listener. Each has a need–a sadness to touch, a hurt to heal, a bitterness to uproot, an anger to soothe, a complacency to rouse, a sin to condemn, or a question to answer. People’s ongoing presence at preaching indicates they feel needs that must be met by the preacher.
A Pastor’s role is to train the saints that they might do well “in the work of ministry.” Every member has “work” to do, a gift to manifest, a ministry to perform.
In a church, Pastors do not boss members. Nor are we a bus where clergymen say to slumbering parishioners, “Leave the driving to us, but do buy your ticket.”
Pastors are servants, not kingpins. A congregation is not called to help the Pastor do God’s work; a Pastor is to help the congregation do God’s work. Pastors are influencers, and the way we lead people into humble service is by going there first. Sam Rhodes shared with me, “Delegating works when the one delegating works.”
When Pastors train, and members minister, we “build up the body of Christ”, a church increases and each member improves. Do not be deceived by Satan’s lies. He wants us to think doing nothing is the way to happiness. No! If Christians do not work, they shrivel. We are most fulfilled personally when we contribute to the whole.
Our work is to be done first and foremost in “the body.” It is fine to do good deeds in other charitable settings, but a believer must always have a ministry in a local church. Deeds done elsewhere often chart a path that eventually detracts from Jesus. We start out giving a cup of cold water “in Jesus’ name,” but eventually give a cup of cold water. . .period. Our best work for Jesus is done in the church.
Eph. 4:13-14 . . .until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.
A church is to be built up; the question is, built up to what? It is important to know God’s blueprint, the master-plan we are to pursue. It is easy to forget the goal; we must ever remind us to what we build. Our text offers three construction goals.
One, unity. Cliques should not exist in a church. Close friendships are good, but dangerous. They easily become closed to outsiders. When we gather with church friends, include at least one new person. Fight exclusiveness. Our goal is unity.
Two, maturity. In a church, we mature collectively and individually. A church develops a level of spiritual maturity each member contributes to by becoming a spiritual adult. Collective development depends on individual development.
Three, tenacity, the refusal to stop striving for perfection. Our goal, when rightly understood, is the highest standard in the Universe. The level of maturity we strive for is nothing less than all the perfections found in the Lord Jesus Himself.
Christianity does more than try to make us better; it seeks to make us perfect. We do not achieve it here, but neither do we arrive at respectable, and then stop. We press on, to “make progress till death” (Calvin). There is always another hill to climb.
Christ wants Christians who act like Him. He yearns for bodies to live through again. Florence Nightingale once bent over a badly wounded soldier who said, “You are Christ to me.” May Springfield say of Second’s members, “You are Christ to me.”
Our goal is total Christlikeness. If we lower the standard, we lower our quality of Christian living. The Bible never hints we can cease striving to attain God’s ideal.
By doing this, “we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves.” Paul not only pointed toward where we ought to be; he also dealt where we are. We ever eye the goal of perfection, but do not be deceived. Much immaturity can cling to us.
We all start the Christian life as spiritual children. As time passes, we should be able to see changes in our walk before the Lord. We have not yet arrived at full maturity, but should be distancing ourselves ever further from infancy.
We too often find ourselves slipping back into childish behavior. If we do not grow, if we are not focused on increased maturity, we become susceptible to false teachers’ destructive influence. “Tossed by the waves” was a vivid metaphor to Paul. He had recently experienced this sensation on his trip to Rome for imprisonment (AC 27:27). He knew what it meant to be in a ship totally at the mercy of surging waves.
“Blown around” refers to violent, circular motion which makes a person dizzy. If a boat is whirled about enough, it begins to ride the tops of boisterous waves, and can, like a leaf in the breeze, be blown about by the wind at will.
Notice, false teachers are but “wind,” fleeting breaths. They howl, but their teachings lack substance. Holy Writ alone has sure, steady words. Stay anchored in the Bible. Otherwise, we are subject to every sort of counterfeit truth–humanistic, cultural, pagan, superstitious, demonic, etc.–dangers as bad as the wildest hurricane.
Eph. 4:15-16 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.
“Speaking the truth in love”, a worthy motto for Christian living, deals with two widespread dangers believers ever face: compromise with error, and a lack of compassion. Truth and love belong together by divine right. Never separate them.
Beware love without truth. Truth is intertwined with the essence of being a Christian. Truth is so much a part of our being that we all are expected to become teachers of it in some way (HB 5:12). Every Christian is expected to be able to explain the basics of the faith, whether they have the spiritual gift of teaching or not.
Beware truth without love. Truth must operate in the atmosphere of love. Arrogance is disallowed, as are sarcasm, rudeness, and holier-than-thou smugness.
Apart from love, truth freezes. “It is an important thing to stand for the fundamentals, but as we seek to bear witness to the great fundamental truths, let us never forget that the greatest fundamental of all is love” (Ironside). We are servants of God only to the extent we speak truth “in love.” May God keep us from speaking His truths with the devil’s tone in our voices, or with Satan’s motives in our hearts.
Humility helps us here. Always remember, Holy Writ is infallible, but we are fallible. A well-known principle first enunciated in the early days of Church history still says it well, “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, love.”
“Speaking the truth in love” is difficult to do, but we are never excused from doing our duty because it is hard. God gives us strength to do any task He requires.