Ephesians 4:11-16 Ministry for every Believer

Ever wish you could be a prophet or an apostle or a pastor? God’s gifts and callings are up to Him. But there’s always something you can do.

4:11  And He Himself gave the apostles, and the prophets, and the evangelists, and the shepherds and teachers,

 Paul lists here the major gift-ministries. But notice next what these gifts are for…

12  for the making fit (strengthening, preparing fully) of the saints into the work of service (literally: deacons, as in ministry) into building of the body of Christ;

Notice it does not say that Christ gave us these apostles, prophets, evangelists, so that they could exclusively do the ministering in the building up on the body of Christ—or keep such service as their personal possession. No, it is the laity that is to be equipped for doing the mutual ministry that builds up, edifies, nurtures the body of believers.

They are trainers.

The work of those gifted persons mentioned in verse 11 above is to train the saints, people like you and me, who then in turn build the body of Christ.  This is describing mutual ministry. Not top down ministry but “lay” ministry.

All Christians are ministers.

The current tradition of training a select few to do the work of ministry to the “laity,” while the latter sit around passively accepting spiritual food, is not really biblical. God has used seminaries, yes. God raises up leaders among believers, yes. Many have been considerable blessings to the body of Christ through the centuries, again yes. But God’s plan is for all to minister. It is not clergy-laity feeding, at least not exclusively, but mutual feeding.

You and I, my fellow believers, have a job to do, and that is ministering to each other. It is that ministry that builds the church, Christ’s body now on earth.  The gifts and so-called offices are for serving us—as radical as that may sound.

Someone once said that all great moves of God begin with prayer.

Sometimes the job that’s available to you and me may consist primarily of prayer. And prayer is the most vital of ministries. Don’t have a position, a recognized ministry? You can pray.  Years ago Watchman Nee made an interesting point. It went something like this: When we pray we take God’s side and voice His will and thereby activate it, promoting its realization. That voicing of God’s will is part of His plan.

Certainly God acts sovereignly. He is not limited by our lack of prayer. But He prefers to act in response to our prayers.

God is the ultimate solution. But we have the God-appointed privilege of being part of that solution too.  God could have had angels do the preaching for him, rather than fallible humans, and get it perfect every time. God rescued the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt through the leadership of a humble man. He has chosen to work through us. In fact, He insists on doing so. And prayer is a big part of that.

You and I are important, vital to God’s plan.

Now my own take on God’s will and the leading of the Lord is not that we must manufacture opportunity to serve the Lord. I mean by that, that we should be aware of the danger of drumming up opportunity in our own strength–to use an old expression: in the flesh. It’s best to follow God’s leading, exercise faith that He will provide opportunity to serve Him as He sees fit, pray for opportunities, and then respond to his leading and opportunities when they occur.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and the follow Me.” (John 10:27, NASB)

It is Jesus Who leads us, not we ourselves. And He leads us in spite of ourselves. We can count on HIm to lead us. He is the one who opens doors of opportunity or closes them (1 Corinthians 16:9; James 4:13-17). Our job is to be willing to obey.

13  until we all come into the unity of the faith, and of the full-knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect-complete-mature man, to the measure of the stature (as in a maturity of the same degree) which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

That word “until” at the beginning of the verse above is an important one. So is the word “all,” meaning all believers. “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith”—hasn’t happened yet as far as I can see. How about the rest of the verse? “The knowledge of the Son of God…a mature man to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” I don’t think so, not yet.

By the way, that word knowledge has an intensifier attached to its beginning, hence the translation “full knowledge,” and it refers to the type of knowledge that is experienced, or is known through experience. And it is not just a piece here and a piece there but full knowledge.

So they are still around.

Those gift-ministries Christ gave are still around. They have to be since we all haven’t reached full maturity, full knowledge, etc. Although admittedly they are called different names at times, and not all are recognized as such. And they will be around until we all reach maturity and Christians arrive at the place where we are all truly unified.

Food for thought.

15  but speaking the truth in love, we may  be growing into Him in every thing who is the head, Christ,

It’s important that we speak the truth and that we do so in love. Many times we are tempted to speak what we think is the truth and not because of the best motivation. Too often our speaking out can be driven by ego-need. By telling someone what we think they need to hear, we assume the place of a mentor and thereby feel temporarily better about ourselves.

But, on the other hand, when we are speaking out of love, humbly and truthfully as best we can, then we can be God’s mutual instruments of spiritual growth. We realize more of our vast potential in Christ and are thus more useful to God. We establish and express His kingdom here and now on earth.

16  from whom the whole body, being fitted (or framed) and knit together through the supply of every joint, according to the working of each individual part, causes the growth (increase) of the body resulting into the building of itself in love.

Again, this is the mutual ministry that Frank Viola insists upon in his books and when describing home/organic churches that are currently growing throughout the world.  What Paul is advocating in these verses is not a priesthood of carefully cultured seminary graduates who exclusively have the right to minister and lead.  No, God’s purpose for us, all of us, is to be an  expression of the Kingdom of God on earth—the  purpose of the presence of Christ’s body here and now.

May we all trust and obey and grow into the character of Christ so that we may indeed Love God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind and our neighbors as we love ourselves.

 

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