This week in our Ephesians series Tim preaches on the 5 gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-12 and how God uses His people to build up and equip the Church!
Sermon preached by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday May 9 2021.
Ephesians 4:1-3 Equipping the Saints
Well isn’t Ephesians just a cracker of a book. I have been loving this series and I know many of you have commented on how much you are getting from it.
- Last week was the pivot moment in the letter, that Paul wrote from jail, to the church he had established in the city of Ephesus.
- He has spent the first 3 chapters talking up the glorious riches we have in Christ… forgiveness, redemption, adoption, strengthened with power, saved by grace…
- And then he says therefore, live a life worthy of the calling you’ve received.
- And for Paul that started with being like Jesus in our humility, gentleness, patience and bearing with one another in love.
- Pretty cool – that is how God wants us to bring our lives into balance with the good news.
- That is the first way the gospel story is meant to reshape our story!
So Paul continues in chapter 4… but kind of detours before getting back into how we should live in light of the Gospel story.
- Because he wants to remind us that as the people of God, the way we grow and mature and become unified is through the church.
- And so he goes into this section we are looking at today about how Jesus gives gifts to people in the church, so that all the saints get equipped for maturity and growth and love!
- And the key to becoming who God wants us to be, the key to getting reshaped by the gospel, is being part of a community that helps us do this!
The problem is that at least in the West we read everything individually rather than communally.
- You know we think I can do this Jesus thing on my own… or I know better than any collective wisdom. Or we get cynical towards the church.
- But Jesus goal in salvation was always to form a people who would work this out together.
- So we need each other… and we need leadership.
- So lets have a look at this next passage on how the body of Christ (that is the church) may be built up.
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
So there is a risk and a goal in this passage.
- The risk according to verse 14 is that we the people of God don’t get built up, or grow up, or become mature and unified…
- But instead the people of God end up being like infants, tossed around by people who would mislead us in their deceptive scheming.
- So the risk is that if we don’t have good, faithful, 5 fold ministry, we are in danger of being led astray!
- But the goal is something remarkable… that the body of Christ gets built up, and the people of God grow, mature, and attain fullness and unity.
And the reality is that history is full of stories of the people of God getting blown off track.
- Every move of God seems to eventually splutter out… great moves of God and movements of church growth become museums and monuments to glories past.
- People get deceived, and land in heresies, or even worse, than false teachings… they form committees… argh!
- But its true. Without Jesus gifted ministry leaders, false teachings can come into the church
- Name me a church movement that has embraced progressive, liberal theology that hasn’t gone into terminal decline.
- And also momentum in the Kingdom can be stopped by committees and inward thinking.
- Right? Jesus didn’t die on the cross to start a bureaucracy.
But there is a way that God has ordained for us to get to the goal of the body of Christ being built up.
- And verse 11 tells us that God has given to the church certain people with gifts to equip the saints…
- Indeed it says Jesus has given these gifts! And they are often referred to as the 5 fold ministries.
- And the idea, is that this is the way that God has ordained for leadership to work in the church if we are to become unified and loving and growing!
So we have Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers.
- And the point isn’t that these people do all the ministry and all the saints (that is you) sit back and watch…
- No… instead these leaders (verse 12) equip the saints (that is still you) for service.
- Mike Pilavachi from Soul Survivor used to love talking about the church.
- He’d say: the church is like a football match – 22,000 fans desperately in need of exercise watching 22 players desperately in need of a rest…
- But what we need is for that to be flipped… 22 leaders cheering on 22,000 participants… doing the stuff of Jesus and the kingdom
So who are these people? And how do you know if you are cut out for this role…
- Aside: we can all as the children of God play our part and reflect attributes of these roles…
- You can still be a teacher of the Word of God without having the title Teacher.
- You can Pastor people without being a Pastor. You can be prophetic without being called a Prophet!
- But Paul’s idea here is clearly that there are leaders in the church who equip the saints for ministry.
So lets work backwards through these roles.
- And remember these people aren’t perfect… Paul describes himself as the worst of sinners in 1 Timothy.
- And he is an Apostle… the highest office in the church.
- In fact in this passage it’s the church who are called the saints!
- But these are the supernatural gifts Jesus has given to people to grow his church!
Firstly, Teachers – these are those make the truth and knowledge of the Word of God accessible to all.
- They have an ability for breaking confusion and misinformation. Often trained, they bring clarity and revelation from the scriptures!
- They are gifted in helping people know the truth of God and also how it applies to their lives.
- And their favourite verse is usually 2 Timothy 3:16 “all scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
- They just love the Word of God!
And you know you are around a Teacher because they are always sending you a meme of some verse… or asking you how your quiet times are going. Haha…
- Right? They just love opening the Word with you…
- And there are great teachers…
- Trip to Dubbo I listened for over 2 hours to NT Wright (New Testament scholar) on Pauline Trinitarian theology… and it was brilliant. Insightful, revelatory, refreshing, correcting!
- But also within the local church we find great teachers of the Word. Jarrah with young adults or Cass in the mum’s group.
- So Jesus gifts leaders in the church to keep us on track with the Word of God… and we get built up!
Secondly, Pastors – Greek word is poimenas; which literally is the noun for shepherd…
- So Jesus gifts people in the church to be like a shepherd, to look after and care for the flock…
- So Pastors are instrumental in guiding people through brokenness back to wholeness and healing their soul from wounds that keep them stuck where they are.
- Pastors are gifted to create a safe atmosphere in the church of belonging.
- They bring life and healing to God’s ministry and allow people to feel like they are part of a greater family.
So a Pastors favourite verse is usually something like Matthew 9:36 which says;
- “When he saw the crowds, Jesus had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
- So these people say Amen to that and take on the compassion of Jesus for the people of God.
Pastors just love the sheep… they love you! And they want you to be healthy and coming back…
- Pastors are just gifted to love you, love you, love you… you know “tell me how you are… no tell me how you really are?”
- Awesome to have in the church and the broader body of Christ.
- Right? In our brokenness, we so need shepherds to care for us, and love us and nurse us back to wholeness…
- So the church desperately needs Pastors, but they are not necessarily cut out for leading churches! And I’ll talk more about that in a minute.
- But Jesus gifts leaders in the church to care for the children of God… and we get built up!
Thirdly we have Evangelists – which literally means messengers of Good News.
- These are those Jesus has gifted to make the good news of salvation and stories of Jesus’s remarkable goodness and love famous.
- They are the carrier and proclaimers of good news and partner with Jesus in celebrating people’s transformation.
- They stir curiosity and a desire to know Jesus. They have a remarkable gift to extend the invitation to all to join the Family of God.
Maybe their favourite verse would be something like Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.”
- Or maybe Romans 10:15 “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”
- Right they think they have amazing feet!
And the thing is, you know an Evangelist because they just want to go… go preach good news
- To be honest, with some evangelists, church bores them a bit
- If they had their way there would be no chairs in church. Right?
- No time to get comfortable… we need to all go and preach the good news… we need to get out there!
- My guess is we are all here because someone preached to you the good news about Jesus.
- And the people of God without evangelists are prone to tread water or decline.
- So Jesus gifts leaders in the church to proclaim the good news… and we get built up!
Fourthly we find the Prophets!
- Now Prophets are effective in revealing God’s heart for His people wherever they go.
- They can accurately discern God’s heart for a situation.
- They help people experience God’s voice, maybe for the very first time and help them develop hearing the voice of God in their own life.
- And time and time again I’ve seen how they are used by God to get people’s attention and reveal what God is doing in the midst of our mess.
Maybe Prophets favourite verse is 1 Corinthians 14:1 which says; “eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” They love that one!
- And I love Prophets, my wife has a Prophetic calling on her life.
- And this is a gift or office in the church that is coming under a fair bit of scrutiny at the moment, especially because of some of the misuse of the gift in the US around the last election by certain parts of the church.
- But here is the thing. I am the preacher and sometimes I cant remember the sermon 3 days later… but you sure remember every prophetic word you ever receive.
- Right? And they have a way of cutting through and changing the direction of people’s lives.
- So Jesus gifts leaders in the church to prophesy and reveal the heart of God… and we get built up!
OK, finally, the role of Apostles
- Now you get those in the church who say we had the Apostles in the New Testament.
- They are those who were with Jesus, who wrote scripture and now that we have the bible we don’t have Apostles anymore.
- And no one with Apostolic anointing I know today is claiming they can write scripture…
- But I think those who say we no longer have Apostles are using too narrower definition of the word Apostle.
- It simply means “sent one” or one “commissioned with a message”
So I believe Apostles are simply those who forge new paths for the Kingdom and are a catalyst for bringing the Kingdom and establishing the church wherever they go.
- So these are your church planters and missionaries and those whose hearts beat for Jesus prayer “your kingdom come, your will be done.”
- And I think someone like Greg has an Apostolic calling. He has led churches that influenced and planted churches. He has started Homes of Hope International.
- He leads leaders and his heart is for the widow and orphan and local church.
- And like Paul, who never settles, true Apostles are always on the move, dreaming and initiating the next move of God.
So there we go… Teachers, Pastors, Evangelists, Prophets and Apostles.
- And you can see, right, how if those leadership roles are in place, the church grows and builds itself up!
- Right? It is taught the Word, it is cared for, it proclaims the good news, it is supernaturally tuned to God, and it pioneers new ground for the kingdom!
- I feel what Paul is saying in Ephesians 4 is here are the leadership gifts that Jesus has given his church, to be exercised by humble servants.
- To prevent you from becoming an organisation… or to falling into strange teachings…
- This is how moves of God are initiated, are nurtured and grow!
Now just a couple of notes on this whole 5 fold gifting thing! Time to get a bit controversial…
Firstly, we have done a weird thing in the Western church where we call all paid church leaders Pastors… and I think we need to stop that.
- Average church size in Australia is 50 people… and many never grow…
- And the reason is because while Pastors are amazing, they primarily are good at caring for the existing flock.
- And while it is very flattering when you call me Pastor… I am not really a Pastor.
- I mean I do love you guys, and I am here for you guys… but it is not primarily what I am gifted at.
- But clearly while God’s plan for the body of Christ being built up includes Pastors… they are not the ones who are meant to be leading the church.
Which leads me to the next thing, we need all 5 offices if the church is to fulfil its calling.
- You see, we say, thanks God, but we will just use 3 of them…
- Or we just employ a Pastor and then expect them to be great teachers and evangelists and pioneers of new ministries… but it just doesn’t work that way!
- Right? We need teams and we need to release all the giftings!
- Particularly we have been good at cutting the Apostolic and Prophetic from the church.
So we need a rediscovery of all the roles that Jesus has gifted people in the church to exercise.
- As long as the church is not unified, mature, growing and demonstrating fullness…
- My guess is we need more than ever these Spirit given gifts alive, active, and equipping the saints for growing the church.
And final thing, I’d say is we need both men and women to fulfil every one of these roles, not just men. Not just white men. Not just balding, slightly out of shape, white men…
- And part of the reason I believe this is that in the New Testament, I can point to women who fulfil every single one of these roles…
- In Romans 16 Paul greets the female Apostle Junia who he calls outstanding amongst the Apostles.
- In Luke 2 we meet Anna the prophetess and in Acts 21 we meet Philip’s daughters who prophesied…
- In Acts 18 we read about Priscilla who explains the way of God to Apollos. So an amazing teacher.
- And her and others are clearly described as leading church households. So pastoring families of churches.
- And who was the first evangelist in the Gospels to announce the good news that Jesus was risen… Mary!
So let’s land this. Has this been interesting? Not so much. Well maybe I am not a teacher… haha!
Well just to finish, what happens when the five fold ministry is in operation… what will it produce?
- Well we the saints, will be equipped for works of service
- And the Body of Christ will be built up, reach unity in the faith and become mature
- And I love this one, we will attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. That’s got to be another sermon.
- We are told the church will grow and build itself up in love
- Right? And this beautiful body of believers wont get off track, but will fulfil the mighty calling God gives his people!
You see Jesus loves his church. He dwells in his church. He uses his church. He wont abandon his church.
- And his desire is that we live lives worthy of the calling we have received.
So I want to finish with an invitation.
- I wonder if there are some people here who feel called to these roles within the church?
- Now if they are there to equip us all for ministry and service, we are all going to participate in these types of ministry.
- But God is always calling people to step out in faith and put there hand up for ministry!