Calvary Road Baptist Church

“The Fifth Benefit of Being A Church Member: In The Place of Preparation”

Ephesians 4.12

 

Over the course of the last few weeks, we have on several occasions considered the benefits of being a church member. I sincerely wish I could more effectively communicate and convince you of the importance to you of the Church of Jesus Christ. Were I a poet or something of an orator I might persuade more fully. However, I am not. Therefore, I am left to rely upon overwhelming evidence to make my case for your spiritual benefit. Keep in mind that we are not in this message from God’s Word considering the benefits of being a Christian, which includes the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, the ministry of the indwelling Spirit of God, and a certain home in heaven, among other aspects of the riches of Divine grace. Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of the Dallas Theological Seminary, observed in his classic eight-volume Systematic Theology that when one is saved God performs thirty-three separate miraculous works in the believer’s life, none of which can be perceived by the five senses and must therefore be taken as true by the declaration of God’s Word.[1]

We, on the other hand, are not in these messages considering such weighty issues, though our topic is not unimportant. We are contemplating something that is far easier to think about and ponder than it is actually to see in real life. What I mean by that is, we can always talk about being a Christian on one hand and a Church member on the other, as if the two are completely separate and distinct issues. In reality, however, people need to understand that these are more distinctions than differences. If you are a Christian, you are supposed to be a Church member. Who would dispute that statement? And if you are a Church member you are supposed to be a Christian. Again, who would dispute that statement? There is the occasional Church member in the New Testament who was not a genuine Christian, such as Judas Iscariot, such as Simon the magician, such as the Corinthian fornicator, such as Demas, and such as Diotrephes, the man who loved to have the preeminence.[2] But do we find evidence in the Bible of a Christian who was not a Church member? Can we locate an instance in the New Testament where there was a genuine believer who did not submit to believer baptism and then proceed to fellowship with and serve alongside others of like faith and practice in a Church? Not that I can find in my Bible.

These considerations stated for the purpose of context and reflection, turn to Ephesians chapter 4. When you locate that portion of Scripture, I invite you to stand for the reading of God’s Word:

 

1      I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

2      With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

3      Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

4      There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

5      One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

6      One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

7      But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

8      Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

9      (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

10    He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

11    And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12    For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

13    Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14    That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

15    But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

16    From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

 

Of particular interest to us are verses 8-12:

 

8      Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

9      (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

10    He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

11    And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12    For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

 

The “he” referred to three times in Ephesians 4.8 is properly understood to be none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.[3] The verse calls to recollection Psalm 68.18 and predicts both the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Father’s right hand on high, and the gifts that are given by the conquering king to His subjects. But how can we be sure the verse we are looking at refers to the ascended Lord Jesus Christ? The parenthetical verses that follow, verses 9 and 10, make references that can only be true of the Lord Jesus Christ. Who ascended following His glorious resurrection but the Lord Jesus Christ? Verses 11 and 12 then go on to declare, not only what the gifts are that the exalted Savior has given to His subjects, but for what purpose those gifts were given. Look at verse 11:

 

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”

 

According to verse 8, the gifts the Lord Jesus Christ, our conquering king, gave to His subjects are men, gifted men, God-called preachers.

In reality, there are only four categories of men found in verse 11, who are the gifts referred to by the Apostle Paul in verse 8 and by the psalmist a thousand years earlier in Psalm 68.18: First, there were the apostles. Next, there were prophets. Third, there were evangelists. Last, there are “pastors and teachers.” About “pastors and teachers,” The Mac Arthur Study Bible correctly states, “The phrase is best understood in context as a single office of leadership in the church.”[4] For what reason were these gifted men given by Christ to His subjects? My text for today is Ephesians 4.12, a verse with three components that provide some explanation of the Savior’s purpose in giving gifted men to those who I will, for the present, refer to as His subjects:

 

“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

 

First, THERE IS EQUIPPING

 

This purpose is set forth in the first phrase:

 

“For the perfecting of the saints.”

 

Saints, of course, is the common Bible designation for Christians, born again people, those who are truly saved. It translates the Greek word hagios, which refers to someone who has been dedicated or consecrated to the service of God.[5] Paul frequently identifies believers as saints in his writings.[6]

The word translated “perfecting” is found only here in the Greek New Testament. It is the word katartizoo, meaning to put in order, to restore.[7] According to one source, “The word was a medical technical term for ‘the setting of a bone.’”[8] According to another source, the word is found in ancient papyri in connection with furnishing a house.[9] Using a word that is found nowhere else in the New Testament to describe pastoral ministry, “This refers to restoring something to its original condition, or its being made fit or complete. In this context, it refers to leading Christians from sin to obedience.”[10]

Once again, before we move on to the next phrase, whose job or ministry is it to engage in this activity of leading Christians from sin to obedience? Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. Such are men given as gifts by the Lord Jesus Christ to His subjects to bless them and build them up in the most holy faith. But to what purpose have gifted men been given? What should be the proper result of the exercise of these men’s ministries?

 

Second, THERE IS EXERTION

 

“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry.”

 

Saints, believers, Christians, are to be ministered to by God-called men, not to make them feel good about themselves or tickle their ears, but to prepare them for the work of the ministry. My assignment is to prepare you for the work of the ministry. As difficult as it is to be saved if you are lazy, too lazy to strive to enter in at the strait gate, so difficult is it to be a good Christian if you are lazy, too lazy to be shown to do the work of the ministry. Or, perhaps, too busy doing other things to be shown how to perform ministry tasks.

Remember, Ephesians 2.8-9, two of our favorite verses in the Bible, is followed by Ephesians 2.10:

 

8      For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9      Not of works, lest any man should boast.

10    For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

 

So, what good works are Christians saved by Jesus Christ to perform? The work of being a good wife or a great father? No. According to Paul, two chapters after these three verses I have just read aloud, we are told that “the work of the ministry” is yours to perform. And what is “the ministry”? Some are of the opinion that apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers are given to do three things: to perfect the saints, to do the work of the ministry, and to edify the body of Christ. But the evidence clearly shows that, to the contrary, gifted men are responsible for perfecting the saints, and it is the saints who are then responsible for doing the work of the ministry. Thus, one of the primary characteristics of a genuine Christianity, what you are ordained to do, is good works, work in the ministry, serve God. And this is done as you are taught by, instructed by, trained by, perfected by, the pastor-teacher. The result follows.

 

Finally, THERE IS EVANGELISM

 

“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

 

“The spiritual edification, nurturing, and development of the church” is a portion of what is meant by this last phrase.[11] But what is also meant, and what I want to bring to your attention, is evangelism. In the mind and heart of the Apostle Paul, the work which Christians do, whether it be the work of faith he mentions in First Thessalonians 1.3, the good works we are created in Christ Jesus to do in Ephesians 2.10, or the work of the ministry referred to in our text, is always work that seeks the salvation of the lost.

So, when a gifted man functions in accordance with his calling and Scriptural guidelines, he will seek to teach, train, instruct, indoctrinate and prepare the child of God to work in the gospel ministry for the reaching of the lost for Jesus Christ. When was the last time you were willing actually to work alongside other Church members to the end of bringing the lost to salvation in Christ? If a professing Christian is not equipped, so that the result is real exertion, to the end of evangelizing the lost, then something is seriously wrong. Perhaps the professing Christian is not truly born again. Perhaps the Christian is for a time disobedient to God’s will for his life. Or perhaps the so-called gifted man is not truly a gifted man serving the Savior in a manner pleasing to Him.

 

My friends, there is something terribly wrong with Christianity in this 21st century. Churches are not being edified. By that, I mean that Church congregations are neither instructed in the most holy faith to work in the harvest field nor actually enlarged by the fruits of evangelism to add to their membership. Instead, people’s ears are generally tickled, and sheep are frequently stolen from nearby congregations as a substitute for evangelism. Of course, neither practice reflects the New Testament pattern. Let me review some of the clearly taught doctrines in the Bible that show what things have been established by God, what things have been done by the Savior, and what responsibilities both you and I have in this matter of the Church being a great blessing to you as the place where you are prepared to serve the one true and living God.

 

SERMON:

 

If you were saved when you were saved, you were saved to get to work for God. Paul makes that undeniably clear in First Thessalonians chapter 1. But how are you to know to work and how are you to know how to work if you were saved when you were saved? Serving God is something every Christian is saved to do, and I mean every Christian. But how is the child of God who is really a child of God to be taught, to be trained, to be indoctrinated? How are his desires and his energies to be channeled and to be focused and to be concentrated for effective results?

Consider: Several years ago some the best and the brightest of the evangelical super-ministries relocated to Colorado Springs, Colorado. At that time, Colorado was a solidly Republican state whose general population was conservative and very sympathetic to evangelical Christianity. But Colorado is now considered no longer even a swing state, with a population that is increasingly pro-Democrat, pro-abortion, and, for the most part, opposed to the Christian right. In the 2008 and 2012 presidential election Colorado voted Democrat. I would further guess that in ten or fifteen years the big evangelical parachurch ministries in Colorado Springs will once again relocate, perhaps this time to Salt Lake City; farther into all-white Mormon country, and farther away from the brown people flooding into the country who are unaffected by their anemic counterfeit for real Christianity.

One of the symptoms of the failures of contemporary Christianity to preach a saving gospel and to see real converts come to the Christ of the Bible is the departure from God’s plan for preparing Christians to serve God . . . the local Church. These days, you have even pastors of Church congregations arguing that you are a legalist if you insist that Christians should attend Church services on Sundays. I have had pastors accuse me of legalism for suggesting that professional athletes who claim to be Christians should actually go to Church on Sundays. If your job requires that you work on Sundays, get another job. This tragic trend has gone so far that pastors, instead of seeking more opportunities to preach and teach God’s Word to their people, are actually canceling Sunday evening services. The undershepherds of local congregations are in some ways their own congregation’s worst enemies. But I digress.

In this sermon I will deal with three doctrines related to God’s plan to prepare Christians, real Christians, to do the work, the work, of the ministry:

 

Doctrine #1: GIFTS ARE PROVIDED FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN’S PREPARATION

 

Our text clearly shows that the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of all glory, has given gifts to His blood-washed people. Psalm 68.18 reveals that the bestowal of these gifts was not an afterthought in the mind of God, but predicted fully one thousand years before our Lord’s resurrection from the dead and ascension to the right hand of His Father on high. These gifts, these spiritual gifts, are men, God-called men. Why are these gifted men given? To prepare the saints, literally to make each Christian fit for service to the Master. So, not only does God make use of means to save the lost, by using people to reach men and women with the gospel, but He has also ordained the use of means to accomplish His will of training and equipping and preparing those who have come to Christ to render service to the Christ they have come to.

What does this mean? This means that it was a part of God’s plan before you were saved if you were saved, for you to be then ministered to by the man of God to prepare you for effective service. Thus, those who refuse the ministry of the gifted man, who refuse the ministry in their lives of their pastor, are actually thwarting the plan and purpose of God for their lives and rebelling against the imperative of Hebrews 13.17:

 

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”

 

 

Doctrine #2: A SETTING IS PROVIDED FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN’S PREPARATION

 

What is that setting? Where are the gifted men described in Ephesians 4.11 to be found, doing what our text informs us they are to do? They are in Churches. Not buildings, mind you, but involved with and indeed a part of congregations of saved and Scripturally baptized people. How do we know this to be true? First Corinthians 12.28:

 

“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers. . . .”

 

Where teachers are to do their teaching is in Churches. Not in buildings, but in congregations. Who is to be taught God’s Word by pastors? People who have been saved and baptized. But when you are saved and baptized where do you then properly find yourself? In a Church congregation.

My friends, God’s plan, is not for Christians to be perfected for the work of the ministry at a noontime Bible study at work, or by watching or listening to religious broadcasting or live streaming on your laptop or notebook. God’s plan is for gifted men to minister to the spiritual needs of their flocks and to bring them thereby to maturity in Christ . . . in their respective Churches! Christianity is not consumerism. The faith once delivered to the saints has no place for shopping for ministries, smorgasbord samplings of Christian nurture to consume only what you find tasty, and sitting in judgment to decide whether or not you will join a Church. Imagine sheep meandering through hill and dale to sample the various shepherds before deciding what flock they will settle into. More likely will the wolves get them than finding a Church or a pastor.

I very well know that many these days will say that I am narrow and far too exclusive in my application of God’s truth. But I would respond in two ways: First, what alternative is there to the Church congregation as the proper setting for training and nurturing Christians? Where else is the ordinance of baptism properly administered? Where else is the communion of the Lord’s Supper properly observed? Where else will spiritual leaders be held accountable for what they say and for what they do? On television? Please. As well, is not the terrible mess in Christendom that we see today in great measure the result of unaccountable so-called men of God who wreak havoc without consequence? Such men get away with what they typically could not get away with in a properly constituted congregational setting.

What I have said before I will say again: Christians are supposed to be taught and trained by their pastors in their Churches. The Christian does not train the pastor. This is why Bible study does not and should not consist of folks sitting in a circle, with each person, in turn, telling the others what the passage means to him. Such an approach is found nowhere in God’s Word. Nor does the so-called Christian attempt to set forth the pastor’s job description, as I have sometimes experienced. No. God’s plan is for pastors to teach believers, for me and men like me to train you and folks like you, and for me to rebuke you if necessary. Is there provision for a pastor also being rebuked when needed? Only in Churches. If I am not qualified to oversee your spiritual development, to teach you and to train you, and for you to be still and listen, then I am not qualified to be your pastor, and you should start your own Church in which to serve as pastor.

 

Doctrine #3: THE DISCIPLINE PROVIDED FOR A CHRISTIAN’S PREPARATION

 

Of course, the learning process begins with instruction. Matthew 28.19-20 is very clear about this:

 

19    Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20    Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

 

Notice, if you will, that real instruction for the disciple of Jesus Christ comes after his conversion and baptism, and not before.

Though indoctrination and training are paramount, there are times when simple instruction and example and encouragement are not enough. At some time or another almost every Christian stands in need of a strong rebuke. Of course, every Christian should be willing to rebuke the brother or sister in Christ who needs it, but the gifted man has the particular responsibility to rebuke Christians who are in serious error. Notice the pastoral direction Paul gave to Titus in Titus 1.13. In the face of many Christians’ unwillingness to comply with pastoral teaching about separating from ungodly influences, Titus was told,

 

“Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.”

 

And what happens when a sharp rebuke is not sufficient? Then there is the occasional necessary correction. Matthew 18.15-19 is the Lord Jesus Christ’s record of instruction for dealing with serious departures from the way:

 

15    Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16    But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

17    And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

18    Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

19    Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

 

Would you please notice where the final court of appeal is located for the resolution of spiritual issues? According to verse 17, it is the Church. Logic should tell you that if the Church is the place of final resolution for matters of reconciliation and restoration, then the Church should be the place for initial resolution for matters of reconciliation and restoration. Thus, at the beginning and the end the proper setting is in the congregation.

 

I believe that I have established my proposition, which it is a great blessing to be a Church member since Church is the proper place of preparation to serve God. Indeed, if it is a great privilege to serve God, then it is a great privilege to be properly prepared to serve God. But consider this as the message concludes: Can a Church member be prepared who will not listen, who will not heed, who has not the humility to yield to instruction from God’s Word? I think not.

Thus, there is a reason for James’ exhortation to

 

“receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”[12]

 

Only when the professing Christian allows God’s means of preparing him for service will he be properly prepared for service. And God’s means for preparing the Christian for service? Such is to be accomplished by the pastoral ministry in the congregation of the Church. Only there is the pastor properly in place. Only there is the Christian properly in place. Only there is the authority to hold both teacher and disciple accountable.

One final comment in response to a frequent concern among Church members these days: The Church of Jesus Christ is not only the place of preparation to serve God when one’s thoughts turn to growth in grace and the development of skills useful in ministry to others, but it is also the place where troubling spiritual issues are properly dealt with and overcome through God’s grace and the ministry of the Word. To reduce the issue to its simplest, there are only two kinds of problems any child of God will ever face concerning his conduct, his behavior, his compliance with the will of God for his life. He, which is to say you and me, will either have physical problems that affect our willingness and ability to obey God, or we will have spiritual problems that affect our willingness and ability to obey God. Of course, there is sometimes a combination of those two factors. That said, there are no other factors. Since we have been given the completed revelation of God’s Word, we have possessed a sufficient Scripture to address any and all spiritual issues in a satisfactory manner. Man’s understanding of medical issues that affect him physically is, of course, incomplete and the subject of ongoing medical research and discovery. Thus, for 2,000 years God has provided us with the entirety of what we have needed to address our spiritual issues, all of our spiritual issues, in the context of the Church’s teaching and correcting and praying ministry. Then, in the 19th century, a group of anti-Christian atheists invented something they called psychotherapy, and so began the development of psychiatry and an approach to counseling that presumes three things: First, it is presumed by them that there is such a thing as mental illness. Second, it is presumed by them that there is no such thing as sin. You heard me right. Psychiatry and clinical psychology are predicated on the assumption that there is no such thing as sin, and that feelings of guilt are associated with behavior that is thought to be sinful by some but, in reality, is not sinful at all. Their approach is to try to take away guilt by denying that sinful conduct is sinful. This, of course, is contrary to the Word of God. Third, it is presumed that the so-called psychiatric problems that plague so many individuals are best treated by drugs and counseling based upon a false philosophy and misunderstanding of sinful man’s dead soul; all the while denying the real issue is sin.

God did not leave His people in the lurch for almost 2,000 years, without provision for serious problems that ail us, all the while leaving us under the impression from the Bible that problems are either physical or spiritual, with nineteen centuries allowed to pass before giving atheists the wisdom to discover that the real problem affecting so many of us is mental illness that must be treated by medical professionals using psychotropic drugs. I reject that approach altogether. Nonphysical problems are spiritual problems that are best treated by the ministry of the Word, from Church members to Church members, in prayerful consideration of God’s truth. It is in Churches that Christians are prepared to serve God, whether that preparation involves instruction and imparting ministry skills or involves addressing issues of sin in the lives of Christians who are members of the Church.

To end, where should you be to be prepared to serve God, and to be corrected to serve God more effectively? In your Church.

__________

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. V, (Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), pages 232-265.

[2] Acts 1.25; 8.20-24; 1 Corinthians 5.5; 2 Timothy 4.10 (cp. 1 John 2.15-17); 3 John 9-10

[3] G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary On The New Testament Use Of The Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), pages 823-824.

[4] See footnote for Ephesians 4.11 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1809.

[5] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 10.

[6] Romans 1.7; 8.27; 12.13; 15.25-26, 31; 16.2, 15; 1 Corinthians 1.2; 6.1-2; 14.33; 16.1, 15; 2 Corinthians 1.1; 8.4; 9.1, 12; Ephesians 1.1, 15, 18; 2.19; 3.8, 18; 5.3; 6.18; Philippians 1.1; 4.22; Colossians 1.2, 4, 12, 26; 1 Thessalonians 3.13; 2 Thessalonians 1.10; 1 Timothy 5.10; Philemon 5, 7

[7] Ibid., page 526.

[8] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 531.

[9] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol IV, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1930), page 537.

[10] See footnote for Ephesians 4.12 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1809.

[11] See footnote for Ephesians 4.12 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1809.

[12] James 1.19-22

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org