The Unity of the Church: Part 2
Passage: Ephesians 4:1–4:16
The Unity of the Church Part Two
This is the second part of a message entitled The Unity of the Church. Let's recap the three points about unity in the church from last week.
I. It takes humility to have unity
II. Unity in the church is based on the big truths of the gospel and the unity of God
III. Unity in the church is a unity of diversity
The fourth and final point we're going to look at this morning is this:
IV. Unity in the church leads to maturity
What we see from this passage is that unity isn't the goal, maturity is. God has placed us together in the church to help each other mature in our Christian faith.
Verses 7-10 tell us that when Jesus ascended he gave gifts to men. These are gifts of grace - and there are a great variety of gifts, but here Paul only mentions the five-fold ministry gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. The reason Paul only lists these office ministries here is not because they're the only important gifts (because every gift is important!) but because these gifts strategically position the church for spiritual growth and maturing by equipping the saints for the work of ministry.
The biblical model for the church is not that there are a few ministers and a lot of spectators, but that everyone is a minister! The pastor's job isn't to monopolize ministry but to multiply ministry in the church! Through biblical teaching and preaching the five-fold ministries help believers grow and develop and deploy their gifts in biblically mature ways. And as saints are doing the work of ministry (and ministry means serving) in biblically mature ways, the church grows strong and healthy.
God has placed us together in the church to help each other mature in our Christian faith. We need each other to mature!
What is spiritual maturity?
But what kind of maturity are we talking about? What does the spiritually mature Christian look like?
There's a V-8 commercial that has a guy in his late 60's skydiving and it claims that drinking V8 will lower your risk...of acting your age. Let's face it, when we think of skydiving, we usually don't think of 60 year olds.
What images come to mind when think of a spiritually mature Christian? Unfortunately the term can be loaded with a lot of stereotypes that have nothing to do with spiritual maturity - things like being pompous and self-righteous, looking down noses at those less spiritual, always being angry at something.
Can think that a spiritually mature Christian frowns a lot and doesn't laugh much. Thankfully the Bible paints a very different picture!
- Christian maturity is growing up in Christ
Paul uses the metaphor of Christ being the head and the church being the body and the body has some growth to do to match the head. We need to grow, to mature to be like our head, Jesus Christ.
The metaphor of body/head illustrates two things. First it tells us that Christ is the authority (head) of the church. Secondly it tells us that the church is connected to Christ and what the head does, the mature body will do because they are one. My hands do what they do because my head tells them to do it. My feet, everything...My body follows the instructions of my head.
So it is with us - Christ is our head. The body of Christ is maturing when it (we) is more fully following and reflecting the will of Jesus Christ. When we are the hands and feet of Christ to this world. We are carrying out His will and purpose on this earth.
So we are becoming more mature when we as a church are looking more and more like Christ. And by the way, it would seem from the gospels that he laughed a lot and had a great sense of a humor. Jesus was no starched suit, and becoming like Him won't leave us starched and stuffy either! No, becoming like Christ means growing like Him in humility, compassion, love, loving God the Father as He loved God the Father and desired to glorify Him in everything He did. Means growing in obedience and holiness - putting away sin and worldliness. It means a life not lived for trivial pursuits but a life lived for purposes of God. That's maturity. And we need each other to accomplish that.
This passage lists two necessary components for our maturing in Christ:
- The church matures through serving (vs. 11-13)
Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, and as the church grows to be like Christ, it will grow in its heart to serve others. The grace gifts are given for service. The five fold ministries serve the saints so that they can do works of ministry to serve the church so that it grows. Verse 16 tells us that the body of Christ grows and builds itself up when each part is working properly. Every Christian is graced - and called - to serve.
In other words, the church isn't supposed to be like the NFL. Someone once described football as 22 men desperately in need of rest being watched by thousands of fans desperately in need of exercise!
Sometimes the church can be like that - a few people badly in need of rest and many more badly in need of exercise. We are all called by God to do our part. The church "grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work." Eph 4:16 (NIV)
A family pause: If you are a guest, please understand that I'm not speaking directly to you here, although you can still learn from the truths I am about to share.
I want to share a family moment with you church. Over the five years we have been here this church has been characterized by committed and faithful serving, and I am so grateful for that. Often in past messages on serving I would take the opportunity to commend you and express my gratitude to God that this is a church that excels in serving.
But the truth is that at this time we have some guys on the field who quite honestly need a little rest, and we have some in the bleachers who could use more exercise. There are those who are very committed and faithful and they have taken ownership of their responsibilities in a big way - thank you! We literally couldn't do it without you. But there are others who are sitting on the sidelines and you need to jump in and find a place to serve. And you need to, as much for your spiritual growth as for the church's sake. And there are some -and I'm just going to be straightforward here- there are some who are serving, but haven't taken full ownership of that responsibility in the way I believe the Lord wants them to. So it becomes easy to come late (and miss some of the work) or frequently call in unable to fulfill service or (worse yet) just not showing up. Then the old faithful have to step in and do that ministry on that day when they might have been off. And I have talked to some who are frankly weary. They're not weary because they don't love serving, but because they are pulling their weight and more.
Please hear my heart - I'm not sharing this to condemn. I know things come up occasionally - but when it is a pattern and frequent, then we need to look at our hearts and ask, am I owning my responsibility? Am I doing it as unto the Lord with excellence? Am I looking at it as an opportunity to serve and care for others?
We all need to serve faithfully- not only to do our part to build up the body (and every part is essential) but also because one of the ways we grow is through serving.
Brochure in your bulletin
To give you an idea of different opportunities for you to serve, Jessica has done a great job putting together a brochure that lists different opportunities to serve in the church. Maybe you aren't involved in any particular ministry - encourage you to look over and ask the Lord where you might serve. The leaders of the ministries are listed - talk to them, call or e-mail and just ask them for info - no obligation to join that ministry.
I realize we have folks who haven't been with us very long. This is not in any way directed at you. If you are looking for a church home, we would want you to feel comfortable to take your time. In the New Year we will be doing a class called Exploring Grace Community Church which is designed to help you get to know what we're about as a church better.
But if you are newer and feel like ready to get involved in service - there are many opportunities for you as well - jump in! No better way to connect and feel the joy of a church than serving its vision and its mission.
I know that we cannot and must not limit Christian service to what we do for the local church. It is to be more than that. But it must not be less than that. This passage is specifically talking about service that builds the church up as each part does its part. No service is unimportant - all vital in God's plan.
- The church matures through biblical doctrine (vs.14-15)
Another aspect of Christian maturity is found in verse 13: we all attain to the unity of the faith (our Christian faith) and of the knowledge of the Son of God...
To grow in our faith - biblical knowledge - changes us from spiritual infants to spiritual adults so that, as verse 14 says,
We may no longer be children, tossed to and from by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
There are false doctrines and false teachings that can have devastating effects on people's lives - like a boat that is tossed and battered by the waves and the wind. Sometimes people are blown off course and it takes many years to get back on track. Sometimes whole lives are shipwrecked by wrong doctrine. Often these are the deliberate product of cunning and craftiness and deceitfulness and schemes. Not just ignorance or well-intentioned mistakes, but deliberate spiritual sabotage. Spiritually immature are as gullible to them as infants are gullible to fairy tales. It is sound biblical doctrine that stabilizes us in the waves and winds.
In a cold November storm in 1992, Mike Plant, one of the greatest solo sailing heroes of the country, mysteriously disappeared while on route to France. Later his state of the art racing sailboat was found upside down. The boat and the hull itself were not damaged but the 8400lb ballast bulb was completely ripped off. Because the boat had no ballast underneath it could not withstand the huge swells and winds of the Atlantic seas.
Growing in our knowledge of the Bible and sound doctrine that comes from God's Word provides ballast to our lives - keeping us upright and on course rather than being tossed to and fro. Biblical doctrine helps us grow in discernment - recognize doctrines that aren't biblical.
Rather than being infants blown about, we are to speak the truth in love. In context this isn't primarily about being honest yet gentle with people (although that is a part of it), but in context it is about the church speaking biblical truth to one another. Antidote to the waves and winds of false doctrine. The church is to be a place that values, protects, and proclaims sound biblical doctrine.
- In love
But not just speaking the truth. Truth in love. Closes verse 16 with same instruction. Not just church building itself up - but in love. If we have not love, noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. Plain and simple, if a church isn't loving, it's been blown far off course.
Love isn't measured in feelings and sentimentality. Measured in wanting what's best for others - older word sometimes used is benevolent. Means goodwill. When you genuinely want what's best for them, it is love in its truest form.
- counters those who motivated by evil and self-serving motives speak deceptive doctrines. We don't just counter them with truth, but truth powered by a different motive: love.
- Another way we reflect Christ. Can't grow up in Christ if we aren't growing up in love, for it was love that filled Jesus' heart as he went to the cross. Benevolence in most amazing way: goodwill towards those who hated Him. Goodwill for us to the great sacrifice of His own life.
Cross stands as the greatest monument to God's love. Nothing sentimental and sloppy about it - real wood with real splinters and real blood streaming down it. But on the cross Jesus took the wrath for our sin, punishment for our rebellion, scorn that should have been ours. All from love.
If you have never experienced that love - won't you ask Jesus to come into your heart and be your Lord and Savior? Ask Him to forgive you and give you eternal life. He promises He will to all who come to him in faith and repentance.