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The Maturing and Completion of Christ’s Body
The theme of the studies that we shall be taking at this time and we’ll be going on successively for several days in this theme. The theme is Five Main Ministries, which have been set by Jesus Christ in the Church for the up-building of the Body of Christ which is the Church. These five ministries are specified by the apostle Paul in the fourth chapter in the Ephesian epistle in the 11thverse, he says,
He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors [I prefer to say shepherds] and teachers,
By way of introduction to this series, I want to read to you at this time the opening sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Ephesians. These verses lay the basic principles and purposes of the church building ministry. They’ll give us the foundation and the background for the remainder of our studies. I’m going to be reading in the King James Version, but due course I’ll suggest some modifications or amplifications to make it possibly more accurate or more up-to-date. Why don’t you follow with me. I think I’ll read and you just follow without reading aloud because this number of verses is rather difficult for us to read in chorus. Ephesians, chapter four, beginning at verse one.
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all who is above all and through all, and in all.
But unto everyone of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
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:
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;
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
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.
Let’s take a look at the outline of these verses that we have read. If you follow with me on the chart here, I have given you a simple kind of breaking down of the elements of this chapter. In verses 1 and 2, we have the basic character requirements for the receiving and applying of the truth which is unfolded in the rest of the chapter. And if we’re to sum that up in one word, the word is humility.
Then in verses 9 and 10, I’ve taken them out of their place a little in the chapter, we have set before us the pattern of the Lord Jesus Christ as the example of humility and the reward of humility. If you look there in the text you’ll see that verses 9 and 10 are put in parenthesis. They’re a little kind of something that’s set in to the main truth that is being unfolded. This gives us the example of Jesus, the one who descended—who went down—is the one also who went up. Here is the truth of humility exemplified in the actual life and ministry of Jesus.
Then going back to the order in verses 3 through 6, we have the seven basic unities of the Church, and we will look at these in detail in a moment. Then out of unity there unfolds diversity. The order of Scripture has always established the unity, then out of the –unity unfold the diversities. And in verses 7 and 8 and the building up to the climax in verse 11, leaving out the verses 9 and 10 which are the parenthesis about Jesus, verses 7, 8 and 11 give us the diversity which is unfolded out of the unity of the body. The diversity is in these five diverse ministries which we will be studying: the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the shepherd and the teacher. Verses 12 through 14 give us the great functions and goals for which these ministries are set in the Church. And then verses 15 and 16 give us the climax to which the whole process is building up. The very climax that our Brother Charles Simpson was talking about in the close of his previous study just a few minutes ago. It’s really remarkable how these two studies go side by side. He was pointing out that Jesus is building the Church up to a climax. It’s not a static condition. It’s not the status quo, but it’s a progressive development and unfolding to a climax and the climax really is stated in verses 15 and 16 of Ephesians chapter 4.
Now let’s go over the—in a little greater detail and see the truths that are unfolded. Let’s go back to the place where most of us are a little reluctant to start and that’s the place of character. Paul says in verses 1 and 2 “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord…” There are certain significant things about this Ephesian Epistle from this point of view. First of all this epistle is written by Paul only. If you look to the opening verse it says, “Paul to the Ephesian Church.” Many of the epistles were written by Paul and some of his coworkers. Other people besides Paul are mentioned in the introduction. But this one is written by Paul alone, because it contains the unique revelation given only to Paul concerning the Church. This is what is sometimes called the “Pauline revelation.” If it were not for Paul we would not have this revelation in the Scripture. It is the channel whom God chose to give us this specific tremendous revelation of the Church of Jesus Christ is the Apostle Paul. So it’s Paul’s epistle.
The second significant thing about it is that he wrote it from prison. He was the prisoner of the Lord when he wrote this epistle. This is the most glorious unfolding of truth about the Church of Jesus Christ that can be found anywhere in Scripture. But significantly enough it was written from a prison. See, all through, we have to understand this lesson; before honor is humility. The way up, the way down. You want to be promoted, humble yourself.
You see I spent many years studying the pattern of the Church in the New Testament. Quite a number of years ago I came to the conclusion that the accepted idea of church structure, and life, and discipline, and organization was not Scriptural. And I began to look into the Scripture to try and find out the real Scriptural blueprints for the Church of Jesus Christ. And I believe I made some progress and I discovered some things. Then I wanted to try to translate this blueprint into a real experience in the lives of believers. And I came up against the problem that no matter how good the blueprints may be, no matter how expert the architect may be who designed the building, every building is designed to be constructed of certain specific materials whether it be concrete and steel, or whether it be timber, or whether it be brick, or whatever it be, the architect when he draws the plans has in mind the type of material that is needed for the construction of the building. And without the right material, no matter how good the blueprint may be, you cannot produce the finished building. And it then became clear to me that the real problem is not getting to know the blueprint, it’s producing the material out of which the building can be constructed.
And of course the material out of which the Church of Jesus Christ is constructed is not wood or stone or brick, but it is believers. And unless we can produce believers of a certain quality and character, no matter how expert we may be in declaring the truth of New Testament organization and discipline and structure, we will never see a New Testament Church established. It is character that is primary.
And so appropriately enough in the very introduction to this chapter Paul begins by emphasizing character, and he does it from the appropriate position to speak about humility, he said, “I’m the prisoner of the Lord. I’m writing to you from a jail. Now listen to what I have to say." Notice also the language that he uses. “I therefore the prisoner of the Lord beseech you…” It’s not an order. He’s not writing as a dictator. He’s entreating them in love for their own good and for the glory of the Lord that they will accept this admonition: “…that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” That vocation is to be a Christian. That’s what he is speaking about there. Not some special ministry, but what it means to be a Christian. And the way in which we walk worthy is stated in verse 2,
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love,
Here are the character requirements: lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance and love. And unless we deliberately cultivate these things in our lives and unless we produce these things by our ministry, we can talk and theorize as much as we please about what the Church should be like, but the building will never be built—not because there’s anything wrong with the blueprints, maybe not because we can’t even understand the blueprints—but simply because there won’t be the appropriate material available out of which the blueprints can be actually be translated into a live reality.
So the first emphasis is on character. And to enforce this, in the very middle of this passage right in the two middle verses, the Apostle Paul interjects this parenthesis about Jesus which I want to go to—verses 9 and 10. Speaking about Jesus after he had ascended that He gave gifts unto the men, to the Church. Then he said remember “the one that ascended is the same one also that descended.” Verses 9 and 10: (Now that he ascended, [that He went up] what is it but that he also descended [he went down first] first into the lower parts of the earth? [He went as low as He could go before he was promoted and exalted to glory.]
He that descended is the same also that went up far above all things…
And remember, if you’re going to be the one that goes up, you’ve got to be the one that goes down first. The evangelist Moody said this, he said “As a young man I used to imagine that God had His gifts stored on shelves and that if I wanted the best gift I would have to reach up to the highest shelf. But,” he said, “after a while I learned that it was the other way round. God has the best gifts stored on the lowest shelves and if you want them you have to stoop down.” This is the truth in this chapter.
I would like to take a moment or two just to go in greater detail into the self-humiliation and the subsequent exhortation of the Lord Jesus. I love this passage. I never can go by it without taking a little time over it. There’s a cross-reference in Philippians. Keep your finger in Ephesians 4. So many people complain I don’t leave them with enough fingers, but keep your finger, one basic finger in Ephesians 4 all the time. Turn to Philippians the second chapter and let’s read verses 5 through 11, Philippians 2 verses 5-11.
Let this mind be in you, that was also in Christ Jesus: [or learn to think the way that Jesus thought. I think that’s modern version. Now we have the mind that was in Christ unfolded in these next verses.]
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
Now, my margin has a better translation. It says, “Being in the form of God he thought not equality with God something to be grasped at.” That’s the correct translation. He did not have to grasp and reach up to attain equality with God because He was Himself God. By divine eternal nature He was on a plane of equality with God, He did not have to reach up and grasp for it. He enjoyed it by divine eternal nature.
You see here’s the contrast between Jesus and Satan. Satan was not equal with God and the Scripture says that he reached for equality with God, he reached up and grasped at it, slipped and fell. You remember Jesus said, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” When he reached up, he fell. Jesus did not reach up. He stooped down. Now in the following verses, verses 7 and 8, you’ll find the seven great steps of the humiliation of Jesus. It’s beautiful. There are seven steps of humiliation, seven steps of exaltation. I’ll change the translation a little to make it a little more vivid. Now beginning at verse 7, the first step down.
He made himself of no reputation,
The Greek says, “He emptied Himself.” If you have a marginal version you probably find that in the margin. One of Charles Wesley great hymns says, He emptied Himself of all but love.He emptied Himself. Secondly,
he took upon himself the form of a servant,
Instead of being Lord He became a servant. Now He might have been a servant and been an angel. The Scriptures says, “He became a little lower than the angels.” The third step that He took down is,
he was made in the likeness of men:
In the likeness of the Adamic race he became a descendant of Adam. In fact he is the last Adam. The fourth step down,
he was found in fashion as a man,
He looked like an ordinary man of His time. Nothing about His outward appearance showed who he was. When Peter confessed, “Thou art the Christ,” Jesus said, “Flesh and blood have not revealed this unto thee.” It came not by His outward appearance but by an inward revelation of the Spirit. Fifth step down,
he humbled himself,
Not merely was He an ordinary man, He was a humble man. He was not a prince, He was not a priest, He was the carpenter’s son. That’s how He went through life. Having humbled Himself in life, He took the sixth step down,
and became obedient unto death,
The seventh step down,
the death of the cross.
The death of agony and shame, the criminals death. There are the seven great steps down. Shall we look at them again for a moment. He emptied Himself, He became a servant, He took upon Him the likeness of the Adamic race, He looked like an ordinary man, He was a humble man the carpenter’s son, He was willing to die, and the death He died was the death of supreme ignominy and agony, the death of the cross. There are the seven great steps down.
Now I love the next word. Do you know what it is? Wherefore. Because of this—some of you may have heard me say, when you find a therefore or a wherefore in the Bible you want to find out what it’s there for. And this wherefore is the cause of what happened. Jesus earned His promotion. It was not granted on the basis of the fact that He was the Son of God. It was granted because He had met the conditions which are, “He that humbleth Himself shall be exalted.” Because He humbled Himself to the extreme He was likewise exalted to the extreme.
Now look at the seven great phases of His exaltation. They exactly match the humiliation. Verse 9,
God hath highly exalted him, [number one. number two,] given him a name which is above every name: [number three,] That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, [number four] knees of heaven, [number five] the knees of earth, [number six] the knees that are under the earth, the knees in the lower world, [and number seven that final crown of glory]
And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
There’s the perfect picture. What Paul gives us in just two verses, 9 and 10 or Ephesians 4, he unfolds more completely in Philippians chapter two. This is our pattern. Let’s pray, both you and I, that we keep this in mind as we go through the whole of this study because if we ever depart from this truth we’ll just be studying theory and theology but there’ll be no experiential reality in it.
Let’s look also at that principle stated in Luke the 14thchapter. Luke chapter 14 and verse 11. Here it’s stated as an absolutely universal principle. It applies to Jesus, it applied to Satan, it applies to you and me.
For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
The way up is the way down. Before honor is humility. That’s in the book of Proverbs. Notice also, we go back now to Ephesians, the application of this to finding your place in the Body of Christ. Ephesians the fifth chapter then we’ll go back to chapter four again in a moment. The application to finding your place in the Body of Christ—Ephesians 5 verse 21.
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
This is part of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. If you look in Ephesians 5:18, the latter part of the verse says, “be filled with the Spirit.” Just as our brother Charles said, “It’s not a onetime experience in the past.” This verse means be maintained continually full of the Holy Spirit. Quite the different thing from having been filled at one given point in the past, this is being maintained continually full of the Holy Spirit. And the marks of the spiritual life are thereafter unfolded in the following verses. Notice them. Verse 19,
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
It’s a life of continual worship and praise in the Spirit. Verse 20, the next great mark is,
Giving thanks always for all things…
An unthankful person is not full of the Holy Spirit. He may have been filled, but he is not full. The moment you cease to be thankful you can register the fact that he’s begun to leak. The third mark is humility—
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
It’s easy to submit to God in theory but it’s when it comes to submitting to one another that the test is applied. We are not more submissive to God in reality than we are one to another in the Body of Christ. And here is again the entry into all the Paul is unfolding, is submitting ourselves one to another. This has been, I think, the great outstanding problem of the Charismatic Movement, as I’ve known it for the past ten years. Everybody’s been an individualist. Everybody’s been going around on his own, “I go where I please, I say what I like, nobody tells me what to do, I go to the prayer meeting if I feel like, and if I don’t I stay away, and praise God, brother, I’ve been set free. Now nobody tells me what to do.” Well that’s only have the proof and before we’ve finished this series we’ll seek to unfold the other half.
Just before we turn back to Ephesians 4 notice the remaining marks of the fullness of the Holy Spirit in daily living. They are six personal relationships. Wives, don’t you feel flattered that you’re always put first on the list? Even Paul who was an unmarried man, and Peter who was a married man, they both began with the wives. “Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands…” Husbands, it’s your turn. “Love your wives even as Christ loved the Church.” That’s the mark of the Spirit-filled husband. Then, “Children obey your parents…” That’s the mark of the Spirit-filled child. “Parents bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” That’s the mark of the Spirit-filled parents. The last two relationships are employer and employee. The life of the fullness of the Holy Spirit is manifested in these six basic personal relationships which most of us know from experience. And we are not being maintained full of the Spirit if we are wrong in these personal relationships. No matter how much we may speak in tongues, it does not mark us out as living in the fullness of the Spirit unless we are walking in the pattern unfolded here in Ephesians 5:18 and following.
Now we’ll go back to Ephesians chapter 4 and continue our outline. We come to verses 4 and 5. Notice in verse three that we have the motivation, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit…” In everything we say and do, we are aiming continuously at not breaking the precious unity of the Holy Spirit. Every action, every word is directed towards maintaining the unity of the Spirit. We do not create the unity of the Spirit. God gives unity, but it’s our responsibility to maintain the unity that God gives.
I have sometimes said, “Man can create union, but only God can give unity.” But when God gives unity by the Holy Spirit then we have a very, very solemn responsibility, each one of us, to maintain that unity and to shape all that we say and do towards maintaining the unity of the Holy Spirit.
Now Paul lists in verses 4 and 5 the seven basic unities on which the unity of the Spirit is founded. We’ll go through them very, very brief. Verse four,
One body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father.
Let’s pause just for a moment just to consider those. One body is the Church of Jesus Christ. One Spirit, the Holy Spirit. One hope, heaven. One Lord, Jesus. One faith, the gospel. One baptism, now that’s the thorny one of course. Lot’s of people have got specific ideas. Let me say this that my opinion, anybody who thinks he’s the only person who’s right is bound to be wrong. And if you meet a group that ever says if you don’t join us you’re wrong, you can be sure that when you’ve joined them you are wrong. That’s just a basic principle.
Now I don’t believe we can disassociate the baptism from the two things that go before it in verse 5—one Lord, it’s the baptism into the Lord Jesus Christ and it’s a baptism on the basis of one faith. It’s believe and be baptized. First believe then be baptized. Now you say, Brother Prince what is the right formula. You wait in vain for me to give you the answer because I’m not going to do it. I say what is the right result? The right result is burial and resurrection. Where there has been a burial and a resurrection in Jesus Christ, I’m not too concerned about the formula. And you may have the rightest formula in the world, but if you don’t have the right results your baptism has not achieved what God intended.
Now I have a book somewhere that’s called Burial By Baptism. If anybody’s interested to obtain it I deal with this more fully but I’m not going to deal with it in this study. The seventh great unity is the Fatherhood of God over all His children. These are the seven basic unities of the true Church of Jesus Christ.
Then we come into the diversity which unfolds out of the unity. Verse 7 we begin with diversity, “But unto every one of us is given…” Now where you read in the King James “unto everyone of us” I think it’s better in modern English to say, “Unto each of us individually is given a specific measure of grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” Now we miss out the parenthesis of verses 9 and 10 and we get the specific measure of grace exemplified in five great ministries,
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers;
Five diverse ministries all unfolding out of the unity of the Body and the Spirit. Notice that each of these ministries is according to the measure of the gift of Christ. In other words, it’s insofar as Christ in His ministry manifests Himself through that person that that person has that ministry. Christ is the perfect pattern of all five ministries. He’s the perfect apostle, the perfect prophet, the perfect evangelist, the perfect shepherd, the perfect teacher. Now if a man is a shepherd, given by Christ, then it is Christ the Shepherd continuing and extending His shepherd ministry through that man that makes that man a shepherd. If a man is a teacher, it is Christ the teacher continuing and extending His ministry through that man. If a man is an apostle, it is Christ the apostle extending his ministry through that man that makes that man an apostle. In each case it’s according to the measure of the impartation of Christ in His ministry through that individual. This is where the variety comes in. This is where the different ministries are unfolded. But every ministry is Christ ministering through that person. If all these five ministries are functioning as they should in the Body of Christ then collectively the Body of Christ can continue the ministry of Jesus as He Himself continued it while He was on earth exactly the same. There need be no change with these great five ministries, the Body of Christ the Church, can go on doing on earth in ministry exactly what Jesus did while He was on the earth.
And that’s God’s intention. God has never set a lower level. He has never modified His program. He started off the right way and all He asks us to do is to continue the way that He started off. This is the same with everything that God does. He never has any trial runs. He never has to withdraw the thing from production because there’s a fault in it. He never has to take the vessel into dry dock and remodify it because it doesn’t need it. When God gave Noah the dimensions and plans for the ark it was right the first time. It didn’t have to be changed. When God sent Jesus into the world to do what had to be done in ministry, Jesus did it right the first time. We don’t have to improve on the ministry of Jesus. We just have to do it. That’s all. And with these five ministries in the Body of Christ, the Body as a whole—not one individual but the Body as a whole—can collectively continue the ministry of Christ. This is the purpose of these ministries.
Now let’s look at the nature of each of these ministries very briefly just by way of outline. Then in following studies I’m going to go into each of them individually. Let’s just begin with a little simple definition. The Apostle—this comes from a Greek verb apostello, which means to send forth.Apo = forth, stello = I sent.So an Apostle is one who is sent forth.
In John 13:16 in the King James Version it says, “Neither is he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” But the Greek says, “Neither is the apostle greater than the one who sent him.” So this indicates that the King James translators realized that the root meaning of the word apostleis one sent forth.The apostle is sent forth for a specific task. I would say the key word for apostle is the word task.
Now a prophet means one who speaks forth.He speaks forth a message received direct from God. And the key word for the prophet is the word message. I mention this because you’ll find that Phillips in his translation translates apostle messenger.Now there are many good things about Phillips translation, but I think, myself, that this is not really desirable. The apostle is the one sent forth to do a special task. The special messenger is the prophet, the one who speaks forth a special message.
Now the evangelist comes from the Greek word euagglion,which means good news.The evangelist is the one who tells the good news. The gospel is good news. Remember if you ever listen to a man preaching something that isn’t basically good news, you’re not listening to the gospel. There are many, many people who claim to be preaching the gospel who don’t tell us good news and they are not preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is good news.
All right, the pastor is the normal Greek word for shepherd.This word occurs many times in the New Testament, and only once in Ephesians 4:11 does the King James Version translate it pastor. In every other place it is translated shepherd.In the days when the King James Translation was made everybody knew a pastor was a shepherd. Today few people realize this. The pastor conjures up a vision of a man in a dark suit standing behind a pulpit on Sunday talking and boring people. We get a completely different association from the word shepherd.So I will from now on regularly use the word shepherd. The shepherd—well everybody knows what a shepherd is. He’s the one who shepherds the flock.
The teacher does not teach mathematics. He doesn’t even teach religious science or psychology or psychiatry. He teaches Scripture in the Bible. The ministry of the teacher—he; is the one who interprets Scripture. Now God has set teachers in the Church. How many of you would have to acknowledge that from time to time you’ve come across passages of Scripture that you can’t interpret? But along comes a God-sent teacher, and by the Holy Spirit he interprets those passages for you. Now don’t be proud and stubborn and say I don’t need teachers. That’s misquoting Scripture. I’m not going to it now. God has set teachers in the Church to interpret passages of Scripture that people otherwise might not be able to interpret.
So we have the five great ministries which put together unfold the total ministry of Jesus Christ—the apostle, one sent forth for a special task; the prophet, one who speaks forth a message received direct from God; the evangelist, one who tells the good news; the pastor, the one who shepherds the flock; the teacher, the one who interprets Scripture. Now we will deal with these in detail one by one in the remaining studies, but this is just an introductory definition.
Now let’s look in verse 12 and see the main functions of these ministries. Now I have to point out to you that in the original Greek text there were no capitals and no punctuation. It’s hard to people who are used to punctuation to realize that the text was written without any full stops, commas, question marks, or any other such thing. Consequently every translator has to put in what he considers the best and correct punctuation. But it is a matter of the translator’s opinion. Now in the middle of the 12thverse there is a comma, which I do not believe should be there, and almost all the modern versions translate this 12thverse without the middle comma. In other words, I want to leave out the comma after the word saints. Why are these ministries placed in the Church? They’re there or the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry…” Don’t stop after saints. Can you see the difference? It’s not to produce perfect saints, but it’s to equip saints to do the work of the ministry.
In other words, these five ministries do not do it all, but they equip all the believers, each one to do his job. This is very, very different from the accepted general picture of the church where there’s a professional minister who’s paid to do it and all the rest of the people are paid to sit and endure or not paid, they do it without being paid, they listen to the professional. This is a complete caricature of the pattern of God in His word. The purpose for which God places these ministries in the Body is that they shall equip the believers, each believer to do his job. The most successful people in these ministries are the one who can move on and leave the believers carrying on doing what they’ve been taught to do.
I was in a certain church some time back, a good while back as a pastor and I decided the Lord was calling me out into a different ministry, and I told them that I was going to leave. And they said, “Oh don’t do that. If you leave it will all collapse.”
“Well” I said, “if all I’m doing is building something which will collapse when I leave, then the sooner I leave and the sooner it collapses the better, because that is a complete waste of my time.” I did leave and by the grace of God it didn’t collapse. You have got to get people away from their dependence on a human ministry. There’s nothing more conspicuous to someone who comes from another country as I do from Britain, than to notice how amongst American Christians, they all get hitched on to some preacher. “Well Brother Prince said so it must be. Brother Simpson said… Sister Kuhlman said so that’s it.” You find most American Christians are hitched on to some individual who’s going to do their thinking for them and accept their responsibility and they’re just going to tag along and quote a preacher. This is a disease which has got to be dealt with until people are left, by the ministries, not depending on the ministry but brought into that relationship with God and equipped in that way that they’ll be able to go on functioning when the ministry moves on. The real test of a successful ministry is what happens when it’s withdrawn.
Now I have been in places on the mission field and seen what happens when the “missionaries” left, and it was a shambles. It’s tragic. But we’d have to say that their many years were wasted because they had trained those nationals just to be missionary dependent. They had not equipped the nationals to go and do the job for themselves. This is the purpose of these ministries. The first purpose is to equip the believers to do their work themselves. The second purpose, the second half of verse 12 is “for the building up of the total body of Christ;” These are the two main purposes of these ministries.
Let’s look at it again. Verse 12.
For the equipping of the believers to do their job, and for the building up of the body of Christ;
You’ll notice that I’ve replaced the old English words with modern English words, but the meaning has not been changed.
Now verse 13 and 14 give us the goal to which we are moving and it says, “till” as Paul…Brother Charles (I don’t know why I called him Paul but I’m sure it’s complimentary.) As Brother Charles pointed out, we are moving into God’s program for the Church. And here is one of the clearest Scriptures—he really should have quoted it but I’ll quote it for him.
Till we all come
Everybody know tillindicates something that is still to take place in the future. So we are all to come.
…we are all to come [not inthe unity. That’s a mistranslation.] But into the unity of the faith.
You see in verse 3 of this chapter we are in the unity of the Spirit. But we are not yet in the unity of the faith, we are coming into the unity of the faith. It’s very obvious that the Church today is not in the unity of the faith. Every preacher has got his own version of what he preaches. Every denomination, every church has got a different version of the truth. Have you ever walked into a watchmaker’s store and seen about fifteen watches all on one shelf, or clocks and wondered which of them is telling the right time? Have you ever had that experience? They’re all telling some different time. Well that’s like the Church of Jesus Christ. See every church is like a clock with it’s own version of the time. The poor unbeliever becomes confused and says, “None of them agree. They must all be wrong.” And turns around and walks away. But God has got a goal, which is that “we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” But I prefer to say instead of knowledge, acknowledging.“The unity of the faith and the acknowledging of the Son of God.” Because we become united in the faith not through discussing theology, but through acknowledging Jesus.
It’s as we acknowledge Jesus that we are brought into unity. You see the doctrine of salvation depends on acknowledging Jesus as the Savior. The doctrine of healing depends on acknowledging Jesus as the Healer. The doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit depends on acknowledging Jesus as the Baptizer. The doctrine of deliverance depends on acknowledging Jesus as the Deliverer. As we acknowledge Jesus in each aspect of His person and ministry, through that acknowledgement of Jesus we are brought into the unity of the faith. Our unity centers in Jesus, His person, His nature, His work, His ministry. As we acknowledge Him we are united in doing that. And through doing that “we are brought unto a perfect [I prefer to say a mature] man. We are brought into spiritual maturity.” We are no longer infants. And the third part of verse 13, “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” The word fullnessindicates completeness. I think I have this up here in an outline, which I trust will help to clarify this a little bit.
Here we have the alternatives. Verse 13 is God’s plan. Verse 14, which we’ll come to in a moment, is the devil’s alternative. And as I understand the situation each one of us has got to decide are we going to go verse 13 or are we going to go verse 14. Because there is no third alternative. Verse 13 is, “We come into the unity of the faith, through acknowledging Jesus Christ. As we grow on into this unity we mature, we grow up, we cease to be little spiritual babies, and we come into fulness, into completeness, into a capacity to represent Jesus fully in every aspect of His nature and ministry.”
On the other hand if we don’t do this than Paul says the only alternative is in verse 14. This is what God is seeking to avoid. What does verse 14 say? It says,
That we henceforth be no more children…
Now it means little babies. That we don’t go on living like little babies. You see a little baby is sweet when it’s a few months old. But if you still act the same way and talk the same way and look the same way when you’re six years old, that’s a tragedy. That’s what we call retardation. Now the Church is full of the tragedy of spiritual retardation. People who should be mature living and talking and acting still like little babies. And Paul says we must not go the route of retardation. If we do he says,
we’ll be tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.
The people who are retarded are also unstable. The key word is instability. Every time a new doctrine or a new revelation comes they blow that way. Manifest Sons—they blow that way. Children of God—they blow that way. Latter Rain—they blow that way. You’ll find that almost any major city in the United States. There are some people who are always into a new revelation. They just get out of one in time to be blown into the next. They blow right over this way one week and right over that way the next. They are never stable. They are never steadfast. They’re like the waves of the sea. Driven with the wind and tossed. And in the Epistle of James, the first chapter, the word that’s used to sum that up is an unstable man. He’s unreliable, the Scripture says, in all his ways. You can put no confidence in him.
And the third tragedy is deception. Such people are the prey of deception. It says,
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;
I want to emphasize this one thing. The moment you come into the experience of salvation and more when you come into the baptism of the Holy Spirit, there are people lying in wait for you. Have you got that? Do you realize it? The Bible says clearly there will be people waiting outside to grab you, to get you in their little group, to get you into their special revolution, to get their particular label stamped on you, and you have got to be on your guard.
John Wesley said something that gripped me deeply in his journals. He said this, “To bring people to conversion and make no subsequent provision for their instruction is to beget children for the murderer.” In other words, just to bring people to the Lord and leave them without instruction, without anything to ground them, without any discipline, is just to hand them over to the deceivers who will come in and murder them in the _______.
Now if that is true conversion, it is more true of the baptism. To bring people into the baptism of the Holy Spirit and leave them there is to beget children for the murderer. It’s to hand them over to the deceivers who are waiting there for them. Remember this. When you leave this meeting, and when you leave these seminars, sooner or later in the next month or two there is going to be somebody lying in wait for you specifically, to deceive you. And remember that behind that person is a devil who’s been in the business of deceiving humanity thousands of years and he knows how to do it. You have to be on your guard.
There are only the two alternatives. If you do not go God’s way than the way you’ll go is the way of spiritual retardation, instability and deception. The only alternative, the safeguard is to move on through acknowledging Christ into the unity of the faith into maturity and into fullness. Those are the two alternatives set before every one of us at this time in the Church.
Now let us look at the climax, which comes in verses 15 and 16.
But speaking the truth in love,
The word doesn’t actually mean speakingit means being honestin love. It’s not just speaking, it’s being honest. You see there are two things we must not separate—truth and love. It’s no good having the truth without love. It wounds and hurts. But love without the truth is soppy, sentimental and deceptive. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” the Bible says, “but the kisses of an enemy are deceit.” I’d rather be wounded by a friend with the truth than kissed by an enemy with deceitful, soppy love. Somebody has said that in the Charismatic Movement there a lot of “sloppy agape.” I don’t know where you’ve heard that phrase, but I’ve seen it. Be on your guard against love that’s not willing to tell you the truth, that does not deal in truth and honesty with you.
being truthful in love, we are grow up into him.
Notice He’s the climax. There’s another text that Charles should have quoted for us, isn’t it? It’s a process of growing up into Him and the two key conditions are truthfulness on the one hand, love on the other. “Being truthful in love we grow up into Him.” We’re moving towards the Lord Jesus Christ in His totality and fullness and completeness. And then we come to this glorious 16thverse which is the climax.
From whom [Jesus Christ] 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.
Now some of you are probably English teachers here, or you’ve majored in English or you know something about English. I always like to test people’s ability to analyze a sentence because this is a long complicated sentence. And I want to ask you this question. What is it that edifies the body? What is it that makes increase of the body? What is the subject of the verb maketh increase of the body? What is the subject? Yes. The body. There’s somebody got it right the first time. She’s heard me preach it before. I’ll have to tell you that I think that’s the answer. But she got it right. And I’ll guarantee that only five out of the rest of you would have got the right answer the first time. What is it that makes the body grow? It’s the body. “The body maketh increase of the body.” You look at the verse you’ll see it. From whom the whole body—now all the other places are parenthetic until you come down to maketh increase of the body. It’s the body that makes the body grow. It’s not the ministry. It’s the body when it’s been built up by the ministries that makes itself grow.
Now let’s look at the little outline that I have here. I think that’s the last one for this series. I’ve tried to summarize in about three or four phrases this beautiful climax of the 16thverse. Let’s look at.
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.
This is my summary. Completeness, unity, strength. The whole body, that’s completeness; fitly joined together, that’s unity; compacted, that’s strength. So the first aspect of this climax is completeness, unity, strength. Then we find that it involves every joint and every part working. Every single member of the Body must be functioning before the whole body can present this picture.
And thirdly, we find that when these conditions are met the body builds up itself. Given right conditions a body grows naturally. The business of the ministries is to create the conditions in which the body will then do it’s own increasing and growing up.
Now notice it speaks about two things in the body—joints and bands. And I would suggest to you that joints are interpersonal relationships. This is a good psychological kind of word which they use in talks. In other words I’ve got three bones in my right arm, one here and two here. They’re all good strong bones but the arm does not function until they’re joined together in a joint, which is called the elbow. I thought somebody was still with me. There are three bones joined at the elbow. The elbow is the joint. All right. Now there’s a relationship between these three bones which is brought into being when they at the elbow. Without that none of them can do its job. No matter how strong and healthy they may be individually, it’s only through being joined together that they can function.
Now there are a lot of joints all over the body. Take my arm, there’s the shoulder, the elbow the wrist then the joints in the fingers. All these joints demand relationships between little bits of my body with other bits. Without these correct relationships the body cannot function. The bands I consider to be overall attitudes. And if you look in Scripture—we don’t need to turn their now—you’ll find that there are two great bands that are spoken of, and in your note outline you have the references. One is the band of love and the other is the band or bond of peace. These are the overall attitudes which make possible the unity of the body.
Now with this in mind let us look in closing for a moment at one Old Testament picture of a body coming together which is found in the 37thchapter of Ezekiel. And you will probably recall that this is the vision of the valley of dry bones which represents God’s people scattered in exile, lost, hopeless, forlorn, dead. And then how Ezekiel was given the revelation from God that he was to prophesy over these bones. I want to point out to you see that God did not want to operate without Ezekiel. God could have done it without Ezekiel, but He didn’t want to. He wanted to include Ezekiel, so He gave Ezekiel the revelation of what He wanted to do and said, “You prophesy, Ezekiel. It will happen.”
The same is true with you and me. God could do it without us but He’s not going to. He’s going to give us the understanding to move with Him in what He’s doing, and then He said, “Now you do it and it will happen.” So when Ezekiel prophesied the bones began to move. There was a great noise and a shaking and they came together bone to his bone. Now I’ll read on from there. Verse 7 of Ezekiel 37,
So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
This is about where we are in the Charismatic Movement up till now. Up till now we’ve had the noise, we’ve had the shaking. And people say, “Isn’t that wonderful. Life is coming back into the church.” People are running off to pray meetings, they’re going to seminars, they’re prophesying. But all that we’ve had up till now in God’s program is nothing more than the initial preliminary noise and shaking. The next phase is “bone to his bone.” You don’t run around any longer pleasing yourself and doing your own thing. You find your place in the Body, you get related to the bones that should be next to you, and you begin to function—not as a bone on your own but as a bone united by a joint to make a member. This is where we are now.
As a matter of fact, Video Ministries is an example. God brought four of us together as a sovereign act of His will. Believe me if you’ve ever seen four independent preachers when you’ve seen Charles Simpson, Don Basham, Bob Mumford and Derek Prince you’ve seen them. And all of us cherished our independence. It was not without great fear and trepidation that we submitted ourselves to one another and came into this union. But we realize, all the more from looking back, there was no further progress beyond that point if we had refused God’s will at this point.
Now this is what God is doing. The union is on the basis of function, not denomination. You don’t have to be—if you’re a Catholic you don’t have to find another Catholic bone. You have to find a bone that’s got to the rest that you can’t do and when you two are put together then you function. That’s the basis of union. It’s not denominational. You may have been a Catholic graveyard and somebody else may have been in a Baptist graveyard. But when the bones come out they’re joined not on the basis of the graveyard that they came from, but the function that they have to do. This is what lies ahead.
Let me point out one final thing and we close. If you look at the rest of this vision, the bones came together, they were covered over with joints, sinews, flesh and skin. They became bodies but they were still lifeless. And then Ezekiel prophesied the second time, the Spirit came into the bodies, the bodies stood up an exceeding great army. That’s the climax. That’s the goal. God will not stop until He’s got that exceeding great army that will go forth and do His purpose.
And what I want to say is this. I believe the body’s coming together in the local church. And when the local church—the body in each area has been formed, then the Holy Spirit will move into those completed bodies and they will stand up the exceeding great army. And you know what I am looking for? I’m looking for the day when it’s going to happen.
Praise God. Let’s praise God together, shall we. Let’s thank the Lord for what He’s doing in our day. What a privilege to be alive in this day. Praise Your name, Jesus. We thank You, Lord. We praise You, we bless You. Hallelujah! We give You the glory, the honor and the praise due unto Your Name, Lord, forever and ever. Amen.