"The Diversity of Spiritual Gifts" Page 3 of 4 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Apostles and prophets hold first place in this list, as in 1 Corinthians 12:28. The reason for this prominence is given in 2:20{10], namely that these leaders in the early church bore witness to the incarnate and risen Lord and were the vehicles through which he continued to express His mind to the church.

“Some, evangelists.” The evangelists were traveling missionaries. These men traveled from place to place to preach the Gospel and win the lost (Acts 8:26-40; 21:28). Paul was an evangelist (bearer of good news). They were not evangelists as we think of them today. There was no committee or organization to set up a campaign. They went into new territory, and they did it all alone with the Spirit of God who went before them. All ministers should “do the work of an evangelist,” but this does not mean that all ministers are evangelists (2 Timothy 4:5). The Apostles and prophets laid the foundation of the church, and the evangelists built on it by winning the lost to Christ. Of course, in the early church, every believer was a witness (Acts 2:41-47; 11:19-21{11]), and so should we be witnesses today. But there are also people today who have the gift of evangelism. The fact that a believer may not possess this gift does not excuse him from being burdened for lost souls or witnessing to them. Only Philip is explicitly described in the New Testament as an evangelist (Acts 21:8). Paul urged Timothy, however, to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5).

He also gave “some pastors.” These men were the shepherds of the flock, indicating that the local church is a flock of sheep (Acts 20:28{12]), and it is his responsibility to feed and lead the flock (1 Peter 5:1-4{13], where “elder” is another name for “pastor,” as is “bishop.”). He does this by means of the Word of God, the food that nourishes the sheep. The Word is the staff that guides and disciplines the sheep. The Word of God is the local churches protection and provision, and no amount of entertainment, good fellowship, or other religious substitutions can take its place.

He gave “some teachers,” the men who were to instruct the flock. This is the gift which is mentioned in Romans 12:714; 1 Corinthians 12:28-29; and 1 Timothy 3:2. While all Elders are to pastor the flock, and must therefore be able to teach, some are particularly called to and gifted in the work of teaching―“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” (1 Timothy 5:17).

In the early Church there were few books. Printing was not to be invented for almost another 1400 years. Every book had to be written by hand and a book the size of the New Testament would cost as much as a whole year’s wages for a working man. That meant that the story of Jesus had mainly to be transmitted by word of mouth. The story of Jesus was told long before it was written down; and these teachers had the tremendous responsibility of being the repository of the gospel story. It was their function to know and to pass on the story of the life of Jesus.

The people who came into the Church were coming straight from heathen innocence; they knew literally nothing about Christianity, except that Jesus Christ had laid hold upon their hearts. Therefore these teachers had to open up the Christian faith to them. They had to explain the great doctrines of the Christian faith. It is to them that we owe our thanks that the Christian faith remained pure and was not distorted as it was handed down.

The construction of the phrase “pastors and teachers” with one “some” to cover both words is interesting. It suggests that there were two functions shared by the same individuals, whose chief task is described in Acts 2:28{12]. These men would be local congregational leaders in charge of established churches which had been brought into existence by the preaching of the apostles and others. Pastors and teachers were clearly intended to be ongoing ministries in the church― “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

God has given all these men to the Church so that the Church might be brought to full maturity where there will be inhibitions. You see, the Church is not to make a “nut” of herself before the world; she is not to appear ignorant before the world. All these men are to prepare the Church so that the believers might do the work of ministering and building up the body of Christ. The aim of the pastor is that the members of the Church should arrive at perfect unity. He must never allow parties or factions to form in the Church nor do anything which would cause differences in it. By precept and example he must seek to draw the members of the Church into a closer unity each day.

We call

the pastor of a church a minister, but if you are a Christian, you are as much a minister as he is. You don’t have to be ordained to be a minister. The pastor has a special gift, a gift of teaching the Word of God so that His members, those who are under him, might do the work of the ministry—they are the ones to go out and do the visitation and the witnessing. I am afraid we have the church in reverse today.

At this point let me say that probably no man in the Church has all the gifts; so do not expect your pastor or your minister to be all things. Don’t take the viewpoint that he has many gifts. His business is to build the members of the church for the work of the ministry.

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;

Christ’s purpose in giving men with different gifts to the Church is to develop believers from babyhood to full maturity. This is the role of the ministers who are Christ’s gifts to the Church with this end in view, namely that the Church will be built up until its final state is reached.

The word “children” means infants, and stands in contrast to “mature manhood” (“a perfect man” in verse 13). The second evidence of spiritual growth is stability—there will be no lack of stability—when subjected to stress and strain. The description “tossed to and fro” may suggest a nautical picture of a ship battered by angry seas (Luke 8:24 speaks of “raging waves,” using the same Greek word). The maturing Christian is not tossed about by every religious novelty that comes along. There are religious quacks waiting to kidnap God’s children and get them into their false cults, but the maturing believer recognizes false doctrine and stays clear of it. The cultists do not try to win lost souls to Christ. They do not establish rescue missions in the slum areas of our cities, because they have no good news for the man on skid row. Instead these false teachers try to capture immature Christians, and for this reason, most of the membership of the false cults comes from local churches, particularly churches that do not feed their people the Word of God. But those who do receive and believe the Word of God will not be led astray into false teaching which heretical leaders will seek to promote (see Hebrews 13:9; Jude 12 for similar wording). Behind all the false doctrine around today, religious quacks, cults, and lack of stability are men who cherish evil plans and practice underhanded ways.

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.

The third evidence of maturity is “truth joined with love”; “speaking the truth in love” (4:15). It has well been said that truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy. Little children do not know how to blend truth and love. They think that if you love someone, you must shield him or her from the truth if knowing the truth will hurt them. It is a mark of maturity when we are able to share the truth with our fellow Christians, and doing it in love. “Faithful are the wings of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6).

The believers are not to remain children, but rather that in “speaking the truth in love, they may grow up into him in all things.” The believer is to follow “the truth in love”; that is, he is to love truth, live it, and speak it. Christ is the truth and the believer must sail his little canoe of life with everything pointed toward Christ. Christ is his compass and his magnetic pole.

“Which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted.” The body of believers is compared to the physical body and is called the “body of Christ.”

The body not only receives orders from the Head, who is Christ, but also spiritual nourishment. This produces a harmony where each member is functioning in his place as he receives spiritual supplies from the Head. Also the body has an inward dynamic whereby it renews itself. Likewise the spiritual body is to renew itself in love.

One more evidence of maturity is “cooperation.” We all realize that as members of the one body and a local body, we belong to each other, we affect each other, and we need each other. Each believer, no matter how insignificant he may be, has a ministry to other believers; and that means that believers must cooperate with each other in witnessing the gospel to unbelievers.

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