Isaiah 47:1-48:11; Ephesians 4:9-16; Psalms 69:1-13; Proverbs 17:17-18
NT: “And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head — Christ. From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building itself up in love by the proper working of each individual part.” (Ephesians 4:11-16 CSB)
The “He” that Paul referred to in verse 9 of this passage is Christ, the head of the body and the Lord of the church. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, Paul explained that each member of the Godhead (Father, Son and Spirit) graces the members of the family of faith in different ways. The Father graces everyone with different core motivations. Those are described in detail in Romans 12:6-8. The Spirit graces spirit-filled believers by manifesting through them in different ways. Those manifestations are described in detail in 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. In this passage, Paul describes the ministries that Christ graces certain people to function in. In verse 7 of this chapter, Paul explained that grace is given to all in Christ, but in verse 9, Paul differentiated the ministry graces of Christ from general grace, by saying that Christ does not give all these ministry roles – He gives some. These five ministry graces are roles of leadership in the Church. When Christ ascended into heaven to be with the Father and intercede for us, He appointed some to roles of leadership to equip the saints and build up the body. Keep in mind, the people that are graced for these leadership roles are not to do all the work, they are to lead and equip the body for the work.
Some in the body of Christ are graced to serve in the ministry of apostleship. The word apostle means one sent forth with orders. While all in the body of Christ are sent forth to proclaim the gospel and make disciples, those who have been graced with apostleship are graced by Christ to grow, expand and establish the church on the doctrinal principles of the word. The gift of prophet/prophecy appears in all three types of gifts. There are those graced by the Father with the motivation to prophesy. Those people are truth-tellers with a no-nonsense bent to tell things like they are. All spirit-filled believers are able to prophecy (speak forth words of edification, exhortation, and comfort from the heart of the Father) as the Spirit gives them the ability. In this passage, Paul was referencing the office of prophet – someone in leadership graced by Christ to speak forth the wisdom and direction of God to bring clarity to the body. The ministry role of evangelist isn’t graced by Christ to some to do all the evangelizing. The evangelist is to equip and encourage the members of the body to evangelize. Finally, Christ graces some to be pastors and teachers. Pastors and teachers are people graced by Christ to shepherd flocks (local assemblies of the church) and teach them the word, will and ways of the Lord.
The purpose of these leadership roles in the church is not for the people that hold these roles to become rich and famous. The purpose for these roles of leadership is to see the entire body of Christ grow to maturity. One of the measures of maturity is that the members of the church will not be tossed around and blown about by the philosophies and popular teachings of the day – nor will they be duped by cunning and deceitful people. Right now, as I look at the church in America, it is obvious to me that we have not grown into maturity. Why is that? Either those graced for ministry leadership are not actually engaged in building up the church, or the members of the church are not willing to submit themselves to those who have been graced for ministry leadership… or a little bit of both.
As redeemed, chosen and called-out saints and members of God’s family of faith, God desires to transform us from glory to glory into the very likeness of Jesus Christ, the perfect and holy Son of God. We can’t do that in isolation. We are all individual parts of a body, and Christ is the head. In order to fully function according to our God-given purpose and grow in maturity toward the likeness of Christ, we must unite with the greater body of Christ and submit ourselves to those who have been graced by Christ to equip us and build us to maturity.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that as a member of Your body, You desire me to grow together with the rest of the body into maturity… into Your likeness. I also thank You that You have graced certain people in the church to lead and equip me to do just that. Lord, I know that for me to be all that You have called me to be, I can’t isolate myself from leaders or from the body – so I humbly unite with the body You have placed me in and submit to the leaders You have placed over me. As I become properly aligned, grace me to grow into Your likeness. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
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