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Ephesians 4:15-16 by Robert Dean
Do you use your spiritual gift to care for and help other believers? Listen to this lesson to learn what our role is as part of the body of Christ. Find out that Christ is the head of the body and how that involves His authority, leadership, provision, and guidance. Understand that we don’t go to church just for what we can get out of it but rather to minister to other believers.
Series:Ephesians (2018)
Duration:1 hr 51 mins 46 secs

The Body of Christ and Our Spiritual Life
Ephesians 4:15–16
Ephesians Lesson #151
May 29, 2022
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
www.deanbibleministries.org

Opening Prayer

“Father, we are so grateful that we have You to come to, that You are in charge. You are the One who sovereignly rules over the universe that You have created. You are Creator of all things, and You are the Author of the plan of salvation, our redemption in which we have true freedom in Christ.

“Father, beyond that You have, as we’ve studied in Ephesians, blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, which for us includes the fact that we are united with Christ into His body, so that we have Him as our Authority. And we have a new identity in this age, and we are to understand that identity and live and walk in light of that identity. And that as we have studied, we are to grow to maturity, so that we may serve You and serve one another more effectively.

“Father, as we continue our study in Ephesians 4, we pray that You would encourage us and help us to understand the significance of these verses and the foundation that is laid here for understanding what church is all about, why we come to church, what we are to do with what we learn at church, and the role that the local church plays in our own spiritual life and spiritual growth. And we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”

Slide 2

This morning I have entitled the lesson “The Body of Christ and Our Spiritual Life.” That may seem a little odd to some of you because there is an emphasis in Scripture that there is more to spiritual growth and spiritual nourishment and spiritual maturity than simply studying the Bible, internalizing the Bible, and making it a part of our spiritual growth.

If that were all there were to it, then we could be mature Christians without ever interacting with other Christians. I know that there are situations which I’ll address later on, but there are situations in this world where there are believers who have to basically function in a lot of independence and isolation for a lot of different reasons, many of which can be legitimate, some of which may not be legitimate. But those are the exceptions and not the norm. So we have to understand that what Scripture teaches is what is supposed to be the norm not the exception.

We do not make rules or laws on the basis of exceptions, or we shouldn’t, although we have people in government who don’t understand that. They want to make rules and laws on the basis of exceptions, but we make rules and laws and principles and policies on the basis of the normal situation, the expected situation, not on the basis of exceptions.

The normal expectation in Scripture is that the local church will be functional, and it will be made up of a group of believers that may not be very large, may be only 10, 12, 15, 20 people, depending on location. If you have any knowledge of history, you know that was probably the norm through much of history in many different areas and geographical locations in the world.

But the church is that framework within which spiritual growth takes place and maturity takes place. We have seen in the Scriptures that there are many passages, which we will come back and review again, that talk about the fact that we have a ministry to one another. Just looking through a concordance on the phrase “one another” teaches us that if you’re living in isolation on an island, you cannot have a ministry to one another. It doesn’t matter how good your Internet signal is. That “one another” involves a personal involvement, not a virtual involvement.

So we come to this part of the chapter that is making a transition. What I want to do is something of a flyover in terms of what we looked at in terms of these passages earlier and understand something of the structure of what Paul is saying in Ephesians 4, because we all know that we can get pretty granular sometimes looking at the details of each passage and the details of each verse. But I like to come back up and take an overview to help us understand how this fits together as a whole and where things are going.

Slide 3

So we’ve been looking at this section in Ephesians 4:11–14 where it talks about what Christ has given us. In this narrow section, it talks about these four gifted leaders. But the reality is that this section, beginning actually in Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us ...” So that’s not just talking about these leadership-gifted people in Ephesians 4:11. It starts with the assumption and the declaration that each one of us has been given grace.

Now we miss this in English because, as I pointed out when we went to that verse, it’s typical that we think of “grace given to us” as “oh, that’s salvation,” but that would be a misunderstanding of the text. So we will come back and look at that. That’s actually talking about spiritual gifts. Notice it’s “according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” That’s the context. So every believer is given a spiritual gift, for it is service to the body of Christ.

But then there are those special-gifted individuals given for leadership purposes.

Ephesians 4:11, “He Himself—that is, Christ who is the Head of the body, gives these four gifts—apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers—that’s everybody else who are gifted individuals, according to Ephesians 4:7.”

Ephesians 4:12, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry—or the work of service—, for the edifying—that is, the building up, the strengthening—of the body of Christ—that’s everybody else.”

So we see that the saints in context have a work of service. They have a role to play, in edifying the building up of the body of Christ. It’s not just the pastor in the pulpit teaching a Bible class to a congregation. That’s the primary thing; it’s not the only thing.

Ephesians 4:13, “till we—and this is the foreseen result—all come to the unity of the faith—this comes only if we study the faith. That’s part of the role of the teaching from the pulpit—and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man—not perfect in the sense of flawless, but maturity—, to the measure—‘measure’ is used three times in this passage, and it has to do with the ultimate metric for determining spiritual growth and spiritual maturity, and the standard is the Lord Jesus Christ and His character. That’s what—of the stature of fullness of Christ—means, as we’ve studied.”

Ephesians 4:14, “for the purpose—or with the end result that—we should no longer be children—notice the contrast between the mature one in Ephesians 4:13—that we should no longer be children—that is, immature—, tossed to and fro and carried about …”

Children are unstable. They don’t know how to make wise decisions or good decisions, and so they go this way and that way, depending on the whims of their emotions or whatever other external factors there may be. But not so for the mature believer who makes decisions based on the stable, eternal Word of God, so that he is controlled by the thinking of Christ, which is the Word, and not by external circumstances or internal emotions.

So the child is often distracted by the deceitful and false teaching of the world around us, which ultimately has its source in Satan.

This brings us to these last two verses, which I didn’t get on that slide.

Ephesians 4:15, “but speaking the truth in love—this is one of three times in this chapter that we have that phrase ‘in love,’ so we have to spend time understanding what that means—, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—”

Ephesians 4:16, “from whom—that is, from Christ—the whole body—that’s the body of Christ, that’s the church. So it’s talking ultimately about the church universal. But this is not an either/or. It’s not excluding that this needs to be manifest in the local church as well—, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies—we’ve got to spend a lot of time on this, looking at some of the terminology here, but the bottom line is that we understand that the whole body is somehow impacted by what the individual believers are doing—according to the effective working by which every part—there we go back to the individual again, each one of us—does its share, causes—or produces—growth of the body for the edifying of itself—and then we have that word—in love—again.”

I’m on a four-way text with some other pastors. All of us met about six years ago at the Yad Vashem when we went to Christian Leadership Training Institute for seven or eight days. The four of us became really good friends, and we’ve had a four-way text for I don’t know how many years. Two guys are in the Eastern Time Zone, I’m in Central, and then one guy’s in the Mountain Time Zone. He lives in “uber rural” Montana. I think he lives in a town that might have five people not counting him and his wife. He has to get up early, so he’s the first one to send a text because he gets up at like 4 o’clock in the morning to drive 100 miles to his church. Something like that.

I had texted something this morning for the group, and one guy in New Jersey said, because what I sent was about something someone wrote this morning about wokeism, he said, “I don’t worry about pagan wokeism. What cooks me is the believers who reconstruct the love theme into an idol, and then try to convince us to bow to it.”

That is a great statement because what we hear today from many quarters is that all we need to do is love one another. But they don’t have any idea what love is. It’s not biblical love. It is this ephemeral emotion that people identify as love, and then they use that as a false standard for what things should be. It’s interesting how they randomly apply that and inconsistently apply that. So we have to talk about this concept of love.

It’s first introduced back in the first part of this chapter where it talks about our walk in the first six verses. In Ephesians 4:2 it says, “with all lowliness and gentleness—that is humility—, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love.”

So from the beginning of this chapter, we have “in love” and down in Ephesians 4:16 we have “in love,” and that sort of brackets that particular section.

So what I want to do is just hit some review items, and then give us some broader contextual background for what we’re going to look at in these last two verses because these verses should profoundly change, modify, improve, refocus, some parts of your understanding of the nature of the local church.

Slide 4

In this chapter, the focus shifted from developing a lot of teaching on the nature of the church, and that’s what we see in Ephesians 2 and 3. Remember, starting in Ephesians 2:12 Paul begins to give the core information that is related to understanding that which was not revealed in the Old Testament about this new organism that would come into being on the Day of Pentecost in AD 33, and that is the church.

Prior to the coming into existence of the church, the people of God in the Old Testament from the time of the call of Abraham until the Day of Pentecost, the primary group, were the Jews. Everything went through Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There were a vast number of Gentiles who were also saved during that time period, from Abraham to the Cross.

We see examples of this with Jonah taking the gospel to Nineveh, Naaman the Syrian, numerous others such as Ruth who joined themselves to Israel. So there were many, many Gentiles who were saved during that time.

But before God called Abram, there were no Jews, and all those who are saved prior to Abram were Gentiles. They were the people of God. But the primary people that God works with from Abraham to Pentecost are the Jews.

Then at Pentecost a new entity comes into existence, and Paul describes this under various terms. He calls them a new body, a new man, a new building, and a new temple. So he is focusing on who they are in Christ, and he uses these four building metaphors, except for the body, to indicate that God is building something new. It’s a new body, a new man, a new building, a new temple, and the one that is used the most in the New Testament is the new body. The church is the body of Christ.

Now like any analogy, it’s not perfect because no analogy is going to be perfect, but it teaches us several things. Christ is the Head of the body, and as such it emphasizes the fact that Christ is the One who is in authority. He is the Head. It’s not that He is the source, but He is the Head. And so in this metaphor of the body Paul is going to explain in the rest of that chapter, but more significantly in the latter part of the Epistle, the significance of this metaphor in terms of the purpose—this is what we’ve studied in the last 14 verses—the purpose of the local church, how the local church is to operate to some degree, and the ministry of the local church in terms of training the people in the local church, to equip them to serve one another.

Now at the end of this chapter, it talks about the significance of that relationship between the believers in the local church to one another and the role that that plays in the spiritual growth, in the spiritual maturation of each individual. It’s not an either or. That’s foundational. That is central, because on the basis of that information, the individuals within the church are equipped, they’re trained, they’re matured so that they in turn can use their spiritual gifts in order to minister to one another biblically. Not in terms of the cultural norms, not in terms of sociological or psychological principles, but in terms of the Word of God. That is what makes it a biblical congregation.

Slide 5

We’ve also studied that the church did not exist prior to the Day of Pentecost in AD 33. It comes into existence as this new entity that is comprised of both Jew and Gentile equally, where Jewishness or being a Gentile is not a factor in the spiritual life or spiritual growth of the individual believer, as it was in the time prior to that.

The church is this unique entity, this unique organism that exists in history between AD 33 and the Rapture.

Slide 6

The third thing we see is the emphasis is on Christ as the Savior of the body and the Head of the body. This is emphasized in several places, and it’s only used by Paul. If you do a word search through the New Testament for words like “head” and “body,” you find that those words are used in terms of the normal use in terms of the physical head of a human body or a couple of other uses. But when it comes to the metaphor of the church, it’s only used by Paul in a few passages. I have a couple of them up here on the screen.

Colossians 1:18, “And He is the head of the body, the church ...”

One of the reasons I have this up here is for us to understand that this concept of being the head is a concept that emphasizes His authority. The head of the human body controls the human body. It is the brain in the head that controls all of the functions of the human body, whether it’s the hand, or the feet, or the legs, or whatever part of the body it may be, everything is under the control of the head.

So to understand this metaphor, even though you can see in some passages that there might be some other meaning, we have to stick with the clear statement of the meaning of this metaphor of headship. Otherwise, we will be led astray. He is the head, the authority, of the body of the church.

In Colossians 1:24 Paul says, “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.”

So Christ is the head; the body is the church.

Slide 7

In Colossians 2:19 he says, “and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.”

So what he is saying here is that the growth comes ultimately from the Head, from Christ. It’s a supernatural thing, and part of that involves the fact that it is Christ who gives these gifted spiritual leaders that we studied in Ephesians 4:11; and ultimately, it is Christ who gives gifts to men, even though it is also clearly stated that it’s from the Holy Spirit, but they don’t act independently of one another.

Slide 8

So my fourth point is that the metaphor of the headship of Christ explains that He is the authority over the church universal, including each local church.

Now when you unpack the concept of headship, we often shrink it down to just say authority, but authority involves a lot of different things. If you are in a position of authority or responsibility over an organization or some sort of entity, then you have certain responsibilities. Headship relates to leadership. Authority relates to leadership. Authority without leadership usually is going to collapse and be self-destructive. Authority involves leadership, it involves giving direction and guidance of provision and sustenance, all of which derives in the church ultimately from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Slide 9

I have six verses here to just mention some of these we’ve already touched on.

Ephesians 1:22 says, “And He—that is, God the Father—put all things—‘things’ is not in the original—under His—that is, Christ’s—feet—that is an image of authority—, and gave Him—that is God the Father gave Christ—to be head over all things to the church.”

So that clearly states that this concept of headship is one of authority, leadership, guidance, direction, provision, sustenance, all of those things I mentioned.

In 1 Corinthians 11:3 we are told that there is a relationship of leadership in the human race. Paul says, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ—He is our leader, the authority—, the head of woman is man—that’s dealing with authority, leadership—, and the head of Christ is God.”

Even Jesus Christ is under authority. That’s a significant thing that has to be understood because so many people have the assumption that authority is something God put into effect after Creation. But it was always there, even in the Godhead throughout all of eternity.

Now the implication of that is that authority is inherently good, even though it is practiced wrongly by sinful men. But authority is not something to be done away with. I emphasize that because we live in an antinomian age.

The word antinomian means against law, against rules. We want to do what we want to do. It’s like the age of the Judges that we’re studied on Tuesday night, and that is the idea of pure autonomy. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Everybody wrote their own rulebook, and the result was that it led to chaos and the destruction of their culture, and they were often being defeated by other nations.

Ephesians 5:23 uses the headship of Christ, the authority of Christ over the church, as an analogy for marriage, “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.”

So what we’re looking at here is not marriage, but Christology, that Christ is the head of the church. The ecclesiology, the study of the church, that Christ is the ultimate authority over the church, and that He’s also the Savior of the body.

Slide 10

In Colossians 1:18 we read, “And He is the head of the body, the church.”

Colossians 2:10 says He is also the head of all principality and power. Those are terms—principalities and powers—that relate to the angelic hierarchy of authority, whether it’s the elect angels or the fallen angels. So Christ is in authority over all of the angelic host.

Colossians 2:19, “and not holding fast to the Head, for whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.”

Now what are the joints and ligaments? We will deal with this in more specifics next time, but this relates to the individual parts of the body. So, by analogy that’s relating to individual believers who are in the body of Christ.

This is saying something very similar to what we have in Ephesians 4, is that the body is nourished and knit together by the parts. The parts have a role in the health of the body. So it’s not just about the pulpit ministry. And that’s going to shake some people up because that’s not always been emphasized in our background in our tradition.

Slide 11

So fifth, what we see is as the head, the leader, the director, the authority over His body the church, Christ has given spiritual gifts to us through the Holy Spirit.

That’s emphasized in the first part of 1 Corinthians 12, but here it is seen in Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

Now there’s a word that is often used for spiritual gifts that is based on the word for grace, and that is the word CHARISMA. We’ve brought that over into English where it refers to somebody who has a certain type of personality. But in the Scripture that refers to these grace gifts. It has that ending MA on it, but CHARIS is the Greek word for grace. CHARIS is the word that is used in Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us CHARIS was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

Slide 12

Now when we look at Romans 12:6, Paul uses CHARIS to describe spiritual gifts. He says, “Having then gifts—CHARISMA—differing according to the grace that is given to us.”

The grace that is given is talking about the grace gifts that are given to each one of us. So, CHARIS is shorthand also for spiritual gifts.

That’s what we have also in Ephesians 3:2 when Paul said, “If indeed you have heard of the dispensation of—and then we have this phrase that must be understood as a whole—the grace of God which was given to me for you.”

“The grace of God which was given to Paul,” he is not talking about salvation, he is talking about his spiritual gift of apostleship to lead and direct and to train and equip local churches.

So “the grace of God which was given” is this phrase that is used several times in Scripture to talk about spiritual gifts.

Now that brings us down to an understanding of where we are in Ephesians 4:15, “but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.”

So just looking at the English, what you see here is that a focal point is growing up to all things into Him.

Ephesians 4:16, “from whom—that is, from Christ—the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies …”

So it is from Him. He’s the head. He’s the One who provides ultimately the spiritual growth. But that comes through the gifted leaders and the operation of spiritual gifts of individuals within the body of Christ.

So with that, what I want to do is take us back to a couple of the verses that we looked at in our Scripture reading this morning, and turn to Romans 12. It’s easy to remember some of the passages related to spiritual gifts. It’s Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and then we have Ephesians 4.

In Romans 12:4–5, “For as we have many members in one body.”

You have two things. You have the unity of the body of Christ, which is one; but then within that body there are many members. We have many members in one body, but all the members don’t have the same function, so not everybody’s the same. There are differences.

One of the philosophical problems that has plagued philosophers since ancient times is “the problem of the one and the many.” How do you, apart from the Bible, explain that there is unity and diversity equally within the universe and within the world?

Everything within human autonomous thought either goes all the way to the many, emphasizing all of the parts—politically that is reflected in anarchy because everybody is equal and everybody’s an equal authority—or it goes all the way in the other direction, emphasizing the one—Plato’s Republic, that there’s one or there’s an oligarchy of an elite group that rules everything and everybody.

But what we see in the Scripture is that the one and the many have an ultimate equality. Where do we see that? (Answer:) The Trinity.

As Bible believers, we have to start with ultimate reality which is the Trinity. We don’t start with what we see. We start with the Trinity and we start with revelation. Scripture says that God is One, but God is also many and They’re equal. And we say, “Oh, that’s not logical!” It is if you think biblically, that God is One, One in essence, He’s One in purpose, He is Three. So that solves the problem.

The body of Christ is the same way. We have one body; that is our unity, that’s the beginning of Ephesians 4, talking about the things that we have in unity. There is a unity of the faith. There’s one body, but all the members do not have the same function. So we being many are one body in Christ.

Then look at this; this is really interesting. Individually, we are members of one another. That means that there is a sense in which there is an interdependence between the members of the body of Christ. There is a connection that is—I’m not sure what the words are to put that into place—but there’s an interconnectedness and interdependence that is built into the body of Christ, just as there is an interconnectedness and interdependence in the cell structure of our physical bodies.

Now let’s turn over to 1 Corinthians 12. This is a lengthy chapter that most people think of and go there to talk about spiritual gifts. But the discussion of the spiritual gifts is talking about how God has gifted each individual. But it is within the context of talking about the body of Christ.

Let’s just hit a couple of the high points. Go to 1 Corinthians 12:12, “For as the body is one and has many members—there’s ‘the one and the many’ again—, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.”

How did this happen? How did this unity, this creation of this unity take place? That’s 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”

The means that Christ used, the instrument He used, was the Holy Spirit. So that at the time that we trust Christ as Savior, Christ uses the Holy Spirit to bring us into and identify us with His death, burial, and resurrection, and brings us into this new entity called the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:14, “For in fact the body is not one member but many.”

Then he uses the illustration that you have a foot, you have a hand, and you have an ear and an eye; and one can’t say to the other, “You’re more important than I am” because every part is important. Remember what doctors used to say about the tonsils and the appendix, that they were just vestigial organs, and they had no significant role? And then we’ve discovered sometime later that they do play a part in the immune system of the body, and so you need to keep them and not get rid of them. All the parts have a significant role to play.

Now let’s get down to 1 Corinthians 12:20, “But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.”

Skip past that to 1 Corinthians 12:24, “but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body.” That’s the point I want to get to.

God is the One who composes the body. He’s the One who determines ultimately, it’s talking about God the Father, determines what gifts we have (this is the interplay of the Trinity and I don’t want to get all bogged down into that), but God the Father determines how the parts are put together in the body of Christ.

So, every part, that means every single believer, has an important role to play within the function of the local church, the universal church, the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:24–25, “… But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another—there’s that phrase.”

The word for “care”—if you are listening to Thursday night or were here Thursday night when we talked about the passages “casting all your care upon Him because He cares for you,” “Be anxious for nothing,” that’s the same word here, that members should have the same care, the same concern for one another.

That’s the interaction of the members of the body of Christ in terms of the application of their spiritual gifts. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it, or if one member’s honored all the members rejoice with it, just as we rejoiced with Becky today after her graduation the other day.

Now you are the body of Christ and members individually. So this gives us this background.

One last verse before we close. I want you to turn to 1 Peter 4:7. It’s a warning. The end of all things is near. We don’t know the Rapture’s going to occur, so therefore we should be serious and watchful in our prayers.

1 Peter 4:8, “And above all things have fervent love for one another …”

See, love here is critical to the function of these spiritual gifts, just as it’s displayed in 1 Corinthians 12. It’s not mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12; the first half of 1 Corinthians 13 is about the fact that love needs to be that which is the environment in which the gifts operate.

1 Peter 4:9, “Be hospitable to one another—there’s that phrase again, that this is the mutual ministry of the members of the body of Christ to one another—without grumbling.

1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a gift—each one of you have received a gift—, minister it to one another …”

Now the important part here is “one another” refers to believers. Now you can’t do that if you’re not part of a local assembly. That goes back to what I said earlier.

There are exceptions. Think about frontier days, and you have people going off and they’re on their own and they’re breaking new ground and crossing over the Appalachians and going West. You have a lot of people who are in isolation. That’s not normal. That was exceptional.

You have a lot of situations like that in rural communities. You think of believers that lived in pretty much isolation either on the American frontier, you think about early Middle Ages in Europe, and you might not know another Christian or you might know of one other Christian somewhere. You’re eking out a living on your land or as a serf or as a peasant working for some overlord. Those are normative type circumstances. The Bible’s addressing what’s normative.

What this tells us is that the local church can’t operate as a lot of individual cells sitting on a Zoom meeting around the world. I don’t even know who said it. Somebody said this to me sometime recently, “Well, you know that’s the direction the church is moving toward. Everybody’s going in this direction. Everybody is meeting via Zoom and virtual reality.” And I said, “We don’t get the structure for the local church from what society does, from what the culture does.” The function of the body of Christ cannot happen in virtual reality.

Now there are certain things that we can do in virtual reality, and thank God for that. But ultimately, getting to know people, ministering to one another, takes place within the reality of physical involvement in a local church. The body of Christ is a personal relationship within a local assembly, whether that local assembly is 10 people or 10,000 people. That’s where it functions.

So it’s necessary to do today the same thing we have done for the last 2,000 years, and that’s the body of Christ meets physically face-to-face. Thank God we have people who live in parts of this world that are isolated. I remember when I was in Connecticut teaching on the same topic, and a man wrote me and said, “I’ve been listening to you say that for number of years, and I’ve tried every church in my small town in Vermont. I went to a Congregational Church for a while until at Easter he said Jesus did not rise physically and bodily from the grave. What do I do?”

I said, “You’re doing the best you can right now. You don’t have anything around you that has a solid biblical content from the pulpit.” There are many places today where people can’t find anybody that is teaching—it may be shallow, whatever.

I had one man who’s gone on and done a lot of different ministries now, but he was one who was in the military. He spent most of his time just listening to Bible teaching on a tape till he heard me. And then he was stationed near a small town, he found a small Baptist church and within a couple months he was teaching a Sunday School class. And when the pastor wasn’t able to be in the pulpit, he asked him to be in the pulpit. He hadn’t gone to seminary, but he knew the Bible and he could teach.

So you never know what role you can play. Going to church is not “what am I going to get out of it.” It’s “how is God going to use me, to mature me, so I can have a ministry to others in the body of Christ?”

If your focus is “I’m to choose this church because of what I’m going to get out of it,” then you need to grow up a little bit. You’re acting like a baby believer. You’re very self-centered. You can still get involved with a local church, and say, “They don’t feed me very much at all.”

Well, thank God you have the Internet and you can listen to me or a number of other pastors who are teaching solid biblical teaching. But don’t go off and think the normative experience for the believers is to live and walk in isolation, because you are sort of amputating part of the body of Christ yourself.

So this is something we have to look at in detail. This is a very important section as we come to Ephesians 4:15–16, talking about “every part doing its share.” What does that mean? And “causing growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

Now I don’t think those are good translations, but they convey something close to what I think the original is saying, and that is that we all have a role and a place in the body of Christ.

So we will be looking at this—and it sets the stage. Guess what happens next in Ephesians 4:17? Paul says, “I don’t want you to walk like the Gentiles walk.” He goes back to that theme of walking. Everything that is said in Ephesians 4:1–16 is to lay the groundwork, so we can understand the really significant teaching on the spiritual life that comes in Ephesians 4:17 to the end of the chapter. It all functions and fits together.

We will come back and look at that next week.

Closing Prayer

“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to be able to see this overview and the consistency of revelation in these different Epistles about the body of Christ and the role that we each have as individuals in terms of the function and the health of the local body of Christ, as well as the impact on the universal body of Christ.

“Father, we know that there are many who live in difficult circumstances, and it is maybe almost impossible to be involved with any kind of local assembly, maybe it’s geographical, maybe it’s theological, many different reasons, but that’s not the normative situation. The normative is within a local body and it may even be a very small group, 5, 10, 15 people. But Father, we know that Your plan is for us to be involved in and with a local group of believers.

“Father, we pray that You might also make clear the good news of what Christ did on the Cross for us through what we’ve studied today—that it’s not on the basis of works or ritual, it’s not on the basis of going to church or going to a specific church, but our eternal destiny is determined by that choice to believe that Christ died on the Cross for our sins.

“We pray You might make that clear to anyone listening, anyone here, anyone who is online listening to the teaching today, that Christ is offering to us life and abundant life, and the basis is just trusting in Him and His work on the Cross.

“Father, we thank You for these things and pray that this will strengthen and encourage us spiritually. In Christ’s name, amen.”