2020 Vision – Equipped Church ~ 20200202 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

02/02 Vision- equipping the church for ministry (Ephesians 4); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200202_equipped-church.mp3

We’ve been renewing our vision of the church, what the church is, who we are, who we are meant to be. We are seeking God’s vision for his church, ultimately that we would bring him glory in all things.

Ephesians 1; Body Filled with the Fullness of Jesus

Today I’d like to go to the book of Ephesians, which is really a book to a church about the church. Paul starts out the letter (1:1-2) by addressing the saints, who are faithful in Christ Jesus. That is the church. Believers in Jesus, made holy or set apart for God by God – saints.

He starts (1:3-11) with worship to God for his blessing us, his choosing us, his predestining us for adoption, his redeeming and forgiving us freely through the blood of Jesus, his revealing to us his purpose and will. Our purpose is to live to the praise of his glorious grace.

The church (1:12-14) is made up of those who hope in Christ, who in him heard the word of truth and believed the gospel, who were sealed with the Holy Spirit, to the praise of his glory.

Then he prays (1:15-23) for this church, that we would know him, that we would know the hope to which we have been called, that we would know the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. He points us to the risen and exalted Christ, who is seated at the right hand of the Father,

Ephesians 1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

The Father gave Jesus to be head over his body, the church. Jesus fills his church with his fullness and the fullness of his blessings.

Ephesians 2; Made Alive in Christ and United as a Temple

He goes on in chapter 2:1-10 to describe the work of God in love through the gospel to wake the dead, to make us alive in Christ, to display the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus

Speaking of the animosity and division between Jew and Gentile, he says

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

One new man, reconciled to God in one body, the church now made up of both Jew and Gentile who are saved by God’s undeserved grace, made alive, sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 2:16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

We have access in the one Spirit to the Father. We have full rights as citizens, we belong to the household of God.

Ephesians 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

We, the church, are pictured as the one body of Christ filled by him, one new man at peace with God and one another, having access to the Father by the Spirit. We are pictured as fellow citizens, members of God’s house. We are pictured as a structure, the holy temple in the Lord, a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. As a building, we are built on the one foundation of Jesus and the prophetic and apostolic witness to who he is.

Ephesians 3; Meant to Display the Wisdom of God to All Creation

Paul addresses his specific ministry to the Gentiles in chapter 3, that he was entrusted with the mystery of Christ,

Ephesians 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

That which was hidden that is now made known is that through the good news of Jesus the Gentiles are now members of the same body included in all the promises, included in the inheritance.

Ephesians 3:7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,

God’s purpose from eternity was to display his many faceted wisdom to the angelic hosts and supernatural beings through us, the church! Let that sink in. God who created all things, intends to display his own wisdom and glory to all of his creation through his church.

Paul’s knees buckle in prayer (3:14-19) at this thought. He prays that we would be strengthened with God’s power through the Spirit; that we as the church, together with all the saints, would be able to comprehend the incomprehensible love of Christ. He closes his prayer with this doxology:

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

May God be glorified in the church and in Christ Jesus. The church is meant to be to the praise of his glorious grace among saints and angels and all creation.

Ephesians 4; Leaders Given to Equip Saints to Build up the Body

It is on the basis of this amazing truth that he gives his instructions to the church in Ephesians 4

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Because we are given new life through the gospel and united by the Spirit into one body, Christ’s church, we are to maintain that unity, to walk in humility, bearing with one another in love. Remember, we the church are meant to display the wisdom and glory of God to all creation!

Ephesians 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” ...11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

God out of undeserved grace gave us gifts, he gave to the church gifted men who serve the church in various capacities. In chapter 2 we saw the church built on the foundation of the apostolic and prophetic testimony to Christ. Here we see God build on that foundation by giving to his church evangelists and shepherd teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

Notice that it not only the evangelists, pastors and teachers who do the work of ministry; it is all the saints who do the work of ministry. God gave these specific gifts to equip the saints for ministry. Ministry is service, and ministry is described as work. It is a labor of love. The service that all the saints are to work at is building up the body of Christ.

It is always easier to tear down than to build up. When we were expanding our sanctuary, we had a few dedicated workers faithfully building the addition. But when it came time to demolish the wall that separated the existing sanctuary from the new addition, there was a line of volunteers eager to swing a sledgehammer and take down a section of cinder block. But God has called us to build up the body of Christ.

For the construction, we had visionaries and artists, those who planned and sketched the addition. We had those skilled at excavation, at concrete work, at framing and setting trusses, at hanging doors, at plumbing, we had electricians, and experts at heating and air conditioning, drywallers and painters and carpet layers all working in harmony to make this building what it is. We all have different gifts from God, and we are all to be using those gifts to build up one another. The leadership that God has given to the church is to equip the saints to build one another up in love. And God has a specific goal in mind.

Ephesians 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God. We are to aim for unity in the content of what we believe. Truth matters. Doctrine matters. It matters that we handle God’s word accurately and skillfully. But this is no dry dusty doctrine that is boring and irrelevant. The goal is knowing Jesus. Not as we imagine him to be or wish him to be, but as he is in truth, as he reveals himself to be in his word. Doctrine, teaching, bible study, theology, helps us to know Jesus better, to follow him more closely. There are secondary areas where we can say there is room for brotherly disagreement, but there are the massive bedrock doctrines that we all must hold fast to in common.

Maturity is the goal of building one another up. Many of the problems in the local church stem from people acting immaturely. Babies cry when they have a messy diaper or are hungry or don’t get their way. We are to grow up. We are to grow up in Christ, and we are to encourage one another to maturity in Christ. Jesus is our aim. Jesus, who did not demand his own rights, who put our needs above his own comfort or pleasure, who laid down his life in service to others. We are to grow up to be more like Jesus.

There are also some things to avoid. It is put negatively, that we are no longer to be children. We are to exercise the faith of a child, to simply trust Jesus. But we are not to be tossed to and fro by the waves, we are not to be carried about by every wind of doctrine. Did you know that there are doctrinal winds, winds of teaching? There is always some new teacher promoting something new, something popular, something that gains a following, something that sells a lot of books. Winds change direction. Today they are blowing one way. Tomorrow they will blow in a different direction. When it’s windy, it is good to have an anchor to keep from being blown around.

Here’s a saying I learned as I began to study the bible: ‘if it’s new it’s not true, and if it’s true it’s not new’. We hold to the historic Christian faith, once for all delivered to the saints. There are definitely sound scholarly advances being made in research of the biblical languages, and historical and cultural backgrounds that deepen our understanding and appreciation of God’s word. But there are also theological fads and fashions that change day by day, decade by decade. We must have an anchor that keeps us from being blown around. The bible alone is our infallible guide. But we have much to learn from history. The church is not new. The bride of Christ has been in existence for 2000 years, and she has seen many trends come and go. And she has formulated creeds and confessions that help to avoid error. It is foolish to ignore the history and heritage we have. The apostle’s creed (120-250) is probably the earliest summary statement of the essentials of the Christian faith:

I believe in God the Father Almighty.

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;

Who was born by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary;

Was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was buried;

The third day he rose from the dead;
He ascended into heaven; and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

And in the Holy Ghost;

The Holy Church;

The forgiveness of sins;

The resurrection of the body (flesh).

The Nicene creed (325 -381) expanded on and clarified the biblical teaching on the person of Jesus and his relation to his Father. The Chalcedonian creed (451) affirms Jesus as both fully God and fully man. The Athanasian creed (500) more carefully defined the biblical understanding of our triune God and the relationships of the three persons in the one God. Although the creeds and historic councils and catechisms are not God breathed scripture, they can help to guard against being blown about by every wind of doctrine, and we would do well to consider them.

Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Putting away childishness, we are to speak truth in love. We are to grow up to be more like Jesus. Notice again the picture of the body. We each as parts of the body are connected to one another. We each must be working properly to contribute our part to the healthy function of the body. As each part is working properly, it causes the body to grow. As each part is equipped for the work of ministry, the body is to build itself up in love.

Ephesians 5-6; Submission to Christ’s Sacrificial Leadership

Ephesians 5 continues instructions for a life of integrity and fleshes out these body relationships with the relationships of husband and wife, and into chapter 6 of children and parents, and slaves and masters. The marriage relationship is used as a picture of Christ’s relationship to his church in loving, sacrificial leadership, purifying, nurturing and cherishing, and the church’s response of loving submission to her head.

Chapter 6 closes with an exhortation to be fully equipped with the gospel armor that God provides and to continually pray for all the saints.


Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org