Fairview Baptist Church
2040 Main Street WW - Ashland, Kentucky 41102
"Where Everybody Is Somebody and Jesus is Lord"

 

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 To all users of the Sunday School Study Guide:

I must apologize for the lateness of the lesson posting last week and for any inconvenience it may have caused you all in preparing to teach your classes this past Sunday.  My wife and I have been on vacation the past 10 days and I forgot to follow through on the arrangement I had made to have the guide posted last week.  I hope you will forgive me for my absent mindedness.  I thank you for your inquiring emails which were too numerous to answer individually.  May God continue to bless you all as you serve Him through your Sunday School class time each week.  

In His Service,

Mike Campbell, Teacher

Bailey Sadler Sunday School Class

Fairview Baptist Church,

Ashland, KY 41101

 

Bailey Sadler Class

SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE - 2014

 

Study Theme:  Connected: My Life in the Church

What This Study Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

In this session, we will learn that the roles God gives us in the church relate directly to maintaining unity, which we studied in the previous session, and that none of us can grow in Christ without the help and support of other believers.

 

Sept. 07

Connected in Christ

 

Sept. 14

Connected in Unity

X

Sept. 21

Connected in Growth

 

Sept. 28

Connected Through Words

 

Oct. 05

Connected in Service

 

Oct. 12

Connected Through Prayer

 

LIFE IMPACT:

Church members need one another in order to grow in Christ.

FOCAL PASSAGE:

Ephesians 4:11-16

LESSON OUTLINE:

I.    

II.

III.  

Gifts and Ministry (Eph. 4:11-12)

Unity and Maturity (Eph. 4:13)

Maturity and Growth (Eph. 4:14-16)

OVERVIEW OF BACKGROUND PASSAGE:  

The Church’s Gifts—Ephesians 4:7-16

Borrowing an illustration from Psalm 68:18, Paul described the gifts given to the church. God is both sovereign and generous in His distribution of the various gifts (4:7-10).

The gifts in fact are gifted persons: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (or pastor-teachers). Apostles and prophets were already mentioned in 2:20 and 3:5 as the foundational gifts to the church. In a strict sense apostles were witnesses of Christ’s resurrection and were commissioned by Him to preach. It broadly included those associated with such men, who also were commissioned for ministry (for example, see Acts 14:4,14; 1 Thess 2:6). Prophets, under the direct inspiration of God, carried out a preaching ministry that included both foretelling and forthtelling.

Evangelists ministered in a manner itinerant and external from the church. They were missionaries to the unconverted empowered with special insight into the gospel’s meaning. Pastors and teachers most likely constituted two sides of one ministry. This ministry was indigenous and internal to the church. Persons with this gift shepherd the flock and instruct them in divine truth.

All of these gifted people carry out equipping ministries so that service ministries can be actualized. Or as Paul put it, “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith” (4:12-13).

Paul stated the goal of the church in 4:13-16. The church is to grow up in Christ so it will avoid spiritual immaturity, instability, and gullibility. The atmosphere of spiritual maturity is described in terms of truth and love (4:15). Maturity is defined totally in relationship to the corporate Christian body. Maturity is an ongoing process of being “joined and held together” in relationship with the body of Christ.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Handbook; General Editor David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

INTRODUCTION:

 Rooted in the American dream is the idea of the self-made man, a person who rises from a low level to become someone great.  We’ve heard it said, “Anybody can become President. ” The self-made person, though, is a myth.  No one can rise to any level without the help and support of others.  This is certainly true in the church.  God designed His church so that we need and support each other.  Growth in Christ occurs in the context of connecting with other believers.  It also occurs when we dedicate ourselves to prayer, bible study, service to others, giving, and sharing the gospel with those in need of God’s saving grace.  We mature spiritually when we become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

I.

Gifts and Ministry (Eph. 4:11-12)

11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,

1.     What functional roles did Paul identify in these verses (v. 11)?

2.     What purpose did Paul identify for each role (v. 12)?

3.     Who are the some Christ gave to be apostles?  prophets?  evangelists?  pastors and teachers?

4.     How would you describe the role of each: “apostles”? “prophets”? “evangelists”? “pastors” and “teachers”?

5.     How do you think each role works for training and building up the body of Christ (v. 12)?

6.     How would you define the “body of Christ”?

7.     Why do you think each of these roles are “gifts” to the church?

8.     What do you think constitutes the building “ . . . up the body of Christ?

9.     What is an “apostle”? a “prophet”? an “evangelist”? a “pastor-teacher”?  (See Digging Deeper.)

10.  Do you believe that each of these “gifts” are present in each body of Christ today?  Why, or why not?

11.  What role do church “staff” and “church members” play?

12.  Do you think a church suffers if any of these “gifts” are missing?  Why, or why not?

13.  What do you think happens to a believer who doesn’t use the “gift” God has given him/her?

14.  How can a believer know what “gift” he/she has been given?

15.  How would you describe the “work of ministry” for a believer?

16.  Do you believe a Christian is obligated for a “work of ministry”?   Why, or why not?

 

Lasting Lessons in Eph. 4:11-12:

1.  God personally gifts each believer according to what the church needs.

2.  Church leaders exercise their God-given gifts in various ways to train other believers.

3.  The purpose for each believer is to do the work of ministry.

4.  Doing the work of ministry results in the church being built up.

 

II.

Unity and Maturity (Eph. 4:13)

13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

1.     What is the goal for believer’s that Paul described in this passage?

2.     In what two areas did Paul encourage unity?

3.     What does it mean to be “a mature (perfect; KJV) man”?

4.     Who is the ultimate standard for measuring church unity?

5.     By what standard are we to measure our personal maturity?

6.     What do you think a maturing Christian should look like?

7.     Do you think Galatians 5:22 describes a mature Christian? 

8.     If so, how is a believer to mature in these characteristics?

9.     Do you believe that a church membership matures?

10.  If so, what do you think the characteristics of a maturing church are the same as for believers?

11.  What do you think are the main ingredients for unity in a church body?

12.  What standard do you think we should use to measure church maturity?

13.  Does Galatians 5:22 meet this standard for church maturity?

14.  How would you define Christ’s fullness?

15.  What does growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” mean to you?

   

Lasting Lessons in Eph. 4:13:

1.  Developing Christian maturity is an on-going process.

2.  Christian maturity is measured by a singular standard, the entire life of Christ.

3.  Christian maturity comes as the result of following Christ’s commands to love God and to love people.

 

III.

Maturity and Growth (Eph. 4:14-16)

14 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.  15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.  16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.

1.     Why do you think we need to grow as Christians?

2.     What are some things that would promote Christian growth?

3.     What do you consider the most important element in a Christian’s growth?  Why?

4.     How important do you think Christian growth is in the life of a believer?  Why?

5.     What do you think happens to a believer who fails to grow in their Christian faith (v. 14)?

6.     What does it mean to speak the truth in love (v. 15)?

7.     How can individual Christians grow together (v. 16)?

8.     How can a church build itself up in love (v. 16)?

9.     What imagery did Paul use to describe the relationship of Christ to the church (v. 16)?

10.  How does the imagery in verse 16 speak to the unity of the church and its effectiveness?

11.  What do you think it means for a believer to become spiritually mature?

12.  Do you think a believer can ever become spiritually mature in this lifetime?  Why, or why not?

 

Lasting Lessons in Eph. 4:14-16:

1.  When we are spiritually mature, we will not waiver in our faith because  of some claim we hear from false teachers.

2.  To grow, we must speak the truth, but we must do so in love.  When we do this, we grow in our unity with one another.

3.  As believers, both the love of Christ and our love for Christ help us grow in unity with one another.

4.  As each believer uses his/her gifts and abilities in helping others, they become more like Christ.

 

CONCLUSION:

The church as a body is a favorite analogy Paul used in Romans, First Corinthians, and Colossians as well.  It is fitting image.  The church is made up of many members who are connected to one another through Christ, who is the Head of the Body.  The effectiveness of the church call for every member to be closely bound to the other, each doing his/her part, working together and growing as one.

You have an important role to play in your church. It may not be the same as it was 10, 20, or 50 years ago, but God has a role for you nonetheless.  Christians should be equipping others for ministry or engaging in ministry themselves.  Examine these practical ways to fulfill your responsibility and keep moving toward spiritual maturity. Which one is God speaking to you about?

·   Decide to start.  Start praying this week about the role God has for you in your church.  What desire has he placed in your heart at this stage of your life regarding His church? Invite a Christian friend to pray with you and to help you discern God’s direction.

·   Equip a younger person.  Pass on a legacy of ministry to a younger believer.  Tell your pastor or appropriate staff member of your desire to equip a younger believer to learn from your experience.

·   Balance your speech.  When issues or conflicts arise this week, make a conscious effort to speak the truth in a way that also demonstrates love.

What’s your role in the church?  Answering that question is key to staying in the game and helping your team—the body of Christ—strive for growth and spiritual victory in the world today.  So, how would you rate how well you are using your God-given gift to promote growth and maturity in your church?  Does your degree of your involvement please God?  On a scale of 1 (not involved) to 10 (highly involved) rate how well you are putting your God-given gift to work?  If your rating is not what you would like for it to be, ask God to help you to become more involved in your church.

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.

Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


COMMENTARY:

“Connected in Growth” — Lesson Outline & Commentary

Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version: Eph. 4:11-16:

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 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: 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; 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.  (KJV)

New International Version: Eph. 4:11-16:

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  (NIV)

New Living Translation: Eph. 4:11-16:

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.  13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.  14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.  15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.  16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.  (NLT)

 

I.

II.

III.

Gifts and Ministry (Eph. 4:11-12)

Unity and Maturity (Eph. 4:13)

Maturity and Growth (Eph. 4:14-16)

(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament,Believer’s Bible Commentary,” andThe Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament: Eph. 4:11-16

4:11.  The apostle now resumes the train of thought inaugurated in v. 7, interrupted by his excursus on the ascent and descent of Christ in vv. 8-10. But the diversion was necessary in order to stress that none other than this exalted Lord is the one who has endowed his church with gifts-by-grace, so that it may indeed be his body in the world (Eph 1:234:4). Paul does not list the grace-gifts, however, but only those who receive them. After “each one of us” in v. 7 we might have expected him to include all the members of Christ’s body (as in 1Cor 12:4-11). Instead, we read only of those who are appointed to leadership. Their ministry, of course, is exercised for the sake of the whole community (vv. 1213).

“Apostles” and “prophets” have already been paired as providing a foundation for the Christian temple (Eph 2:203:6). “Evangelists” are not primarily Gospel compilers but missionaries who pioneer outreach in areas where the faith has not as yet been proclaimed. The title is bestowed on Philip (Acts 21:8; cf. 8:6-40). Timothy is to “do the work of an evangelist” (2Tim 4:5). Epaphras no doubt falls into this category.

Paul turns from itinerant to local ministry. “Pastors and teachers” are grouped together in such a way as to suggest that the two roles are regarded as complementary and often coordinated in the same person. Pastors (literally, “shepherds”) probably included presbyters and bishops; they were entrusted with the nurture, protection, and supervision of the flock. Teachers are linked with prophets in Acts 13:1 and follow them in the list contained in 1 Corinthians 12:28.

4:12. The aim of the ministries mentioned in v. 11 is now disclosed. It is the equipment of all God’s people for service. “To prepare” (pros ton katartismon) is “to put right.” In surgery katartismos is applied to the setting of a broken bone. In the NT the verb katartizo is used for the mending of nets (Matt 4:21) and the restoration of the lapsed (Gal 6:1). It may, however, signify the realization of purpose and the completion of what is already good as far as it goes (1Cor 1:101 Thess 3:10). Such preparation is in order to the work (ergon, sing.) of service (diakonia). This is what unites all the members of Christ’s body from the apostles to the most apparently insignificant disciple (1Cor 12:22). Christ himself set the example (Mark 10:45Luke 22:27). It is by this means that the body of Christ will be consolidated (cf. Eph 2:21).

4:13. The ultimate end in view is the attainment of completeness in Christ. “We all” clearly includes all believers, but not all men (Eph 3:9). Paul elsewhere insists on the togetherness of Christians in an eschatological context (1 Thess 4:15-17). In v. 3 “the unity of the Spirit” is a gift to be guarded. Here “unity in the faith” is a goal to be reached. “We are one now: in the end we shall know ourselves to be one.” Such a realization of unity will arise from an increasing knowledge of Christ as the Son of God in corporate as well as in personal experience.

In this way the church comes of age. It reaches maturity. The phrase is literally “into a perfect, full-grown man” (eis andra teleion). The singular is employed because the church as a whole is seen as “one new man” in Christ (Eph 2:15). Individualism is a mark of immaturity This perfection or completeness is proportionate to the fullness of Christ himself. Helikia, translated “perfection,” can denote age (Matt 6:27John 9:21) and may well be used here in this sense, since the context has to do with becoming adult. The meaning would be “attain to the measure of mature age” proper for Christians, who have left infancy behind (v. 14). But helikios also indicates stature (Luke 19:3) and appears with metron (“measure,” cf. v. 7 KJV) m classical writers. The reference would then be to spiritual attainment (as perhaps in Luke 2:52).

Fullness (pleroma) has already occurred in Ephesians 1:23 in relation to the church. Here it is the fullness of Christ himself. Just as Christians may be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19), so together they are to aspire to “the full measure of perfection found in Christ.”

4:14.  The metaphor of maturity is carried over from v. 13. There must be no symptoms of arrested development among believers, who are to abandon childish attitudes and be their age (1Cor 13:11). Paul switches from one metaphor to another as he depicts the features of spiritual infantilism. Its victims will be tossed to and fro like a cork in a surging sea (James 1:6) and whirled around by every chance gust of fashionable heterodoxy. “Blown here and there” (peripheromenoi) is literally “swung around.” It is used of spinning tops and feeling dizzy. Such is the confusing effect of false doctrine.

The source of this dangerous teaching is to be traced in “the slick cleverness of men, craftily calculated to lead us astray.” “Cunning” (kybeia) is cheating at dice and so, by extension, trickery of every kind. “Craftiness” (panourgia) is the unscrupulousness that stops at nothing. Error is organized with a deliberate policy to undermine the truth of God. Paul may well be tilting at emergent Gnosticism (Col 2:8).

4:15.  Paul contrasts the deception of heresy with the integrity of the gospel. The church cannot allow falsehood to go uncorrected, yet the truth must always be vindicated in the accents of love. “Speaking the truth” (aletheuontes literally, “trotting”) is strictly “doing the truth” and may imply more than verbalization (“dealing truly” RV mg.). This fundamental concern for the truth is the secret of maturity in the church. It is into Christ as the Head that the body grows up. R.A. Knox points out that a baby’s head is unusually large in comparison with the rest of its body. As it develops, however, the body grows up into a due proportion with the head. Paul may not have had in mind this physiological analogy but it is instructive, nevertheless.

4:16.  Christ is at once the One into whom all Christians grow and out of whom (ex hou) the church consolidates itself in love. This process depends on the fact that the various parts of the body are interrelated. The whole is continually being integrated (synarmologoumenon) and kept firm (symbibazomenon) by each separate ligament (haphes)—“joined and held together by every supporting ligament.” The precision with which these medical terms are employed makes us wonder whether Paul checked the details with Luke.

It is only “when each part is working properly” (RSV) that the body receives the support it needs. The word is really “furnishing” (epichoregia) or supply (Philippians 1:19). The choregos was the man who met the cost of staging a Greek play with its chorus. Calvin wrote, “If we want to be considered members of Christ, let no man be anything for himself, but let us all be whatever we are for the benefit of each other.”

SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers

 

Believer's Bible Commentary: Eph. 4:11-16

The central thought in verses 8-10 is that the Giver of the gifts is the ascended Christ. There were no such gifts before He went back to heaven. This lends further support to the contention that the church did not exist in the OT; for if it did, it was a church without gifts.

4:11. The names of the gifts are now given. To our surprise we find they are men, not natural endowments or talents. He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.

Apostles were men who were directly commissioned by the Lord to preach the word and to plant churches. They were men who had seen Christ in resurrection (Acts 1:22). They had power to perform miracles (2 Cor. 12:12) as a means of confirming the message they preached (Heb. 2:4). Together with NT prophets, their ministry was primarily concerned with the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). The apostles referred to in this passage mean only those who were apostles after the Ascension of Christ.

Prophets were spokesmen or mouthpieces of God. They received direct revelations from the Lord and passed them on to the church. What they spoke by the Holy Spirit was the word of God.

In the primary sense we no longer have apostles and prophets. Their ministry ended when the foundation of the church was laid, and when the NT canon was completed. We have already emphasized that Paul is speaking here of NT prophets; they were given by Christ after His Ascension. To think of them as OT prophets introduces difficulties and absurdities into the passage.

Evangelists are those who preach the good news of salvation. They are divinely equipped to win the lost to Christ. They have special ability to diagnose a sinner's condition, probe the conscience, answer objections, encourage decisions for Christ, and help the convert find assurance through the word. Evangelists should go out from a local church, preach to the world, then lead their converts to a local church where they will be fed and encouraged.

Pastors are men who serve as under shepherds of the sheep of Christ. They guide and feed the flock. Theirs is a ministry of wise counsel, correction, encouragement, and consolation.

The work of pastors is closely related to that of elders in a local church, the principal difference being that a pastor is a gift whereas the elder is an office. The NT pictures a number of pastors in a local church (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet. 5:1, 2) rather than one pastor or presiding elder.

Teachers are men who are divinely empowered to explain what the Bible says, interpret what it means, and apply it to the hearts and consciences of the saints. Whereas an evangelist may preach the gospel from a passage out of context, the teacher seeks to show how the passage fits into the context.

Because pastors and teachers are linked in this verse, some conclude only one gift is intended, that it should read "pastor-teachers." But this is not necessarily so. A man may be a teacher without having the heart of a shepherd. And a pastor may be able to use the word without having the distinctive gift of teaching. If pastors and teachers are the same persons here in verse 11, then, by the same rule of grammar, so are apostles and prophets in 2:20.

One final word. We should be careful to distinguish between divine gifts and natural talents. No unsaved person, however talented, could be an evangelist, pastor, or teacher in the NT sense. Neither could a Christian, for that matter, unless he has received that particular gift. The gifts of the Spirit are supernatural. They enable a man to do what would be humanly impossible for him.

4:12.  We come now to the function or purpose of the gifts. It is for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. The process is this:

1. The gifts equip the saints.

2. The saints then serve.

3. The body is then built up.

The ministry is not a specialized occupation limited to men with professional training. The word simply means service. It includes every form of spiritual service. And what this verse teaches is that every believer should be "in the ministry."

The gifts are given to perfect or equip all Christians to serve the Lord, and thus to build up the body of Christ. Vance Havner explains in his inimitable way:

Every Christian is commissioned, for every Christian is a missionary. It has been said that the Gospel is not merely something to come to church to hear but something to go from the church to tell—and we are all appointed to tell it. It has also been said, 'Christianity began as a company of lay witnesses; it has become a professional pulpitism, financed by lay spectators!' Nowadays we hire a church staff to do 'full-time Christian work,' and we sit in church on Sunday to watch them do it. Every Christian is meant to be in full-time Christian service... There is indeed a special ministry of pastors, teachers and evangelists—but for what?... For the perfecting of the saints for their ministry.

These divinely given men should not serve in such a way as to make people perpetually dependent on them. Instead, they should work toward the day when the saints will be able to carry on by themselves. We might illustrate this as follows:

The circle in the center depicts, let us say, the gift of a teacher. He ministers to those in the circle around him so that they are equipped, that is, built up in the faith. Then they go forth and minister to others according to the gifts God has given them. In this way the church grows and expands. It is the divine method of producing growth in the body of Christ, both in size and spirituality.

Limitation of Christian service to a select class of men hinders the development of God's people, stifles the cause of world evangelism, and stunts the growth of the church. The distinction between clergy and laity is unscriptural and perhaps the greatest single hindrance to the spread of the gospel.

4:13.  Verse 13 answers the question, "How long will this growth process continue?" The answer is till we all come to a state of unity, maturity, and conformity.

Unity. When the Lord takes His church home to heaven, we will all arrive at the unity of the faith. "Now we see in a mirror dimly" with regard to many matters. We have differences of opinion on a host of subjects. Then we will all be fully agreed. And we will reach the unity of... the knowledge of the Son of God. Here we have individual views of the Lord, of what He is like, of the implications of His teachings. Then we will see Him as He is, and know as we are known.

Maturity. At the Rapture we will also reach full growth or maturity. Both as individuals and as the Body of Christ, we will achieve perfection of spiritual development.

Conformity. And we will be conformed to Him. Everyone will be morally like Christ. And the universal church will be a full-grown Body, perfectly suited to its glorious Head. "The fullness of Christ is the Church itself, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all" (FWG). The measure of the stature of the church means its complete development, the fulfillment of God's plan for its growth.

4:14. When the gifts operate in their God-appointed manner, and the saints are active in service for the Lord, three dangers are avoided—immaturity, instability, and gullibility.

Immaturity. Believers who never become involved in aggressive service for Christ never emerge from being spiritual children. They are undeveloped through lack of exercise. It was to such that the writer to the Hebrews said, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again—." (Heb. 5:12).

Instability. Another danger is spiritual fickleness. Immature Christians are susceptible to the grotesque novelties and fads of professional quacks. They become religious gypsies, moving to and fro from one appealing fantasy to another.

Gullibility. Most serious of all is the danger of deception. Those who are babes are unskillful in the word of righteousness, their senses are not exercised to discern between good and evil (Heb. 5:13, 14). They inevitably meet some false cultist who impresses them by his zeal and apparent sincerity. Because he uses religious words, they think he must be a true Christian. If they had studied the Bible for themselves, they would be able to see through his deceitful juggling of words. But now they are carried about by his wind of doctrine and led by unprincipled cunning into a form of systematized error.

4:15. The last two verses in the paragraph describe the proper process of growth in the Body of Christ. First, there is the necessity of doctrinal adherence: but, speaking the truth.... There can be no compromise as to the fundamentals of the faith. Second, there must be a right spirit: but, speaking the truth in love. If it is spoken in any other way, the result is a one-sided testimony. Blaikie admonishes:

Truth is the element in which we are to live, move, and have our being.... But truth must be inseparably married to love; good tidings spoken harshly are not good tidings. The charm of the message is destroyed by the discordant spirit of the messenger.

Then as the gifts equip the saints, and as the saints engage in active service, they grow up in all things into Christ. Christ is the aim and object of their growth, and the sphere of growth is in all things. In every area of their lives they become more like Him. As the Head has His way in the church, His Body will give an ever more accurate representation of Him to the world!

4:16.  The Lord Jesus is not only the goal of growth, He is the source of growth as well. From Him the whole body is involved in the growth process. The marvelous integration of the members of the Body is described by the phrase, joined and knit together. This means that every member is exactly designed for his own place and function, and perfectly joined to every other member so as to make a complete, living organism. The importance, yes, the indispensability of every member is next indicated: joined and knit together by what every joint supplies. The human body consists primarily of bones, organs, and flesh. The bones are bound together by joints and ligaments, and the organs also are attached by ligaments. Each joint and ligament fulfills a role in the growth and usefulness of the body. So it is in the body of Christ. No member is superficial; even the most humble believer is necessary.

As each believer fulfills his proper role, the body grows as a harmonious, well-articulated unit. In a very real sense, the body causes growth of the body, paradoxical as it sounds. This simply means that growth is stimulated by the body itself as the members feed on the Bible, pray, worship, and witness for Christ. As Chafer said, "The Church, like the human body, is self-developing." In addition to growth in size, there is a building up of itself in love. This speaks of the mutual concern of the members for one another. As Christians abide in Christ and fulfill their proper function in the church, they grow closer to one another in love and unity.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.

 

The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Eph. 4:11-16

4:11. Paul lists here various types of ministries. The apostolic ministry is carried on by leaders who take the gospel where it has not gone before. Sometimes missionaries have this type of ministry. The prophetic ministry is to forthtell (for the present) and sometimes foretell God's will and plans. Evangelists are individuals who constantly present the message of salvation through redemption accomplished at Calvary. Because the Greek text shows only one definite article (tous) before "pastors... teachers," the two words may be referring to the same office. However, because the definite article here is plural, Paul may have been writing of two different offices. The pastor is the individual leader who shepherds God's people, while the teacher systematizes and teaches sound doctrine to believers. Yet the pastor might easily have a teaching function, as he surely needs in our present time. This list is not in order of importance, but in order of necessity. Each ministry is important for the proper functioning of the Church.

4:12. The remainder of the passage through verse 16 describes clearly the two basic reasons why God places some people into full-time ministry. Christ has given every Christian a ministry, but not every Christian is a full-time minister in the sense of it being an occupation. First, these occupational ministers exist "for the perfecting of the saints" or to equip the saints so they in turn can minister for Christ. Some scholars believe the comma after the word "saints" does not belong there and stress that every believer has a ministry to fulfill. The word used here comes from katartismos and normally refers to furnishing something. The body of Christ will be built up as all Christians are involved in ministry.

4:13. Secondly, God has called full-time, occupational ministers to help believers mature in the Lord, or to become more and more like Christ himself. As believers mature they will advance from the infancy state into full-grown adults. Some theologians enjoy emphasizing the similarities between natural birth and spiritual birth and natural growth and spiritual growth. They fail sometimes, however, to describe the differences between them. For example, in natural birth a person has no choice as to which family he will be part of in life. In spiritual birth an individual does make a choice to become part of the family of God. In natural life growth is nearly automatic, unless something is wrong organically with the child. However, spiritual growth is never automatic.

4:14. Instability is one definite sign of immaturity. Paul himself upbraided some Corinthians who were still "babes in Christ" after apparently being Christians for about 5 years (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). The writer of Hebrews dealt with the same basic problem in his letter (Hebrews 5:11-6:12).

"Cunning" comes from an interesting Greek word (kubeia, "cube") which was used literally of dice throwing. A clever trickster actually could hold two sets of dice in his hand and throw whichever set he desired. Tricksters who use crafty methods appeal to immature Christians who do not grow spiritually. These "babes in Christ" seem always to be looking for something a little more sensational than the last thing that appealed to them. Unfortunately, these individuals help many religious hucksters to build their own kingdom, rather than concentrating on building God's kingdom.

4:15.  Instead of falling for trickery Christians should be obedient to Christ. Obedience to Christ and the ability to recognize religious charlatans are definite signs of Christian maturity. Christ is the source from which the ability to grow comes, and He is the object or goal of that growth. Immature Christians have a tendency to overly revere Christian leaders. Obviously, leaders should be respected. Sometimes, however, respect can turn into worship. Paul dealt with this tendency to exalt leaders when he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). While Christian leaders do help us grow spiritually, we need to keep our concentration on Christ, the perfect example.

4:16.  In addition to the fact that a mature Christian will be stable and obedient, the last verse of the section shows this will result in a coordinated "body" with each member fulfilling his function. Just as the human body grows as a total organism with each part being involved, so the body of Christ grows as believers allow Christ His rightful place and as they do their part in the total process.

Unfortunately, many modern congregations have adopted the unscriptural philosophy of "hiring" a pastor to perform all the ministry for the congregation. These congregations can grow only to a certain point because one person can accomplish only so much. How refreshing it is, though, to see a local assembly where most of the members are involved in some kind of ministry. That church will be a growing assembly, meeting the needs of people in the area and reaching the lost for Christ.

Believers need to be taught that full-time ministers are placed in the Church by Christ to help equip the saints so they in turn can minister and help others mature in the Lord. Even the first New Testament apostles were concerned about being able to give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). A careful study of Acts chapter 6 will show that the apostles considered themselves "in the service of the Word" or "the deacon of the Word" (tē diakonia tou logou). The first obligation of occupational ministers must be to pray and to expound God's Word.

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts.  Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.

 

DIGGING DEEPER:

Fitted and knit together—In describing how the e body (the church) relates to its individual parts (believers), Paul used two Greek terms in verse 16 that are variously translated fitted and knit together (HCSB), “fitly joined together and compacted” (KJV), “joined and held together” (NIV, ESV), and fitted and held together” (NASB).  Both Greek terms describe how each member of the body of Christ works together to produce a whole rather than individual parts.  Notice the cause of their working together; each individual believer is from Him; all individuals grow together into one body because of their unity in Christ their foundation, through the working of the Holy Spirit.  Paul previously elaborated on this unity in 2:21-22 and 4:4-6, as well as in Colossians 2:19.  As believers work together, they grow in Christ and become unitified.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Fitly joined together and compacted:  Fitly joined together in verse 16 means “to join closely together.”  Compacted means “to unite or knit together.”  Just as a body functions effectively when all the parts of the body are properly fit together and working in harmony with one another, so will the church grow and minister with effectiveness when all the members are together and working as one.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Build up (Edification; KJV):  Literally “building up,” it approximates encouragement and consolation (1 Cor. 14:3; 1 Thess. 5:11), though with edification focus falls on the goal, defined as being established in faith (Col. 2:7) or attaining unity of faith and knowledge, maturity, and the full measure of Christ (Eph. 4:13). Edification is the special responsibility of the various church leaders (Eph. 4:11-12) and is the legitimate context for the exercise of their authority (2 Cor. 10:8; 13:10). The work of building up is, however, the work of all Christians (1 Thess. 5:11). Spiritual gifts are given for the edification of the Church. Of these gifts, those which involve speaking are especially important (Acts 20:32; 1 Cor. 14; Eph. 4:29). All elements of Christian worship should contribute to edification (1 Cor. 14:26). Prophecy and instruction are especially important (1 Cor. 14:3, 18-19). Edification is not all talk, however, but involves demonstrating love (1 Cor. 8:1) and consideration for those weak in faith (Rom. 15:1-2).

Gifts Connected with the Ministry of the Word:

(1) Apostleship:

(1 Cor 12:28 f; compare Eph 4:11) The name “apostle” is used in the New Testament in a narrower and a wider sense. It was the peculiar title and privilege of the Twelve (Mt 10:2; Lk 6:13; Acts 1:25 f), but was claimed by Paul on special grounds (Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 9:1, etc.); it was probably conceded to James the Lord’s brother (1 Cor 15:7; Gal 1:19), and in a freer use of the term is applied to Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14; compare 1 Cor 9:5, 6), Andronicus and Junias (Rom 16:7). From the Didache (xi. 4 ff) we learn that the ministry of apostles was continued in the church into the sub-apostolic age (see LITERATURE, SUB-APOSTOLIC). The special gift and function of apostleship, taken in the widest sense, was to proclaim the word of the gospel (Acts 6:2; 1 Cor 1:17, etc.), and in particular to proclaim it to the world outside of the church, whether Jewish or Gentile (Gal 2:7, 8).

(2) Prophecy:

Prophecy (Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 12:10, 28, 29), under which may be included exhortation (Rom 12:8; compare 1 Cor 14:3). The gift of prophecy was bestowed at Pentecost upon the church as a whole (Acts 2:16 ff), but in particular measure upon certain individuals who were distinctively known as prophets. Only a few of the Christian prophets are directly referred to—Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32), the prophets at Antioch (Acts 13:1), Agabus and the prophets from Jerusalem (Acts 11:27 f), the four daughters of Philip the evangelist (Acts 11:9). But 1 Corinthians shows that there were several of them in the Corinthian church; and probably they were to be found in every Christian community. Some of them moved about from church to church (Acts 11:27 f; 21:10); and in the Didache we find that even at the celebration of the Eucharist the itinerant prophet still takes precedence of the local ministry of bishops and deacons (Didache x.7).

It is evident that the functions of the prophet must sometimes have crossed those of the apostle, and so we find Paul himself described as a prophet long after he had been called to the apostleship (Acts 13:1). And yet there was a fundamental distinction. While the apostle, as we have seen, was one “sent forth” to the unbelieving world, the prophet was a minister to the believing church (1 Cor 14:4, 22). Ordinarily his message was one of “edification, and exhortation, and consolation” (1 Cor 14:3). Occasionally he was empowered to make an authoritative announcement of the divine will in a particular case (Acts 13:1 ff). In rare instances we find him uttering a prediction of a future event (Acts 11:28; 21:10 f).

(3) Discernings of Spirits:

With prophecy must be associated the discernings of spirits (1 Cor 12:10; 14:29; 1 Thess 5:20 f; compare 1 Jn 4:1). The one was a gift for the speaker, the other for those who listened to his words. The prophet claimed to be the medium of divine revelations (1 Cor 14:30); and by the spiritual discernment of his hearers the truth of his claim was to be judged (1 Cor 14:29). There were false prophets as well as genuine prophets, spirits of error as well as spirits of truth (1 Jn 4:1-6; compare 2 Thess 2:2; Didache xi). And while prophesyings were never to be despised, the utterances of the prophets were to be “proved” (1 Thess 5:20 f), and that in them which came from the Spirit of God spiritually judged (1 Cor 2:14), and so discriminated from anything that might be inspired by evil spirits.

(4) Teaching:

(Rom 12:7; 1 Cor 12:28 f) As distinguished from the prophet, who had the gift of uttering fresh truths that came to him by way of vision and revelation, the teacher was one who explained and applied established Christian doctrine—the rudiments and first principles of the oracles of God (Heb 5:12).

(5) (6) The Word of Knowledge; The Word of Wisdom:

Possibly the word of knowledge (gnṓsis) and the word of wisdom (sophı́a) (1 Cor 12:8) are to be distinguished, the first as the utterance of a prophetic and ecstatic intuition, the second as the product of study and reflective thought; and so are to be related respectively to the functions of the prophet and the teacher.

(7) Kinds of Tongues:

(1 Cor 12:10, 28, 30) What Paul means by this he explains fully in 1 Corinthians 14. The gift was not a faculty of speaking in unknown foreign languages, for the tongues (glṓssai) are differentiated from the “voices” or languages (phōnaı́) by which men of one nation are distinguished from those of another (14:10, 11). And when the apostle says that the speaker in an unknown tongue addressed himself to God and not to men (14:2, 14) and was not understood by those who heard him (14:2), that he edified himself (14:4) and yet lost the power of conscious thought while praying with the spirit (14:14 f), it would appear that the “tongues” must have been of the nature of devout ejaculations and broken and disjointed words, uttered almost unconsciously under the stress of high ecstatic feeling.

(8) Interpretation of Tongues

Parallel to this gift was that of the interpretation of tongues (1 Cor 12:10, 30). If the gift of tongues had been a power of speaking unknown foreign languages, the interpretation of tongues would necessarily have meant the faculty of interpreting a language unknown to the interpreter; for translation from a familiar language could hardly be described as a charisma. But the principle of economy makes it improbable that the edification of the church was accomplished in this round-about way by means of a double miracle—a miracle of foreign speech followed by a miracle of interpretation. If, on the other hand, the gift of tongues was such as has been described, the gift of interpretation would consist in turning what seemed a meaningless utterance into words easy to be understood (1 Cor 12:9). The interpretation might be given by the speaker in tongues himself (1 Cor 12:5, 13) after his mood of ecstasy was over, as he translated his exalted experiences and broken cries into plain intelligible language. Or, if he lacked the power of self-interpretation, the task might be undertaken by another possessed of this special gift (1 Cor 12:27, 28). The ability of a critic gifted with sympathy and insight to interpret the meaning of a picture or a piece of music, as the genius who produced it might be quite unable to do (e.g. Ruskin and Turner), will help us to understand how the ecstatic half-conscious utterances of one who had the gift of tongues might be put into clear and edifying form by another who had the gift of interpretation.

SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

 

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:

 

Comparing The “Gifts Of The Spirit” Lists

By: J. Scott Duvall

J. Scott Duvall is Assistant Professor of Religion, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

W

HEN PEOPLE BECOME CHRISTIANS, they receive the Gift, the Holy Spirit who in turn gives them gifts as He sees fit. Paul declared in I Corinthians 12:4-7 that the Spirit unifies the church with His presence and diversifies the church with His gifts: There are different kinds of gifts (charismata) [charis MAH tah], but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service (diakoniai) [dia ko nee ai], but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working (energimata) [en er GE rnah tah] , but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Paul's last sentence leads us to define a spiritual gift as a God-given ability or manifestation enabling a believer to serve God and build up the church. In Paul's letters we see lists of gifts in I Corinthians 12; Romans 12; and Ephesians 4. Before taking a closer look at why the lists differ and how they are alike, we need to examine the larger context to see how the lists fit into the letters.

Understanding The Lists In Context I Corinthians

Paul penned I Corinthians about AD. 55-56 during his three-year stay in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:8; Acts 19:1, 8-10). The church at Corinth was wracked by problems caused by faulty beliefs, arrogance, and immaturity. Spiritually speaking, the Corinthians felt they had arrived already. And this overly triumphant attitude explains, for example, why they divided into rival factions (with each claiming to be superior) and why they took pride in displaying the more spectacular gifts of the Spirit.

The city of Corinth was known for its immorality and idolatry, and possibly the Corinthian church had not sufficiently broken with the prevailing pagan culture. As Gordon Fee put it, “Although they were the Christian church in Corinth, an inordinate amount of Corinth was yet in them, emerging in a number of attitudes and behaviors that required radical surgery without killing the patient.”1

In the main body of the letter, Paul responded to problems relating to division (1:10-4:21), immorality (5:1- 6:20), marriage (7:140), food sacrificed to idols (8:1-11:1), worship (11:2- 14:40), and bodily resurrection (15:1-58). In the section on worship, Paul stressed the unity of the body and the diversity of the gifts (chap. 12), emphasized that gifts without love are completely useless (chap. 13), and provided specific guide- lines for exercising two of the more controversial gifts: prophecy and tongues (chap. 14).

The main reason Paul included fists of gifts in this letter is to illustrate the dynamic of diversity (grounded in unity) as God's plan for the local church. To deny diversity by saying, for example, that all members must have the same gift is to deny God's original design.

Romans

During the winter or early spring of A.D. 57, near the end of his third missionary journey, Paul wrote Romans, a letter outlining the good news of a righteousness from God (1:16-17). The house churches in Rome evidently were divided along cultural lines with a Gentile majority and a Jewish minority. Paul hoped his sweeping account of the one true gospel would persuade Jew and Gentile house churches in Rome to unite (Rom. 14:1-15:13; 16:17-18). A reconciliation would bring unity, that, in turn would promote Paul's larger purpose of gaining support for the next phase of missionary work, his trip to Spain (Rom. 15:23-29).

The fist of gifts occurs in Romans near the point where Paul shifted from presenting the essential truths of the gospel (Rom. 1-11) to exhorting his readers to apply the truths (Rom. 12- 16). In view of the strained situation in the church at Rome, Paul began the application section by underscoring the need for right relationships: with God through worship (12:1-2), with ourselves through humility (12:3), and with others through service and love (12:4-10). He used the gift list in Romans 12:6-8 mainly to encourage Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome to serve one another with enthusiasm and a proper attitude.

Ephesians

Paul wrote this letter from prison, probably in Rome, sometime between A.D. 60-62 (Acts 28:30; Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 6:20). In Ephesians Paul sought to deep- en our understanding of God's eternal purpose of restoring peace and harmony to the universe. In chapters 1-3 he showed how God has already begun to accomplish His purpose through His Son Jesus Christ and His people, the church (1:9-10,20-23; 2:11-22). In chapters 4-6 Paul instructed believers in how to live out this heavenly purpose in the marketplace of life.

The short list of gifts in Ephesians occurs in the context of 4:1-16 where Paul admonished his readers to live in unity (4:1-6) and grow to maturity (4:7- 16). The gifts mentioned in 4: 11 are people. The risen Christ has given gifted leaders to His church to help guide them toward maturity. A maturing church can better cooperate with God and His eternal purpose for the universe. In summary, Paul highlighted the need for unity and diversity in I Corinthians, the need for humble service across cultural lines in Romans, and the need for gifted leadership in Ephesians.

 

Taking A Closer Look At The Lists Why Do The Lists Differ?

Paul mentioned at least 20 distinct gifts. The chart on "Me lists of Gifts in Paul's Letters" shows the place where each gift occurs in a particular list. For example, in I Corinthians 12:8-10 the “message of wisdom" comes first, the “message of knowledge" is second and so on, while in Romans 12 "prophecy" occurs first, “serving" is second, and so on.  A quick glance at the chart makes one thing obvious: Paul never intended to give an exhaustive index of all spiritual gifts for all time, but more of a sampling of the various ways God works through His people. This means, as Craig Blomberg pointed out, that "we ought to encourage believers to consider as spiritual gifts many kinds of abilities dedicated to the Lord's work."2 These might include God-given abilities in music, writing, art, the trade skills, technology, media, and so forth.3 That 13 gifts occur in only one list and that no one list includes all the gifts also supports a "representative" understanding of the gifts. Why would Paul omit the gift of administration or evangelism when writing to the church in Rome? Were there not Christians in Rome who had those gifts? Perhaps the Roman church had access to I Corinthians or Ephesians at some point or received personal instruction from Paul, but Paul's list to the Romans is simply representative. The representative nature of the lists goes a long way toward explaining why they are different.

A related (and likely the main) reason why the lists differ is that Paul mentioned gifts that corresponded to the different situations he addressed in each letter. Since the Corinthians were preoccupied with and divided over the more spectacular gifts, Paul listed such miraculous and often verbal kinds of gifts in I Corinthians 12:8-10 to make the point that all of them come from the same Holy Spirit. Diversity of gifts gave the Corinthians no cause for division. With the later list in 12:28 Paul expanded the Corinthians’ understanding of spirituality by adding more mundane gifts such as teaching, helping, and administration. He always listed last the gifts the Corinthians were prone to exalt.

In Romans, where the situation consisted of Jewish and Gentile Christians who needed to reconcile, the gifts appear less spectacular and more ordinary, less verbal and more action-oriented (for example, serving, encouraging, contributing, leading, showing mercy). Yet these gifts (which are never said to be any less “spiritual" than their more 'miraculous' counterparts in the Corinthian fists) fit the Roman situation quite well. Such practical, 'ordinary" kinds of gifts call for the Romans to serve one another in love in the grind of everyday life. In Ephesians with its broad and sweeping portrayal of God's universal purpose for His church, Paul fisted only church leaders as gifts, both those playing a role in establishing the church and those having a part in its ongoing ministry.

How Are The Fists Similar?

In comparing the gift lists, we find they have at least five things in common.4 First every list speaks of God as the source of the gifts. In I Corinthians it is God the Spirit who gives the gifts (I Cor. 12:4-11); in Romans it is God the Father (Rom. 12:3,6); and in Ephesians it is God the Son (Eph. 4:7-1 1). That God is the source of the gifts, giving 'to each one, just as he determines" (I Cor. 12:11), means simply that the gifts are not of human origin. Consequently, we have no cause for either boasting (as if somehow we have earned or achieved certain gifts) or jealousy (as if somehow God has slighted us). All the gifts, though not equally visible and public, are nevertheless equally indispensable (I Cor. 12:22-26); and God Himself affirms the "weaker” (v. 22),”less honorable” (v. 23a), and less respectable (v. 23b) members as absolutely essential and necessary. Knowing that God is the source of the gifts also means we should avoid the Corinthian error of faulting others for not having the gift(s) we have or for thinking that any one gift (for example, tongues) is essential to a genuine Christian faith. Paul made it crystal clear that the sovereign God has "arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be" (I Cor. 12:18).

Second, each fist verifies that every believer is gifted. There is no such thing as an ungifted Christian! Paul used the expression "each one" to assure his readers that if they have the gift of the Holy Spirit, they also have at least one gift from the Spirit (I Cor. 12:7, 11; Rom. 12:3,6; Eph. 4:7). Perhaps some believers have more than one gift; Paul himself had at least two – apostleship and tongues – but all believers have at least one. With gifting comes responsibility to discover and use our gifts for God's glory and the good of the church.

Third, the reason God has gifted individual believers is so they will build up the Christian community (I Cor. 12:7; 14:5,12; Eph. 4:12-16; implied in Rom. 12:5). The gifts do bring a certain satisfaction and benefit to the individual who exercises them, but they were never intended merely for the individual's enjoyment nor meant to be used for selfish personal advancement. Rather we are gifted so that we may contribute to the local community of Christians. Each person is gifted, as Paul put it, "for the common good" (I Cor. 12:7).

Fourth, in each list Paul depicted the church as one body with many members in order to illustrate unity and diversity (I Cor. 12:12-27; Rom. 12:5; Eph. 4:12,16). Since no one person has all the gifts (1 Cor. 12:14-21) and since no one gift is bestowed on every person (I Cor. 12:28-30), God has created a remarkable situation where believers need each other. He has designed His church to work much Re an orchestra with 'each part making its own unique contribution to the symphonic harmony.”5

Fifth, all five lists place a priority on the intelligible communication of God's truth. The only gift mentioned in every list is prophecy, while teaching shows up in four of the five. No other gift is fisted more than three times. Perhaps the implication is that although all gifts are essential, we should appreciate greatly the gifts that clearly and accurately proclaim God's Word in the context of public worship (I Cor. 12:31; 14:1-5,12,18-19).

Conclusion

Craig Blomberg had it right when he said that "church should be a place where people gather and get along with each other who have no merely human reason for doing So.116 We should gather and get along because we have both a divine reason and a divine enabling. We have the gift of the Spirit and the Spirit's gifts. Our challenge is to submit to the Spirit, discover the gifts He has given us, and develop those gifts through discipline, training, and ministry – all to the glory of God!                                        Bi

1.  Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987),4.

2.  Craig Blomberg, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 256.

3.  Compare the comments by John R. W. Stott, Baptism and Fullness: The Work of the Holy Spirit Today (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, Press, 1975), 88-89.

4.  Three of the five are mentioned with little comment by John Stott in Romans: God's Good News for the World (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 328-29.

5.  D. A- Carson. Showing the Spirit.- A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987), 32.

6.  B]omberg, 252.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 23, Number 3; Summer 1997

 

Every Wind of Doctrine

By James L. Travis

Dr. Travis is professor of biblical studies, Blue Mountain College, Blue Mountain, Mississippi.

B

ECAUSE THE DOMINANT TONE of the New Testament is one of victory, the problems confronted by Christians of the New Testament period are not quickly apparent.  Yet many religions and philosophies competed with Christianity for the minds and hearts of men and women.

The challenges might be classified roughly this way: (1) Jewish groups; (2) Greek religions; (3) Oriental religions, especially Egyptian and Persian; (4) Roman religions; (5) the Roman imperial cult; (6) Native superstitions; and (7) Greek philosophies.

Acts itself reveals an incredibly complex religious situation at Ephesus, the very city whose Christians were warned to beware of the  many winds of doctrine (Eph. 4:14).  Acts 19, which presents Paul’s work at Ephesus, points up five rival religious movements.

One group Paul faced perpetuated the message of John the Baptist concerning Jesus (Acts 19:1-7). This incomplete understanding of the person and ministry of Jesus, the “John the Baptist Church,” was part of the Jewish synagogue life in Ephesus.  The movement apparently had its headquarters in Ephesus and a branch in Alexandria, Egypt (if it was an organized movement as Christianity became).

The main body of Judaism was well represented in Ephesus, too (Acts 19:8-9).  Also, a Jewish form of spiritism, which may not have been part of mainline Judaism, confronted Paul in the occasion concerning Jewish exorcists (19:13-17).

The book-burning incident by converted pagans suggests a brisk traffic in occult materials (Acts 19:19).  The followers of “curious arts” used astrology and divination to uncover secrets and to predict the future.  The materials themselves, of huge monetary value, included books on divination, rules for interpreting dreams, and lists of chants and charms.  Strips of parchment with appropriate monograms, called “Ephesian spells” or “Ephesian writings,” were worn in a small bag tied on the arm as amulets.  The admonition in Ephesians 5:11 to have no fellowship with “the unfruitful works of darkness” included such practices.

Finally, Paul confronted the full force of the most powerful religious movement in all Asia, that of Diana (19:23-41).  The worship of this goddess was a composite nature religion which included Greek, Roman, and Oriental elements.  Her temple became one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  The name “Artemis” was the Greek name of the goddess long worshiped in Ephesus.  By this time she had become identified with Diana.

Artemis symbolized reproductive powers.  Her temple was not her home, but rather her shrine.  Her real home was all of nature, wherever life existed.  She was the mother of all living things.

The images and statues representing Artemis show her wearing a headdress shaped like a tiny fortified city.  The upper part of her body, from waist to shoulders, is completely covered with rows of breasts, showing that she nourished all of life. Her lower body was encased like an Egyptian mummy covered with figures of animals.  Ceremonial prostitution was a part of her worship, acts which sought to incline the goddess to grant fertility.

Nature worship was common throughout Asia Minor and the Middle East, and it dates back into prehistory.  As civilization grew, the nature goddesses came to be identified as one and the same.  In Phoenicia she was Astarte; to Assyrians, she was Ishtar; in Syria she was Atargatis; in Cappadocia, she was known as Ma; in Phrygia, she was Cybele. 

Roman soldiers who fought and lived in the East and in Egypt tended to adopt gods and goddesses of those lands.  They brought back many Oriental religions that existed during New Testament days but which were not addressed directly in the New Testament.  Some of these are termed “mystery religions,” among whom were Isis, Serapis, and Mithras.  Isis was an ancient and principal goddess of Egypt.  Serapis was a fairly new religion that combined worship of the ancient Egyptian god Osiris (Isis’ “husband”) with Apis (the bull god).  Osiris came to be identified with the Greek Zeus and thus confused with the Roman Jupiter.

The mystery religions had several common characteristics:

1.  They were highly developed expressions of nature worship, combining worship of natural phenomena such as the moon, sun, rain, and wind.  The religions were vitally involved with the annual cycle of the seasons, considered mysterious, so important to agriculture.  Through various myths, the mystery religions represented this cycle by ceremonies that celebrated the death of summer and its rebirth in the spring.

2.  Every such religion involved secret, mysterious rituals and thus deserves the term “mystery religions.”  One of the mysteries was the ceremony by which a person was initiated into the cult.  Another mystery was a special meal in which the worshiper became a partaker of the divine nature by means of a meal shared symbolically with the god.  References (1 Cor. 8:1,10; 10:21) to the worship of idols in temples and the meals eaten there reflect this feature.

3.  Some of the religions offered cleansing from sin through rituals of cleansing, some as bathing in the sacred water of Isis and Serapis.  Another such religion, Mithraism, accomplished this sacramental cleansing by bathing the candidate in the blood of a bull.  The ceremony called tarbolium featured the slaughter of a bull over a grid under which a person lay.  As the warm blood ran down over his body, he was thought to be reborn forever.

4.  The religions promised a better life for their devotees.  For some, that life was an absorption into the life of the god.  In others, a future life of happiness and bliss came for the faithful in another world.1

5.  Although earlier examples of mystery religions stressed emotional, even wild outbursts of religious frenzy, the developed religions in the days of the New Testament often demanded a higher moral life than did the worship of the traditional gods and goddesses of Greece and Rome.

Many thinking persons turned to philosophy, repelled by the practices and teachings of the common religions.  At their best level, the philosophies of New Testament days represented a turn from the absurdities and vulgarities of common religion to moral and ethical considerations.  Two Greek philosophies, among many others, were most important in Paul’s time: Stoicism and Epicureanism (Acts 17:18).

Stoicism is a system attributed to Zeno, about 300 BC, and is named from the Greek word for porch (stoa), where he was accustomed to teach.  In his search for meaning, Zeno rejected popular pagan religions and exalted reason.  To him and his followers, nature was an organization of material atoms that operated under its own laws, and the human soul was composed of the finest of atoms.  He considered nature to be divine, a concept called pantheism.  Stoics endured evil and pain with cheerfulness, an attitude which gave us our word “stoic.”

Zeno’s major interest was in ethics, practical rules for life and conduct; his ideal was an unusually good person, reasonable, fully in control of his emotions, and able to adjust calmly to any situation.  In this area of practical ethics, the Stoic system made its greatest appeal to the Christian thinker and provided Christianity with a serious challenge.  Much of Paul’s teachings about eh genuine Christian life would be fully acceptable to a Stoic.

Epicureanism is named after its founder, Epicurus, who lived 341-270 BC.  Epicurus rejected the classical approach to philosophy as an intellectual pursuit.  His major concern was to attempt to explain the true aim of life and to give directions on how to attain that aim.  He determined that personal happiness was the aim and end of man’s life.  For him, pleasure in this life was the best definition of happiness.  However, he did not advocate physical, sensual pleasures of the moment as true happiness, but taught rather that genuine happiness came from living in such a way that all of life would be a pleasure.  He lived a simple, almost ascetic life himself.

Some of his followers, however, and many of his critics twisted his views.  They interpreted pleasure in extremely sensual and self-serving ways.  The word “epicurean” today implies “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.”

Another challenge, Gnosticism, did not rise to its heights of influence until the middle second century AD, but it was present in a beginning form during New Testament days.

Gnosticism’s greatest influence on Christian thought came through its belief that all matter is basically evil.  This concept led to the conclusion that Jesus could not have had a fleshly body; he was just a spirit or phantom.  The introduction to John’s Gospel, Colossians, and 1 John treat the problem by declaring in bold language the full humanity of Jesus.

Another force opposed to Christianity in its early years was the rise of emperor worship.  The Roman imperial cult came to demand worship of the emperor as a means of unifying the people throughout the empire.  Official demands were enforced by Roman troops, even leading to death.  The experiences of Christians portrayed in the book of Revelation ominously reflect the struggle they had with the Roman cult.  The Roman populace, of course, had no problem with adding one more god to the many they already worshiped.

In light of all these rival religious and philosophical movements, the courage, faith, and intellectual strength of the early Christians shines brighter than ever.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Bi

1.  James Hastings, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics  (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1955), 4:82.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Fall 1983.

 

The Church Offices

By Thomas D. Lea

Tommy Lea is professor of New Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

B

APTISTS TRADITIONALLY have felt that the local church has only two offices—the pastor and the deacon.1  Some scholars believe that the office of pastor sometimes was designated in the New Testament as “bishop” or “elder.”  This reflects the traditional view.  Strictly speaking, however, the words behind the terms are very different.

The term “bishop” related to the duty or responsibility of leading, usually in judicial responsibilities.2  The term “elder” suggested the age, reputation, or rank of those who held the office.  Today it is easy to find contrasting views concerning the offices of the local church.  Ephesians 4:11 is a key text in all of this discussion.  There are two general views concerning the division of the gifts in this verse.  Some feel that all five are desirable for today.  They feel that God is restoring apostolic leadership to churches today.  Others believe that the offices of apostle and prophet ceased after the first Christian generation but that the offices of evangelist and pastor-teacher are needed in each generation.

In an article in Fulness magazine Randy Shankle advocates the need for an apostolic ministry today.  He says, “It seems clear that God is restoring the gifts of men who will impart, establish, and provide order and accountability.”3  Shankle feels the churches that will grow in the eighties and the nineties will be established on a theocracy and that an apostle will be needed to provide leadership.  Although Shankle does not specifically state this, it seems obvious that the leadership style of this apostle will be far more autocratic than has traditionally been true in Baptist churches.

Curtis Vaughn, retired professor of New Testament from Southwestern Seminary, takes the opposite view when he says,
After the writings of the New Testament came into general circulation, the offices of apostle and prophet appear to have been withdrawn; but since evangelists and pastor-teachers are required by every generation, these offices continue.”4  In Vaughan’s view the uniqueness of the apostolic office and the closing of the New Testament canon contributed to limit the offices of apostle and prophet to the first Christian generation.

In some New Testament passages the gifts of the Spirit were endowments given to individual Christians (see 1 Cor. 12:7-9).  In Ephesians 4:11 the terms describe the individual Christians themselves who were bestowed as gifts to the church.  The five terms used in Ephesians 4:11 did not designate rigidly defined offices.  Instead, the terms primarily described the function that the individual leader carried out.

The term “apostle” was used in two primary ways in the New Testament.  In 2 Corinthians 8:23 and in Philippians 2:25 the term “messenger” (KJV) is the Greek word for “apostle.”  Here the term referred to Christian leaders who were sent out as representatives of the church on an errand or on a specific missionary task.  The term “apostle” also was used to refer to those who were the apostles of Christ.  This was a smaller group including the twelve, Paul, Barnabas, and perhaps a few others.  The use of the term “apostle” in Ephesians 4:11 probably was related more closely to the second usage.

The primary requirement of an apostle in the second sense was that he have a personal call from Christ (1 Cor. 9:1).  These apostles were commissioned for a specific mission (Matt. 28:19-20), and they performed signs and wonders (2 Cor. 12:12).  Apostles had a special insight into plans of God (Eph. 3:1-6), were interpreters of the gospel message (Gal. 2:11), and produced much spiritual fruit as a sign of their apostleship (1 Cor. 9:2).  In this narrower sense there are no apostles today, for there are not persons living who possess the other spiritual qualifications and endowments necessary.

It is true today that there are leaders of churches who pioneer in missionary work, church planting, and in administrative jurisdiction.  These leaders have some of the functions of the first-century apostle, but they are not apostles in the full biblical sense.

The prophets of the apostolic age were people who periodically spoke in their churches sunder the direct prompting of God’s Spirit (Acts 11:27-28; 13:1; 21:9).  The actual work of these prophets was linked closely with that of the apostles (Eph. 2:20).  On some occasions they might foretell the future (Acts 21:10-11).  Their primary work was to speak forth the Word of God.  They could do this by exposing the sins of people to the convicting power of God (1 Cor. 14:24-25).  They also brought strength to the church by speaking words of exhortation (Acts. 15:32).

John R. W. Stott reminds us that “In the primary sense in which the Bible uses the word, a prophet was a person who ‘stood in the council of God,’ who heard and even ‘saw’ his word, and who in consequence ‘spoke from the mouth of the Lord’ and spoke his word ‘faithfully.’”5  No speaker today can claim to be a prophet in this sense.  However, individuals can perform a function like prophets when they expound Scripture with a fresh, relevant understanding and when they make a sensitive application of Scripture to the modern world.

The word “evangelist” was used to describe the work of Philip (Acts 21:8) and Timothy (2:4:4) in the New Testament.  We can think of first-century “evangelists” primarily as missionaries to the unsaved and as traveling preachers who had a significant ability to share the gospel with the lost.  Today we would see this gift in such things as evangelistic preaching, effective personal witnessing, music evangelism, or radio and television evangelism.  This particular gift is needed by the church in all ages.

The office of “pastor-teacher” in the apostolic age constituted a single office with a dual function.  This ministry was settled rather than itinerant.  The pastor-teacher remained in a single location and built up a congregation.  This leader was to shepherd the people.  This was the idea involved in the gift.  Also, the pastor was to teach the people, communicating to them divine truth.  This gift is needed sorely by each generation of Christians.

Modern pastors combine this dual task of shepherding and teaching God’s people.  The modern pastor who shepherds a congregation of people can “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak” (1 Thess. 5:14, RSV).  As a teacher the pastor shares doctrinal instruction to prevent the people from being misled by the craftiness of false leaders (Eph. 4:14).

The chief reason for limiting the work of an apostle to the first century is that the office is unique.  The personal commission from Christ (1 Cor. 9:1) and the significant authority (1 Thess. 2:6) of the apostle limit his time of function to the first Christian generation.  The work of the prophet is limited to the same time period because the closing of the New Testament canon concluded the work of the Holy Spirit in giving new revelation from God.  The work of the prophet subsided as this revelation ceased.  Each generation of Christian churches needs leaders with a flaming heart of evangelism and with a deep concern for shepherding and teaching God’s people.  These are the tasks of the evangelist and the tasks of the evangelist and the pastor-teacher.    Bi

1.  Strong, Systematic Theology: A Compendium (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1907), p. 914.

2.  Beyer, “Episkope,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s, 1964), 2:618.

3.  Shankle, “Apostles: Does the Church Need Them Today?” Fulness (September-October 1987), p. 32.

4.  Vaughan, Ephesains: A Study Guide Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977), p. 93.

5.  Stott, God’s New Society (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 1979), p. 161.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 1989.

 

BIBLE CHARACTER TRIVIA

 

What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (09/21/14) Where in the Bible is a fair woman without discretion described as a jewel of gold in what?  Answer next week:

 The answer to last week’s trivia question (09/14/14)  Who was king of Judea when Israel fell to Assyria? Answer: Hezekiah; 2 Kings 18:5-12.