Edifying and Equipping??

I had the privilege of preaching at an induction service yesterday.  I choose a "familiar" passage, Eph 4:1-16.  It was sufficiently familiar that bits and pieces of my sermon appeared all over the service.  If there is ever a next time, I’ll pick on something more obscure!

Every week I get mail inviting me to attend a conference, order a video series, or read a book about church growth. Some are very helpful other not so. There is one great principle of church growth. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."

Not rocket science! We are not responsible for building the church, Jesus is. We cannot build a great church by human means. Jesus will build his church. He simply asks us to join him in the process. Publishing companies publish books, newspapers produce papers, toy companies produce toys, Churches make disciples. Churches are to make disciples, regardless of the building, the services, or the pastor. A church must produce disciples.

1. God wants to equip his church.

Every believer needs to be equipped to serve God.

The word equipping comes from a Greek word that means "to make fit, restore to original condition or make complete." It was used to describe the setting of a broken bone. The common usage in the New Testament is, "to be made complete or whole."

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13:11, "Finally, brethren… become complete." The writer of Hebrews prayed in 13:21 that God would "make you complete in every good work to do his will, working in you what is well pleasing in his sight…"

Paul pleaded with the Corinthians to "all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together [be made complete like a broken bone] in the same mind and in the same judgment."

John MacArthur suggests four basic tools that God uses to equip us.

First, God uses the Word

2 Timothy 3:16–17 says, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the church of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." God gifts the church with pastor/teachers to patiently feed the people the Word that they might be equipped.

Second, God uses prayer

In Acts 6:4, we learn that the apostles gave themselves "continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." We are equipped by praying for ourselves and for other believers. In Colossians 4:12, Paul spoke of Epaphras, who was "always labouring fervently in prayers" that the Christians there might "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."

Prayerless pews make for powerless pulpits!You can join God in the equipping process by praying for fellow believers.

Third, God uses trials

We all from time to time face painful, difficult circumstances. We can’t turn to anyone but the Lord. Through these trials we learn holiness and submission to God. James 1:2–4 tells us to count them as joy because through our trials we are made "perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

Fourth, God uses suffering

God uses the pain we face in this life to mold us for eternal life to come. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:10 that, "after you have suffered a while," God will "perfect [same word as "equip"], establish, strengthen, and settle you."

It’s like that old saying: "I walked a mile with happiness; she chattered all the way; but I was none the wiser for all she had to say. I walked a mile with suffering, but not a word said she; but oh the things that I learned when suffering walked with me."

Thus through the teaching of the Word, labouring in prayer, enduring trials, and undergoing suffering, God gives us the equipment we need. He makes us complete for his service.

The greatest need of the church? More programs and committees? More entertaining services that bring in people? Bigger buildings? No. The greatest need of the church is that every believer is equipped. The more of us who are equipped, the stronger the body, the church becomes.

Many believe that ministry is only for pastors or special people God has called apart. Many believe that the church pays the pastor to do "the work of ministry." That’s a human concept, not a biblical one. The job of the pastor is to join God in the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry." Pastors equip people. People then use their gifts to do "the work of ministry."

If your pastor is no good at this then there is a convenient, painless, yet successful method of getting rid of him or her, which I can across recently

1. Look him straight in the eye while he is preaching and say `Amen!’ once in a while. He’ll preach himself to death.

2. Pat him on the back and brag on his good points. He’ll soon work himself to death.

3. Re-dedicate your own life to Christ, and ask the preacher for a job to do; or tell him you plan to lead some lost soul to Christ. He’ll die of heart failure.

4. Get the church to unite in prayer for the preacher and he’ll soon become so effective that some large church will take him off your hands.

2 God wants his church edified

When God’s people are properly equipped and involved in "the work of ministry", then they will edify the body of Christ. What does this mean? The term literally translates "building up." It pictured the building up of a house or building.

First, having unity of the faith

Paul’s prayer is that "we all come to the unity of the faith." Notice the definite article. This is not just faith but "the faith." This is the theological body of genuine Christian truth. As Jude states in Jude 3, "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints."

Show me a church in disunity, and I’ll show you a church that is filled with ignorance. Show me a church in disunity, and I’ll show you a church where people are not involved in ministry and where they are not edifying one another.

How do we preserve unity in the church? We teach the Bible. We encourage believers to minister. We agree on what is most important. Sometimes we will disagree on minor manners: timing of the rapture, the timing of creation, etc. However, we must have "the unity of the faith."

Second, deep knowledge of Jesus
God’s purpose is not only that we have "the unity of faith" but that we also have a deep, abiding "knowledge of the Son of God."gained through years of prayer, Bible study, and faithful obedience. This is the knowledge that Paul prayed for in Ephesians 3:17–19.

Paul considered this knowledge his ultimate goal. He said in Philippians 3:8, "I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish [dung, manure], that I may gain Christ."

Third, conformed to the image of his Son.

God wants us to become "a perfect, mature person to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." What does that mean? It means giving up childish, selfish faith and moving on to mature faith, to be complete.

God’s ultimate goal for our lives is found in Romans 8:29. God chose you, called you, predestined you, and saved us so that we might be "conformed to the image of his Son," that each of us might be a "perfect [mature] person," that we might "measure" to the "stature of the fullness of Christ."

Paul said in Colossians 1:28 that his goal was "to present every person perfect [mature] in Christ Jesus." That’s the goal for your pastor, to present you to the Lord as mature believers.

Fourth, not to be tossed around by the world.

Paul reminds us that we "should no longer be children." The word for children here refers to a child who cannot speak for himself.

When Paul uses the word children here, he is referring to believers who refuse to grow up, people who are satisfied to sit in the pew. Children are Christians who are content to be saved but don’t desire to mature. Such believers don’t want to pray. They think Bible study is boring. They can take or leave worship. They rarely think about Jesus through the week.

Such people are "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine." They are susceptible to "the trickery [word used for "loaded dice"] of the world." Children are gullible. They will fall for anything. So are spiritual children.

God purpose for your life is not that you fall prey to "the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting." He doesn’t want the devil to trap you.

Fifth, having a genuine Christian attitude is speaking the truth in love.

To avoid "craftiness" and "deceitful plotting", we are to be "speaking the truth in love." This has been translated "truthing it." We must have both truth and love. Truth without love can be harsh, judgmental, legalistic, and unforgiving. It promotes a pharisaical brand of self-righteousness. Immature believers can speak the truth, only mature believers can speak truth with love.

The story is told of an accomplished artist who was applying the finishing touches to a bronze sculpture. He kept filing, scraping, and polishing every little surface of his masterpiece. "When will it be done?" asked an observer. "Never," came the reply. "I just keep working and working until they come and take it away."

Much the same could be said of the children of God. We are saved by grace and declared righteous in Christ. Yet when it comes to the matter of Christlikeness in our everyday living, we must keep working at it until Jesus comes and takes us away.

2 comments to Edifying and Equipping??

  • Emily

    [spotted this message on the internet – Emily]

    Who knows, maybe John (Reformedispy) MacArthur is right and the greatest Greek scholars (Google “Famous Rapture Watchers”), who uniformly said that Rev. 3:10 means PRESERVATION THROUGH, were wrong. But John has a conflict. On the one hand, since he knows that all Christian theology and organized churches before 1830 believed the church would be on earth during the tribulation, he would like to be seen as one who stands with the great Reformers. On the other hand, if you have a warehouse of unsold pretrib rapture material, and if you want to have “security” for your retirement years and hope that the big California quake won’t louse up your plans, you have a decided conflict of interest – right, John? Maybe the Lord will have to help strip off the layers of his seared conscience which have grown for years in order to please his parents and his supporters – who knows? One thing is for sure: pretrib is truly a house of cards and is so fragile that if a person removes just one card from the TOP of the pile, the whole thing can collapse. Which is why pretrib teachers don’t dare to even suggest they could be wrong on even one little subpoint! Don’t you feel sorry for the straitjacket they are in? While you’re mulling all this over, Google “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” for a rare behind-the-scenes look at the same 179-year-old fantasy.

  • Roman

    I think you missed some words in the scripture, to answer edification one must complete the demad from Jesus himself. “…and upon this rock I will edify my church…”

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