Growing in Christ

Now these are gifts Christ gave the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 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.

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. 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. 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 full of love.  –Ephesians 4:11-16

Paul tells us in this passage of scripture that Christ gave the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  What are these gifts?

Apostles are pioneers in the church.  They plan, organise, make converts and plant churches.  They are basically the head of the church and have the responsibility to install elders, pastors, and leaders.

Prophets are ones chosen by God to receive messages from him and speaks his word to those who need to hear. Most prophets do not have any training before they spoke out for God.  Some in the Bible were shepherds, farmers, priests or princes.  The main role for the prophet is to bear God’s word for the purpose of teaching, correction, and training others in righteousness.

The gift of the evangelist is a special ability to share the Gospel with unbelievers in such a way that men and women become Jesus’ disciples and responsible members of the body of Christ. The objective of the evangelist is to bring unbelievers to know and accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and become a part of the church.

The spiritual gift of pastoring is the special ability to assume a long-term personal responsibility for the spiritual welfare of a group of believers.  The word pastor is borrowed from animal husbandry especially sheep raising.  A pastor is responsible for teaching a group of believers, feeding them, healing their wounds, developing unity, helping them find their own giftings and whatever else is needed to grow in their faith and walk in our Lord.  There are many who have this gift that are not ordained ministers or church leaders.

Teachers have the gift of imparting information to others in a way they can understand. Teaching is different than preaching as teaching is giving instructions in the faith helping others grow in their faith and understanding of Christ.

The responsibility for those who have these gifts is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church.  This will continue until we all come to unity in our faith and knowledge of Christ and be mature in the Lord.  “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you has a part of it. Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: first are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers, then those who do miracles, those who have the gift of healing, those who can help others, those who have the gift of leadership, those who speak in unknown tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:27-28).

In our church we need these gifts.  We need each other.  We are a part of the body of Christ and we are to uplift each other.  Please understand very clearly, that one gift is not any better than another gift.  We should not compare our gifts with someone else’s and think we are not well equipped because we don’t have a gifting that someone else has. Also, please do not be afraid of spiritual gifts.  Some of the gifts that Paul speaks about causes concern in some churches because of people misusing them.  These gifts are not to be used for our glory and fame, they are to be used to build up the body of Christ.  We should not be afraid of the gifts God gives us.  We need to use our gifts for God’s kingdom.

If we use our gifts in the correct way and work together, we will no longer be immature children.  We won’t be tossed about by every wind of new teaching.  Sadly there are so many televangelists and pastors out there who are not preaching truth from God’s word. Their foundation is not in the Word but their version of the word.  We have to be careful not to be swept away by the prosperity gospel, by all roads lead to God (Jesus said I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me. –John 14:6), and the sugar coated gospel that says when we come to Christ everything will be fantastic and wonderful.  The New-Age movement has seeped its way into the church as well.  If it feels good, we should do it because “I am number one and I am my own god.”  Oh be careful what you believe.

Paul says people will try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.  This is the trouble in the world today.  There are so many people speaking lies and if we are not rooted in the Word of God, we won’t know the difference.  Often times today, preachers have been twisting the Word to make it what they want it to sound like.  They give us the good, touchy-feely gospel.  The truth about the crucified Christ is no longer being preached in many churches today.

Friends, the truth of the Word steps on toes.  It hurts. But it will not fool us with lies.  God’s word is truth for God is truth.  God’s word is holy for God is holy. If we are grounded in the Word, we will speak the truth in love, growing more and more like Christ.  How can we be like Jesus and get to know him better if we do not study his Word?

I am going to be brutally honest here.  It really grieves my spirit knowing how many in the church do not know the Bible.  They have no idea about the stories in the Bible.  They don’t know where passages are, they even don’t have a clue about what books are in the Bible and where they can be found.  We cannot grow in our relationship with Christ just by going to church on Sunday for two meetings and maybe a bible study here and there.  Sermons from the minister is not going to feed us for the week.  Only our own personal time of prayer and studying the Word with God on a daily basis is going to enable to grow in spiritual maturity.  If we want to see the church grow and the world changed, we need to wake up from our slumber and laziness.  We need to get into the Word of God.  We need to study it, digest it, meditate on it, memorise it, and most importantly, let it change us and live it out in our daily lives.  Our ministers cannot get us into heaven or make us grow.  We have to do this on our own. We can learn a lot from our ministers and yes, we need to listen to them.  However, our relationship with God is personal and we are responsible for growing in maturity.

When the church realises this truth, and people get back into the Word and prayer in their private times at home, what an amazing revival will take place! Then as Paul says, as each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and full of love (v 16).  We cannot know or use our spiritual gifts if we are not spending time in the Word.  We cannot leave it up to just the few people like the minister/officers, Sunday School teachers, leaders, etc.  Everyone has a part within the body of Christ.  May we get back into the Word so we can be able to distinguish truth from the lies.  Jesus is Lord.  He is the head of the church. We are the body of the church. We are the body of Christ. Let’s live like it!

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