Ecclesiology 019

Ecclesiology 019
Ephesians 4:11-16 • Dr. Andy Woods • April 8, 2018 • Ecclesiology


Andy Woods

Ecclesiology 19

4-8-18     Lesson 19

If you can take your Bibles and open them to the Book of Ephesians, chapter 4 and verse 11.  As you guys hopefully remember, I had a hard time remembering today, I had to look at my notes to see what were supposed to be studying.  But we have been doing a study on ecclesiology which is the doctrine of the church.  And the last time we were together we were talking about Roman numeral VII, the purposes of the church.  Why does the church exist?  And what you’ll discover in the modern evangelical climate is there’s a lot of confusion on why a church (I’m talking now about a local church) why a local church even exists.

The last time we were together I was sharing with you some insights from my professor of systematic theology, Robert Lightner, and I’m so grateful he taught me this because it helped me, not only in helping guide a church but other times in my life trying to pick a church to attend.  A church basically has three basic purposes, a local church.  The first is to glorify God.  And you recall that we talked about last time how God’s purposes in human history are not to save souls but rather to do what?  Glorify Himself.  Now when souls are saved who is glorified?  God!   What I mean by “saved” is soteriology, even the soteriological purposes of God are subsumed under the category the doxological purpose of God.

So the first purpose of a church is essentially to glorify God because that’s God purpose in human history.  And in fact no matter what God does in human history, whether it be through creation or redemption what you’ll discover is His glory is at the center. So you think of salvation and  you think of the Second Member of the Godhead, Jesus Christ, stepping out of eternity into time to pay a sin debt we could never pay for, and to resurrect from the dead.  And we’re so grateful for that and for our salvation, but who gets the glory for all of that?  It’s obviously Christ.  So even the plan that He used to orchestrate salvation glorifies Himself.

So if God’s purpose’s in human history are doxological (doxological means glory), if God works in history to glorify Himself then the primary purpose of any church should be to do what?  Glorify God!  And that’s why Paul, when he talks about the church in the Book of Ephesians, which is probably the area where you get the most treatment anywhere else in the Bible concerning the purpose of the church, Paul is very clear in Ephesians 3:21, “to Him be the glory” where? “in the church.”  [Ephesians 3:21, “to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”]  So the first purpose of a local church is to glorify God. Everything a church does the glory of God should be at the center.  We covered that last time; does that ring a bell at all.  Hopefully it does.

And we move from there to the second great purpose of the local church, which is to edify the saints; “edify” means to build up in spiritual things the saints; the saints would be the people of God.  And that’s why the Book of Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 11-16 become such a big deal.  And we worked through this passage last time, at least verses 11, 12, 13 and 14, and I’d like to finish it this morning and I’ll also take a look at verses 15 and 16.

But Paul writes there in verses 11 and 12 of Ephesians 4, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets….”  Now when you slip back to Ephesians 2:20 what you discover is that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.  [Ephesians 2:20, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.”]  And of course we made the point that how many times do you lay a foundation?  One time.  So the foundation was laid through the apostles and prophets and now God has been building on that structure for the last 2,000 years, I would say today He’s putting on the roof of the house because it looks to me like the church age is winding down.  I could be wrong on that, it may go on for another ten million years, I kind of doubt it but… it looks like God is sort of wrapping up things. So He’s now relaying the foundation, that’s already been laid, He’s building on that foundation.  So that was the purpose of apostles and prophets.

And then He gave “some as evangelists,” now last time we were together I said an evangelist is like an obstetrician who helps in the birthing process.  So the evangelist is primarily working with the unsaved, trying to get the unsaved saved.  That’s the spiritual gift of evangelism.  If we didn’t have the spiritual gift of evangelism the church could never grow and God has designed the church to grow.  So He’s given that spiritual gift to the church.  Now once these new converts, after having come to Christ you don’t just leave them to their own devices, I mean, that would be like having a newborn child, you know, we would bring Sarah home from the hospital as a newborn child back in 2006, and what kind of parents would be if we just kind of plopped her in the middle of the kitchen and said help yourself to a ham sandwich when you get hungry.  Of course a child can’t do that, a child doesn’t even have teeth yet, couldn’t even eat meat yet, certainly can’t fend for themselves yet.  And so you have another medical office besides an obstetrician called a pediatrician that helps the child to grow.  And that’s what we are as infants in Christ, newborn Christians, we’re children and we need to be brought into spiritual maturity

So the great purpose of the church that I’m highlighting here is the edification of its own members.  And that’s why God has given the spiritual gift to the church called the gift of pastors and teachers; I think it better reads pastor-teacher or pastor-teachers because the way Paul is using it there in the Greek language, according to what’s called the Granville Sharpe Rule which basically says if there’s a definite article followed by two nouns and those nouns are joined by a conjunction then the two nouns are what?  They’re equal, and that’s a very famous rule of Greek grammar called the Granville Sharpe Rule.  And because that’s the way this reads is in the Greek language Paul mentions evangelist and he mentions this other office called the office of pastor-teacher.  The office of pastor-teacher is to function not as an obstetrician, that’s the evangelist’s job; he functions primarily as a pediatrician helping newborn children of God to grow in the faith that they’ve come to believe in.

And as  you go on from verse 11, in verse 12 it says that the pastor-teacher is to equip the unbelievers… it doesn’t say that does it.  He is to equip the who? “the saints” and part of that equipping is preparing them for their ministry, whatever it is, or their life in Christ, so that the body of Christ can be built.  [Verse 12, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”]  So what you discover is the pastor-teacher is someone that has this spiritual gift to teach the Bible in a way that helps people grow in Christ.  It’s a way to teach the Bible completely, accurately, relatively, understandably so that people under that kind of ministry can develop the way they’re supposed to develop.  He’s functioning like that pediatrician.

And as he does this the saints are being prepared for works of service.  And so God wants to use the ministry of the Word to prepare you for the work that He has for you.  That’s why a local church exists; its second major purpose, and that’s why the gift of pastor-teacher exists.

Now you’ll notice this word equip, “the equipping of the saints,” and I mentioned (I think last time) that there are three books in your Bible, three canonical letters written to the church at Ephesus.  Paul in Rome wrote this book, the Book of Ephesians, and then when he was out of prison he wrote 1 Timothy to the church at Ephesus because Timothy is a young pastor trying to pastor the church at Ephesus.  So the letter wasn’t addressed specifically to the church as a whole but it was addressed to Timothy who was pastoring that church.  And then when Paul is in jail a second time, at the very end of his life, he writes another book from Roman prison to Timothy again, still functioning at the church at Ephesus.

So if you want to understand how the pastor-teacher equips the flock you have to look at the whole three volume set.  I mean, how does Paul use the same word “equipping” in the other letters that he addressed to the church at Ephesus?  And when you go over to 2 Timothy 3, verses 16 and 17 you have the answer as to how the pastor teacher equips the flock, these are verses you no doubt know very well.  Paul writes to Timothy in Ephesus and he says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; [17] so that the man of God may be adequately” what’s the next word there, “equipped” boy, that sure sounds like Ephesians 4:11 and 4:12 doesn’t it, the pastor-teacher exists for the equipping of the saints; “so that the man of God may be adequately equipped for” 75% of his or her life… NO, “that the man of God may be adequately equipped  for” what? “every good work.”

So what you have here is a divine promise; when the Bible is taught accurately, faithfully, comprehensively, completely by someone in a local church possessing the gift of pastor-teacher God makes a promise and the promise is He is using that process to equip the flock for their ministry and/or ministries and for their life in general.  And the only reason I believe this is true is because God has made it here a promise to us.  If I didn’t have this promise I would probably be tossed to and fro and delve into all kinds of other tactics that people use today to run the church, but because my ministry is anchored in this promise that’s what I do every single time I have the opportunity to teach.  I trust that God is using what I’m saying and how I’m teaching to equip you.

So you’ll notice that the pastor-teacher is working amongst the flock primarily with the Word of God functioning under the promise that as the Word of God is being taught, profitable (that means productive, right) profitable things are happening.  They are teaching, reproof, correction, training, and equipping for every single thing God wants to do in your life.  And that’s why you would come to a church; that’s why you pick a church, you don’t necessarily pick a church because they have the nicest building in town or they have the best sounding music, or they have beautiful stained glass windows.   You pick a church to attend that’s functioning the way God intended it to function, through this office of pastor-teacher and equipping.  If that’s not happening in a church you really don’t have a church.  I would call it a crowd of people, they’re doing something but it’s not what God called the church to be.

And by the way, this has zero to do with how big a church is or how little a church is.  Everybody today is so hung up on “well how many people go to your church?”  I remember talking with my friend, David Hocking, some of you may know him, and years ago he asked me how’s your ministry going.  And I said well, you know, it’s going okay, I’m pastoring this little church over here.  And he stopped me dead in my tracks and he says can you find the words “little church” in the Bible for me?  I mean, the Bible doesn’t make any distinction between little churches and big churches. What the Bible says is where two or three are gathered there I am, what? “in their midst.” [Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”’]  I mean, we’re so hung up on size and attendance and all of these kinds of things and I don’t think God really cares that much about stuff like that, to be honest with you.

So when Paul writes to the church at Philippi he doesn’t say well, you’re a little church and then when he writes to the church at Ephesus he says you’re a big church, I mean, that’s an artificial distinction that we’ve brought to the Bible because we, in ministry, very sadly have defined success the wrong way.  We’ve defined it the American way which is bigger is better.  The reality is as  you go into the Word of God you will not find the equation that bigger is better. And I’m not against big if God makes it big; what I’m against is defining success by the three B’s, Bodies, Building and Bucks.  Or the ABC’s of ministry, Attendance, Buildings and Cash.  I mean, we’re all hung up on that. What God wants done is this equipping work, it doesn’t matter who comes.  It doesn’t matter if the place is maxed out, it doesn’t matter if just a few people are there, this is God’s design for the church.  It should be a place of equipping through His Word.

And we all know Isaiah 55:10-11, when the Word of God goes forth it does not return what?  Void, it always accomplishes the purposes for which it was sent.  [Isaiah 55:10, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;  [11] So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”]

And so what you have to do in ministry is trust those promises and trust that God is doing something through the spiritual gift of pastor-teacher as he teaches the Scripture that God is ministering to people in ways that you couldn’t even comprehend.  I know that for a fact just by reading my e-mail, because we’re on Sermon Audio and internet and live streaming and all these kinds of things and people will write and they say man, your sermon or whatever really helped me with this issue in my life.  And I’m thinking to myself, wow, that issue was probably the furthest thing in my mind when I put that sermon together.  But they talk about how it helped them with that issue.  So what do you attribute that to?  You attribute that to the fact that God has made a promise that when His Word is faithfully taught He will use it in a special way to minister to God’s people.  I mean, I’m not a mind reader, I can’t see what’s going on in everybody’s life. But I know that God uses His Word in the lives of His people in a special way.  I don’t need to know what everybody’s needs are, God knows what they are and He has designed the church in a way so that your needs are met in this way and you’re being adequately equipped for every good work.

Now let me back up just for a second.  You see where it says “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable,” [2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”] what would “all Scripture” mean?  Well, it would mean Genesis chapter 1 all the way through Revelation 22, wouldn’t it?  Would it not include the Book of Leviticus, would it even include 1 Chronicles chapters 1-9, all of the genealogies?  Would it include the genealogy of Matthew chapter 1?  You see, the bottom line is God put the whole Scripture, by design, together for us and since “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable” does it make any sense to have a ministry philosophy that preaches part of the Scripture.  I mean, that wouldn’t make any sense. He wouldn’t say Timothy, all Scripture is inspired, now focus on the parts that you think are most important.  I mean, that’s sort of like Moses getting Ten Commandments from God and Moses saying to God, well God, I’m going to kind of sum it up a little bit, I’ll just focus on seven, and I’ll pick the seven that are the most important.

But you know, that’s the attitude of people, they just kind of act like you can just kind of randomly piecemeal the Bible and pick this and pick that when God is saying the whole thing is inspired by Me and so you have an obligation to teach and preach the whole Bible.  And that’s one of the reasons I’m just a big believer in verse by verse teaching, because as I go through the Bible I don’t give myself the luxury of picking the topics that I want to talk about.  I mean, early on in my ministry, when I was just teaching Bible studies I would just sort of leaf through the Bible and try to pick something that would be appropriate for the day.  And then I discovered well, if you just start in Romans 1:1 and go all the way through chapter 16  you’re not picking your sermons anymore, God is picking them and you’re forced to talk about things you would never talk about.

I mean, if I was in charge of this process I would just select the things that make me happy and make you happy.  But when you go verse by verse you’re not in charge any more and God is giving His people a balanced meal.  See that?  All the vitamin groups and what are those called, nutrition groups or whatever they are, are represented.  And if you just teach topically over and over again you’re going to miss certain food groups.  And this is one of the reasons that God’s people today, I think, are starving, because the people that God has called to the role of pastor-teacher have bought into, largely, a highly selective topical approach to the Bible.

Now why do they do that?  They do that because of this pyramid here called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  This pyramid was developed by someone that to my mind wasn’t even regenerated, Abraham Maslow.  It’s basically what runs modern day marketing.  And what Maslow postulated is that human beings have different levels of need.  They have, number one, their physiological needs, and so they try to get those met first.  Physiological needs would be breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, using the bathroom and other things like that.

And then Maslow said once those needs are met people will move on to the next level and try to get those met and those are what you call your safety needs.  So that would be the need for security of the body, security of employment, security for resources, health, you name it.  And then Maslow said once they meet that level of need they’ll move on to the next level which every human being (Maslow says) has a need for social things, a need, what was that show called Cheers, you remember that, I think the song to it (which I won’t be singing) was  you want to go where everybody knows your name.  Does that ring a bell?  Something like that. So that would be Maslow’s third need, a need for society, social relationships, friendships, family.

And then Maslow said if that area of need is met people move into their esteem needs.  That’s the need to feel important.   So that would be things like self-esteem, self-confidence, achievement, being respected by outsiders, being respected for others.  And then Maslow said once a human being has met all four of those areas of need in their life they reach a place of what he called self-actualization, where they are at their full potential, they’re self-actualized.  And what you have to understand is modern day marketing is run according to this triangle, this pyramid.

Marketing is basically about developing what’s called a marketing mix, a product or service, or related products or services and appealing to these areas of need.  And marketers say that if you appeal to these areas of need people will want your product.  So you are watching a commercial and somebody is breaking down someone’s house in the middle of the night and threatening them and stealing from them and then they come along and they say you need this new security system to help you with that.  That’s a marketing ploy appealing to the first level of need there at the very bottom.  And then you watch how the car companies advertise, man, you get in this new car you’re going to be really something, you know you’re important, people will respect you, people will look up to you and that’s a marketing mix aimed at the esteem needs.  See that?

So what began to happen within Christianity, particularly in America, around the 1980’s is a man named Peter Drucker came on the scene. Peter Drucker is basically a business guru and he began to influence ministers that this is how you need to preach and teach, this is how you get your church to grow.  So this philosophy heavily influenced Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral.  It heavily influenced Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church.  It heavily influenced Bill Hybels in Chicago and a number of other people that I can point to.  And basically what they do is they figure out who unchurched Harry and Mary are out there in the world and you develop sermon topics that relate to these areas of need.

So I went to one of those churches on Easter Sunday (not recently, this was years ago) and I was expecting to hear a sermon on the resurrection of Jesus Christ because isn’t that what you’re supposed to talk about on Easter Sunday?  And the sermon title was How to Catapult Your Career.  That was the sermon title.  So what happened is they wanted their church to grow and so they developed a marketing mix to appeal to people, to bring them in, and they were developing a sermon around  your esteem needs.  And so as  you look at how these people preach, and Rick Warren, by the way, allows pastors to go onto his website and download any sermon they want to use.  They can use his notes, they can use his jokes, they can use his illustrations, they can use his fill in the blanks on the church bulletin that he passes out to everybody.

And basically what this spawns is a generation of preachers and teachers that began to piecemeal the Bible.  They began to look only for subjects is the Bible that related to one or more of these areas of need.  See that.  Well guess what folks, there’s a lot of things in the Bible that don’t fit into this triangle. Amen!  Where do you put the doctrine of hell into that?  Where do you put the second coming of Jesus and the tribulation period into that?  It doesn’t fit.  Where do you put spiritual warfare?

Think of all of the topics that are omitted and today it’s not so much going to a church, it’s not so much what they say that’s so bad because they’re using the Bible, it’s what they’re leaving out.  That’s the problem!  They intentionally leave out, by design, subjects that don’t fit somewhere into this triangle and consequently who is being starved to death in the process? God’s people, because God’s people can only grow when they’re given all of their additives and preservatives and vitamins and food groups.  I mean, you can’t grow simply by hearing felt needs messages over and over and over again.

And this is why so many of these sermons that you hear in these churches they start to sound an awful lot alike.  I remember being in a church like that and I said I thought I heard something like that two or three or four months ago, or two, or three or four weeks ago.

And the reason these sermons start sounding alike is there’s only so many places in the Bible you can go to teach felt needs.  And you have to omit… I mean, where would you put into this the genealogy of Jesus Christ, Matthew 1?  It doesn’t fit!  Where are you going to put 1 Chronicles chapters 1-9?  It doesn’t fit.  So the church today, in my humble opinion, is failing, particularly here in the United States, because of this philosophy, not so much by what it says; what it says is not so much the problem, it’s what it leaves out.  And Paul is very clear that “all Scripture is inspired by God.” [2 Timothy 3:16]

If I ever taught on the genealogy of Christ, like if I was moving through Matthew, I would be saying to the Lord, well Lord, you know, I don’t know how you’re going to use this in people’s live, but You made me a promise here that when Your Word is faithfully taught God’s people are being equipped. God will use any part of His Word to fortify and edify His people and the problem is your typical church today is not… it doesn’t have the right ministry philosophy where it’s teaching the whole Bible.  What it has is a Peter Drucker, Robert Schuller, Rick Warren business model which works really well in the area of marketing and business, but it doesn’t have a proper ecclesiological model starting from what God says.

And so probably your most fundamental question you have to ask for any church is why are you here?  Why do you exist?  And that’s why these purposes of the church that we’re talking about here are very important.  And I didn’t plan on bringing this up but while I’m on the subject over in the Book of Acts, chapter 20, verses 26-27 where Paul, as a shepherd, is talking to fellow shepherds.  He’s talking to the elders of the church at Ephesus.  In other words, he’s a pastor telling other pastors how to be pastors.  And he gives this tremendous talk to these guys at the end of his third missionary journey.  And probably some of my favorite verses in the whole Bible are right there in verses 26 and 27.  He says, “Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.”  Why would he say that?   Because it’s a principle that goes back to the Book of Ezekiel; one of the things to understand about the Book of Ezekiel is it’s symmetrically structured.  At the beginning of the book Ezekiel preaches judgment; at the end of the book he preaches restoration.  And so there are two calling sections in the Book of Ezekiel. There are two times God calls Ezekiel to this task, because he has two ministries, one judgment, one restoration.

So in chapter 3, verses 17-19 I believe it is, he says over there, Ezekiel, here’s the deal, I’m going to give you a message to the people to deliver, and if  you deliver it and they don’t listen and die in their sin it’s their own fault.  But on the other hand, if I tell you to speak and you don’t speak and the people die in their sin God specifically says to Ezekiel, because you’re the watchman on the wall, you’re the shepherd, He tells Ezekiel I’m coming after you. And He tells Ezekiel not just this once in Ezekiel 3:17-19, He tells it to him a second time for his second assignment of preaching restoration, Ezekiel 33:7-9.

[Ezekiel 3:17-19, “Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. [18] When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. [19] Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself.  Ezekiel 33:7-9, “Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. [8] “When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. [9] But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life.”]

And God is very clear to Ezekiel that if  you withhold information and the people die in their sin because you’ve withheld the information then their blood, He tells them, is on your hands.  See that?

So with that background in mind that’s why Paul in Acts 20:26 says, “Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.”  Paul says I’m off the hook.  Why is that?  The answer is verse 27, “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the” what’s the next word? “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the” what? “whole purpose of God.”   So Paul says I’ve done my job as a watchman on the wall, I’ve delivered complete content, I didn’t hold back on anything and so I’m off the hook.  See that?  And keep in mind this was also written or given to the church at Ephesus, Acts 20, Paul speaking to the Ephesian elders.   So when he says “whole purpose of God” he’s reminding Timothy of this exhortation, reminding him that All Scripture is inspired, therefore the whole Scripture needs to be taught.

And to the extent that you don’t and you piecemeal the Bible and you leave out subjects for the sake of not wanting to hurt people’s feelings or wanting the church to get bigger, whatever the motive is, God tells the teachers that they are responsible.  Do we understand that?  That’s why the Book of James, chapter 3, verse 1, says, “let few of you” what? “presume to be teachers, knowing that the teacher will incur the” what?  “stricter judgment.”  There’s a higher accountability when you get into the business of teaching spiritual things.  And what these passages, whether it’s here in 2 Timothy, whether it’s in Acts 20, whether it’s in Ezekiel 3 or Ezekiel 33, I mean what all these passages area basically saying is the shepherds are responsible, not just for what they say but what they don’t say.  See?  And this is the problem with the whole Peter Drucker, Robert Schuller approach; it’s an approach designed to censor the Bible when it doesn’t fit into the triangle.  Are you with me on this?  So the major purpose of the church is to help the flock to grow through a systematic teaching of the Word of God.

Now once we start getting all of our nutrients and vitamins and food groups and attitudes and preservatives and all that stuff, what starts to happen in a church?  The church starts to mature, meaning the people in the church that are already saved start to become more Christ like in their daily lives.  So the function of a pastor-teacher is to help a local church reach maturity. So since that’s true we need a definition of what maturity looks like. Right?

So what does maturity look like?  I’m glad you asked.  Verse 13, “Until we all attain” what?  “the unity of the faith,” we’re not bickering with ourselves over slight issues, sister so and so got more time with the piano than I got this week and so I’m mad and I’m going to hold a grudge and… you know, after all, I don’t like the color of carpet in this church, I’m going to find another church with a color of carpet that I like; and that pastor parts his hair on the wrong side of his head and so I’m going to go down the street and find a pastor that combs his hair correctly, and these dumb things that happen in churches.  When the flock starts to mature those things start getting minimized and people become knowledgeable of the Son of God, they have more than just a John 3:16 understanding of the Bible.  They become a mature man which is a stature which is fitting of a Christian belonging to the whole stature of Christ, and they “are no longer children tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness and deceitful scheming.”  [Ephesians 4:14]

Part of maturity is not just jumping on board with every spiritual trend.  So someone comes into a church (as happened in recent times) and said well, according to the constellation in the sky Jesus is going to come back, what was it, September 12th or something like that?  And you look at that and you say well, that’s interesting but I’m not going to jump onboard with that because I don’t really see it squarely spelled out in the Bible.  Or someone else comes in and says you know, the Nephilim are going to come back one day because after all the Bible says “as it was in the days of Noah so shall it be,” so on TV they’re telling me about a resurgence of Nephilim in the last days.  And so you say hold the phone, that sounds interesting, But I don’t necessarily find that in the Word of God.  And someone else comes along with a plan and says hey, there’s this prayer of Jabez and if you pray this prayer, you know God is obligated to increase your land, so let’s get the Prayer of Jabez Study Books and T-shirts and small groups.

And a mature Christian doesn’t jump on the bandwagon, and says well, that kind of sounds interesting but let me filter it through the Word of God.  See what’s happening here?  As a flock matures what’s happening is they’re no longer tossed around by every trend that comes through the body of Christ.  I mean, there are basic trends, aren’t there?  Do you wear the exact same style that you wore in the 80’s?  You’d probably stick out like a sore thumb if you did that.  We understand trends.

Well, there are trends, Paul says, that come through churches all the time.  In my brief time in Christ I can think of like four or five, six, major trends that have come and gone.  I remember when Promise Keepers was the height of everything to the point where if you weren’t in Promise Keepers some people were wondering whether you were a Christian or not.  What happened to Promise Keepers?  It just died out and people hardly remember it any more.  It’s just a passing fad. What happened to the Prayer of Jabez?  Same kind of thing.  What happened to date setting schemes?  Same kind of thing.  And so we just need to be growing in Christ to the point where we’re just not, as I used the illustration last time, crawling on the ground as an immature child does and putting into our mouths everything we see on the floor.  That’s what infants do. But as they progress into adulthood they develop a screen, a grid, a worldview by which they can say you know, that doesn’t sound quite right.  And you stand on the authority of the Word of God so you’re no longer tossed around.

I like this imagery here, being from southern California, spending a lot of time on the ocean, the Pacific Ocean, how the waves would be tossed by wind and that in essence is what these trends, these spiritual trends blowing through the body of Christ are.  And the reason people jump on board with these things is largely, to my mind, a failure of the local church.  The local church is not set up to bring people to maturity.  Most local churches don’t even have a ministry philosophy to bring people to maturity.  And so the shepherds are leaving God’s people to their own devices to do what’s right in their own eyes.  Do you see that?  And so the local church fails at its most fundamental mission of bringing people into the full stature of Christ.  This is why God has given to this earth the local church and the gift of pastor-teacher to equip the saints and bring them into maturity.

Do people in Christ need to become mature?  My goodness, have we read 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 lately.  “And I, brethren,” so who’s he talking to there, believers or unbelievers?  Believers!  “I brethren could not speak to you as” spiritual people, but as what? “carnal, as to babes in Christ,” why are they carnal and babes in Christ?  Verse 2, “I fed you with milk, not with solid food.”  I mean, you can’t handle a steak yet.  I mean, Paul says when I get up and teach in depth doctrine everybody is thinking about their lunch plans, looking at their watches, and wondering when the service is going to be over.  That’s a sign of immaturity.  The inability to digest truth at a deeper level is a sign of immaturity.  “I fed you with milk, not solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it.  Even now you’re still not able, [3] for you are still carnal.”

What’s another indicator of carnality?  Where there is envy and strife and divisions… do we realize that a lot of local churches are some of the most unruly places you could ever go to, where people are at war with each other over what?  The virgin birth?  No, it’s some issue of preference.  I mean people basically take a preference that they have that’s really not found in the Bible and they try to make a big deal about it. That’s a sign of immaturity.  If  you’re in perpetual conflict, and I know people like this, they’re in perpetual conflict with almost every relationship God brings into their life there’s conflict, over and over and  over and over again.  That’s a sign of a carnal or immature Christian.

“For you are still carnal.  For where there is envy and strife and divisions among you, are not you behaving like mere men?”  What he’s saying there is you’re acting worse than the  unbelievers.  And you say well, can a Christian really behave in such a way that they act worse than an unbeliever?  Absolutely that’s a possibility because in chapter 5 there’s incest going on and Paul says the pagans don’t even do this.  I mean, your standards are so low that the pagans won’t even do what you’re doing. And he tells the elders to exercise church discipline, it’s obviously a believer there.  You don’t exercise church discipline on unbelievers; you get unbelievers saved.  So when the Book of Ephesians talks about we’re “no longer children” that’s what it’s dealing with here.  It’s dealing with people that are carnal or babes in Christ and they’re unable to digest deeper truths in God; they fight amongst each other like kids in a sand box, you know, sort of throwing sand at each other.  And sometimes they even act worse than unbelievers.  You see that?

If you look at this chart you’ll notice that Paul divides the world into two camps: unbelievers and believers.  Unbelievers is the unsaved people; believers are the saved people.  And you’ll notice that amongst believers there are three categories of believers.  See that?  Where am I getting this from?  Spiritual, Carnal, Babes.  Within the camp of the believing there are spiritual, those that are growing in Christ.  There are the infants, those that are new Christians and then there are people that should have grown up a long time ago.  Those are called the carnal; they’re called carnal, you recognize the word “carnivorous” right, devoted to meat, devoted to the flesh.  They’re carnal because they’re still living according to the desires of the sin nature, see that?  They’re still Christians.

So who is an evangelist working with?  The right half of the screen or the left half?  The evangelist is working amongst the unbelievers.  The pastor-teacher is working amongst the believers trying to help the infant believer or the carnal believer become the what?  Spiritual believer.  See that. So the function of a local church is to help people in category of believers develop into that spiritual man.  And Paul is explaining how that’s basically going to happen through the perpetual teaching of God’s Word.

So your obligation in a church is to hear the Word and then apply the Word.  If that’s happening every single Sunday, hearing/applying, hearing/applying, hearing/applying, then guess what?  You’re moving out of infancy into the full stature of Christ.  That’s why God set up the local church.  If this isn’t happening because the Bible is being piecemealed, under the Drucker model, then the church never really achieves its purpose.  It doesn’t have the ability under this system to bring people into the full stature of Christ.  It leaves them as infants.  It’s like bringing a child home from the hospital and in essence, as a newborn, leaving them to their own devices.  That’s what’s happening in local churches.

Can you, Paul, give us more of a definition of what maturity looks like since the purpose of the church is to bring the saints to maturity.  So he continues on in verses 15 and 16, what does maturity look like?  What does it say in verse 15?  “but speaking,” that’s how you identify a mature Christian, it’s how they use this two by two slab of mucus membrane between our gums called the tongue.  It doesn’t matter how much of the Bible you know, what I’d like to know is what’s coming out of your mouth moment by moment.  Is it sarcasm, derision, petty comments, or is it words of optimism, hope, holiness and things like that?

And a mature Christian, look at this here, is able to speak the truth, period.  It doesn’t say that does it?  A mature Christian is able to “speak the truth” what? “in love.”  Now I’ve found that speaking the truth is the easy part, but the ability to “speak the truth” in a way that’s loving, that’s totally different.  In fact, that is so difficult to do only someone “in Christ,” maturing in Christ has the capacity to do that.  But if you have the capacity to do that, that’s a sign that we are growing up “into Him who is the head, even Christ, [16] from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causing the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

What does maturity start to look like in a flock that’s under a pastor-teacher growing the way they’re supposed to.  Well, what starts to happen is you start to see harmony, you start to see people understanding that the ministry doesn’t just belong to the preacher and the piano player but the ministry belongs to all of us.  We all have spiritual gifts, we’re all called to use those spiritual gifts.  The office of pastor-teacher is preparing you for the use of your spiritual gifts, and when each of us begin to use our gifts we’re not doing it in a way where we’re at war with each other, we’re doing it in a way where we’re cooperating with each other.  And what starts to happen is the body of Christ starts to become built up.  It starts to become edified; it’s a beautiful thing to see.

This is why Paul, over in 1 Corinthians 12 uses the body example.  I don’t have two right hands, if I had two right hands one of my hands would be unnecessary.  God has given me a right hand and He’s given me a left hand and my body works best when both of those hands are joined to the head, the nerve center, and taking instructions, and there’s a beautiful harmony that exists between my right hand and my left hand and every other part of my anatomy for that matter.  That is what the body of Christ is supposed to look like as it grows and matures, being joined to the head, Jesus Christ, as  you start to see people taking on ministries and we start to discover that the ministry doesn’t just belong to a single person, it belongs to all of us, and we all begin to use our spiritual gifts in harmony with each other, and what starts to happen in a  mature flock is you start to see the building up of that flock in love.

And this God’s great purpose for the local church.  This is why the local church exists.  So the local church has three reasons, two of which we’ve covered, we’ll do the next one next time, or the third one the next time.  It exists, number one, to glorify God.  Number two, to edify the saints.  And then next week we’re going to see that it’s not just about us, it’s not just to sit, soak and sour, but God actually has a mission and a vision for the local church outside of its four walls which is to fulfill the great commission and if that gets neglected then the great commission becomes the what?  The great omission.  And what you discover in churches is most churches are good at two of the three; some are good at one of the three, some are good at two of the three.  And if you find a church that’s does all three that’s sort of rare today.  And yet that’s the calling of the church.  The calling of the church is to be doing all three of these things.

And I’ll be explaining next week how the calling of the church is not to bring social justice to the earth, because a lot of people are out there saying that well, we don’t just need to fish out of the fish bowl, we need to clean up the fishbowl.  So a lot of churches are putting on their own shoulders kingdom responsibilities, changing the structures of society and that’s something only the King can do.  So we’ll get into that subject next time.  All right, I’ll stop talking at this point; if you guys would like to open it up for questions we can do that.