Ministry in the Church

E W Rogers, Oxford

Part 6 of 8 of the series The Epistle to the Ephesians

Paul's method is always first to state the doctrine and there­after to show its practical implications; neither should be divorced from the other. In this Epistle, Paul applies previously developed doctrine in three directions - among the saints, 4. 1-16, in human society, 4. 17 to 5. 21, and in regard to special relationships, 5. 22 to 6. 9. In verses 1 to 3, the Ephesi­ans are exhorted to

"walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called", that is personal and individual; to show "lowliness and meek­ness (which marked the Lord Jesus, Matt. 11. 29), with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love", that is relative, having to do with others; "endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the (uniting) bond of peace", that is corporate relating to the whole body.

As the Prince of Wales is destined to be King of England, and his behaviour must be consonant therewith, so now we must individually act suitably to our high destiny as defined in the earlier chapters.

Nor must we forget that whatever defects we find in our brethren, and however much they may try our patience, they have similar feelings towards us. Hence Paul's exhortation that we must be Christ-like, not self-assertive, but marked by "meekness", which is strength under control, for meekness is not weakness; there must be forbearance.

Corporately we are enjoined to give diligence "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace". We are not called upon to make this unity: that has already been effected as we have seen in previous chapters. But we are to give diligence in seeing that its manifestation is preserved by living peaceably with our brethren. The invisible unity remains intact, but its visible expression has been sadly lacking. In verses 4, 5 and 6 we have

The Unity Detailed. Verse 4 indicates the vital unity; verse 5 the professional unity; and verse 6 the governmental unity.

There is one body, cf. 2. 15 - one new man. There is one Spirit, 2.18, and there is one hope, 1.18. These are inviolable.

There is one Lord whom each believer has confessed, Rom. 10. 9. There is one faith, to which each subscribes, Jude 3, - that once for all delivered to the saints: the objective faith committed to them. There is one baptism. This would seem to be water baptism, since Spirit-baptism, 1 Cor. 12. 13, is implied in the "one body". In the early Christian days of the Ephesians, the believers had been acquainted with John's baptism but that was now superseded, as were all Old Testa­ment "washings", Acts 19. 3. We call these "professional unities" because all Christians subscribe to them, yet the fact that there has been serious departure from the original simplicity of these things cannot be gainsaid.

There is "one God and Father of all" (i.e. of His children), who pervades the whole and to whom all are responsible.

This sevenfold unity is not expressed by any visible head­quarters on earth j the saints' oneness stands in their common link with the glorified Christ in heaven. In verses 7 to 16 the apostle deals with

The Diversity Existent in the Church, which indeed characterizes all the works of God, no matter in what direction we look. "But unto each one of us was the grace given", y. 7 R.v., and maturity will be reached "according to the working in due measure of each several part", v. 16 r.v. Paul clearly points out in 1 Corinthians 12, as also our experience confirms, that in the body each particular part has its own particular function, and failure of any one part adversely affects the whole body. Since our function is a "gift" given by the Risen Christ, we have neither ground of boasting nor murmuring, 1 Cor. 4. 7. Prominent or otherwise, large or small, each is necessary to, and interdependent on, the other.

Paul quotes from Psalm 68. 18. The picture is that of a returning victorious warrior, who has received many gifts from those whom He has conquered and who distributes many gifts on His return to His own people. The parallel and explanatory passages of verse 8 are found in Colossians 2. 15 and Hebrews 2.15.

While it is true that the Lord Jesus came to earth, and here died and was buried, yet Paul does not enter here into those details. Another rendering seems to have assessed the meaning of his words: "Now the word ascended implies that He also descended to the lowest level, down to the very earth", v. 9. It is the Jesus of history who is the Christ of glory, the One who went to the lowest depths of shame is He who has been exalted to the highest pinnacle of honour.

In the verses before us Paul enumerates the gifts, and states their aim, their duration, their object and the process by which they operate.

The gifts enumerated here differ from those of 1 Corinthians 12 which are more numerous. The reason seems to be that 1 Corinthians is chiefly concerned with the local church, whereas the Ephesian Epistle concentrates specially on the Church universal. Moreover the Corinthian Epistle had in view, in part, the early days of Christianity, whereas this Ephesian Epistle is not so limited. The "apostles" in their pri­mary sense are no longer with us today; neither are "prophets". The essential credential for an apostle must be that he has seen with his own eyes the Risen Christ personally; see 1 Cor. 9. 1. The essential credential for a New Testament prophet is that he has received revelation of divine truth apart from the written Scriptures, (see 1 Cor. 14. 6 where "revelation" and "prophesying" go together, and "knowledge" and "teaching" go together). These are foundation gifts, Eph. 2. 20. The "evangelists" are such as Philip, whose evangelistic work is well indicated in Acts 8. "Pastors and teachers" seem both to refer to the one individual who instructs the minds of the saints by teaching the Word, and cares for their well-being as a shepherd cares for the sheep. These are elsewhere called "elders" and "overseers", and one requisite qualification for their recognition in a church is that they must be "apt to teach", 1 Tim. 3. 2. If they fail here, how can they safeguard the flock? Acts 20. 28-31.

The aim which God had in view in giving these gifts was "for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ" (see R.V. reading of v. 12). The Scriptures do not recognize a specialized religious order of "the ministry", though they do acknowledge those who are specially called to spiritual work. The Revisers have done well in altering the words "the ministry" to "ministering", for that word denotes service, and in its context, service amongst the saints. These gifts arc given for fitting out the saints, with a view to the work of serving among them, and with the ultimate view of the building up of the body of Christ. Thus there is secured a continuity of operation "until we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ", v. 13 R.v. Thus adequate provision has been made until the time arrives when the purpose of God has achieved its goal. We may be sure that the Head will not at any time neglect the body; nor will the shepherd neglect the sheep, so that there will always be provided those who will teach and tend the flock of God.

The object in view is stated in verses 14 and 15. God does not want us to remain in babyhood; He desires us to "grow up". It is children who are caught by the subtleties and cunning craft and sleight of hand of tricksters. Who has not seen the open-eyed and open-mouthed children who are watching with amazement the "Punch and Judy show", little knowing that hidden inside the screen is one who is controlling the "show"?

We should note the words "we all" in verse 13, for this maturity not only has to do with each individual, but also with the whole community that constitutes the "body". That is the ultimate goal, but meanwhile the gifts are given so that the individual believer may not remain in spiritual infancy but may grow up. "The wiles of error", v. 14 R.v., are calculated to unsettle the believer and to carry him away as with a strong wind. These are the false doctrines of men who by trickery mishandle God's Word (see 2 Tim. 2. 17,18), which must be resisted in a spirit of love. Lastly we notice

The Process by which the Gifts Operate. Observe the prepositions in verse 16 R.v.: "from", "through", "according to", "unto". The body, being "fitly framed and knit together", as one symmetrical and stable whole, is firmly held together by its joints and ligaments, through which its various other parts are supplied with that which is requisite for their healthy functioning. Each part has its duty, and failure in any one member adversely affects the whole. All the supply comes "from" the Head "through" the joints (the gifts above named), and thereby makes the increase of the body. It is a mutual operation; it builds itself up in love, cf. Jude 20. Where there is discord between the members of our human body, there is general unhealthiness and disease. Paul deals with the various things that militate against the wellbeing of the body of Christ in later passages.

There are 9 articles in
ISSUE (1972, Volume 23 Issue 4)

The Beauty of the Lord

The Epistle to the Galatians - Chapter 6

First Things First

Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities

The Heart-Knower

Israel’s Population

Ministry in the Church

The Parables in their Setting - Part 1

The Poor Wise Man

There are 8 articles in this series

The Purpose of God

Paul’s Prayer

What a Change!

The Epistle to the Ephesians

The Mystery

Ministry in the Church

Gathered Threads

Some Practical Lessons

There are 82 articles by this author

To Spread the Gospel - the Believer’s Responsibility

Smyrna

Pergamos

Thyatira

Sardis

Philadelphia

Laodicea

The Purpose of God

Paul’s Prayer

What a Change!

The Epistle to the Ephesians

The Mystery

Ministry in the Church

Gathered Threads

Some Practical Lessons

Paul’s Pastoral Epistles - Introduction

1 Timothy 1

1 Timothy 2

1 Timothy 3

1 Timothy 4

1 Timothy 5

1 Timothy 6

2 Timothy 1: ‘Be Courageous’

2 Timothy 2: ‘Be Careful’

2 Timothy 3: ‘Be Constant’

2 Timothy 4: ‘Be Considerate’

Titus 1: God is Faithful

Titus 2: Christian Behaviour and its Effects

Titus 3: The Christian and the State

The Believer’s Responsibility in Regard to the Spread of the Gospel

The Infallible Christ

Will the Church go through the Great Tribulation?

The Man of God out of Judah

Having been Gathered Out

‘For Me to Live is Christ’

Short Papers on Some Fundamental Truths

After all This

The Scriptures of Truth (Part 1)

The Scriptures of Truth (Part 2)

Evidences of New Birth

The Inspiration of Scripture

On the being of God - The Holy Trinity

The Attributes of Divine Persons

Eternal Punishment

Gospel Preaching: the Message, Motive and Method

The Believer’s Responsibility in regard to the Spread of the Gospel. 2 KINGS 7 : 9.

Question: What is the meaning of “being crafty, I caught you with guile”? (2 Cor. 12: 16)

Question: Ought Christians to testify to all whom they meet?

Question: Is it wise to submit to being called “Plymouth Brethren”?

Question: Assembly Ceasing to Exist

Question: Delivering unto Satan

Question: Does the pre-eminence of Christ Guarantee that the Saved will Outnumber the Unsaved?

Question: The Activities of The Holy Spirit in the Eternal State

Question: Is the Devil PERSONALLY able to operate in more than one place at a time?

Question: Are the instructions in James 5. 14 applicable to-day?

Question: What was wrong with the desire of the sons of Eli for roast flesh Instead of boiled flesh?

Question: Does John 14. 6 imply that the unevangelised heathen will be lost?

Question: Conviction of Sin?

Question: Attitude of Young Believers in Assembly

Question: Why did blind Bartimeus address the Lord Jesus as “Jesus, thou Son of David”?

Question: Were the “miracles” of Peter and Paul examples of faith comparable with... Heb. 11?

Question: Ministry before the Breaking of Bread?

Question: Necessary to be Baptised to Break Bread?

Question: Concerning “He that believeth on Me the works that I do shall he do also.”

Question: In what sense have believers been crucified with Christ?

Question: The Publishing of Able Brethren's Addresses to Conventions, etc.?

Question: Why are the Proverbs Neglected as a Basis for Practical Ministry?

Prayer to the Lord Jesus

Sanctification

The Ministry Of Reconciliation 2 Cor. 5. 19-21

Question: Does 1 Cor. 14. 34 apply to all meetings when brethren are present?

Question: How far are we justified in speaking of God as Father when preaching the gospel?

Question: What are we to understand by the “spiritual body” referred to in 1 Cor. 15?

Question: To what does the phrase, “that which is perfect,” refer in 1 Cor. 13?

Question: How is it that many of the laws in the O.T. appear to be quite cruel?

Question: If believers go to be with Christ immediately at death how can they be raised?

Question: What happens to the believer when he dies before the Lord returns?

Question: Sins of the believer at the Judgement Seat of Christ?

Question: Satan disputing with Michael?

Victory And Defeat

Paul’s thorn in the flesh

Evidences of New Birth