We find ourselves at an interesting point in the history of our church. Last month my letter recorded the sudden passing of Mr. Harrison, a pastor, loved and respected by so many. This was evident in the attendance at his funeral. For all of us it was a shock and grief can have a debilitating effect. Many people when bereaved ask the question, “How can I go on?” Others ask, “Is there any point in going on?” As Christians we know that we have to go on, so how do we do that? We look to The One who is the focus of our faith – the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Ephesians 4¸ Paul wrote about Christians being tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. We are not being tossed about by strange doctrines, but the experiences of life are difficult to cope with and can make us uncertain. We have all known situations where friends or relatives have not wanted to move on after bereavement. They have wanted to create memorials of the one they loved and have lost, but Paul gives the focus to help us go forward in life.
The risen Lord Jesus Christ has given gifts to the church – the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (v11) and He has given them for a purpose. Many people have argued about the continuation of some of these gifts arguing that apostles, prophets and evangelists were only temporary gifts that faded away with the death of the Apostles. Shepherd-teachers however have been given to the church through the NT period until our Lord Jesus Christ returns. Others see a distinction in that every local church is to have shepherd-teachers, whereas apostles, prophets and evangelists have been given for the benefit of the wider church.
What is clear however is that these gifts have been given “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” [v12]. Every Christian has a place of service within the church to aid its growth and function. Just as all the parts grow together in a healthy body, so as every believer takes his/her responsibility in “building up the body of Christ” so we will each grow together. Each Christian, who is truly growing in Christ will contribute to the growth of the healthy whole – “[v13] until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,” Paul’s desire and the desire of Christ is that we all, together, reach “to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”. As we grow together so we are a help to one another and therefore attain to spiritual and practical maturity as one body in Him.
It is clear that our Lord gave gifts so that we might speak the “truth in love”, and in so doing, “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ”. Christ is the head of the church, but a body is not just a head. It is many parts that relate to the head, but also to each other. The only way that a foot can support or propel a body is for it to reach the head through the nervous system, but also to have bones, joints, ligaments and tendons all fulfilling their respective roles within the body – the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (v.16)
As we face this dramatic time of change it is vital that we each recognise the special gifts and enabling that God has given us and that we learn to work together for our mutual good and for the glory of God. After a person has been sick or has neglected to use certain muscles it can be very demanding trying to get muscles and joints working again, but with patience and sometimes a measure of pain it is possible to regain full function. Christ is building His church at Emmanuel and we are to each take our place in going forward with Him.
This has application within the church, but also in a wider sphere. We pray for those serving God overseas and also those who serve by preaching in other local churches. If you have ministry opportunities in other places please let us know so that we might pray for one another.
Your fellow worker,
Bernard Lewis July 2013