Four years ago, I wrote a post called “Equipping for what?” The point of the post was to examine and consider Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 4:11-13. “Equipping” is very important… but what are we to equip one another for? What’s the purpose of “equipping”? Why should we care? How do we do it? These are some of the questions that are raised and partially answered in this short post.
In Ephesians 4:11, Paul lists some of the gifted individuals that Jesus Christ gives to the church:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers… (Ephesians 4:11 ESV)
I have argued before that these are a sample of the gifted individuals, and that these are not intended by Paul to be set above any other gifted individual (for example, see “And he gave… (Ephesians 4:11)“). Instead, I see this as a non-exhaustive list of gifted individuals, just as Paul gives other non-exhaustive lists (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12). However, in this post I do not intend to discuss these spiritually gifted individuals. Instead, I want to talk about their purpose.
Why does Jesus give spiritually gifted individuals to the church? Well, the purpose is found in the next part of the sentence that started in Ephesians 4:11:
… to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… (Ephesians 4:12-13)
Jesus gives gifted individuals (all of us, actually) to the church in order to equip the church… that is, to prepare the church.
But, a question remains: Prepare the church for what? If my son wanted to play football, he would need to be prepared. If he wanted to take a driving course, he would need to be prepared. But, in either case, the preparation would take on different form.
Paul says that gifted individuals prepare the church for “the work of ministry”. What does this mean? It means that we are to prepare one another to work hard at serving other people. That’s what the phrase “the work of ministry” means. The goal of “equipping” or “preparation” is that followers of Jesus are ready and able to serve other people.
I realize that this doesn’t sound very glamorous or particularly religious, but this is exactly what Scripture is telling us. We can teach creeds and confessions and apologetics and belief statements and biblical languages and theology and church history all day long, but if the people are not prepared and ready and willing to serve others, then we are not equipping one another.
Notice what happens (according to Eph 4:12 above) when people are prepared for the hard work of serving others: the body of Christ is continually built up (edified) until we finally reach maturity, which is defined as “the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the son of God”.
Do we want people to be united in their faith and trust in God? Then let’s teach them to and show them how to and prepare them for serving other people. Do we want people to know Jesus Christ? Then let’s teach them to and show them how to and prepare them for serving other people.
Serving is hard work. It’s dirty work. It can’t be done from a platform. The church needs to be prepared to serve others. It is time for God’s people to begin preparing one another for this type of service. Remember that Jesus called leaders to be the greatest servants. If you want to lead, then serve and show others how to serve. Let’s start equipping God’s people for works of service.
This is the 256th passage in “Scripture… As We Live It.”
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. But, sue them if they attempt to take away your rights as an American – I mean, Roman – citizen. (Romans 12:14 re-mix)
This is the 255th passage in “Scripture… As We Live It.”
If then you have been raised with Christ,
seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Oh, wait! Last week was Easter, when we talk about the resurrection. What’s on the calendar this week? (Colossians 3:1 re-mix)
While many churches advertised and celebrated their huge numbers yesterday, we gathered with a few families in the home of some good friends of ours. We didn’t have a band or choir or production. We didn’t have a rousing sermon or video presentation or drama. It was just a few brothers and sisters in Christ encouraging one another to live every day in light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
You see, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an historical event – a very important historical event. But, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is much, much more than an historical event. It is a very present reality for every child of God.
Yesterday, after we all arrived and set our food out in the kitchen and talked about what was going on in our lives and prayed for one another, we started talking about the resurrection. It was a very challenging and encouraging discussion for me.
Challenging… because the discussion with my brothers and sisters in Christ reminded me of how often I do not live in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Too often, I live as if Jesus was not raised, and that this life and death will be final.
Encouraging… because the discussion was a reminder that as we struggle, Jesus is present, and he is powerful, and he is full of grace and mercy when we fail.
First, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a demonstration of God’s power, and that same power is still available to us today. This is what Paul wrote about the resurrection and God’s power:
[I pray that you might know] what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places… (Ephesians 1:19-20 ESV)
Second, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a reminder that death is not final, and that we will be raised just as Jesus was raised. Paul wrote about this aspect of the resurrection as well:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 ESV)
Finally, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the promise of the continued presence of Jesus with us – even today. Once again, Paul had something to say about this:
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10 ESV)
Obviously, there is much more to the resurrection of Jesus Christ than the three items that I listed above. And, we even talked about more aspects of the resurrection than that. But, those three are certainly important.
I’m glad that we talked about the resurrection yesterday. I’m glad that we encouraged one another to live in the reality of the resurrection yesterday.
My hope, though, is that we continue to encourage one another like this every day.
This is the 254th passage in “Scripture… As We Live It.”
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised,
your faith is futile and you are still in your sins then why do we get dressed up and hold special services once per year? (1 Corinthians 15:16-17 re-mix)
This is the 253rd passage in “Scripture… As We Live It.”
It is good not to Since you are free in Christ, go ahead and eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble that you want to do. (Romans 14:21 re-mix)
This is the 252nd passage in “Scripture… As We Live It.”
For it is time for judgment to begin
at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for with the household of God judging those who do not obey the gospel of God ? ! (1 Peter 4:17 re-mix)
I originally wrote the post “Imagine all the people” about six years ago. No, this post is not about a John Lennon song. This post is about thinking about people who are different than us. But, the post is not about changing people so that they’re more like us. It’s about learning to live with and love people who are different than us. Why would we want to do that? Because, according to Scripture, we are one family in Jesus Christ.
My family is studying Ephesians. Now, I know that some of you who know me well are laughing, because I LOVE to study Ephesians – it seems that I am ALWAYS studying Ephesians. Anyway, this is actually for a class assignment for which I have recruited my family to help.
We are supposed to read through Ephesians (and 1 Peter later) and answer the following question: “What do these texts say about faith as a way of life?”
As we were reading through chapter 2 of Ephesians, we noticed the emphasis on how God had created one new people from the Jews and Gentiles (Eph 2:14-16). This new people was to live as a family (household) and citizens of a new kingdom (Eph 2:19). Again, in chapter 3, Paul says that when Jews and Gentiles lives as one people (the church) they demonstrate the manifold wisdom of God (Eph 3:10). Paul also reminds us again that we are one family named for God, such that God is the patriarch of the family (Eph 3:14-15). He then calls us to strength, knowledge, and love (Eph 3:16-19).
We discussed how difficult it is for us to live with and love people who are different from us. Certainly the Jews and Gentiles found this kind of life difficult. Yet, God expects us to live as a family and to love one another – and not just any family, but His family – and not just with people who are like us, but with all believers, even if they are very different from us. How do we do that?
So, we did a quick exercise that really helped me, and hopefully it helped them. Maybe it will help you as well. Here is the exercise: Think of someone who is completely different from you. Think about their race, ethnicity, education level, economic level, hygiene, clothing, housing, language, culture, etc. Picture that person in your mind, and ask yourself, “How can I possibly love that person and live together as family with that person.” Then, read the end of Ephesians 3 below:
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)
Certainly this passages applies to more than our living together in love with those who are different from us. But, it does apply to this as well. Because of God’s power at work in us, He is able to love someone through us that we would never love on our own.
For the last few days, I’ve been examining the topic of judgment, specifically whether or not Christians should judge others. (See my posts “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God,” “Judging people based on their dishonorable passions,” “For what have I to do with judging outsiders?,” and “I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.”)
So far, from my study of (primarily) Romans 1-2 and 1 Corinthians 5, I have concluded that 1) followers of Jesus are not judge unbelievers because of their sinful lifestyles, but 2) are to associate with them, even sharing meals with them. And, finally, 3) there are circumstances and situations in which believers are to judge one another.
As I stated at the end of my previous post, this last conclusion leads to a question: What does it mean to judge another follower of Jesus Christ?
Neither Paul nor any of the other authors of the New Testament provide a treatise on this subject (or any other subject, for that matter). Instead, they answered specific questions and concerns as they were writing to specific people dealing with specific problems at specific times in specific places.
For example, in the case of 1 Corinthians 5, Paul was instructing his readers (believers in Corinth) about how he would deal with a certain person who was a Christians and who was sleeping with his father’s wife. We have to determine by comparing that passage with other passages to what extent his instructions would apply to other people in other situations.
For example, we know that Paul did not tell his readers to “hand over to Satan” anyone who has sinned. In fact, he consistently urged his readers to offer grace, mercy, and forgiveness to people and to help them when they fall. (Galatians 6:1 is a good example of this.) Thus, Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 5 (about not associating with the sinning brother) does not apply to everyone who sins… of course, we would be required to stay away from ourselves if that were true.
So, whatever it means to “judge” another Christian, it is not applied to someone who has committed some sin, either a specific sin against God or an offense against another person.
Also, in the case of 1 Corinthians 5, the “judgment” is not an issue of salvation, but an issue of relationship and fellowship. Notice some of the phrase that Paul uses in that passage: “be removed from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:2), “not to associate with sexually immoral people” (1 Corinthians 5:9), “not even to eat with such a one” (1 Corinthians 5:11), and “Purge the evil person from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:13).
Without existing relationships, the type of “judging” that Paul has in mind is not possible. (Unfortunately, because of the organizational nature of many groups of believers today, these kinds of relationship are few and far between.)
Finally, many believe that a passage in 2 Corinthians refers to this same individual and the results of the “judgment” he suffers:
Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely — to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (2 Corinthians 2:5-11 ESV)
While Paul may not be quick to offer “judgment,” he does seem to be quick to offer forgiveness. Notice Paul says the Corinthians should “reaffirm” their love for the man, indicating that the love itself never ended (although the demonstration of love through close association was halted for a time).
Finally, while Paul used strong language related to judging the man (“you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” – 1 Corinthians 5:5), he offers just as strong language to those who may not want to welcome this brother back: “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (1 Corinthians 5:11 ESV)
What can we take from all this? 1) “Judgment” or “punishment” is relational in nature. 2) “Judgment” is not the first option. 3) Reconciliation is always the first option, even for someone who is currently undergoing that relational judgment.
What would add to this discussion?
For the past few days, I’ve been talking about judgment… primarily, asking if Christians should judge others. (See my posts “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God,” “Judging people based on their dishonorable passions,” and “For what have I to do with judging outsiders?“)
So far, I’ve dealt mostly with passages in Romans 1-2 and 1 Corinthians 5 in which Paul indicates that believers should NOT judge unbelievers because of their sins. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 5 especially, Paul says that Christians should readily associate with nonChristians in spite of their sinful lifestyle.
But, what about other believers? Are there circumstances or situations in which believers should judge other believers?
Well, to answer that very important question, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 5 again:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:1-13 ESV)
First, it’s clear that Paul is talking about judging another believer – or at least someone who “bears the name of brother/sister,” that is, someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus. He makes a couple of statements directly related to judging another believer: 1) “I have already pronounced judgment on the who who did such a thing” (1 Corinthians 5:3 ESV) and 2) “Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Corinthians 5:12 ESV)
So, to answer my earlier question: Yes, there are situations and circumstances in which believers are to judge other believers.
That raises another question, of course: What does it mean to “judge” another believer in this context?
I’ll look into that question in my next post.