Our Family Business (Ephesians 4:11-16)
Passage: Ephesians 4:11–4:16
I. Family Owned and Operated Since…
Let me ask you this: “What’s the oldest family owned business you can think of?” A few weeks ago I was in a Mexican food restaurant in Tucson that is now being run by the third generation of the founder’s family (founded 1922). That’s a long time.
But listen to an Associated Press story from a couple weeks ago:
In 1632, John Tuttle arrived from England to a settlement near the Maine-New Hampshire border, using a small land grant from King Charles I to start a farm. Eleven generations and 378 years later, his field-weary descendants — arthritic from picking fruits and vegetables and battered by competition from supermarkets and pick-it-yourself farms — are selling their spread, which is among the oldest continuously operated family farms in America. "We've been here for 40 years, doing what we love to do," said Lucy Tuttle, 65, who runs the 134-acre farm with brother Will. "But we're not able to work to our full capacity any longer, unfortunately." Tuttle added that she and her brother and their sister have done their best "to lovingly discourage" their children from becoming generation No. 12. "We would be saddling them with a considerable amount of debt," she said.
Can you imagine founding a business and having it last for 378 years…eleven generations of your own descendants? Pretty amazing!
But like the Tuttles are now experiencing, every family owned and operated business faces or has faced the uncertainty of what the next generation will do. Yes, many family businesses don’t continue on because of the economy or poor management or tragedy. But a good number don’t continue on because a son or daughter, or grandson or granddaughter doesn’t really understand the business, or isn’t really passionate about the work, or just can’t make a go of it because of the current economic challenges.
But let me suggest to you this morning that there is a family owned business that is far older than the Tuttles farm…five times as old. And we find this family owned business described in Ephesians 4:11-16. Turn with me there.
II. Review and Setup (4:1-10)
Before we read those verses, look with me at the first ten verses of Ephesians 4:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
Let me real quickly point out two key principles revealed for us in verses 1-10:
First, in verses 1-6, Paul is stressing our need to live daily in the spiritual unity we have as members of God’s family. Notice how verse 6 concludes this string of “singular realities” (one Lord, one faith, etc.), notice how it concludes with the truth that we live under “one God and Father of all”. For the past two weeks, we have been thinking about this amazing reality that the church is the family of God. And as Paul indicates here, that reality should affect how we live with one another. That reality should encourage things like humility, patience, and love.
Second, we see in verses 7-10, that just like any family (especially at Christmas and on birthdays), we have all enjoyed an abundance of gifts as members of God’s household. Specifically, in verse 7, one of the gifts that (quote-unquote) “each one of us” has been given is the gift of grace. What is this gift, and what is the significance of this gift of grace? Let’s find out by looking at our main passage for this morning.
III. The Passage: "The Work of Ministry” (4:11-16)
Listen to how Paul continues in Ephesians 4:11-16:
And he [i.e. Christ (cf. v. 7)] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 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, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom 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.
Now, there is a lot crammed into these six verses, but let’s begin thinking about what’s here by going back to this idea of a family owned business. The oldest family owned and operated business I can think of is the church. It’s God’s family. And what business do we as members of God’s family own and operate? What kind of work do we do? The answer is right there in verse 12: our business is not the work of farming or the work of running a restaurant; our work is “the work of ministry”.
Now obviously when I use the word “business”, I’m not thinking about corporations, I’m thinking simply about work. The church is not a business, it’s a family. But that family has a business, or we might say, that family has a shared work. It’s “the work of ministry”.
Now “ministry” is one of those words that has suffered from the corrupting effects of professionalization. When many people think of “the ministry”, they think about a group of religious professionals running around, some in robes and collars, some in Hummers and flip-flops, some in suits and ties…but it’s these vocational ministers who do “ministry” right?
But the Greek word that Paul uses here is one that should be familiar to us in light of last week. Last week we looked at what we might learn about being God’s family by looking at families in the first century, when the NT was written. And one of the people who was considered a member of many first century household was the slave or servant. Well, the word “ministry” here in Ephesians 4:12 is simply a form of that word for servant.
Jesus told his followers in Mark 10:43: “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant…” This is why this word “ministry” is also translated as “service” in many places it’s used in the NT. So what we’re talking about here in terms of the family business, according to Ephesians 4, is “the work of being servants...the work of service”.
But if we belong to God’s family through personal faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Savior, then we should be eager to understand more about this family business. So as we look back at these verses, 11-16, what else do we learn about this “work of ministry” or this “work of service”?
Let’s think about three principles we discover in these verses:
First, the work of the ministry is both expressed in and nurtured by the family’s leaders. (11, 12a)
Every family business has leadership right? In the church, those leaders are listed in verse 11: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These leadership roles are some of the gifts that Jesus gave to His church. Now, we don’t have time this morning to talk in-depth about all of these leadership roles, but we do know from the New Testament and from history, that the first two, possibly three offices listed there were foundational roles in terms of church history.
What that means is that God used these kinds of leadership to help establish the church, but did not give any clear instruction or indication that these offices should continue.
But the last two leadership roles listed in verse 11, “shepherds and teachers” or “pastors and teachers” are simply two titles (or two functions) that describe an elder or an overseer of the church. You might remember last week we talked about I Timothy 3, and the qualifications given there for overseers or elders in the church.
These were men who were entrusted with the task of protecting and nurturing God’s family. And here in Ephesians 4, that nurturing work is being highlighted.
Not only are these shepherd-teachers involved in and expressing “the work of ministry” or “the work of service”, but the goal of their expression is equipping others for that same work. If they are a gift that Jesus gave to the church, then this is the gift that keeps on giving.
They equip “the saints”. Who are “the saints”? No, not the Super Bowl champions.
No, not super-spiritual people who lived long ago. Anyone who belongs to Christ by faith is a saint. The word simply means “holy one”. We’re made holy by faith in Jesus, by what He did for us.
So, very clearly in verse 12 we are demolishing that misguided idea that “ministry” is only for a minority of people in the church; that “ministry” is only for ‘ministers’. No, “the service” of pastor-elders like myself, our ministry, is to equip others to be equally involved. We’ll come back to that idea in just in a few minutes.
The second principle we see in these verses is that, the work of the ministry has as its goal, the maturing of the family according to the standard of Jesus. (12b-14)
Did you notice all the growth-related words in this passage: building up (12), mature manhood (13), measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (13), no longer children (14), grow up (15), grow (16), and builds itself up (16).
Whether Paul uses construction metaphors or compares the church to a person maturing from childhood to manhood, the emphasis on growth here is unmistakable. When it comes to growth, the Bible does not place primary emphasis on numerical growth. That is important and often highlighted in God’s word. But it must always come second to spiritual growth.
One commentator touched on this when he wrote: “…without doubt, if there is a caring community living in love and showing the truth in love, the numerical increase will follow.” (Foulkes)
So what does our family business produce? It should produce growth. What kind of growth? Growth in handling our money better? Being better parents? Dealing better with our emotional baggage? Being more involved in our community? Having more biblical knowledge? Well, in some sense, yes. We should grow in all these ways. But in and of themselves, these are not the goals of our growth.
The kind of growth we must be passionate about at Way of Grace is growing to become more and more like Jesus. I love the way the French pastor and theologian John Calvin put it as he commented on verse 13:
It was the apostle’s intention to explain what is the nature of true faith, and in what it consists; that is, when the Son of God is known. To the Son of God alone faith ought to look; on him it relies; in him it rests and terminates. If it proceed farther, it will disappear, and will no longer be faith, but a delusion. Let us remember, that true faith confines its view so entirely to Christ, that it neither knows, nor desires to know, anything else. (John Calvin, Commentary on Ephesians)
The third thing we see here is that, the work of the ministry is carried out by every family member, doing their part. (15, 16)
Now, we already touched on this before, didn’t we? Paul could not be any clearer in verses 15 and 16. Like a human body, our growth depends on every part of the body doing…it’s part! If you are truly a Christian this morning, then you have to understand and you have to believe, that you have a part to play in the family business.
You have an important part…a needed, a necessary part to play. In some sense, the healthy maturity of the body depends on you. This is where Ephesians 4:7 comes in. Yes, Jesus has given the gift of leaders to the church, But (4:7) grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
To grow physically our human body needs the feet to get us to the food, the eyes to sort it out, the hand to put it in the mouth, the teeth to chew it, the stomach to digest it, and so on and so on. Every part has a part to play in growth!
Sometimes our biggest struggle is not NOT being involved with the church. It’s being involved for the wrong reasons. Too often, we only come for ourselves. But very clearly here, the benefits described are first applied to the whole body, which then means that every individual part subsequently enjoys those benefits
Here’s another good quote from Calvin: “…if we wish to be considered members of Christ, let no man be anything for himself, but let us all be whatever we are for the benefit of each other.” (Calvin)
Now, real quickly, look at two more things verses 15 and 16 tell us about the role of every family member. The work of every family member is only effective when, verse 16, “each part is working properly”. It’s not enough that we just show up. It’s not even enough to have the right motives, although that is where it has to begin. We all need to function properly!
And how do we function properly? We function properly, we grow, we build up the body of Christ by verse 15, “speaking the truth in love”. Now wait. Who is speaking the truth in love here? Is it the pastor-teachers or the other parts of the body? Well, the answer is ,”yes”. Yes, it’s both.
How do you think the shepherd-teachers equip the saints of God. They speak the truth in love. What does it look when God’s people are equipped? It looks like a whole bunch of people (notice the “we” in verse 15), a whole bunch of people “speaking the truth in love” to one another.
IV. Will You Carry on the Family Business?
And so, in light of all this, if this is our family business, then like so many families who own businesses evenutally have to discuss, the question is, “Will you carry on the work?” Unlike the Tuttles who, after 387 years, were actually discouraging their children from carrying on with the work, this morning I am emphatically encouraging you to keep the family business going.
This morning, all of us should be challenged in a number of ways:
First, the pastor-elders of this church should be challenged to do better when it comes to equipping the saints. It's too easy for leaders to gravitate to either one of two extremes. Either we try to do everything in the church (which we could never do) OR we turn the church into something that can be managed from the top down; something that can be handled by a few 'professionals' or sometimes, by a lot of paid staff.
But we need to better at giving ministry away and training all of you in terms of how you can “speak the truth in love”. We’ve actually been working hard on those issues in the past few weeks and will continue doing that.
I think the second challenge is that, every one of you that names the name of Jesus Christ as Lord, every single one of you should be eager to learn more and more about carrying on the family business. Why? Well, number one: for the glory of God; so that His will might be done on earth, just as it is in heaven. Also, for the sake of others who need the hope of Chirst. But also, please hear me, also because it’s the only way you will grow in your faith. Did you hear that? Is anyone here interested in growing in their faith, growing spiritually? Show of hands?
The passage this morning has been especially revealing on this very point. The work of ministry leads to the building up of the church; it leads to growth. But that growth only happens when each part is involved and functioning properly. So only when we, I in my role, you in your role, only when we are speaking the truth in love, do we grow to become more like Jesus.
Third, and finally, speaking of “speak the truth in love”, we, all of us need to be challenged in terms of knowing the truth and walking in love. What is this truth, Paul is speaking about here? Does he mean that we should speak the truth to a brother or sister about an obvious fashion faux pas or if they’re having a bad hair day or if they drive like a snowbird? Well, those things might be helpful, but that’s not what Paul has in mind. “THE truth” is God’s word. Ephesians 1 says the word of truth is “the gospel of your salvation”.
Remember what the gospel is: gospel simply means “good news”. THE gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. The good news of His coming, the good news of His death on the cross, the good news of the forgiveness He makes possible. The good news of a brand new life because Jesus defeated death itself. The good news that all power and all authority in this universe belong to Jesus. The good news that faith is the only thing required of us: the only thing we can do is believe that Jesus did everything to make us right with God.
Remember what Paul said about this gospel in Romans 1:16...For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
In some sense, the whole Bible is the gospel because the whole Bible was written for the purpose of pointing us to Jesus Christ and the rescue he made possible.
AND SO, if we want to carry on the family business, if we recognize that we have a part to play, THEN we need to know God’s word. We need to know the gospel. We need to know how to use the gospel, to use the word of God to build others up. And we need to learn how to do that in love.
Some of us are very good at speaking the truth, but we wield the truth like a baseball bat. Others of us can come across as very loving, but we don’t have the knowledge or maybe courage to speak the truth in love. But we need know the truth and walk in love in order “to speak the truth in love”.
So where are you this morning? If you consider yourself a follower of Jesus Christ, then how, during the course of your day, during the course of your week, how are you “speaking the truth in love” to brothers and sisters in Christ in order to build up the body of Christ?
AND equally important, who is “speaking the truth in love” to you? Are you in places, and positions, and with people who can speak God's word into your life?
That's the work of ministry, isn't it? Isn't that how Paul describes the family business in Ephesians 4?
Maybe, maybe this morning, if you're honest with yourself, maybe you recognize that you're really not even a part of God's family. Maybe you recognize that your ideas about Christianity and about being a Christian don't really line up with what the Bible says. No is born a Christian. No one is a true Christian simply because they come to church or consider themselves a good person. No one is a Christian because their family is Christian or because they were baptized as a baby.
No, being a Christian is about coming to a point in your life when, by God's grace, you are able to say, “I am going the wrong way, trying to play Lord over my own life. I want to be forgiven. I want to be right with God. I want Jesus to be Lord over my life. I do believe He died for me. I want to be a part of His family...to be a child of God...forever and ever.”
Does that describe your heart this morning? I'd love to talk with you if it does. I'd love to pray with you.
Let's pray this morning. Let's pray that God would help all of us have a passionate commitment to the oldest family business in the world. Let's pray that we would be equipped, to speak the truth in love to one another, and that we would be able to rejoice as we see true growth occuring in our family.
And let's pray that as we grow, that our community would more clearly see Jesus Christ in all of us and in each of us.
More in Coming Home
August 8, 2010Meet the Family (I Timothy 5:1, 2)
August 1, 2010When You're Here, You're Family (I Timothy 3:14, 15)