From Growing to Going (Ephesians 4:11-16)
Topic: Ephesians Passage: Ephesians 4:11–16
From Growing to Going
(Partnership Month, Part 3)
September 27, 2015
Let's begin our time in God's word this morning by going back to the passage we started our Partnership study with two weeks ago: Acts 2:42-47. As you turn there, let me remind you of what I mean by the word Partnership. As we've talked about before...
What we call Partnership is simply a tool we use at Way of Grace to explain, affirm, and celebrate commitment to Christ and His church.
II. Commitment and Unity: Growing to Going
But as we look back at Acts 2:42-47, let me remind you that in the first half of our time in God's word this morning, we will be looking at three different passages, all of which help us understand more about what we could call our life together as God's people.
A. Our Common Life
Read Passage #1: Acts 2:42-47
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
I believe there are at least three key points to take from this passage:
1. The early church was a “devoted” community, one that prayed together and walked together in the light of God’s word.
2. Their devotion to one another was also demonstrated by their willingness to give back to the church from what God had already given them. The church should always reach out first to the needs of its own members, including those widows and orphans who are unable to provide for themselves (Acts 6:1-3; 1 Tim. 5:3-16; James 1:27). I Timothy 5:17 instructs us also to provide for those pastor/elders who labor diligently among us as teachers and preachers (Phil. 4:15-19;1 Cor. 9:9-14).
Key Question: Am I devoted to God’s people, and is that devotion demonstrated by how I manage my time, talents, and treasure?
Read Passage #2: Colossians 3:9-17
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.  Here, there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.  Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
I believe there are at least three key points to take from this passage:
1. Our life together as God’s people should be characterized by the virtues of the “new self”, that “renewed” life which reflects the “image” of Jesus Christ (cf. Phil. 2:1-11).
2. Furthermore, our church should be unified as a Christ-centered community, centered around His word and His worship.
Key Question: Am I contributing to the unity of the body of Christ, through a Christ-like disposition and a grateful heart ?
Read Passage #3: Ephesians 4:11-16
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,  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,  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.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  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.
[We're going to spend a little more time on this passage] Overview: In this passage, the Apostle Paul describes the how and why of BUILDING UP (i.e. edification). We see here that the goal of our edification is maturity in Jesus or Christ-likeness. We move toward that goal together, with every part SPEAKING THE TRUTH in love to one another. Pastor-teachers do this and EQUIP God’s people, who in turn do this and become more and more united in faith and love.
[We are to be devoted to...] Discipling (“…to mature manhood…”)(v. 13)
The church exalts God and edifies itself as part of the disciple-making work of Christ’s GREAT COMMISSION (Matt. 28:18-20). Disciple-making (i.e. learning to become more like Jesus) should happen in every corner of the church, from fathers leading their homes in God’s word, to spiritual sisters or brothers meeting to encourage one another in the truth.
Loving (“…the truth in love…”)(v. 15)
The church exalts God and edifies each other through the “vine work” of loving one another. We are to love one another by admonishing and encouraging each other on a regular basis with God’s word (“speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15)(cf. Rom. 15:14). In some cases, this might lead us to practice CHURCH DISCIPLINE, as outlined for us in Matthew 18:15-17. Church discipline is an act of love and protection for God’s church with the ultimate purpose of RESTORATION.
Serving/Laboring (“…he gave gifts…”)(v.8)
The church exalts God and edifies each other through the “trellis work” of serving and laboring together to support ministry. By using our Spirit-given GIFTS for the building up of the body (Rom. 12:6–8; 1 Cor. 12:4–7; 1 Pet. 4:10–11), all of us are called to toil together to support the formal structures of the church, those structures that ASSIST in the exaltation of God and the edification of the body (e.g. a Sunday gathering, meals, projects, classes, etc.).
Leading/Learning (“…pastors and teachers…”)(v.11)
The church exalts God and edifies each other through the ministry of biblical LEADERS. God’s design for the church and gift to the church is leadership that includes pastor/elders, who equip God’s people through teaching and shepherding, and deacons who serve needs to support this work. The New Testament pattern for church leadership is characterized by a PLURALITY of ELDERS (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5).
So if we stop and think about everything we've learned from these first three groups of verses, how might we summarize our commitment in light of them? The third section of our Covenant of Commitment, entitled, “Our Common Life” summarizes an affirmation of these things with the following words:
As members of Christ’s body, we commit ourselves to walk together in Christian love, to strive for the advancement of this church, to promote its well-being and spiritual maturity; to sustain its worship, ordinances, and doctrines; to honor its leadership and, if unresponsive to personal sin, to be pursued in a process of discipline; to be faithful in attendance and in cultivating godly relationships; to contribute cheerfully and regularly, in the measure that God prospers each of us, to the support of the ministry, the relief of the needy, and the spread of the Gospel throughout all nations. We further pledge to watch over one another in love; to remember each other in prayer; to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech; to seek God's help in avoiding anything that might harm our own or another's faith; to be slow to take offense but always ready for reconciliation and to seek it without delay.
B. Our Common Vision
But as God's people grow, we should also go. Let's look at another set of three verses, all of which describe for us the truths around which we should be united for our One Mission.
Read Passage #4: Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Three key points to take from this passage:
1. The rest of the New Testament confirms that the eleven disciples here represent the Church, to whom the commission to make disciples has been entrusted.
2. A “disciple” is one who looks to Jesus, in order to be led by Jesus, in order to become like Jesus. Here, the basic components of this work are baptism and teaching.
3. We can be greatly encouraged in this work of making disciples by the fact that Jesus himself has been given all authority, and that He is always with us as we “go”.
Summary: While Christians delight in fellowshiping with God and one another, all of us have been called to a work beyond our walls: the work of going into a dying world to call followers for Jesus through the gospel.
Key Question: Do I understand the work that God has given to the church and my part in it?
Read Passage #5: Acts 13:1-3; 14:21-26
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off... When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,  strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.  And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.  Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia.  And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia,  and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled.
Three key points to take from this passage:
1. As another example of the continuing fulfillment of Jesus' commission, Paul (Saul) and Barnabas are sent out by the Holy Spirit and sent out from the church in Antioch in order to make disciples (13:1-4).
2. Acts 14:21 and 22 show us two things: how Paul and Barnabas made disciples through the faithful proclamation of the gospel, and how they went on to “strengthen” these disciples through faithful and encouraging teaching.
3. Paul and Barnabas' work in Asia Minor demonstrates that fulfilling the Great Commission is not simply about converting individuals, but also about planting elder-led churches (14:23) who can continue the ongoing work of “present[ing] everyone mature [or complete] in Christ”.
Summary: The 'missionary' work of God's people is not simply for a select few who labor “out there”, but is a commission for every believer, centered in the daily life of and the multiplication of local churches.
Key Question: When I think about the work of making disciples or “missions”, do I see all that the work includes, and the centrality of the local church, according to God’s word?
Read Passage #6: Colossians 4:2-6
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Three key points to take from these verses:
1. All of us can be involved in the broader work of evangelism and church-planting through our faithful support of (cf. Phil. 4:15-19) and prayer for laborers, like Paul, who are called and gifted for this task. (4:2-4)
2. At the same time, all of us have been called and equipped for the work of reflecting Christ, in our circles, through our wisdom-informed conduct. (4:5)
3. Moreover, each of us has also been called to use our grace-filled, life-flavored words to point others to Jesus, as they see His life reflected in ours. (4:6)
Summary: Beyond the disciple-making work that takes place within the local church, all of us have a part to play, both through prayer for our Partners Abroad, and through our faithfulness in declaring and demonstrating the love of Christ to those God has placed in our life.
Key Question: When it comes to the privilege and responsibility of representing Jesus Christ, am I influenced more by faithfulness or fear?
So considering everything we've just learned, how might we summarize our commitments in light of these passages. Well, the last section of our Covenant of Commitment, entitled, “Our Common Vision”, summarizes our affirmation of these “going” principles in this way:
We affirm that God's primary means of working in this world is the local church. Therefore, we commit ourselves to the work of this church, serving, that God might do His work through us, and being served, taught, and led, that God might do His work in us. Recognizing that the church's mission is to make disciples of Jesus, we commit ourselves to this work in two ways: 1) to support, through prayer and participation, our One Mission of reaching our family, friends, neighbors, and world with the gospel and grace of Jesus, and 2) to be personally involved with the formal disciple-making efforts of Way of Grace, that we too might be built up to maturity in Christ.
III. What It Looks Like
Let me finish with a quote from the book, “The Trellis and the Vine”. Listen to how the writer encourages ministry leaders in terms of One Body and One Mission:
Imagine a reasonably solid Christian said to you after church one Sunday morning, “Look, I'd like to get more involved here and make a contribution, but I just feel like there's nothing for me to do. I'm not on the 'inside'; I don't get asked to be on committees or lead Bible studies. What can I do?” What would you immediately think or say – would you start thinking of some event or program about to start that they could help with? Some job that needed doing? Some ministry that they could join or support? This is how we are used to thinking about the involvement of church members in congregational life – in terms of jobs and roles: usher, Bible study leader, Sunday school teacher, treasurer, elder, musician, song leader, money counter, and so on. The implication of this way of thinking for congregation members is clear: if all the jobs and roles are taken, then there's really nothing for me to do in this church. I'm reduced to being a passenger. I'll just wait until I'm asked to do something. The implication for the pastoral staff is similar: getting people involved and active means finding a job for them to do...However, if the real work of God is people work—the prayerful speaking of his word by one person to another—then the jobs are never all taken. The opportunities for Christians to minister personally to others are limitless. So you could pause and reply to your friend, “See that guy sitting over there on his own? That's Julie's husband. He's on the fringe of things here; in fact, I'm not really sure whether he's crossed the line yet and become a Christian. How about I introduce you to him, and you arrange to have breakfast with him and read the Bible together? Or see that couple over there? They are both fairly recently converted, and really in need of encouragement and mentoring. Why don't you and your wife have them over, get to know them, and read and pray together once a month? And if you still have time, and want to contribute some more, start praying for the people on your street, and then invite them all to a barbecue at your place. That's the first step towards talking with them about the gospel, or inviting them along to something.” Of course there's every chance that the person will then say, “But I don't know how to do those things! I'm not sure I know what to say or where to start.” To which you can reply, “Oh that's okay. Let's start meeting together and I can train you.” (“The Trellis and the Vine”, Colin Marshall & Tony Payne)
It's not about programs. It's about people reaching people. People loving people. I think Jesus made that clear for us. To this, God has called us to be committed.