Faith of a Father

"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised; – Hebrews 10:23


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The role of the Church: Ephesians 4:11-12

 

Ephesians 4:11-12 

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;   For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

 In these verses we read how Christ equipped the church and for what reason.  Many books have been written about the subject of these roles in the church and I could not do justice here to the topic so for those interested, an in depth study would be recommended.  

John Maxwell, noted Christian author and Leadership “guru” gives his definitions of these five roles in his “The Maxwell Leadership Bible: 

  1. Apostle:  One sent forth to pioneer and establish new works and new leaders.
  2. Prophet:  One who speaks forth God’s Word to inspire, correct, and motivate.
  3. Evangelist:  One who shares Christ with outsiders and trains others to do so.
  4. Pastor:  One who shepherds, guides, and guards God’s people as they serve.
  5. Teacher:  One who trains God’s people in the truth and teaches others to do so.

 I believe that all but the role of the Apostle are still active roles in the church today.  John MacArthur gives supporting Scriptural references to support this view: 

Six biblical reasons may be given as to why the apostolic office is not for today:

1.    The church was founded upon the apostles (Eph. 2:20)… Their role was to give grounding, support, direction – to provide the underpinning for a fledgling church. They were the church’s founders. That role was fulfilled by them and by definition can never be repeated.

2.    Apostles were eyewitnesses to the resurrection (1 Cor. 9:1)… There is no trustworthy evidence that (Jesus) has appeared to anyone since the close of the apostolic era.

3.    Apostles were chosen personally by Jesus Christ (Mt. 10:1-4).

4.    Apostles were authenticated by miraculous signs (Ac. 3:3-11; 5:15-16; 9:36-42; 20:6-12; 28:1-6)… No such miracles were ever performed – even in the apostolic era – by anyone other than the apostles and those commissioned by them.

5.    Apostles had absolute authority (Jude 17)… When the apostles spoke, there was no discussion.

6.    Apostles have an eternal and unique place of honor (Rev. 21:14).

John MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, Zondervan, © John MacArthur, 1992, p. 148-151

 As we look at the roles described in verse 11 for the church, we can see how that Christ gave the church all the leadership roles needed to make the church successful for the cause of Christ.  As we consider our churches today often times the churches that seem to over emphasis one or a few of these roles above others are the same churches that have lost their spiritual balance.  Like and individual that loads up only on proteins or only on carbohydrates, the church that does a similar thing will eventually become spiritual malnourished and will become ineffective. 

 The purpose of these roles in the church is as it says in verse 12: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” 

 And to that end, let me ask you this question:

 How can a spiritually malnourished saint perform their God-given work in ministry effectively?  And if they, if you, if I cannot effectively fulfill our responsibilities as a Christian, how can the body of Christ be edified or encouraged?  Consider your church today and then ask yourself these questions: 

  1. Is my church helping me and my family to become well balanced Christians? 
  2. Is it calling sin – sin, right – right and wrong –wrong?  Or is it afraid to address sin?
  3. At times do I feel the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sin or is every Sunday marshmallows and cotton candy? 
  4. Is my church an evangelistic church, reaching out to the lost and proclaiming the way of Salvation and encouraging and teaching me and my family to do the same?
  5. Does my church reach out to shepherd the flock, getting past the superficial topics and issues and helping its members to deep dive into each other’s lives as a way to encourage, uplift, support and edify each other?
  6. Is it dividing the Word of God rightly?  Is it teaching biblical doctrine or is it teaching feel-good sensationalism?  Is it helping and encouraging you and your family to dig deeper and build your spiritual life in such a way that you in turn can disciple others?

 If your church is not helping you to eat a spiritually balanced diet, then determine if it is you or the church.  If you’re only picking the sweets from a balanced spiritual buffet, then shame on you, repent and learn to eat the broccoli.  You’ll find that it’s does a body good.

If you find that the church has good intentions but fall short, in the right spirit and with humility go to your pastor and discuss the topic.   But if your church cannot, or is unwilling to provide a balance diet as Paul has outlined in verse 11, seek another church that can and will.  You may say, but Donn, I attend a small church and you don’t understand, it just isn’t big enough to provide it all.  I know what it is like to be a part of a small assembly of believers.  I know what it is like for your family to be the only ones in attendance at a service.  I know what it is like to be a teenager and the only ushers.  Our family started a church in mid to late 1970’s in Chatham, Ontario, Canada.  We did not have the resources today but my Dad had preaching and teaching tapes available to the membership.  He had a large library that people could borrow from if they desire.  Even in small churches today there are so many resources available to us as Christians that we should not lack in our spiritual diet.  There are books, CD’s, DVD’s, online courses, blogs and websites that we can feast on.  The key to all of these is to be discerning in knowing which ones to dine on and which ones are spiritual junk foods.   Your pastor and spiritual mentors can help you to determine at which “restaurant” to dine.

 So are you being spiritually completed at your church?  If not, what are you going to do about it?


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But He’s Different Than Me…

After several weeks of failed attempts to divert from the text and go off on a rabbit trail on the topic of diversity and tolerance, I have finally learned my lesson, stick with the text.  In verses three through six of chapter four of Ephesians, Paul discusses the topic of unity of the believers.  “Endeavouring” to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:3-6

As a review, we recall in chapter two and three, how Paul addressed the conflict between the Jews and Gentiles and how that we, as Gentiles are fellow-heirs with the Christian Jews.  This was a big deal back then and I suspect it is a big deal in Christianity today.  Moving into chapter four Paul reviews our vocation and how we are to walk in our vocation –through lowliness, meekness, longsuffering and forbearance in love and then he gets to unity of the believers.

Paul uses the word “endeavoring” in verse three to describe how we are to approach this biblical unity.   Endeavoring means to do/give/be diligent, to labor, to study.  We are not to approach unity with a hum-drum attitude, and attitude of carelessness or complacency.  Unity does not come easy and Paul is telling us that we are to be diligent, to pursue it, work at it, to strive for it.  

How often do we pursue unity among our breather that may be a little different than ourselves?  Do you homeschool, use the public school system, or a Christian school?  How is your unity with those who use other forms of education then yourselves?  What about your church?  Is it an “us 4 and no more” kind of church?  Do they fellowship with other churches that do things a little different than you do?  I’m not talking about having unity with a family or church that has significant doctrinal differences for as we know, light and darkness cannot not go together, but what about those that may do things a little different than you do?

Why is it so hard to have unity with people that are different?  Paul hit the nail on the head, the verse just before verse this one.  We always want to assume that we are right and the other person is wrong.  We want to be the person that has it all together but that other person or group are the ones that just can’t get their act together.  Oft times don’t want the heat attitude of longsuffering or tolerance for those who may be in a different place in their spiritual walk.  We have the attitude of, “Hey, I got it, I understand what God is teaching me, why don’t they?”  Not realizing how God deals with us as individuals and therefore each of us are learning different biblical principles at different times or places in our lives.  It is interesting and obviously planned by the Holy Spirit to have Paul write about these character qualities BEFORE he mentions unity.

Another reason why we find it so hard to find unity with those different then us is because we fail to remember what Paul reminds us of in verses four through six.   “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”  Notice that last phrase, “and in you all”.  Wow.  How often to I fail to remember this of other Christians?  How about you?

On the flip side, I think that we all have had instances where we were somewhere in a non-“religious” setting and we met someone for the very first time and immediately our hearts spoke to us and told us that they were believers.  How does this happen?  It is that unity of the Spirit that is bound in the Peace of God. No other faith on this earth can ever hope to have this kind of Spirit-filled unity.  We are blessed beyond measure to have the Holy Spirit, the third part of the Trinity, living inside of us.  Teaching us, guiding us and uniting us together in one body.

In a world that teaches and preaches diversity and how much we are all different, the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, teaches us how much we as fellow-heirs have in common.  That is the foundation to unity.

We could continue on for another many hours discussing this section of this chapter but if I even intend to get to chapter six, the chapter I originally wanted to discuss, I need to move along.


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Forbearing One Another in Love

My first cursory review of the last part of verse 2 was inaccurate.  I read it as to bear or lift one up in love but this does not seem to be the definition.  It says to, forbear one another in love.  The word forbear means to put up with – to endure.  Another translation uses the phrase “showing tolerance”. 

You see, when Christians around us see things differently, hold different views in portions of the Scriptures, put more emphasis in one area of their life then someone else, and yes, even at times offend us and harm us in so many ways, we are told in this verse to put up with them.  They may be a little weird, they may have a few “extreme” convictions or preferences, or they may be lacking discernment in a few areas of life but we are called to, forbear one another in love.  As an example, Paul discussed the issue of eating meat offered to idols in I Corinthians 8.  Here Paul was describing how that some felt eating the meat that had been offered to idols was sinful while others did not see this as an issue.  In summary, Paul tells the Corinthians that while there is no issue in eating this meat because there is only one true God, if eating the meat causes another brother to stumble and sin, then we should defer to the weaker brother and not eat this meat so that we are not encouraging them to go against their conscience and sin.  In essence Paul was saying that the one should forbear or tolerate the other in love.  Not to do so was actually sin by the “stronger” Christian.  (For some good messages on the Conscience please listen to our  Pastor, Dr. Bryan Ferrell here.) 

You know, there are just some people that are hard to deal with or with whom to get along.  I can think of a half dozen people right now that for one reason or another, we just kind of clash, and on the flip side, I am probably on someone’s list.  But Paul is reminding us that along with lowliness, meekness, and longsuffering, we are to “put up with / tolerate” in love those around us.  Can you imagine Christ and his tolerance for the brethren?  Can you imagine the differences, the Son of God had with his disciples?  Yet He loved each one of them, and was willing to die for them.  In the same way, He has tolerated us in love so much that He died for you and me.  We are undeserving, hardnosed, rebellious, sinners, deserving of Hell only, yet He loved each one of us enough to die for us.  Put that up against your tolerance for your fellow believers and see how you compare.  We come up short don’t we?

It’s hard to forbear in love a fellow believer when our own hearts are not striving for that lowliness, meekness and longsuffering.    Yes, in public, out of responsibility or duty we can usually find a way to put up with other Christians that differ from us, but how are we at home?  How do we respond when their name comes up around the dinner table?  How is our heart attitude toward the individual?  Are we really forbearing in love?  When our own hearts are right with God, and we are practicing lowliness, meekness and long suffering, and we are pursuing our ultimate vocation which is to be a follower of Christ, we are able to respond outwardly in love from our heart rather than responding with hypocrisy.  Please don’t read into this that I am implying that to prevent this hypocrisy we should be rude and respond how our heart really feels towards an individual, (some would try and call this “being real”). Remember, two wrongs don’t make a right (bad heart, bad response).   We should examine our heart, and recognizing the lack of real love for that individual, and through the Holy Spirit we should be convicted unto repentance.

Although the other items in this verse are big, for me at least, forbearance in love can be extremely difficult to keep in check.   If someone isn’t doing what I do, or doesn’t believe exactly as I believe, if I am not careful, I can become judgmental and shun those people.  This sin, yes sin, can creep into our lives so easily causing our pride to grow (lack of humility), and our meekness and longsuffering to be stifled so that we cannot accomplish what Paul writes about in the next verse – Unity.

I think we can see through this entire verse that Paul is focusing not on our outward actions but on the heart attitude.  Come back and we’ll take a quick look at how unity cannot be achieved without the fulfillment of verses 1 and 2.