The Works of the Church: Edification, Part 1
The Marks and Works of the Church
Edification, Part 1
A warm greeting to all of you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am thankful and glad to see all of you here today. If you are a visitor this morning, I welcome you to come introduce yourself to either myself or pastor Jesse. We would love to connect with you and get to know you.
In last week’s sermon, we discussed the primary purpose of the church. The primary purpose, I argued, is to exalt God. I defined exaltation as both purpose and pleasure. To exalt God is to find our delight in the glory of God, both individually and corporately. We must reject finding our
pleasure in ourselves and instead find it ultimately in God. Exaltation is the primary activity we do as a church.
My choice of words here is intentionally. Specifically, the word primary is key. I did not argue last week that exaltation is the only activity we engage in as a church. I did not argue that exalting God is the sole action of the church. Exaltation is one of several different activities we
do. It is the chief one, but it is not the only one. There is a massive difference between those two statements.
In a recent sermon I’ve listened to, the preacher, who is a wonderful man of God, stated something like, to ask the question, “What do I get out of church?” is bad question to ask. He insinuated that it’s sinful, selfish to ask that question. He, essentially, stated that the only purpose of the church is to exalt God. My impression of this statement is the pastor overemphasized a bit. In his zeal to promote God’s glory, he simply made an overstatement. We can tend towards overemphasis.
This type of thinking is misguided. It’s okay to ask that question. In fact, it’s good to ask that question. Self-interest is not necessarily bad. It’s not evil to exercise, sleep, rest, and relax. These are all engagements of self-interest. You should do these things. Self-interest is never ultimate
but it’s not bad to ask, “What do I get out of it?” God cares for us. He loves us. He wants us to thrive and be glad. He wants us to be built up. While the question, “What do I get out of it?” shouldn’t be the primary question we ask about church it should be a question that we ask.
This week and next week I want to answer this question, “What do I get out of it?” Stated differently, “What does the corporate body offer me as an individual Christian?” This is an important question, albeit not primary. The answer to this question that I will argue for this morning is edification. What the corporate body offers you is edification. This body can and does edify the individual Christian. Edification.
To explore what this concept of edification, we are going to dive into a two-week study of Ephesians 4:11–16. This morning we will cover vv. 11–13. So, if you have your Bibles this morning, please turn with me there. I will read the passage in full. It states,
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.
I have four points for you this morning.
The Foundation of Edification is Grace
The first point is this: the basis of edification is grace. This point comes from v. 11. “And he [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” For this point, we will first focus upon the Giver and then focus upon the gifts.
The first phrase we want to examine in this passage is this on: “Jesus gave.” This statement summarizes so much of what we believe and do as Christians. Central to the message of Scripture is that everything we have and everything good that we do is solely due to the grace of
almighty God. We are not good, the Bible teaches. We are naturally enemies of God. Destitute. Hell bound. Unwilling and unable to come to God for salvation. Nothing that we do can earn for us forgiveness. God is never our debtor. He never owes us anything.
The Bible also teaches that God does not treat us as our sins deserve. Rather, he lavishes his grace upon us. The grace has chiefly been made known in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus has paid earned for us the righteousness that we cannot earn, and he has brought upon
himself the penalty of sin that we deserve. He has saved us. We offer Christ nothing. Salvation is all of grace.
Church is also all of grace, too. Nothing good that happens here is of human doing. All good that we do—from the smallest thing (like loving the children in the nursery) to the greatest (like a selfish husband being brought to Christ)—is all of Jesus Christ. Jesus doesn’t stop giving once
you are saved. He continues to give, over and over again. His grace is abundant. It overflows. Both to you individually and to the church corporately. “Jesus gave.”
Paul specifies that Jesus gives to the church certain spiritual giftings. Jesus gave “apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.” Jesus gives all these gifts to benefit you in the faith. Apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church. Their testimony is written here. We are reading it right now. We grow in our relationship by growing in our understanding of their thoughts as observed in Scripture. Evangelists are those who preach the gospel. They are those who draw us to the message of the apostles and prophets. The faithful evangelist is the one who points people to the apostolic and prophetic message prescribed in Scripture. We all come to faith through those who have evangelized us. Pastors and teachers are those who nurture and
teach the flock of Jesus Christ. Once we become Christians, pastors and teachers are to wrap their arms around us to nurture us and care for us in the faith.
From the beginning of our walk with Christ to the fulfillment of it, Christ’s blesses us with persons who help us along our path. Evangelists bring us to the apostles and prophets. Pastors and teachers continue to nourish us with the apostolic and prophetic message. Evangelists get us
in the church and pastors and teachers keep us in the church. For those whom God has predestined, every step of life is an act of grace.
One of my favorite books is The Pilgrim’s Progress. This story is about a man named Christian who travels from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Along his journey, he is encouraged and exhorted by those who Jesus has put along his path—from the Evangelist, to the
Interpreter, to the Shepherds. As Christian stumbles and falls on his journey, these other characters come beside him to help and aid him.
All the Christian life is one of grace. Every step, every moment is one of grace. Jesus have placed certain persons in our lives to bring us to him and to keep us in him. Jesus doesn’t just care about you coming to him—he wants you to walk with him. Your whole life. Jesus has given
these gifts to the church for your benefit in Christ, and they are all based upon his grace.
The Nature of Edification is Equipping
Jesus gifts spiritual gifts to the church. Well, Paul, what is the purpose of Jesus’ gifts? Why does Jesus give these gifts to the church? We see the answer to this question at the beginning of verse 12. Jesus gives these gifts “to equip the saints.” Paul tells us that Jesus gives these gifts so that the saints would be equipped. This is our second point. The nature of edification is equipping. The very essence of edification is the equipping of the saints.
In order to understand what Paul means here, we must understand what this verb of “equip” means. To explore this idea, turn with me to 2 Tim 3:16. The equipping of the saints is a manifold task. It is not just one thing. It is several ideas combined into one. 2 Timothy 3:16 summarizes this idea well. It states,
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness
Here would get a good picture of what this “equipping” means. In this verse, Paul gives us a statement regarding the profitability of Scripture. It is profitable for these ideas mentioned. To be equipped is to be taught, to be reproved, to be corrected, and to be trained.
First is teaching. To be equipped is to be taught. Teaching is central to the life of the church. We have something to say. We have doctrine that is to be believed. We can’t just believe whatever way we want. God has given us his Word and we are commanded to adhere to it.
To be equipped is also to be reproved. This idea refers to a rebuke. This notion of rebuke can really rub against our cultural notions of self-esteem. Millennials are awful at this. Try witnessing to a millennial in a big city. “You’re judging me.” The is a common response you will get. As a church, we must reject this type of emotional fragility. We must become
comfortable with God’s law. We must become comfortable being uncomfortable. We must see that our sin, our guilt before almighty God. We must see that we have nothing secure in this life except Jesus Christ.
To be equipped we must be torn down.
It doesn’t end there, though. To be equipped is also to be corrected—to have the right way pointed out. To be equipped is not just to be brought low but also to be restored. We must see that too often our lives are. We need to see not only our errors but the way how we can get past
these errors. God does not leave us to gravel in the dust. He raises us up and corrects us. To be equipped is to be corrected.
Lastly, to be corrected is to be “trained in righteousness.” This equipping refers to the saints understanding of how to live a life that glorifies Christ. When we come to faith, Jesus calls us to live a life of repentance and faith. To be equipped is to know how to do this, to know how to
glorify Christ in your daily life. To be equipped is to be trained in righteousness.
The Purpose of Edification is Ministry
So we’ve seen that Jesus gives certain giftings to the church so that the saints would be equipped. Jesus gives to CBC certain gifts so that you, Christian, might be built up in your faith. That’s the message so far.
One thing unique to Christianity is that the blessings that we receive never ultimately end with just us. Jesus doesn’t bless you so that you would horde your blessings. Jesus blesses you so that you might be a blessing. This is a central message of Christianity. Jesus wants you to use the blessings you’ve been given for the benefit of others. Jesus changes you to change others. We see that message throughout Scripture. And we also see that message in our passage.
Look at verse 12 again. Why are the saints “equipped?” Their "equipped” “for the work of the ministry.” Paul states here that the outcome of edification is an engagement in ministry. To make this contextual here to CBC, Jesus’ desired outcome for you come to church is for you to engage in the ministry. The purpose of edification is you pouring out your life so that others may be edified.
What this means for you is that Jesus doesn’t want you to come to CBC to be a passive observer. Jesus doesn’t want you to be a couch potato Christian. Jesus does not want you to come into church every week and then you go out into the world and make no difference. There are
numerous people in your life who need the gospel, who need to be rebuked, who need to be encouraged, who need to be taught, who need love and kindness. You are in a much better place to minister to these people than I am. I don’t know your friends, your family, your neighbors.
You do. You are the one who is called to minister to those people. You have this responsibility. Further, you have the privilege. You can make a massive difference in this world for Christ. You don’t have to be a pastor, an elder, a deacon, a missionary. You don’t have to be seminary
trained. You just must be willing and available. Jesus wants to use you—you for his glory in this church, this community, and this world.
The Result of Edification is Maturity
The result of edification is maturity. This is my last point this morning. The purpose of it is ministry. The result of it is maturity. When the leaders in the church are faithful to equip the saints, and the saints are faithful in ministry, the corporate body benefits. That’s the idea with this point.
We see that at the end of verse 12 and all through verse 13. At the end of verse 12, Paul states that the saints are equipped “for building up the body of Christ.” Turn with me to Eph 2:19. We’ll read through verse 22.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Paul uses this building motif to explain the church. The church is like a building. God is building this building. It is a place where Christ is the cornerstone, the apostles and prophets are the foundation. It is holy, and it is a place where God lives. Now in our passage, turn back to 4:12,
we learn that we have a role to play in this construction of the building. All believers have a role to play in building up the body.
In verse 13, Paul continues elaborating on the result of edification as maturity. There are three prepositional phrases in verse 13 that specify this notion of maturity. The first is “to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” The second is “to mature manhood.” The third is “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” All these express maturity in the body. And all of them are governed by the idea at the beginning of verse 13, “until we all attain.” And this idea at beginning is modified by the “building up the body of Christ” at the end of verse 12.
Let me put all this together for you.
All saints, who are equipped for the ministry, build up the body of Christ until we all attain unity and knowledge, mature manhood, and the fullness of Christ.
The saints are all in until these realities of verse 13 happen. Have these realities occurred yet? No, they haven’t. I don’t believe these realities occur until Jesus returns. If these realities haven’t occurred yet—if there isn’t unity, doctrinal purity, maturity, and the presence of Christ here—it
means that we must keep pressing on. There is the implicit command here towards perseverance. We strive, we engage in building up this body until unity these realities take place. We don’t stop until these realities take root in our church. We must persevere in ministry, in building up the body, until these realities take root.
There are many hindrances to perseverance in ministry. One of the greatest hindrances is personal hurt. The church can be a place where people act unkindly towards others. Maybe you’ve been hurt by people in this church. Maybe you’ve been mistreated. I’m sure that has
happened and will happen here. Hurts that happen in the church can be the most hurtful. I’m sensitive to that. I’m empathetic to that. Jesus cares about you. Truly, he does. He cares about your grievances. He also cares, though, how you respond to these grievances. These grievances
cannot become hindrances in your life to ministry. Grievances will come. People will hurt you. You must press on, though.
John MacArthur is one of my favorite preachers. My life has been drastically shaped by his ministry. Recently, he just celebrated his 50th year as pastor of Grace Community Church. What a wonderful ministry he’s had. In a recent interview, he was asked the question,
Much has been written about pastoral burnout, and at least some of it seems linked to wrong expectations and disappointment. How can young ministers overcome that challenge?
This was his response,
The idea that you’re going to leave the ministry out of disappointment is a failure to understand that the ministry was never about you; it was a service to which you were called.
What is true for the young minister overcoming disappointment is also true for you. We must move beyond past grievances. We must place the past behind us and seek to minister to others. Because maturation has not occurred, we must press on, leaving our grievances behind and
straining for more works of grace in this church.
Let’s return to the opening question I started this sermon with. It was, “What do I get out of church?” Stated differently, “What does CBC offer me as a Christian?” What we offer you edification. Edification is being equipped, being built up in Christ, being rebuked when you are
in sin, encouraged when you are downcast, taught when you don’t know the answers, loved when you need it. This equipping is a wonderful grace of God. This life is hard, and we need others to come alongside us to help us. That is what we offer.
The purpose of this is that you would in turn be changed and then pour your life out for others. That being edified, you would edify others. That you would evangelize, encourage, comfort, and warn. That as you are equipped, you will see your life change. And that as your life changes, you develop a deeper sense of a love for God and a love for others. And that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you will then use your life to pour it out for those here at CBC and those not. And that all of this will be done for the maturation of the body of Christ. And as we wait for him to
return, we labor, we all labor, for his work here in this world.
Pray with me