It might make you happy to know this might stretch out a while longer – the more I give opportunity for Jesus to teach me, the more I see and learn where before I only saw one thing – he opens my eyes to the murals all around me.
So this one’s about Church.
I don’t mean like that place you go once a week (but maybe you’ve been reading here long enough to know that already) but the living organism that is every person across the globe that lives in Christ Jesus the King. And maybe this will help me answer the yet-unanswered question of, “how do you live Church?”
The first three chapters of Ephesians follow salvation (particularly for the Gentiles whom this letter is addressed); dwelling in Christ and growing steadily toward a Christ-indwelling in each of us. Paul has taught us how to grow in Christ – but what about the Church? What does it look like to grow in Christ–with other people? Let’s pick up in Ephesians 4:
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ – Ephesians 4:1-12
I noticed something interesting when I read this part in the King James – the punctuation. The verses following verse eleven are written as a list. I’ll show you what I’m talking about:
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. – Ephesians 4:11-16
Okay, I know; so it’s a list. Big deal, right? Probably. But maybe not, because any other time I read this I got this vague picture of the giftings (apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers) being there in the body, but the real business is being done by Jesus. Well yes…but no! It’s written in a sort of cause-and-effect list-format, which means you can take each point back to the initial statement which is, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;”
Gave them for what?
First Point – 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Second Point – 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
Third Point – 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Fourth Point – 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
I’m all good up until verse 16, and then it messes with me a little. See, I always thought verse 16 was still talking about Jesus, but if this is really meant to be a direct list of affects the Giftings have on the body, then verse 16 is a whole new point and the whom is still the Giftings – us. Suddenly it’s not a vague picture of all the wonderful things Jesus does for us, but instead a flooding mural of all the wonderful things Jesus wants to do for us through others. And through us for others.
And I know what you might be thinking – it’s the same thing that runs through the back of my mind every now and then: newer, more ‘relevant’ and easier to understand translations don’t read the same way; it’s just an archaic form that wasn’t really meant to be that way.
Well damn you, Devil. Because you know what? It doesn’t matter if it reads differently in other translations; there are so many different ways to look at translations alone let alone translations of the Bible. What does matter is that where before there was a vague picture, now there’s a purpose.
A purpose for the church.
It’s a statement; Jesus is giving these gifts to you, and here’s how you can use them as a community, as a people. Suddenly it’s so much more than just about how corporate church government works to further the work of Jesus in the body; it’s about Jesus giving a gift to every person to use to reach out to every other person to bring the Body into perfect oneness, grown up into Christ. I don’t have words yet for how amazing this picture is, I’m just reveling in it and trying to throw out adjectives that match what I’m seeing; it’s a glorious Church.
So how do you live Church? Well, to be honest, I still can’t answer that. But I have a better picture of how Jesus would have it – living, breathing, growing in Him by the tugging of his Spirit on each heart for each other member. The most fitting thing I can point you to is what Paul pointed the Ephesians to next: actively allowing the New Man to be alive in you.
17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:17-24
Paul’s giving them some practical advice; ‘Don’t live like everybody else anymore,’ he says, ‘You know better now!’
I think the problem the corporate church today is having is ‘Well, how do we keep people on the straight and narrow?’ and maybe it’s a noble gesture but here’s something to think about: Paul taught the gifts, and then reminded the Ephesians to choose daily to act differently, to disregard that old sinful nature and put on the New Man and act in His character. The thing is, when you get your mind renewed, you remember Jesus’ desires in you; you remember His nature in you, and you are the new man. The place of us as the Church is to support this process in everyone around us, and corporate church gets this. But what they might miss is that Jesus orchestrates and performs it individually, and more importantly, that Jesus can be trusted to orchestrate and perform it in the hearts if everyone who lets him.
And then we take this New-Man-Nature to the Body:
25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil.28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:25-32
So the Church body is gifted to build us up and on an individual basis the more we choose to be rooted in Jesus and live in His nature, the more His gift comes alive in us and in turn we build the Body. It is a beautiful and intricate dance from individual to community to individual to community and each continues giving in to the wellness of the whole living Body. The place where it all might come down so easily is when we stop trusting the Spirit and His gifts in each other.
Jesus, lead us into all truth – together. Thank-you for the gifts you’ve given to each of us that you would flow in us and through us. Renew us, continue to grace us with kindness and tenderheartedness for each other that we would have hearts for each other and to bring the church together into perfection, a Glorious Bride. Teach us to know and trust your Spirit in the people around us who also seek to know you more.
So are you still with me? Let’s build a Church!