Lesson 31 – The Product of Spiritual Gifts
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, (12) for the work of the ministry, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, (13) till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (14) that we should no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, (15) but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into him who is the head; Christ; (16) from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by that which every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
One of the most misunderstood and misapplied topics in all of Christianity is that of “church growth.” In today’s world, ministries and churches are often described and even judged on the basis of growth. Repeatedly we hear about a church that is “the fastest growing church in the state, or the region,” or “the largest church in a certain city.” Pastors and evangelists are often described in terms of how quickly their ministry or their church is growing. In fact, it is common knowledge that once a church reaches a membership of 2,000 or so the church pastor and his staff often start offering seminars on how other churches can grow in the same way. Although I have never attended one of those seminars, information has a way of filtering down to those of us who didn’t go. They range from the long time gimmicks of promising that the pastor will ride a tricycle around the parking lot if next Sunday’s attendance is over a certain number, to more subtle things like having reserved parking for visitors within fifteen or twenty yards of the church entrance, or a “tram” or a golf cart to take visitors who have had to park outside the “reserved for visitors” area up to the entrance, or having a group of ten or fifteen church members stationed at every entrance to the church to enthusiastically greet visitors, or a reserved seating section for first time visitors close to the pulpit (especially if the pastor is famous.) It is not my place to criticize such activities. I want to believe that they are done by pastors and church members who want as many people as possible to hear the gospel and the teaching of the Word of God. And apparently these kinds of things are effective; they certainly can’t do any harm.
But I hear these kinds of things and I start to wonder, “Where does the Bible tell us to do all of this”? And all along, the Bible does tell us specifically how Biblical churches grow. First, there is a very interesting and often overlooked little statement in the last line of Acts 2:47, which says, describing the growth of the early church, And the Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved.”
Now I haven’t just pulled this topic our thin air for discussion today. I am bringing all this up because it is a part of the passage to which we now come in our study of the book of Ephesians.
We are in that section of Ephesians in which we find the principles of “spiritual gifts.” And particularly, today, “the product of spiritual gifts.” In this passage we find the only kind of church growth that the Bible speaks of. And that is the growth that occurs when people get saved and come into the body of Christ or when it is speaking of spiritual growth.
As a Christian grows and develops more and more into spiritual maturity he becomes instrumental in the growth and development of other Christians. The function of the gifted men who are mentioned in verse 12 is to grow and develop and lead the believers in the church so that they can then go out and do “the work of the ministry” as verse 12 refers to it, both within the church and in the lives of people outside the church. As is true of so many important truths, this one is so simple that it would revolutionize Christianity in America today if enough churches and pastors would it into practice.
A summary of this process is that God has given spiritually gifted men to the body of Christ so that they may mature the saints by means of teaching the Word of God, and He has given other spiritually gifted believers who may assist and enhance the process of maturing the believers in the church by means of their individual spiritual gifts.
True “church growth” comes from two sources. First, the work of the pastor-teacher functioning as the teacher of spiritual truth, and second the functioning of every believer in exercising the spiritual gifts that God has given to them. The result of this process will be threefold. First, there will be unity among the believers. Look at verse 13:
(13) Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . .”
This unity of which Paul speaks of here is a part of the process of maturity developed by means of the exercise of the spiritual gifts in the group. Our human minds can hardly grasp the power and strength of a church that has unity within itself; agreement in the meaning and ways to implement all of the truths of scripture. With that kind of unity such humanly oriented subjects as size would hardly be thought of. Everything would be oriented toward serving the members of the church with individual gifts and reaching out to the lost outside the church.
A second result of this kind of unity will be spiritual maturity and stability. Look at verse 14:
(14) That we should no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting . . . .”
The main emphasis of this section of the book of Ephesians is the spiritual growth that God wants to produce in the hearts and lives of his people. Look at verse 16: Here is our subject of church growth once again:
(16) from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by that which every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causing growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
What this verse teaches us is that unity within a church comes as a result of the teaching of the Word of God by the Pastor-teacher who is allowed to exercise his spiritual gift s as described in verse 12. And the conforming of the church to the character and holiness of Jesus Christ comes as a result of that same process.
Dr. S. Lewis Johnson said it this way: “You show me a church where there is beautiful, spiritual biblical unity, and I think I will be able to show you a church where the process of verse 12 is practiced. You show me a church where there is maturity, and I will show you a church where this process is at work.”
At the same, however, when a gifted man is not functioning according to the purpose of this passage, he is actually contributing to the disunity, the immaturity, and non-conformity of the church of Jesus Christ.
That makes it a solemn responsibility of on the part of every pastor-teacher to be actively engaged in the careful teaching of the Word of God and the development of the spiritual gifts in his church. Otherwise he has contributed to that disunity, immaturity, and non-conformity.
The same thing is true on the part of the congregation. Every Christian who has received a spiritual gift (and the Bible says that every Christian has received at least one gift) but who is not recognizing and developing and exercising that gift is also contributing to disunity within the church. Your growth toward spiritual maturity depends not only upon your sitting under the teaching of the Word, it also depends upon your putting into practice that teaching as you exercise your spiritual gift as the teaching touches on the ministry that God gives through that exercise of your gift.
Just in case there is any question about this, Paul makes it completely clear in verses 14 through 16 that this does apply to the individual Christian. We have already noticed in verse 12, now, the process whereby the gifts are developed; the giving of the spiritual gifts. And in verse 13 the first product that comes as a result of the development of those gifts is unity within the church. But in verses 14 and 16 we have the direct purpose for the development of spiritual gifts. That purpose is stated negatively in verse 14, and it is stated positively in verses 15 and 16. Negatively, spiritual gifts have been given, “so that we should no longer be children.” Look at those verses.
That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.
This verse tells us that the second “product” of the proper exercise of spiritual gifts is maturity in the lives of believers. Notice the description of immaturity: tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine . . .” probably in the background of Paul’s mind is the recent trip across the Mediterranean Sea. All of the problems of that trip are reported in detail in Acts chapter 28, and they are worth reading about. Paul and his companions came very close to losing their lives more than once.
So he pictures the Christian as a boat moving toward a destination, but enroute facing a very hazardous situation. And that situation is the “storm” of false teachers described in detail in verses 15 and 16. That is how Paul sees the immature Christian. But he also says that the careful teaching of the Word of God and putting the principles taught as the solution to that immaturity.
So then, the whole purpose of this process is so that not only will there be unity between believers, but so that you will not be immature; so that you will not fall prey to the false teachers. So that you will not be moved and gullible and open to these false teachers.
That is why it is so imperative for every individual Christian to function as he ought to, so that we will not be immature. But rather than that immaturity, in verse 15,
“Speaking the truth in love may grow up in all things unto him, who is the head, even Christ.
This is an interesting way to describe spiritual maturity, but that of the goal of God’s giving of spiritual gifts to His church.