Ephesians 4:11-16: Growing the Church with the Word: Part 1
I have gone through three paradigm shifts with regards to the gifts of the spirit in my Christian walk. Due to being attracted to the activism and life of the Charismatic church in my earlier years I joined the Charismatic Church at the height of the Toronto blessing. The church I joined was a melting pot of various Pentecostal and Charismatic views, there was no monolithic view held by all. In this first stage, this was the naïve stage of a flat approach where I simply expected everything I saw in the book of Acts to be active today because Jesus promised that those who believe in Him will do greater miracles than He did. I endorsed the Word of Faith ideas; I embraced the New Apostolic Reformation with its emphasis on the need to reinstitute apostles and prophets to see the church grow like it did in the book of acts; there were other ideas floating around where because every Christian could speak in tongues well couldn’t every Christian then also heal the sick, cast out demons, prophesy, get words of knowledge and wisdom, etc.? Then I left the Charismatic Church and joined a Baptist church. I still believed that God was powerful and could do all sorts of miracles so I became a sedate continuationist who believed that all the gifts continued, but we would talk about apostle with a small ‘a’, and prophet with a small ‘p’, allow for tongues but not for all, I would earnestly desire the greater gifts, thinking this more mature than my earlier ignorant zeal. But all this while I was growing more and more Reformed; and then entered into the third stage where I am at now which is called cessationism. Suddenly, various offices like apostle and prophet became very important and held unique positions in the church and redemptive history. Because of the nature of revelation certain gifts could not continue without challenging the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. Activities that are recorded in the book of Acts were suddenly understood to be unique and not normative, recording a turning point in redemptive history and not necessarily casting a mould.
Each of these three views has a different view of how the gifts continue but also a different view on how these gifts function in and grow the church. Ephesians 4 has been talking about our unity which we must maintain, but also the diversity of the gifts that we have been given. Eph. 4:11-16 is critical in terms of spelling out how the gifts grow the church, and that is what we are looking at today.
Here is the big idea of the text that is before us, the Holy Spirit brings about growth in the church through the ministry of the word, it is the ministry of word and Spirit working through the various offices of the church which grow the church and enable them to serve one another with their gifts and grow collectively. So looking at this section under three headings we will look at v11 for the offices of word ministry that the Spirit ministers through. Then in v12-14 we will look at the purposes of the word ministry, the thing they are given to effect. And then in v15-16 where Paul sort of restates what he has said we will see the goal, the goal of all the word ministry is to help the church mature that it might use its gifts that it might mature more and more. The overall picture we want to get is the vital balance between organisation and organism, officers and laity, formal gifts and informal gifts, any view which sacrifices either side of this equation will fall short of the biblical picture of church growth presented in this section.