Sermons

Sermons

Equipping the Saints for Ministry

Series: You Are the Temple of God - 2024 Theme

Imagine you just became a christian. You have obeyed the gospel and joined a local group of christians. But the question is: Now what? It’s easy to be a christian for months or years and not know the answer. It’s very easy to think of salvation as being saved FROM something. But we need to also think of salvation as being saved FOR something.

Notice what Paul said in Ephesians 2:1-10: he talked about what we are saved FROM - we were dead in trespasses and sins, we followed the course of this world, we were enslaved to the prince of the power of the air - but God! Then, Paul says what we are saved FOR - God is showing his immeasurable grace and kindness by making us His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. The goal of the gospel is to take us and shape us to the praise of his glory (Chapter 1)! We have been rescued in order to become a holy temple to the Lord and a dwelling place (2:19-22).

Those good works are the rest of this letter from (4:17-6:20) - changing our behaviors and allegiances, helping us be active and important parts of the body of Christ, to be the like Christ in our lives as husbands and wives, children and parents, masters and bondservants, and to be soldiers for Christ. That’s the “now what” - but how is it accomplished? That’s our topic today.

Building up the Temple of God (What does this verse teach?)

In (Ephesians 4:1-16), Paul has discussed the gift of leaders. These various people, men and women, are gifts that Jesus has given to his church and their role is here in 11-16. Specifically, he mentions equipping the saints for the work of ministry and building up the body. Then, verse 16 records the ultimate goal “from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Verses 11 and 16 are connected and they address that temple imagery - it requires the action of every part, and the equipping of every part, for the growth of the body as a whole. There are a lot of books written on “how to grow a church,” but Paul told us how in 6 verses!

Notice carefully though, the work of ministry (or service) is for ALL SAINTS. This is saying that the work of service is not just for the “paid staff”or that the work is only public service. To be a christian is to be a minister. I especially like one story I heard of a man who visited a church. On the front of their bulletin they had some of the various names of leaders there. But in the following line it said: ‘Ministers: the entire congregation’. He recorded that “It was startling, but undeniably biblical.” Every member has been given a gift according to God’s grace (4:7). The goal is to use that gift. This is the ministry that we all provide as priests and the temple of God.

But, to do the service, they must be equipped. People do not become christians and immediately know what to do. Paul describes it in chapter 6 like a new person who has been enlisted in the army. That means this takes time and education. Just like equipping and training an army - there need to be a providing of supplies, as well as training in how to use the supplies. We don’t just send people out to war without weapons or adequate training! We must not send our christians into war that way.  People need to know what the goal is they are fighting for, the value of their individual contributions, along with practice and training (Hebrews 5:11-14).

That equipping is to be done by the leaders. The goal of the leadership is not to do all the work. Leaders are gifts from Christ that he gave to equip the saints to do all the work! Truthfully, it might seem easier for the leaders to do all the work, but that does not allow the cooperation and growth of the body. Just as children are stunted by not being given training and responsibility, so it is with a local church. This important, time consuming, and rewarding, yet challenging task is laid at the feet of leadership. By following the wisdom of the Lord, the church has more and more activity, the growth increases (4:16), and subsequent generations replace themselves.

How are Christians Equipped for Ministry?

There is a lot packed in this statement. How God wants this to be accomplished? If we understand the goal to be mature manhood - the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, that will include many different things. Some of it will include knowledge, unity, faith, wisdom in false doctrine, ability to speak the truth in love, - even Paul mentions it is grow up in EVERY way. That’s a lot!

Well, just as new recruits do not become soldiers overnight. New christians will not become mature overnight. It will be a process and scripture shows us that process. 2 Timothy 3:10-4:5  paints a clear picture of how a person becomes the mature man in Christ that God wants. We can illustrate it through Paul and Timothy.

You must be a Godly example - 2 Timothy 3:10-13

Paul says that Timothy has followed his life - teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastness - and especially persecutions. Paul had made a personal commitment to put on the full character of Christ and to imitate his example (1 Cor 11:1). Discipleship is where one takes others underneath themselves and charges them to grow and live differently. Jesus did that with Paul, now Paul was doing the same with Timothy - 2 Timothy 1:13.

Every christian is to grow and help equip others. Paul took Timothy with him as a very young man (Acts 16:1-3) - that would allow him to learn and see his life. During that process he is teaching and being an example for Timothy to imitate. Often times in discipleship more is caught than taught. There has to be daily interactions and experiences together. There has to be a shared life - that’s why disciples had to forsake their lives and follow their teachers. There was no other replacement for the time and commitment.

Every area of life needs to be shaped by Jesus. (Titus 2:1-8) shows how it is done by every age group for every part of life. There is enormous diversity in the life of a disciple. The work is both public and private, individual and collective. It centers on things like being betters spouses, caring for the poor, teaching our children, doing good works, being leaders, etc.

Who are you equipping? Is it your wife and kids? Is it someone younger in the church? Is it a new christian? Are you equipped to help a person grow? Do you have the character and ability needed to lead others? Will they be more like Jesus by being like you?

You must know the scriptures - 2 Timothy 3:14-17

The life of a disciple is more than a moral life, equipping includes teaching the word. Paul tells Timothy to go back to the basics. Timothy was to lean into the things he had already learned and known. He had a wonderful foundation provided for him by his mother and grandmother - 2 Timothy 1:5-7 but he needed to fan that flame into fire and grow in courage and faithfulness.

We might feel like we have known these things since we were children. Who has studied the old testament thinking they already knew it, but as they kept reading they saw more and more! The goal is to teach a sermon like Jesus taught to the two on the road to Emmaus. Is that something you could do?

How many of us believe the OT is the key to understanding salvation through faith in Christ? Did you see that in your OT study? If not, something is wrong. The OT is what makes us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Yet, the tragedy is many do not know the old testament. They want to focus on the “new” testament, not the “old” testament.

Further, the OT is overlooked or seen as a collection of stories. That is problematic because they do not know the point of the old testament or how to read it. Consider (Genesis 15:6): “Abraham believed God and he counted to him as righteousness.” It is quoted repeatedly, but can you explain it to an unbeliever or new Christian? Do we understand that God is looking for people who will take him at his word and that righteousness does not come from us?

But notice Paul’s point, all scripture is breathed out from God and it is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness, and has the ability to make a man of God complete and equipped for every good work - that’s the old testament!

Is that how we’ve read this book and used it? Does that include Zephaniah? Chronicles? Nahum? 2 Corinthians? Revelation? All of these and more are necessary to be complete and equipped for every good work. Where are the holes in your maturity knowledge? How does it word of God do this? God does this by using 66 books to give us a perfect picture of himself and Jesus. The more we know him, the more we can reflect him, this how we are transformed to maturity (2 Cor. 3:18). It’s easy in our Bible study on focus on the specific rules of discipleship instead of pursuing the very meaning of discipleship (Luke 6:40).

This is why there must be more than verse plucking from various places, or only focusing on the new testament. A disciple of Jesus knows that all scripture is valuable and if we are not comfortable with all of it then we are missing part of God and part of how we are made complete and equipped. To do this, we must be dedicated to reading and studying the word. It takes time and effort to learn this book. It is one day at a time, one class at a time. Like Psalm 1 says - day and night. But it also includes reading and studying correctly. Then that process is repeated with the ones we are discipling - wether that be our kids (Deuteronomy 6) or spouses, or anyone else. We must be in the word, talking about it, reasoning through it, and trying to understand it and share it. How much effort will we spend in this individually and collectively? Or are we satisfied with just have our regular “church times”?

You must be active in the work - 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Notice that the goal is not just to fill Timothy’s head with knowledge. It was to transform his behavior and for him to work and use the instruction. The truth is, we learn by doing. If you’re a teacher, you know that you learn far more than your class does. It is in the doing that we grow.  Imagine Timothy, he has seen how God’s word worked on himself to be corrected, rebuked, and trained. But now his job is to do the same thing with other people.

Notice, it was to be done with complete patience - people had been patient with him and it was time for him to be patient with others. It was time for him replicate the process with other people 2 Timothy 2:1-2. He was to have the right mindset, endure the suffering, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill the ministry - that’s how he and others would grow into Christ’s image.

This is what Paul does in all his letters and especially in 1 Corinthians. He steps through a problem, shows how it is inconsistent with the gospel, and how the gospel transforms and empowers them to live the way Jesus wants. That patient teaching and instruction is how people are transformed to be like Jesus.

This is really the goal of all teaching. When they are being taught are we listening with the goal of doing what is said? Using what is taught? Sharing that same message with others? Remember what (James 1:22-25) says? The blessing is not on those who hear alone, it is on those who do what it says. What we have done this morning is simply “hear.” We do not accomplish the “doing” until we walk out.

This is why we have classes that give people the opportunity to grow and to use the skills they are learning. The classes must be more than telling you what it says. It should be for equipping so that each person can learn to speak the truth in love and be able to use it.

Where do we start? Not with a group or a Bible class at church. But with one person – your children, your spouse, a neighbor (“let’s read through Mark together”). Deut. 6:7. This is a sacrificial work; we must be inconvenienced to equip, train, model, & share the gospel with another. (Heb 5:11)

When Berry was at El Cajon, 34 Bible studies were going on simultaneously with no direction from the elders or him, just members organically and regularly meeting together in as little as 2-4 people in order to equip each other and grow each other. The result was 100’s who became Christians without any help from Berry or the elders (except Berry doing some training or those who desired to help others).

Will you step up and be involved in this work? Who will be the leaders that step up and say “I can do that!” Are there women who could take 2 or 3 aside and study on on raising children, caring for a home, and being a good spouse?  Are there men who could take 2 or 3 aside and study on marriage and raising a family, or how to work for God’s glory? It doesn’t have to be formal, with an organized format. Just get together and talk out the experiences to help the inexperienced.

There is an enormous amount of diversity that needs to be taught and worked on: care for the poor, financial management, teaching the lost, providing meals for the sick, counseling the struggling, etc. What part of the grace of Christ have you been given that you can use as your gift to this local church for the benefit of us all and for the future generations of this church? Do what you can, take others under your wing and guide them.

Conclusion

This is what Paul wants for every Christian. Paul was preparing Timothy to be a solider in the army of Christ (2 Timothy 2:3-4). That same goal is for all of us - (Ephesians 6:11-20). At the heart of it is a person who understands the battle, has their armor on, is dedicated to prayer, and patiently fights their battle all their lives - they’re equipped. That is how Paul viewed himself (2 Timothy 4:6-8) and the promise still remains for us and anyone who will step into the live the example of Paul and others as revealed through the word.

This is what Paul is wanted for Ephesus and will bring about the maturity and growth he desired today.  Don’t you want to be involved in that growing process described in Ephesians 4:11-16?

But more than just the “how to” the gospel also gives us even more “why”. In Ephesians 1-2 we have a very specific reference to Jesus and his victory - a victory secured on the cross and a promise of future victory over all enemies - even the grave. People who experience the grace of the king will submit and offer themselves freely because their king is the one who offered himself for us to save and redeem us and willingly strive to be more like Jesus.

Now, we are those nations who come and bow down willingly and joyfully to Christ and we take our precious gifts and throw them at his feet. The gifts of our time, our energy, our wisdom, our service, and ultimately our lives. And God will reward us according to our works that we offer in his name - this is the service we are to offer and the works we were made for.