Ephesians 4:11 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.
In verses 12-16 God directed Paul to write about the purpose of those that He has placed in leadership in the local churches. No true Christian will be satisfied not being in a true local church. There are many places that call themselves churches, but there are few true local churches. A true church takes the Word of God as its authority. There are many that claim to have God’s Word as their authority, but the evidence does not support what they say. A true church also has a godly pastor to teach the word of God. A godly pastor submits to God’s Word in his own life and is not ashamed to teach that Word faithfully and boldly.
In verse 12 we see that the saints need to be perfected. God directed Peter to write:
I Peter 2:1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
A true Christian cannot harbour sin in his or her life. Every true Christian will sin, however, the Bible is clear that the true Christian cannot live in habitual sin. Peter was an apostle and he was directed by God to remind those who are saved, to lay aside sin in verse 1.
The Greek word translated as “malice” has to do with “depravity and not being ashamed to break the law”. True Christians cannot be law breakers. The law here refers to laws that are built upon God’s laws. Today we are living in a time when our governments are trying to establish laws that are bad. That was also true in Peter’s day. Peter and John show us in Acts 4 and 5 that God’s law is superior to man’s laws. The apostle Paul spent time in prison because he would not submit to ungodly laws. Many of the apostles were killed by the Roman government because they would not submit to ungodly laws. Other true Christians were also killed for not submitting to ungodly laws.
The Greek word translated as “guile” has to do with “trickery or deceit”. Sometimes there are those who claim to be Christians who will talk about doing magic for the children. There is no such a thing as clean magic. Magic has its origins with the devil and those who try to use trickery to make a spiritual lesson are deceived and deceiving the listeners. Notice again that God used the word “all” to connect to guile. The true Christian cannot use deception to try to gain people’s attention.
The word translated as “hypocrisies” means “to act” or “to deceive”. Hollywood is full of hypocrites. Anyone that is acting like someone they are not is actually a hypocrite. We have heard of the actor in the U.S. who thought he had an unloaded gun and fired it and killed another person on the set. They were acting out some scene and that went really bad. However, that whole idea of acting like someone you are not is a waste of time. More importantly it is sin to act like you are very sincere and concerned about others when you are just using that as a front to try to get something from them. Christians need to be genuine.
Envying is also sin. God has a task for everyone of His children and no one’s task is of greater value than another person’s. Christians are serving the Lord and they need to do that to the best of their ability.
Evil speaking has to do with gossip. It is quite common for some people to gossip. Again, true Christians cannot be involved in this. Christians may mention a prayer request, but that needs to be for the purpose of wanting to help some other person, not just to spread some juicy story under the pretence of a prayer request.
In I Peter 2:2 God compares the desire of a true child of God to that of a new-born babe. We need to desire the sincere milk of the Word that we may grow thereby. We need to be growing, and need to see the importance of being fed properly in order to grow.
That is where the leaders that God has chosen come in. Christian growth does not take place in a vacuum. There is work involved in growing in the Lord. No one can be a self-taught man. Personal Bible study is important. However, we need to be sure we are understanding God’s Word properly. Many false teachers have developed their false ideas because they were too proud to submit to godly instruction and believed they could become godly on their own. The Bible shows us there were false prophets in the Old Testament and there were false teachers in the New Testament. The true prophets and apostles taught the truth. Jesus Christ was the chief example of this. They all exposed the false teaching, but God allowed many false teachers to live for a long time. It is a dangerous thing when a person shuts himself off from God and assumes he is right when he is clearly going against God’s Word. Godly leaders need to be trained by other godly men and then they need to be given to further study with a humble heart so they can help others to grow and know the truth.
Deception is very common.
In the Old Testament we read of schools of prophets. We read of Elijah taking Elisha with him and training him for the ministry. In the New Testament we see that Jesus chose twelve men and He spent over three years in intense training with them. We see that Jesus spent three years training the apostle Paul in the desert of Arabia. Paul spent time training Timothy for the ministry. Silas travelled with Paul as well and was being trained as they went. We find those who were being trained were trained in every aspect of the ministry. They followed their teacher everywhere he went. There are cults that still follow that pattern today. The Holy Spirit will never lead a person into a cult. It is when a person rejects the truth that they get into false teaching. Pride is a very powerful sin that every person needs to be aware of and it needs to be slain. Only God can take away that pride and He does that through the new birth and then through the faithful and consistent training under God’s authority.
We have such an over abundance of religious groups because too many men are self-taught or they are taught by others who are self-taught. It is necessary to be a true servant of God in order to be able to help others to know how to serve the Lord. The work of the ministry is a great work. Nothing else can be compared to it.
Nehemiah 6:3 And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?
Nehemiah did not have time to be distracted by trouble makers. His work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was a great work and he was going to concentrate on that. The work of the ministry is endless. There is no retirement in the Lord’s work. There is such a great need for men who would get involved in the work of the ministry. There are so many communities in our country alone that do not have a faithful Gospel witness. There is a great need for bi-vocational men who would be willing to work with their hands but also work in the Word of God to help others to know the truth.
The edifying of the body of Christ has to do with building up the saints. This building up is in the context of the local church. The Bible does not teach a universal church concept. In heaven all the saints will be together. On earth true saints will believe the same thing if we submit to the Word of God. In Ephesians 4:4-6 we saw that there is no division in the Godhead. The Holy Spirit is the One that will build unity if the saints will submit to God’s Word. The saints cannot be built up if they are drifting from place to place. The pastor needs to get to know the people to know how to help them and the people need to get to know the pastor to have the trust and confidence they need to have.
Hebrews 10:25 exhorts the saints to meet together. The New Testament teaches the importance of the local church and the blessing of being a part of a true church. We noted already that in Bible times, God’s appointed leaders poured their lives into the lives of those that God chose to succeed or to help them. It was a full time service that was much more than just a job. As Nehemiah stated, it was a great work because it was a work for God and of God.