Last time we began to look at the first of three commitments related to the call to “walk in a manner worthy.” We are called to a commitment to love one another (Eph4:1-6). The second commitment is a commitment to be equipped and we find this call in Eph 4:7-8, 11-12:
7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." …11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…
Here Paul teaches that Christ has given all believers spiritual gifts with which to serve the body. Some of these gifts are mentioned in v11 – apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherd/teachers. (There does not seem to be any one exhaustive list of gifts in the NT, but other partial lists can be found in Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12:7-10, 1Cor 12:28, and 1 Pet 4:10-11.) Each of the gifts in v11 could be considered teaching gifts. While the content of the teaching is not explicitly given here, we can find it in other passages. For example, Paul gave Timothy very clear instructions regarding what to teach the church:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Tim 3:16-4:2)
The Word of God is the content of instruction for the church. It is Scripture that equips us “for every good work.” So God has tasked those with teaching gifts to use the Word to equip the church for the work of ministry.
So, Eph 4:7-12 teaches that everyone has been gifted for service in the church AND that everyone needs biblical teaching in order to effectively use those gifts. In other words, a primary reason for the teaching of the Word is to equip us to serve others. It is others-focused, rather than self-focused.
Many of us love to be taught. We love the Word and we love to hear it preached. But do we recognize the ultimate purpose for biblical teaching? It is not merely so that we will gain knowledge – knowledge for the sake of knowledge is a dangerous thing (1 Cor 8:1). Teaching is also not only that we would grow spiritually individually. Rather, it is intended to prepare us to serve one another for the growth of the corporate body.
Do you regard biblical teaching this way? I can speak for myself that most of the time I do not think that way. Typically, when I sit under biblical teaching, my mindset is to glean something for the benefit of my own sanctification. Certainly, it is a good thing to want to grow spiritually, but this passage would encourage me to take that thinking one step further – “What can I glean from this teaching that will help me to grow spiritually so that I can more effectively serve the body of Christ?”
Through the work of Christ, God created the church to be a self-edifying body, where each individual part serves to contribute to the growth and wellbeing of the whole. This is the reality that Paul refers to as “the calling with which you have been called” (Eph 4:1). To walk in a manner worthy of this call requires me to be committed to being equipped to serve the body of Christ. May the Lord grant us to consider this every time we sit under biblical teaching. What is God trying to teach us that we might be a blessing to one another?
Posted by Greg Birdwell