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Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Commitment to Serve

In recent posts we began to look at several commitments related to the call to “walk in a manner worthy.”  We are called to a commitment to love one another (Eph4:1-6).  We are called to a commitment to be equipped (Eph 4:7-8, 11-12).  Now, we’ll turn to look at the last of these commitments – the commitment to serve, which is found in Eph 4:11-16:
 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,
 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
 16 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.
God gave those with teaching gifts to the church to equip the saints for the work of ministry.  Some of us are prone to view the teaching of the church as primarily useful for gaining knowledge.  Certainly, it is important to have sound theology.  Sound theology prevents us from being led astray.  It prepares us to speak the truth in love.  It equips us to serve.  It’s a tool that helps us grow so that we can help others grow.
But what if my sound theology is just knowledge for knowledge’s sake?  Paul writes in 1 Cor 13:2, If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.   This means that if I have knowledge alone, I am of no benefit to the body.
In 1 Cor 8:1, we read that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  What does that mean?  Knowledge that is alone, that is, knowledge that is devoid of committed love, is only good for developing one thing: pride.  And what does pride do?  It takes all of our preferences and differences and makes them the most important thing.  It is the catalyst for division.  Knowledge that is alone is dangerous to the body. 
But knowledge that is informed by love builds up.  Love is what puts our knowledge and equipping to use for the body.  Love understands that God gave equippers as gifts to the church for the purpose of service not for the purpose of knowledge.  And that is why it is essential for us as we are gaining knowledge and being equipped to make sure we are putting it to use in the loving service of the body.  When all our time is focused on gaining knowledge and we don’t have time or don’t make time for service, for relationships, we become a danger to the body, not a benefit to the body. 
There’s an important phrase in Eph 4:16 – “when each part is working properly.”  The body builds itself up in love when each part is working properly.  When everyone is equipped and serving, the body does what God has designed it to do.  But what happens when each part isn’t working properly?  Simple.  The body doesn’t build itself up in love.  It’s all the body can do to just hobble along.  The parts that aren’t working properly place an extra burden and strain on those that are and it leads to a seriously unhealthy situation. If the church is going to be the church, walking in a manner worthy of the call, each member of the body must be working properly, must be serving the rest of the body. 
God has place heavy responsibilities on the members of the body of Christ.  Those responsibilities are played out on the level of the local church.  And while it is not easy to walk in a manner worthy of the call, the Spirit in all of us gives us the power to meet the commitments to which we have been called.  The Spirit enables us to work diligently for unity, to forgive, to be patient, to consider others more important than ourselves, to sacrifice our own preferences, to respect other people’s convictions, to dedicate ourselves to being equipped for service, and to pursue the work of ministry in and among the body.  When we do that in the power of the Holy Spirit, God is glorified in the church.
Posted by Greg Birdwell

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