Doing Church, Part 2 – Ephesians 4:13
In the last post we considered what the primary task of “doing church” is: the teaching of God’s word to God’s people.
Today we consider verse 13 and one of the goals of “doing church.”
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of 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 a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,
16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Doing Church Is All About Accomplishing Certain Goals
The apostle Paul tells us at the beginning of verse 13 that there are goals involved in saints being equipped for the ministry of edification. He begins by saying that the preparation of believers for building up one another, which is supposed to be what the teaching of God’s word is all about (vv. 11-12), is all about accomplishing certain goals. He writes, “until we all attain…” The sense of this word “attain” is “to reach a condition or goal.” In other words, the teaching of God’s word to God’s people always has this state of being in mind.
It’s not teaching for the sake of teaching. It’s teaching that seeks to equip those who hear the teaching to arrive at a certain state of life as believers.
These are the biblical goals for every church in its local expressions that in turn will be evidenced in its worldwide state.
The Goal of Doing Church Is Unity in Doctrine
The first goal of teaching God’s word for equipping saints to do ministry work is arriving at unity in doctrine. Paul writes, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith.”
We normally, and rightly, think about “faith” as the response of human beings to the promises of God. In other words, faith is taking God at His word, the act of believing what He says.
But here Paul is not speaking of human response to God. Instead he is referring to what is believed. The faith in the New Testament consistently refers to the doctrine or teaching of the Bible. In other words, the Bible’s teaching about who Jesus is and what Jesus has done is one part of the faith. Another way to say it is sound doctrine.
When we consider what Paul says about how unity in sound doctrine is arrived at, we need to look back to verses 11 and 12. In verse 11 our exalted Savior gives gifts to His church in the form of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. Their main function is revealing (in the case of apostles and prophets [see Eph 2:20; 3:3-10]) and teaching (evangelists and pastor-teachers) God’s word. They are to fulfill their function for as long as they are given to the church by Christ (In the case of apostles and prophets, Jesus, in His wisdom, is not giving these gifts anymore as the foundation of God’s temple has already been laid [see Eph 2:20-22], meaning God is not giving any new revelation today that needs to be added to the Bible [compare Eph 3:3-10]. If God has anything new to reveal to the church or to Israel, He will give these gifts again [but see Rev 22:10, 18-19].)
For evangelists (which, by the way, is not as straight-forward a term as one might expect; it seems to mean something like what we call a “church planter” more than simply one who shares the gospel well) and especially pastor-teachers, fulfilling their function in the church means constantly and consistently teaching and apply God’s word, both corporately to the gathered church and to the unique circumstances of individual believers.
Verse 12 tells us that this ministry of the word by Christ’s gifts to the church are purposeful: constantly and consistently teach so that believers will be prepared for mutual edification. This is why unity in the faith, sound doctrine, is so important: because if doctrine is left to each one’s own opinion, then we will not edify one another in the way that Ephesians 4 says we will.
So, how is unity in the faith arrived at? Through the constant and consistent teaching of God’s word by Christ’s servants who are His gifts to His church. If you’ve ever wondered why there is always teaching going on in the life of our church, it’s for this reason: teaching God’s word, in a variety of situations and circumstances, is God’s pathway for the edification and growth of God’s church.
In the next post, we consider more about the importance of faithful teaching in the life of the church.