Ephesians 4:12 really lays out the process of the maturing church for us. (to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up) If you were to read it as in the Greek it would say: “toward the equipping of God’s people unto a work of service unto building up the body of Christ.”
God’s people are to be equipped to be able to do works of service or ministry resulting in the building up of the body of Christ.
The process is twofold:
- God’s people are to be equipped.
- God’s people are to perform works of ministry (service) .
All of God’s people are to be involved in the work of the church. The key phrase here is “built up”. The theme of “built up” is one that is very popular with Paul in his writings. Paul uses the word for “built up” 15 times. But what is it to build something or someone up?
The word here translated as “built” or “built up” would be better understood as “edified”
The Oxford dictionary would describe edification as: “The instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually.”
As I said earlier God’s people are to be equipped to be able to do works of service or ministry that result in the building up of the body of Christ. The focus here in this passage is primarily on internal strengthening of the church while also reaching out to unbelievers.
Well what does that mean exactly?
Each and every person, each member of the Church, is a gifted gift. But the gifts that people have are not ones that you give away but gifts that you share. They are gifts of talents and gifts of experience and gifts of knowledge. These are some of the things that we all use to strengthen each other.
But how do we use these gifts in Paul’s primary sense of internal strengthening?
There are two primary ways that we can use our gifts for the building up of the body.
We can use them to strengthen ourselves.
We can use them to strengthen others.
Now that may sound like they are mutually exclusive activities, but they are not. They actually both drive each other. You see, when we strengthen others we are strengthened as well.
So what sort of acts of ministry and service can we use to strengthen ourselves and others? Of course for personal edification we would expect a strong prayer life as well as the study of Scripture and application in our daily lives. One of the main ideas in the process of sanctification is just that, the application of scriptural principles in our daily lives, becoming more and more like Christ in everything that we do.
Then of course we bring all of those things and our life experience to bear when we engage with others in the Church. Perhaps you get involved in a teaching ministry in the church where you can help others to grow in their knowledge of Scripture. One of the greatest things that you can do is get involved in a growth group or bible study where you consistently meet with the same group of people. Each person bringing their own personal knowledge and experience to the group and investing in the lives of others. But maybe you are not comfortable in a group setting, perhaps you might be more interested in a one on one relationship with someone. That too is an awesome and necessary ministry inside the church. A book that I have been reading lately states that every Christian should be able to answer two questions instantly.
Who is directly investing in me and in whom am I directly investing. It is this investment in one another through study, growth groups, preaching, mentorship, acts of service, and many other things that produce a mature church.
In order for the church to mature we must use our God given gifts to strengthen and mature each other. We must take the time to help each other, not hoarding our gifts, but using them in service and ministry both inside the church an out!!
Grace & Peace,