The Responsibility of the Church: Edification
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12).
Last week, we took the time to consider the first responsibility of the body of Christ, and that was praise and worship. Throughout the Bible, we find the importance of anointed praise and worship. A thriving, Spirit-filled New Testament church is a church that has a heartbeat for anointed praise and worship. The leaders and members of such a church allow the control of the Spirit in their worship services to move and to operate as He desires.
Psalm 22:3 says, “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” The Bible teaches us that as we praise the Lord, He inhabits the praises of His people. That means that He literally sits down and dwells in our praises. That is such an amazing, awe-inspiring truth! When I begin to open my mouth and offer to Him a sacrifice of praise, God Himself comes down and dwells in that praise. That is why the Spirit of God begins to move so wonderfully in anointed praise and worship music. Doesn’t this want to make you praise Him right now?
Now consider the next aspect of the New Testament church: the edification of the body of Christ. In the design of God, He has chosen to work through people in this day and hour by His Holy Spirit. He has selected certain men and certain women and gifted them accordingly in order that they might be used by Him to prepare the remainder of the body of Christ to “do the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:12).
Edification is the Greek word oikodome, which literally means “to the process of building a house.” Oikodome can also mean “a building,” but, through time, the term came to refer specifically to the construction process a building. Time and again, there are biblical references about us the being the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are a building that is in the process of being designed specifically by God. As long as we are in this life, we are in a process of sanctification. The moment a believer comes to Christ, he is immediately justified and sanctified by the Lord. Although the believer is instantly sanctified, he enters into an ongoing and ever-changing sanctification process. So the believer experiences instantaneous sanctification and enters into progressive sanctification. (1st Cor. 6:11) And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. The term “sanctified” in an Aorist Indicative, which means that is a fact that happened in the past. It is also in the passive voice which means it was not an action complete by the subject, but rather the action was done to the subject by an outside force, i.e. the Holy Spirit. Yet it is also progressive,_ “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”_(1st Thess 5:23) In the design of God, He has placed certain men and women in positions and gifted them with the ability to teach and preach in order to assist the body of Christ in this process.
As we look into the edification of the body of Christ, we have to ask ourselves two questions: how is the church set up to edify the body of Christ and to equip saints to do the work of the ministry, and is doctrine important?
The Government of the Church
To answer the first question, we need to look no further than Ephesians 4:11-12. God has apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to meet the needs of the body of Christ. Just yesterday, I was talking with a preacher friend of mine, and he was telling me about a sermon he is preparing to preach at his home church. He expressed how the Lord placed it on his heart to simply do a brief summary of the entire book of Romans and move progressively from chapter to chapter. He told me that this was going to be more of a teaching message than a preaching message. One of the most fascinating and life-changing truths that I learned at Jimmy Swaggart Bible College was that over one-third of Christ’s ministry was devoted to teaching. The Greek word for teaching is_ didasko_, and it means “to teach, to instruct by word of mouth.” The goal behind teaching is to shape the will and the understanding through communicating knowledge. The will of man is the way a man thinks which affects how he thinks and believes. The understanding of man is the ability to piece together information and come to a correct conclusion. Teaching is designed to shape the way that a man thinks so that he might be able to think correctly about a subject. The importance of teaching is illustrated perfectly in our definition of teaching: a teacher molds the minds of his disciples, and he will have a profound effect on the lives of his disciples.
This is why James warned, “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1). The literal translation of this text is, “brethren be not many teachers,” because we will be judged on a greater level. There are far too many preachers and teachers in the church today whom God has not called or anointed to do what they are doing. These men are not called and do not understand how to instruct on doctrine properly because they are not equipped by God to do so.
In Ephesians 4:11, the God-called apostle is the first listed by the Lord because apostles are the leaders of the church. The apostle is like an ambassador for the kingdom of heaven living in a foreign land and representing the one who sent him. An apostle is a leader in the church, called and strongly anointed by God, and has a platform that can impact the entire body of Christ.
The prophet is one who can prophesy of things to come, but the majority of his message is to boldly declare righteousness.
Then we have the evangelist, who is simply a preacher of good news and tasked with the responsibility of letting everyone know what Christ has done by coming to the world and dying on the Cross for their sins.
The pastor, or shepherd, spends a lot of time with the sheep, instructing, encouraging, directing, and helping them. Regrettably, we don’t see very many God-called, Spirit-led pastors in the body of Christ today. But they are vital to the kingdom of God because they understand the way that sheep think, and the sheep trust them. I pray that God will give us pastors whose hearts are truly for the body of Christ.
Lastly, we have teachers who work within local churches and in Bible colleges and seminaries.
This is the government that God set up to help instruct the body of Christ and equip and prepare them for the work of the ministry, which is evangelism. Next week, we will discuss the importance of doctrine and the importance of evangelism in the New Testament church.
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