He Gave Some As;
The Idol of Education
Over the years I have come to realize that most churches are completely ineffective at ministering the gospel of Christ. My father was as pastor and his father was a pastor before him. I have been in small churches and large churches but one common theme is that the pastors are highly educated but the people are ineffective at the ministry. One of the most disheartening things that I have learned over the years is that many believers worship “The Idol of Education”!
The Worship of The Almighty Education
Over the centuries, actually millennium, those who were formally educated have ruled over those who were not formally educated . A classic example of this is the patricians and the plebeians of the Roman Empire. Panem et circenses (Latin for bread and games), were believed to be the way to keep the uneducated plebs, as they became known, happy. Ultimately the Empire could not stand because they could not afford to pay the army and started using salt for pay (i.e. salaries) as well as the fact that they could no longer afford the bread and games to keep the plebs satisfied. In the end the worlds greatest Empire imploded.
This mentality continued in the Roman Catholic Church where the God’s Word was literally chained to the pulpit in the church and messages were given in Latin which few really understood. The people were kept in the dark and controlled with astoundingly effective means, all of which were totally and completely contrary to God’s Word. Reformation brought some degree of the priesthood of the believer into the forefront but that eventually faded into the sunset of education as well.
The worship of education has become a fine art here in the United States and has been instilled into the psyche of believers for many decades. We have been conditioned to believe that if someone graduates from seminary they are automatically qualified to “Pastor” a church. This mentality has caused most to believe that because they have not been to seminary that they are not qualified to minister. Ephesians 4:11-12 clearly tells believers differently.
Because of this mentality, and the arrogance of many of the institutions and of those who have a litany of acronyms behind their names, the sanctity and priesthood of the believer has been relegated to that of a pew warmer on Sunday. The glorious, magnificent, church of the living God has been reduced to that of 3 songs, the offering, perhaps a special, a message, an invitation and a benediction on Sunday morning. Those who are really spiritual come to warm the chairs of Sunday school on Sunday morning and the pews again on Sunday night. Those who are the best of saints come to warm the pews on Wednesday night as well. No life-changing teaching or accountability that will grow the believers is found in most churches, only warm pews!
No wonder we are no longer the salt of the earth. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” It is not any wonder that the church of God has had so little effect on the world around it. Rather than being conditioned to be equipped for service believers have settled for warming pews. Jesus rightly predicted that when the salt becomes tasteless it will be cast out and trodden under foot by men. In today’s world that is true and those men are, for the most part, ungodly, evil men!
Even more importantly, believers have become convinced that the pastor is supposed to do all of the ministry. On the one hand, pastors are conditioned by their education to believe that they are the only ones qualified to perform the ministry. One the other hand, no one man can perform all of the work of the ministry within a church. That being the case, it makes sense that believers would eventually buy into that mentality and assume the role of pew warmer. Further, it makes sense as to why so many pastors suffer burnout and many eventually leave the ministry altogether.
The Institutions of Man a Shepherd Does Not Make
Let me address the education thing from a Biblical perspective. It says in 1 Corinthians 8:1 “…Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” We do well to consider education a good supplement to the gifts of the Spirit. Preparation to minister in the name of Jesus is a high calling and studying God’s Word is a key ingredient. But too many times degrees of education are exalted over the Power of God’s Holy Spirit to the point where men begin to walk in their own strength based on their own knowledge, assuming that by virtue of their education they are more qualified than the laity.
While God’s Word does tell us that we need to study God’s Word, it must be done with the goal of becoming closer to God not simply acquiring more knowledge. Paul instructed Timothy in II Timothy 2:15 “ Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” The KJV reads “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Study of God’s Word is absolutely necessary for those whom God has called and gifted to lead believers. The goal, however, is more related to relationship than showmanship!
Highly Educated? Rubbish!
I have heard so many times that the apostle Paul was a highly educated man. He was, but he was also persecuting the church and Jesus blinded him and spoke to Paul directly. Paul later sums up his view of the education that caused him to persecute the church. Philippians 3:3-7 “…we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, 4although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. 7But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ”. The word Paul used for rubbish is skubalon which means “that which is thrown to the dogs”, ordure (dung). His goal was to gain Christ at any cost and everything else was useless. So, you show me a highly educated man whom God has blinded by the light and I’ll show you a man who places the value of his education well below the value of God’s power through His Holy Spirit.
Here is one of my favorite axioms; “Institutions don’t gift apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers. God’s Holy Spirit does!”
Will The Real Gifts Please Stand Up?
Why is this the case? Well, let’s begin with what God’s Word says about the gifts of the Spirit to the church, what these gifts are for and what the desired results must be. Ephesians 4:11-16 “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13until 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. 14As 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; 15but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16from 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.”
The Gifts of The Spirit; A Pattern For Growth!
The Gifts to the Church!
There is a clear pattern laid out in Ephesians 4:11-16 which begins by telling us that the gifts of the Spirit to the church are; apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Note that it does not say that He, the Spirit, gave one as apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. While one man may have more than one gift of the Spirit, almost assuredly he will not have all of the gifts of the Spirit. There are five primary gifts given to the Church for the purposes described later in verses 12 and 13. Let’s look at those gifts in more detail (Fulfilling-the-Great-Commission):
- Apostles: While I do not believe that there are apostles in the likeness of the 12 Disciples or Paul I believe that the word used here does not imply that kind of apostleship but something that is practical for the Church in today’s day and age. The word apostolos (αποστολους) a delegate; specially, an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ. Who, as a believer does not qualify as an ambassador for the Gospel. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says “…we are ambassadors for Christ…” so, in fact, the term apostles here is fitting in this day and age.
- Prophets: This is another of those words that is viewed with a jaded eye in many fundamental Christian circles. However, the word does not necessarily mean telling the future as the Old Testament “Seers” but a practical application of God’s Word in a clear way. The word prophetes (προφητας) is an inspired speaker, one who can exegete God’s Word under the power of the Holy Spirit recognizing the signs of the times and thus applying God’s Word in a timely and effective manner.
- Evangelists: This word evangelists, euaggelistes (ευαγγελιστας), is simply a purveyor of the gospel. There is nothing complex here and this gifting is key to the dissemination of the Gospel throughout the world. While most Churches get hung up on “World Missions” it is important to recognize that giving to those programs is not bad but it is not evangelism. The process of evangelism is a very personal mission that each believer, while they may not be gifted as an evangelist, is commanded to do in Matthew 28:19.
- Pastors: While this gift falls further down the list it is likely the most important of the gifts God gave the Church. The word pastor, poimen (ποιμενας), is a shepherd. The shepherd is the one who “pastures” the flock. This gift is probably the most difficult of all because caring for sheep is messy business and often discouraging. One of my favorite sayings is that as Christians we are in the people business and the people business is messy business. Pastors have to sort through all of the messy people-stuff to apply God’s Word in a loving way to encourage the proper growth of the flock. Pastors are generally only noticed when things are going wrong but never recognized when things are click-itty-clacking along smoothly.
- Teachers: This is a word that you should recognize from Matthew 28:20. Teachers, didaskalous (διδασκάλους) didaskalosthe noun form of didaskalos. This is the final gift mentioned and literally denotes an instructor, master, teacher. This gift is critical for the growth of the body because while gifts of apostles, prophets and evangelists are extrovert in nature the role of teacher is very much personal and introverted with regard to the Church. Pastors and Teachers are gifts that are very much oriented to the individual believers maturation process. Teachers are more like mentors than simply someone who lectures on a subject. They are available to help less mature believers work through situations that arise as they mature in Christ Jesus. Some translations render Pastors and Teaches as a compound word, pastor-teachers. While this may not be quite accurate it does denote the role of a teacher as being a humble mentor.
Pattern for Church Growth!
God intended the gifts of the Spirit to be complete and balanced so that the believers would mature in Christ with a balance of God’s Word, love for one another and concern for those who are perishing. How do we know this? Look at the purpose for which the gifts were provided.
- Equipping of the saints for the work of service: You mean that is the saints responsibility? I thought the pastor was supposed to do that?? Well, that’s what we get for thinking. We, as believers, are not Sunday morning pew warmers! Are we? Or, are we? Balanced leadership will cause believers to be accountable for the things they have learned from God’s Word and the examples, yes examples as in more than one, set by the leadership. One cannot serve unless they are accountable for the things they have heard.
- To the building up of the body of Christ: This is the goal of “the equipping of the saints for the work of service”. As the saints mature and begin to take on ministry the body of Christ will be built up and it will grow. As believers become accountable for the things they have learned they will naturally begin to find places to serve in the body of Christ and as they do the body of Christ will be built up. Not only in faith but the number of believers will grow because believers will be sharing their faith with others.
When we look at the verses in Ephesians 4:11-16 there is a clear set of criteria that allows church leadership to observe and adjust how they approach “the equipping of the saints for the work of service”. There are clear signs that provide clues as to where believers are with regard to where they need to be in Christ Jesus. The “untils” must be used to measure the progress of the church ministries and adjustments must be made to insure the proper balance to achieve the outcome of “to the building up of the body of Christ.” What are the “untils”?
- We all attain to the unity of the faith: This is very key in the success of a church from a ministry perspective. As individual believers pursue God, through His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, they will start to become more like Christ Jesus and, as a result, become closer to one another and more unified in their perspective as believers. Jesus asked the Father to make us one, unified as He and the Father are one. John 17:20-12 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
- The knowledge of the Son of God: The knowledge of just who Jesus is cannot be more important. A superficial knowledge of the Son of God is the reason that cults can draw so many believers away from the truth. Clear understanding that Jesus, “the only one with the same nature as the Father”, has become flesh, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of the world and rose from the dead to give us eternal hope is the key to this statement. The “Jehovah Elohim” who formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils is the “Jehovah Who Saves” (Yeshua, Jesus) that died on the cross for the sins of the world. John 8:58 “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”” Enough said!
- To a mature man: This is a process that leads us to be more like Christ the longer we walk with Him. As we study and meditate on God’s Word the Holy Spirit will minister to us and show us the things in our own lives that are not pleasing to Him. Each time we read through scripture and put the things we have learned into practice we will become more mature in Christ Jesus. In Hebrews 5:14 it tells us that “solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” What a picture of a believer (a saint) that is maturing in Christ Jesus. Not the “knowing good and evil” that resulted in sin, but the “discerning good and evil” that leads to righteousness.
- To the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ: The ultimate goal is to be more like Christ each day we walk as a believer. What a beautiful presentation of the maturity process. As we mature, we become more like Jesus and display more if “His stature” and more of “His fullness”. The apostle Paul told the Philippians in Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Here Paul declared that he had set a goal to win the prize. The “prize” is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” We,as believers must strive, as though pursing a prize, to be more like Jesus each day.
The keys expressed here, Ephesians 4:14-16, are quite clear. So what are the measures?
- We are no longer to be children: Clearly indicated here is that we must mature and not remain children. Believers who do not mature are opening themselves up for deception. What kind of deception? God’s Word tells us in II Corinthians 11:14-15 “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.” Children are not able to discern good from evil in many cases and have to be trained to understand what constitutes good and what constitutes evil. Hebrews 5:14 tells us that maturity brings discernment of good and evil. So what are the things to which children fall prey?
- Tossed here and there by waves: This is a picture of a ship being tossed about on the ocean. Rather than mature believers, being rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:14-19 v17), immature believers are frightened and unsettled by the things happening around them.
- Carried about by every wind of doctrine: Many times the precepts of men are purveyed as though they are the commandments of God (Mark 7:6-8). In Mark 7:8 it tells us “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” The immature believer does not know to fact-check these “precepts of men” against the Word of God as do mature believers (Hebrews 5:14).
- By the trickery of men: Similar to the winds of doctrine is the trickery of men. This is expressed in Galatians 5:7-10 where people were led astray by persuasion that was not from God (remember II Corinthians 11:14-15).
- By craftiness in deceitful scheming: This is a situation where the immature believer is deceived into believing something that is either not in God’s Word or contrary to God’s Word. The maturing process helps these believers to recognize good from evil because they have learned to fact-check things against God’s Word (Hebrews 5:14).
- Speaking the truth in love: This is one of those measures that is both simple and complex. So many times speaking the truth is considered to be judgment. Why is that the case? Well, most of the time the truth is not spoken in love. One of my favorite aphorisms is “The bridge of communication is only as strong as the trusses of love by which it is supported.” It says in I John 3:18 “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” How true this is for believers. It is difficult to speak the truth of God’s Word if others don’t know how much we love them. In I John 4:8 “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” it teaches us that if we do not love we do not know God for He is love. So when we have to speak the truth it must be from a heart of love, compassion and reconciliation.
- We are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ: The final measure is how much each of us has grown as a believer to be more like Christ. Paul compared it to a long hard race in Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” There is nothing easy about a walk with Christ and just when we think we have reached the top, we find that there is a peak beyond that which we must “press on” to climb. Paul tells us in Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” What a tremendous statement of how to mature in Christ. As we present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, we are committing the spiritual service of worship. As we do this, we are transformed from the things of the world to that which is the will of God and is acceptable and perfect to Him!
Tapping Into the Source
The maturity of the believers will produce a unique result that is evident to everyone, everywhere. When we tap into the source, Jesus, He begins to cause everything to fit together and Paul used the analogy of the human body and in particular the joints to paint a picture of completeness that grows and builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:16 is one of the most wonderful pictures of how a body of believers should work. The source is Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, from whom the whole body;
- Being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies: The amazing thing about this analogy is the fact that joints are made up of a number of components. There are muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bones. Strength provided by the bones and muscles, tension provided by the tendons and ligaments and cushion provided by the cartilage. A working joint requires all of the parts to function correctly and when they do function correctly it is a glorious expression of movement that is without pain or restriction.
- According to the proper working of each individual part: Paul expresses here that the parts need to function properly and when a part is not functioning properly the rest of the joint will not function properly. When you have a physical injury the parts of the body affected respond, mostly with pain. When you strain a ligament in your knee, the muscles begin to tighten to compensate for the strained ligament and the result is pain, tightness and restricted movement. When all of the parts are not functioning properly freedom of movement is limited to that which the joint can supply. The same is true of the body of Christ.
- Causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love: The finale is extraordinary. When everything is fit together properly and all of the parts are functioning as intended the result is growth in love. What a marvelous, God glorifying, result.
Paul also described this analogy of the body to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 12:11-27 “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. 12For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14For the body is not one member, but many. 15If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20But now there are many members, but one body. 21And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”
In this passage Paul denotes the fact that some may not like the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given them but goes on to explain why all of the gifts are necessary. This is a complimentary passage to Ephesians 4:16 because here the apostle Paul spells out the kinds of things that cause the joints to fail which results in pain, restriction and ultimately loss of love.
The bottom line here is that each believer has a place in the body of Christ and Godly leadership, gifted by the Holy Spirit and trained to be effective, must help each believer discover what God has for them and how to build them up and help them to begin to function in the realm God has called them to service.
Only then will the body of Christ be the “salt of the earth” as Jesus declared. Savor that is pleasing to God will change the lives of people who do not know God through His Son Jesus!