Equipped To Be Disciples Who Make Disciples – Ephesians 4:11-14

Equipped To Be Disciples Who Make Disciples

Nick Esch, 8/18/2019 Cornerstone Baptist Church

Ephesians 4:11–14

Our passage beings in verse 11 by telling us that, “he (Jesus) gave (to the church) the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers…” As we began looking at this passage last week we saw that, though this list is not meant to be exhaustive, it is meant to exalt the Word of God; each of the gifts, each of these leaders listed here are directly tied to the Word of God. The apostles were those leaders appointed by Christ, dedicated to the ministry of the Word, who wrote most of the New Testament. The prophets declared and applied the Word of God to the people of God; and it was the prophets of God who laid out much of the Old Testament. So in the apostles and the prophets we see the very foundation of the church, the very Word of God itself…

Next we see evangelists; they proclaim the Word of God, specifically the gospel of God, calling people to repent and believe in the Son of God—the Word made flesh. And then the last two, which actually seem to be referring to one originally, the shepherd teachers, or your translation may say pastors, and that’s what it seems to be referring to, to the pastors who teach. Pastors, elders, overseers, and bishops all refer to the same office in the New Testament. They are pastors who love, lead, serve, protect, and minister to God’s people by graciously teaching God’s Word…

What this list has in common is that all of these leaders are gifted in articulating the gospel, in preaching and teaching God’s Word, and ministering to God’s people. And the purpose for these leaders serving in this way, in a gospel-Word focused way, is what we see in verse 12. There we’re told that these Bible-saturated leaders are given to the church, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” Through prayer and the ministry of the Word the church, the saints are equipped… So in one sense, it’s not so much the leaders but the Word of God that does the equipping; the leaders are instruments in the Redeemer’s hands used to proclaim, teach, and apply God’s Word in order to equip… And what is the church being equipped for? It says for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

The Greek that’s here translated work of ministrycould also be translated works of service, or just worship… And that’s the idea; through the Bible-saturated, gospel-centered ministry of her leaders, the church is equipped, enabled, or empowered to exercise her gifts and to live and serve for God’s glory and the good of His people, which is the building up the body of Christ, meaning helping people come to know Christ, love Christ, follow Christ, and grow in all of those and become more and more like Christ. Just as the leaders have gifts and are gifts, so it is with the rest of the members of the church; and just as the leader’s are used for the glory of God and the good of His people, so too are all the saints to be used for the glory of God and the good of His people… Every Christian, whether they are a church leader, church member, or both (and every Christian should be a church member), is meant to live and serve for the glory of God and the good of His people; that’s one of the primary ways in which we worship…

So, understand this: Christ died to save a people—He loved the churchand gave Himself up for her—and here God’s people are referred to as saints—those who have been made holy in Christ, who have been called out of the world and into the body of Christ. And that body language is important; it points to our connection and commitment to Christ and to our connection and commitment to one another. The life of the body plays out in the local church, in a community of believers who know one another, who love one another, and who are committed to the good of one another; as Paul has been laying out in the beginning of chapter 4, it plays out through local churches who are striving to maintain unity and oneness in the gospel by living lives marked by humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another in love. So get your mind around what that means; the church has been given the gifts of leaders to be equipped for the work of building up the body, of doing the work of ministry, exercising their God given gifts to serve the body, to maintain unity, to walk in a manner worthy of their calling, that they might magnify the glory of God in the world. The church isn’t just about its leaders, but the whole community of faith; and that community of faith is to be committed to every member ministry…

This is a part of every Christian’s calling. There are so many people who claim to be Christians yet want nothing to do with the church, but this passage is telling us that this is what being a Christian is all about. So if you’re here and you are not a committed member of a Bible-saturated, gospel-centered local church, be it here or elsewhere, I strongly urge you to pursue membership somewhere. If you’re interested in joining Cornerstone we’ll be having a class for potential new members on Saturday, September 7th. Come and let me know after service that you’re interested in attending… Church membership is at the core of what being a Christian is all about… God gives the church leaders, those leaders equip the church with the Word to do the work of ministry, of building up the body. And that’s the great goal; a church that looks more and more like Jesus, so that we might shine out His glory to the world. And that’s what we see next in verse 13.

In verses 11 and 12 we’re told that God has gifted the church with Bible-saturated gospel-centered leaders to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, and then in verse 13 we’re told that this is to happen, “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…” What’s being addressed here is discipleship and discipling. Discipleshipis our personal walk with Christ; it’s our own knowing, loving, and following Jesus. Disciplingis where we help others grow in their knowing, loving, and following Jesus; it’s helping others grow in their walk with Christ, doing them spiritual good to help them grow in Christlikeness.

Now, notice how this happens… First, we are to attain, reach, arrive at, or come to the conclusion of the unity of the faith… This is like what’s said in Jude 3: it’s not the faith we have when we believe, but, “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” It’s the body of doctrine found in God’s Word. It’s like what we have laid out in our statement of faith… One of the reasons we have a statement of faith is to give us unity around the core doctrines of the Bible. Though we may differ on some things, every member of Cornerstone agrees on the core teachings of the Bible—we have unity there… So, the faith spoken of here is the basics of gospel-centered Christian teaching… It’s something that, by God’s grace, we must come to the conclusion of; it’s knowledge of the things of God, especially God’s glorious plan of redemption that happens in and through His Son, Jesus… which is what we see next.  

We are to attain, reach, arrive at, or come to the conclusion of the unity of faith, and of, or especially of the knowledge of the Son of God… The body of Christian doctrine that is the Christian faith that we must come to know is focused and centered on the Son of God… And this makes sense because the Bible is a grand narrative, or a true story that’s all about Jesus; from beginning to end the Bible lays out the good news about the person and work of Jesus Christ that is the gospel. Kids: this is something I especially want you to know… The gospel is the good news about the person and work of Jesus Christ… So, if I or anyone else asks you what is the gospel? You are to say, it’s the good news about the person and work of Jesus Christ… This is crucial because it is through repentance and faith in the gospel that we become Christians. And it is this gospel that unites us as Christians. We must know it at a basic level to become a Christian; and when we become Christians we are not only saved from something—the wrath of God—but we are saved into something—the family of God, the church… But even as we attain this unity and knowledge on some level when we become Christians, in this life we never fully arrive; we are to always be growing in our knowledge of the Christian faith and the Son of God, which is what we see next…

Not only are we to attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, but also to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… So what’s meant by mature manhood is the measure of the stature or the size and breadth of the fullness of Christ. And over and over again in Ephesians this language of the fullness of Christ or the fullness of God has been used in reference to holiness, godliness, Christlikeness; in other words, it’s referring to us being more and more enabled to die to sin, or stop sinning, and live more and more righteously, or to be able to do the right thing for the right reasons: out of love for Jesus and a desire to magnify the glory of God in Christ. One day, when Jesus comes back, we will have new glorified bodies, and will be filled with all the fullness of Christ, and we will be totally free from sin; but for now, we are in this ongoing process called sanctification, where we are growing in Christlikeness… We have not yet attained the measure of the stature or the size and breadth of the fullness of Christ, because the fullness of Christ is bigger and more glorious than we could ever imagine; it’s impossible for us to attain such things in this life… But, in the life eternal that is to come we will see Jesus face to face and we will be made like Him…

So what we see here is that though we must have unity in the faith, that we must have knowledge of the Son of God, and that we must have a level of Christlikeness about us, we must also be growing in these things until the day we see Jesus face to face… And even after that day, because the fullness of Christ is infinitely glorious, we will still be growing in such things for all eternity… I mean, if Jesus is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, then He is eternal, He is infinite in His fullness… He’s infinitely glorious and great… So because He is eternal and infinite we will never exhaust His fullness, we will never exhaust the riches of His grace, and thus we’ll never fully be like Him or fully grasp Him even… But we’ll spend an eternity growing in those things and enjoying Him… And it will never get old, but only get better and better for all eternity…

 Here and now we must at the very least know, understand, grasp, and truly believe that the triune God of the Bible is the one true God who is holy, infinitely glorious, and who created us and all things and has divine creator rights over us. He created us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever; and so we should. But, we have rebelled against Him; we have chosen to live for ourselves, to enjoy ourselves and the things of this world cheifly, and thus to glorify ourselves, and in so doing we have sinned against an infinitely glorious God, and committed an infinite offense deserving of an infinite punishment: namely, the eternal wrath of God.

But because God is infinitely glorious, and because He is love and delights to magnify His glory in His Son, Jesus—the Son of God came to earth, became a man, lived the perfect life in our place, took God’s wrath in our place, died on the cross in our place, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to the right hand of the Father where He mediates and ever intercedes for all whom God has chosen to save, all who will turn from their rebellion, trust in Him, and follow Him… until the day He comes back to fully defeat sin, Satan, and death, and to live with His people forevermore… This is what I mean by the person and work of Jesus. These are the basics of the gospel, the basics of the Christian faith that we must believe in to truly be united and to truly know the Son of God; but we must be ever growing in our knowledge of the faith, of the things of God, especially the Son of God… And we must be ever growing in our fight against sin and our pursuit of Christlikeness.

Now, with all of that said, notice what our text is saying here: it’s saying that the Bible-saturated gospel-centered leaders of the church are to minister with the Word of God in such a way that all of the members of the church are to then be equipped to do the true work of ministry: and that work of ministry is to sacrificially love and serve, to give our time, talent, and treasure in order to help the people around us, especially our fellow church members—our brothers and sisters in Christ, to attain the unity of the faith, to know the things of God, especially the Son of God, and to grow in that knowledge, and to fight sin and grow in Christlikeness. In other words, we are all called to know God’s Word and the be ever growing in our knowledge of God’s Word and the things of God, and we are all called to truly know, love, and follow the incarnate Word, Jesus—fighting sin and pursing holiness; and we are all called to give ourselves to helping others do the same; to helping others grow in their knowledge of the faith and the things of God, and to come to know, love, and follow Jesus, and to grow in those things, and helping them fight sin and pursue holiness, until the day we see Jesus face to face. So, as I said, this is discipleshipand discipling… And these things are an ongoing process… We are to be disciples of Christ who make disciples of Christ; but we have never fully made a disciple of Christ until that disciple is with Christ forever… And even then they will be ever growing in the fullness of Christ in glory…

In verse 14 we’re told that we are to be about this work of being disciples who make disciples, “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.” Now, for you kids in the room, God’s Word isn’t talking bad about children; it’s just saying that there is a time for childhood, but eventually we must get bigger and grow up… And it’s strange when people don’t. It’s strange when adults act like children… I mean, what would you think if you saw a child playing in a small swimming pool, a kiddie pool with a float around their waste and floaties on their arms?… No big deal right… It’s just a kid being a kid… But what if you saw your dad in a kiddie pool with a big unicorn float around his waste and floaties on his arms?… It’d be weird right? He should be past all of that by now… He’s no longer a child, and he shouldn’t act like one. Well, that’s what the Bible is saying here.

Just as parents are committed to helping their children grow, learn, and mature, so too the church must be committed to helping its members grow, learn, and mature. Unfortunately, in many churches it is often seen as strange when members begin to really grow and are passionate about the things of God; they stick out… But that should be the norm. We should all be growing and helping each other grow in maturity. We should all be true disciples who are making disciples. Together we should all be growing in our knowledge of God’s Word and the things of God, of Jesus and His gospel, and we should be growing in unity and Christlikeness. That’s what will keep us from being tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Some say doctrine is to be avoided because doctrine divides, but God’s Word is telling us that only true knowledge of God, only true knowledge of sound doctrine can protect us from and keep us from falling into false doctrine and the deceitful ways of the world. Everything around us is pushing false teachings and false beliefs upon us; some by intention, and others by ignorance… Just the other day when we were checking into a hotel the lady at the front desk asked my wife if she considered herself a female, because unfortunately it could be perceived to be insensitive or politically incorrect for her to assume that because Rachel looks, walks, and talks like a woman that she actually is one, because the world says that God, and at this point not even science can define you, but that you define you… But the Word of God and the sound doctrine it teaches keeps us safe from such thinking, it keeps us from sin and from falling into the ways of this world. As many have said: the Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important that each of us study the Bible every chance we get; we should seek to make it a daily habit… Because that’s how we know God and His sound doctrine that keep us in line and balanced.

Sound doctrine—the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of God—acts as ballast for us in this fallen world. Typically on a big boat or ship they have something called ballast, that’s usually a tank filled with water or something heavy that keeps the ship balanced and stable. The ship is able to stay upright and to float and move where it needs to go because it has the proper ballast. And for us to stay upright and move where we need to as Christians, as disciples who make disciples, who are fighting sin and pursuing holiness, pursuing Christlikeness, we need the sound doctrine of God’s Word, we need the knowledge of the Son of God that comes in and through the gospel, we need the truth of the Christian faith to keep us balanced and stable in an unstable world…

Conclusion

So you see, we need Jesus, we need God’s Word, we need the Bible-saturated gospel-centered leaders whom God has called and gifted to lead and equip the church, and we need the church itself. Following Jesus is not a one person job. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a church to raise a Christian… Discipleship, discipling, sanctification, Christianity is a community project. And that’s the point: it’s only as we together as the body of Christ seek to love and serve Jesus and one another that we truly magnify the glory of Christ. Which is what Jesus said elsewhere: in John 13:35 He said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The truth and the beauty of the gospel and the glory of Christ shine out as we give ourselves to the work of ministry, to being disciples who make disciples.

Now, none of this is easy; even if we don’t sell ourselves into slavery for the cause of Christ, it will still cost us much if we truly give ourselves to being a church made of disciples who make disciples… In fact, at times it may feel like you’re neglecting yourself to serve others; and indeed at times you may have to… But notice what our text said in verse 13: as we do this we all attainto Christian maturity… As we give ourselves to the work of ministry that Christ has called us to, seeking to help others grow in Christlikeness and their overall walk with Christ, in God’s providence, by God’s grace we then grow in our Christlikeness and walk with Christ. In serving Christ we grow in our knowledge and love of Christ, which in turn all the more fuels our discipleship, because the more we know Him the more we’ll love Him, and the more we love Him the more we’ll follow Him, and the closer we follow Him the more like Him we become… And that’s the goal: growing to mature manhood, to the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we might truly magnify the glory of Christ.