30 Days in the Bible, Day 10: Ephesians 4:11-16
Christians are called to serve the Lord and to serve each other. You’ve probably heard dozens of sermons urging you to labor for the Lord, or to serve your brothers and sisters in Christ or those in the world around us. The call is often urgent, phrased as a necessity for the believer, and sometimes accompanied by suggestions for service. (This is especially true when a church needs people for a specific ministry.) All of this is true, yet we might be left wondering why we serve.
Paul gives us a purpose for our service here in Ephesians 4:11-16. It isn’t a short motto you can put on a bumper sticker for everyone to see, easily memorized and carried out. Rather, it is an extended statement with phrases that build on each other to reveal a comprehensive whole. We are told that we, the saints, set apart for Jesus, are to be equipped by those with gifts for the work of ministry, followed by the purpose for our labor. Let’s look briefly at each of the aspects of our purpose for service.
First, we are to build up the body of Christ. I’ve seen many churches damaged or even destroyed by Christians who sought to tear down each other or to get their own way no matter what the cost. This isn’t Christian service, no matter what excuses may be made for it. If we are truly serving the Lord, we will build up our fellow believers, strengthen the ministry of our local church, and expand the kingdom of Christ throughout our world.
Next, we are to encourage each other to unity in the faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Christians have their differences; some are major points of doctrinal disagreement, while others are minor issues of preferences. Despite these differences, we can work together for the sake of Jesus’ kingdom, and seek to overcome our differences without bitterness and anger. Even when we disagree with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are still all part of the same family. Someday, our Father will set us straight!
Christians are to reach mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Here “manhood” is used generically, to signify the peak of human maturity. Such maturity is only possible through Jesus, yet He also gives us the responsibility not only to strive for it ourselves, but to assist others in reaching that level. The goal is set as high as can be, to prevent us from becoming satisfied with our lives when we haven’t become the people we were intended to be in Christ.
The flip side of this is that we are no longer to be children. There is a time for childhood, and it is a necessary prelude to maturity. However, we should not be satisfied with only grasping the elementary teachings and basic practices of the Christian life, but we should want to be more, constantly seeking to be like Jesus and to demonstrate His power in our lives.
Finally, we are to growing in such a way that the body builds itself up. Sanctification, the process of growing more and more like Jesus, is to be an ongoing reality not only in our individual lives, but in our church. When we all utilize our gifts and engage in ministry for the Lord, the entire body of believers will benefit. This will impact not only our personal walk with Him, but the Christian development of everyone else around us.
This may seem like a lot to consider as we serve, yet all of these aspects work together for the glory of Jesus and for the good of His kingdom. This is why we serve. Our question is, “Why do I serve in the church?” When our goal is to build each other up and help the church to become an ongoing reality in our world, we will truly honor Jesus, even as we seek to be more like Him.