The opportunity to serve God is made possible to those yielding to God’s ongoing call of sanctification. There is nothing in and of the flesh that can please God (Rom. 7:18); only those who continue to mortify the desires of the flesh and put aside personal ambition are able to honor God through service. The Lord Jesus gave individuals – such as evangelists and teachers – as gifts to the Church for a particular reason: “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12 NKJV). Every believer in the body of Christ has a ministry to engage in which will bless the entire body. As believers use their spiritual gifts they equip others in the body to do ministry, which then passes the original blessing to other believers to further edify the body.
Visualize several children standing still in a wading pool when another child jumps in. The resultant wave glides across the water and bounces off every child in the pool. Each time the wave comes in contact with a child it is also reflected back, eventually making contact with every other child in the pool. This wave-motion shows how the edification of one member in the body equips others to minister as it continues to spread throughout the body.
The outcome of such body-life enables individuals to reach their full potential in Christ and fulfill God’s sovereign purpose for their lives. For example, though the evangelist is skillful in reaching the lost for Christ, his or her main ministry in the Church is to stir up and equip others within the body to evangelize wherever God has placed them as a testimony to the lost (Eph. 4:11-13). The result is that collectively the Church is equipped to obey the great commission (Mt. 28:19-20).
Beneficial Church body-life is enjoyed as members learn and practice sound doctrine while also learning how to properly use their spiritual gifts. Paul puts it this way: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Scripture supplies a foundation for believers to build on, and practical sanctification occurs when they do. All believers will suffer some failure; conviction and correction are God’s means for restoring them to the path of righteousness. The Holy Spirit and other believers are involved in providing further training in righteousness to enable the stumbled believer to walk more successfully in the future. With spiritual maturity the prospect of God-honoring service becomes increasingly feasible.
Consider the following illustration of this body dynamic. Suppose a young man has a desire to be a carpenter, but has no practical experience. In preparing to become a carpenter he studies several textbooks on construction techniques, tools, and types of equipment. He also reads a book entitled Mistakes Carpenters Make to help him avoid construction blunders. Is our self-motivated student a carpenter after he finishes his studies? Would you want him to build your house? The answer is “No,” as he has no practical experience. However, after being trained by a veteran carpenter, the apprentice, who is still studying his manuals, has become proficient in using tools, erecting walls, and even shingling a roof. Would you now let him construct your new home? No, as he still needs more training and practice. In time, he will obtain the skills to build homes as well as train others to do so.
On the first day of training the veteran carpenter taught the apprentice how to properly drive a nail into wood – a fundamental skill in carpentry. Though the apprentice had read about where to hit the nail, and how many blows are required to drive different lengths of nails into various types of wood, and when to quit hammering to prevent wood damage, he actually had no experience driving nails. The master first showed him how to firmly hold the nail, then demonstrated the proper technique for driving the nail by first setting it with a light tap of the hammer, and then by embedding it with a few hard blows.
After these training exercises, the apprentice soon became proficient in driving nails. Nothing that the master taught him contradicted the carpentry manuals, yet his practical training and hands-on activities were necessary in the learning process. In the same way, the Word of God guides believers into all that is necessary to please the Lord, yet mentors are necessary to equip believers in the practical application of Scripture, and these believers must also exercise and develop their spiritual gifts in order to edify and bless the Church.
Paul’s prayer for believers at Colosse emphasizes this maturing process: “That you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9-10). Note the progression from the knowledge of His will, to the wisdom of that knowledge, to the outworking of both in fruitfulness, which then led to further knowledge of God. Not only were believers to know the truth, they were also to grow in wisdom which is the practical outworking of that truth.
This dynamic of practicing and experiencing the truth was evident in the life of the Lord Jesus. Though He was full of truth (Jn. 1:14), yet He increased in wisdom and favor with God (Lk. 2:52) and learned obedience by doing God’s will (Heb. 5:8). Experiencing the truth of God’s Word is also necessary in the believer’s life. Tribulations test our faith practically and work into our faith a patience that could not be achieved otherwise (Rom. 5:3; Jas. 1:3).
To be thoroughly equipped to do every good work, new believers will rely on God’s Word, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the mentoring assistance of more mature believers. They will accomplish their ministry within the body as they continue to grow spiritually, and exercise and develop their spiritual gifts. The world is not to be the believer’s playground but God’s classroom. Believers are called to maturity and to service – the two cannot be separated. Scripture testifies to the fact that God grows ministries as He grows people.
By Warren Henderson
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org