(taken from Building Christian Unity, pg. 22-26)
Diversity releases the grace of God. In Ephesians 4:7-10 Paul gave a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ’s having won the victory, ascending back to heaven and giving gifts to those who believe in Him. This is based on Psalm 68:18. Psalm 68 is a victory psalm. As the conquering hero returns home, people give gifts to him and he gives gifts to the people. The Lord Jesus descended from heaven to this earth and went to the depths of Calvary’s cross. He arose from the dead. He ascended back to heaven and, through His Holy Spirit, gives gifts to His people.
Our Lord gives spiritual gifts to people, and then He gives these gifted people to His Church. This means that each individual believer is important and that each one is needed in the work of the Lord. “But to each one of us grace was given” (Eph. 4:7). “What every joint supplies” (v. 16). You are important in the work of God. You may not think so, and others may not think so; but you are important to the building of the Church.
He gave apostles. In order to have been an apostle, you had to have seen the risen Christ (I Cor. 9:1; Acts 1:21,22). You also had to possess the gift of performing special miracles (Rom. 15:17-19; Heb. 2:3,4). This means we have no apostles in the Church today. There is a sense in which all Christians are apostles, for the word means “one who is sent with a commission.” “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). But strictly speaking, there are no apostles today.
He gave prophets. We have no prophets in the Church today, at least in the New Testament sense of declaring God’s truth based on an immediate revelation from the Lord. Now that we have a complete Bible, we do not need the prophets, for the Spirit instructs us from the Word. There is a “prophetic ministry,” where a preacher explains the Word of God and applies it in an insightful way to the current situation; but that is not the same as a New Testament prophet. The apostles and prophets laid the foundation (Eph. 2:20), and you do not keep laying the same foundation.
He gave evangelists. These are believers sent out to carry the evangel, the Good News. Each minister of Christ should preach the Gospel and “do the work of an evangelist” (II Tim. 4:5). But some are called to a special ministry of evangelism. To be sure, all of us should witness and seek to win souls.
He gave pastors and teachers. This describes one person, not two-the pastor (shepherd), who leads the flock by teaching the Word of God. He loves the flock and cares for it. He knows the sheep and ministers personally to them. Too often, however, the emphasis is on teacher and not pastor; and the shepherd spends so much time studying that he has no time left to care for his flock. As a friend of mine likes to say, “These pastors are invisible during the week and incomprehensible on Sunday.”
It is the plan of God that the grace of God is released through diversity in the Church. Diversity reveals the wisdom of God and releases the grace of God. You do not build a Church with law; you build a Church with grace.
Diversity realizes the purpose of God. What is God’s purpose in all of this? “The equipping of the saints” (Eph. 4:12). Notice the sequence. Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried, arose from the dead, ascended to heaven and gave spiritual gifts to His people. Every believer has at least one gift. He gives gifted people to His Church, and these gifted people equip the saints to minister to one another and to a lost world. Diversity makes it possible to equip God’s people for life and service.
The word translated “equip” in Ephesians 4:12 was very meaningful to the Greek people who read it. It is the Greek word katartidzo. Our English word “artist” comes from it. To a sailor, the word described the outfitting of a ship for a voyage. To a soldier, it meant the equipping of an army for battle. To a doctor, it meant the setting of a broken bone. To a fisherman, it meant the mending of a torn net.
What is the purpose of teaching the Word of God in the church? To equip God’s people for life and ministry. We are fishermen, who need our nets mended so we can go out and catch more fish. We are physicians, who need to know how to set broken bones so that the spiritual Body will be strong. We are soldiers, and we are fighting a battle day after day. We are sailors on a voyage, and we must be ready when the storms come. We need our ship fully equipped and rigged for the journey. This is why the ministry of the Word of God is so serious. The gifted people equip the saints, who do the work of the ministry. And as the saints do the work of the ministry, the Body of Christ is built up. Diversity fulfills the purpose of God.
The apostles and prophets did their part when they laid the foundation of the Church (2:20). Today, we are building on that strong foundation. The evangelist carries the Gospel message to the lost; the pastor-teacher lovingly shepherds his flock by teaching the Word of God. All of God’s people do the job God has gifted them to do, and every job is important.
We should thank God for diversity in the Church. You have your job to do, and I have mine. Our most important task as Christians is to discover, develop and dedicate our spiritual gifts to serve others in the fellowship of the local church. It is a hard job, a demanding work; but it is also a rewarding ministry as you serve others and help to build the Church.
Diversity reveals God’s wisdom, releases God’s grace and realizes God’s purpose in the Church. It brings excitement to the ministry of the Lord and delivers us from “services as usual.”
Have you found your special place in the service of Christ?
Are you available for Him to accomplish His will in your life?
We are involved in the greatest work in the world – the building of the Church of Jesus Christ!
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© 2004 Warren W. Wiersbe
© 1989 by The Good News Broadcasting Association, Inc. All rights reserved.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).