Showing posts with label Ephesians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ephesians. Show all posts

10 June 2013

Five colours of the rainbow

Ephesians describes a five-fold ministry based on spiritual gifts. But using only one of the five is like looking through coloured glass, everything becomes the same colour and essential information is lost. Is this what the church has done with the so-called APEST gifts?

A red postbox through green glasses
Ephesians 4:11-13 describes the so-called 'five-fold-ministry'. This is sometimes abbreviated APEST or APEPT, that is Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds (or Pastors) and Teachers.

There are many other gifts of the Spirit mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, but the verses in Ephesians make it clear that these five are specifically 'to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up'.

There's evidence that the early church employed them all just as Paul describes.

Separation - Yet in the traditional western church apostles and prophets were not recognised for hundreds of years, evangelists were hived off into mission organisations, teachers were often found only in places of learning and training, and only shepherds (or pastors) remained to equip church members.

This crippled the church and made her ineffective in many ways.

Colours - Lets assign a colour to each gift and consider church in terms of light. How would that work?

  • Apostle - Red
  • Prophet - Orange
  • Evangelist - Yellow
  • Shepherd (Pastor) - Green
  • Teacher - Blue
With the exception of indigo and violet, these are the standard colours of the rainbow. When all five colours are present we see something quite close to white light. Now, Jesus is the Light, he illuminates everything with the pure white beam of his glory. In the Light of Jesus (the Light sent to reveal the Truth) we can see everything clearly.

But with red and yellow sidelined as being unnecessary, with yellow moved off to the mission field, and with teachers moved out into seminaries, only the green light of the shepherd (pastor) remains. This makes life very difficult for the church as green objects appear green but all other colours appear in shades of green too.

A blind church - Such a partially blind church cannot function as she was intended to. Only by bringing back all five gifts can we benefit from white Light where Jesus is central and objects all appear in their true colours. And then the church will again be equipped for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

Isn't this what we all really want? It should be! Green may be an appropriate colour for a shepherd, but we need more than a shepherd if we are to see everything clearly.


Questions:

  • Can you imagine a world in which everything appears green?
  • How might this affect your driving? (Think about red lights.)
  • How much do you know about the gifts other than shepherd/pastor?
  • How can you expand your knowledge? Hint, try some of the links below.

See also:

05 December 2011

The bones come together

Part 6 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< The word of Yahweh | Index | Sinew, muscle and skin >

Ezekiel begins speaking to the bones and the effect is immediate. There's a clear pattern of actions in a logical sequence; the preliminary need is met as Ezekiel speaks.

Bones in right relationship
'So I prophesied as I'd been told. As I spoke there was a rattling noise and the bones moved together and connected.' (Ezekiel 37:7)

There's a lot of important material for us in just these few words. Let's begin by noting that Ezekiel was obedient. He had been told to speak to the bones and he'd been given the words to say. And now, in obedience, he speaks them out.

Let's remind ourselves of what he was told to say. 'This is what the Lord Yahweh tells these bones: "I'll cause breath to come into you and you'll come alive. I'll attach tendons, cause flesh to appear on you and cover you over with skin. I'll put breath into you and you'll live - then you'll know that I'm Yahweh."'

Notice the repetition, a form of emphasis. First we have breath-life. Then the repetition which also provides more detail, tendons-flesh-skin-breath-life-know. The breath and life are central, the tendons, flesh and skin are necessary enablers, and know is the purpose. 'Know that I'm Yahweh' or 'Know Yahweh' if we follow Sean's suggestion (check the comments in the previous part).

But what happens when Ezekiel pronounces these words of prophecy over the bones? None of the above! What does happen is immediate, however, and implied. In order for Yahweh to attach tendons, first he must move the bones together. They cannot move themselves for they are dead.

So when the dry and dusty bones of church as we see it hear the Word (who is Jesus) we can expect that those bones will move together into right relationship. We can also expect it to be a noisy process, anyone nearby will know about it. And then they will be in the right places for sinew and muscle and skin to cover them over, and spiritual life to fill them until they know him. And then he will have church as he sees it and expects it and can use it.

Ezekiel's obedient pronouncement was prophetic over scattered, broken, captive Israel. They were about to be brought together in Jerusalem and become once more a living nation. They would rebuild the Temple so they might again know Yahweh and have him living amongst them.

But those same words are prophetic over the scattered, broken, captive people who together make up the church in our day. We too need to move together into right relationship with one another. We need the Creator King to bind us together with sinew and muscle and skin.

Writing to the Ephesians, Paul puts it like this: '...we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.' (Ephesians 4:15-16)

We need to be filled with the abundant life of the Spirit of Christ until we truly know him. Then we will be the new Temple built of living stones,  his body here on Earth, a mighty army.

Let the import of that glorious and astonishing destiny fill your heart with hope and expectation. It will happen! These words have been spoken over us by someone greater than Ezekiel, by Christ himself. He has said it. He will do it!

I must now point out the disjointed and broken nature of church as we see it today. Everywhere we see denominations, streams, grouping of all kinds. We see house churches and mega churches and in between churches. These are all dry bones. But the body of Christ as he intends it (and will have it) is one body, a living and breathing body.

All of the parts are involved. Here's the mystery - the denominational and other dry bones will be hidden from view, bound together in right relationship and covered over with flesh and skin.

I suggest you read Ephesians 4:1-16 in full at this point. What will Paul's words say to you about all this?

< The word of Yahweh | Index | Sinew, muscle and skin >

05 March 2011

THOUGHT - Through love or by effort?

Some writers and commentators tell us that we can do nothing unless we know Christ's love for us and rest in that love. Others tell us that we must make an effort and try harder to think and act in accordance with Biblical teaching.

Bread like a stoneHow are we to square this circle? Who is right?

I want to suggest there's a false dichotomy here. Rather than a choice between alternatives we are seeing two sides of the same coin. The debate is much like those about faith versus works or grace versus law. We are invited to take sides, we are encouraged to come down on the side of faith or of works.

But of course if we have faith it will result in works because works are the evidence of an underlying faith. Faith without works is impossible, works without faith are futile. Works springing from faith are like loaves of good, wholesome, energy-giving bread. Works alone are like stones in the desert, deceivingly loaf-like but devoid of life.

It's true that 'we love because Christ first loved us' (John 4:19).

Yet Paul urges the Ephesians to 'live a life worthy of [their] calling' (Ephesians 4:1). And in verse two he explains what this means - humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love. In verse three he tells them 'to make every effort'. Paul makes it perfectly clear that there is a real bond there (the automatic part) but some level of effort is required from us. Read the entire chapter with this in mind.

How many of us live like this? It's important to make the attempt even if we seem to fail. If we truly know Christ and are really aware of his love for us we will automatically do the right things. But our conscious mind is required as well, an effort of will and purpose.

Christ descended and therefore grappled with temptation just as we do. We can see how the love of the Father constantly guided and motivated him - 'I do only what I see the Father do' (John 5:16-30). But we also see how he was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) and how he wrestled in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). He moved in his Father's constant love and approval, but he also had to make an effort of will. Because he is both 'up there' and 'down here', he has grappled with life just the same as we do, yet he is also able to reach us with heavenly truth and love. He is in both places and therefore we can triumph in him in both places - now and eternally, in the world and in the Kingdom of heaven.

And out of his ascended bounty, in order to enable his church to function in a fallen world, he is able to give us apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. The very purpose of this is that we will all reach unity in the faith. All - not just a few, not just the majority - all!

Notice too that we are all to reach unity in two realms - the realm of faith (believing and doing) - and the realm of knowing Christ (trusting and resting). Effort and knowing his love. Our part and his part. Victory needs both!

And see the results! We will be fully mature, not tossed on the waves and blown by the wind but speaking the truth and growing into the Head. We grow from him, built in love, each of us working.

Built in love and doing our work - both!

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