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This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is both helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible often doesn't tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.


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Friday, May 18, 2018

Ephesians 4:11-16 (Lesson 17)


Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                 Published Weekly on Friday AM

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Ephesians (4:11-16)                                                               (Lesson 17)

Welcome to HBS.

It’s significant that the apostles and prophets are listed first among those to whom Jesus Christ "gave spiritual gifts."  We see this same order repeated in 1 Corinthians 12:28:  "And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets....."  The Ephesian passage, however, defines God’s purpose for all these gifted men:  "....for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man...."  Wherever the Body of Christ exists, the saints must look to the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip them to serve so that the Body of Christ may be enlightened and built up.

An apostle was one who had seen Jesus Christ “alive” after His death, i.e. an eye-witness of His resurrection and who could perform miraculous signs (Acts 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 12:12).  The term prophet was always used to describe a miraculously-inspired individual or in the case of a false prophet - one who claimed inspiration (1 Corinthians 13:1; Ephesians 3:5; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John. 4:1).  True apostles and prophets do not live among us today.  Yet, the Lord designed that they equip and edify us today.

Both apostles and prophets were men who received new revelation:

For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12).

To the twelve Jesus said:  "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth..." (John 16:13).  Paul affirmed this truth in Ephesians 3:4-5 saying:  "...the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit."

This passage explains why the apostles and prophets are listed first in God's plan for the equipping of His people.  Revelation of the Lord's will as to what Believer’s should be and how they should live is crucial in equipping the saints to serve.  What would the evangelists preach and what would the pastors and teachers teach were it not for God’s revelation administered through the apostles and prophets?

The very existence of the church necessitated the foundational work of these men.  Of God's household, the church, Paul wrote:  "...having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone" (Ephesians 2:20).  The image utilized by Paul is that of a building.  The cornerstone of the building is the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:20).  While the work of evangelists and pastors and teachers is important, only the apostles and prophets are described as being the foundation upon which the church is built.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He (Jesus Christ) made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).

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In Ephesians 1, our Apostle Paul highlights the spiritual blessings God bestows upon all those in Christ.  In chapter 2, salvation by grace through faith is described in terms of being raised from spiritual death; being brought near by the blood of Christ; reconciled to God in one body, and being added as living stones to a spiritual house  that will last an eternity (1 Peter 2:4-8).  In Ephesians 3, communication is emphasized, that is, the revelation of all of God’s truths to man; which Paul called The Revelation of the Mystery.

Paul described himself as "the prisoner of Jesus Christ," because this was his current situation at the time of this writing.  He refers to his detention in verse 3:1, in 4:1 and again in 6:20.  Paul suffered incarceration for “the cause of Christ Jesus.”  He did not break any law; he was imprisoned for preaching the gospel to Gentiles.  Therefore in Ephesians 3:1 he describes himself in terms of his present condition, and reveals his dedication to the Gentiles writing:  "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles."

In verse 3:2, Paul said to the Ephesians:  "if indeed you have heard of the stewardship (dispensation - KJV) of the grace of God which was given to me for you (insert your name here if you’re a true Believer).  The root word for "dispensation" is the English word "dispense."  All through the book of Ephesians, Paul speaks about what God is willing to dispense to the true Believers in Christ.  Let’s be clear, this is about God's generosity in what He is willing to dispense to every true Believer, in Christ, in the Dispensation of Grace.

Now the information and instruction about what a gracious God is willing to dispense was given to Paul by revelation.  Note the phrase in verse 3:2:  "given to me for you."  The gospel was given to Paul, but not just for his edification.  It was given to Paul, to communicate to the Gentiles.  Listen again to these first two verses: "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if indeed you have heard of the stewardship (dispensation) of the grace of God which was given to me for you."  

This is about the dispensing of the gospel of the grace of God through Paul originally and then through his coworkers.  This is about the process and transition from the Dispensation of Law to the Dispensation of Grace which eventually produced the New Testament."

The Believers in Ephesus were not walking worthy of their calling, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another, in love, which means they were not preserving the Spirit in the bond of peace (Galatians 6:1-3, 10).  

Relationships cannot exist or thrive absent of (agape; sacrificial) love:  And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13; Psalm 42:1).  In verse 4:11, Paul’s basically saying, “You lack love.  This is why you’re experiencing discord and disunity instead of the bond of peace” (Galatians 5:22-23).  So Paul writes to soothe the damaged egos and relationships and to halt the spread of false doctrine (1Timothy 1:3-7).  He does this by revealing these 7 truths: 

The church’s purpose here on earth
The importance of spiritual maturity
Preserving unity in the body  
Instruction in areas of maintaining high moral standards
Essential ministries within the church
Preparation for spiritual warfare (wearing the whole armor of God)
They were instructed to “rely on” the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul spent time (3 years) with the Believers in Ephesus.  He taught God’s Word and carefully guided the church leadership (their elders).  Then, before Paul left, he brought Timothy there to serve in his stead and to mentor them in the faith (Ephesians 6:21).

Once again, please open your Bible to Ephesians 4:11. 

Ephesians 4

11: And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors, and teachers,

During his final journey to Jerusalem, our Apostle Paul sought to meet in Miletus with the elders of the Ephesian Church.  When they arrived, Paul warned them about the false teachers who would arrive after he left with a specific purpose “speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.  The Bible doesn’t say who these false teachers were, but we may assume they came to this assembly of Believers claiming the office of apostleship, falsely.

Paul closes his gracious warning to the Ephesian elders with this statement:  “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.  Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish (rebuke) each one with tears.  And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up (nourish your heart and mind) and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:29-31; 1 Timothy 1:1-3).  

In 1 Corinthians 11:13, our Apostle Paul unmasks these counterfeit apostles:  For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ.

Jesus Himself labeled these emissaries of Satan as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15).

There were two different kinds of apostles in Paul’s day.  There were the twelve apostles called by the Lord Jesus Christ to serve the nation of Israel (Matthew 10:1-8).  They preached the gospel of the kingdom on Jewish soil; they were able to exorcise demons, and heal the sick (Mark 3:13-35).  These men taught from the Old Testament scriptures to prove Jesus is who He said He was: 

I am the bread of life” (John 6:35, 48, 51)
I am the light of the world” (John 812; 9:5)
I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7-9)
I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14)
I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25)
I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6)
I am the true vine” (John 15:1).

Then there is our Apostle Paul who stated:  For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles (2 Corinthians 11:5; Romans 1:1-5).

In the Corinthians passage, Paul is referring to Peter, James of Zebedee, his brother John (Jesus named them the Sons of Thunder), and the rest.  Paul’s saying the risen Lord spoke to him and called him to the office of apostleship on Gentile ground (Syria).  But Paul did not preach the gospel of the kingdom to the Jewish nation.  Instead he preached the revelation of the mystery, specifically to the heathen Gentiles.  So let’s be clear, Paul is not the 13th apostle!  He is God’s apostle to the Gentiles; the first to be baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ, and this marks the beginning of the Age of Grace. 

Now let’s all turn to 2 Corinthians 8:23.  This verse explains there were two categories of apostles back in the day. 

As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.

In Koine Greek this passage says, “They are apostles of the churches.”  Apollos, Barnabas, James (Jesus’ half brother – Acts 15), Silas, Timothy and Titus all fit this description; they were apostles (messengers) of the churches. 

Thinking this through, the false apostles couldn’t declare they were one of the twelve, commissioned by the Lord Himself.  The twelve were widely known by the churches, but these counterfeit apostles could show up stating they were apostles (messengers) of the churches.  They came in teaching another gospel, confusing those who had been taught God’s divine revelation of the mystery of grace.  The spiritually immature Believers who were “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming,” were easily deceived.

I pray you are starting to understand God’s purpose for these church offices.  Godly men were called to guide the new Believers in the faith through the spoken Word because there was no New Testament. 

Now, let’s examine these three remaining church offices:   

Evangelists – last week we learned the only person formerly called an evangelist was Phillip.  He was not an apostle; he was one of the seven Spirit-filled deacons of the Jerusalem Church.  From the account in Acts 8 we also learn in the first century church evangelism was performed by going and not by inviting people to the house church.  The evangelist preached the gospel in those places where it had not been heard, which means it was a traveling ministry. 

In the passage below, Paul writes to Timothy (a messenger of the churches), instructing him to evangelize:   

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.  But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

When God withdrew the church offices of apostles and prophets, their roles were taken up by Evangelists, pastors, and teachers; minus the supernatural activity.  God gave His apostles and prophets the ability to perform “signs and wonders.” They were not only designed in response to Israel’s physical needs they were meant to nourish the Nation’s  greater spiritual need, that is, their faith (Psalm 42:1).   

The supernatural events of “signs and wonders” recorded in Scripture are acts of God that proclaim His sovereign power over His creation as well as his commitment to the good of His people.  Miracles are often significant because they serve a larger purpose in God’s redemptive plan, testifying to the authenticity of God’s messengers who bring his revelation to humanity.  This is one of the primary functions of miracles in the Bible.  When they occur, they give evidence that God is truly at work and they served to advance His gospel.  In short, miracles authenticate God’s message and His messengers 

We learn from scripture that Paul’s ability to perform miracles had ceased.  Paul performed a miracle when he raised Eutychus from the dead in Acts 20:7-12.  But later on he couldn’t heal Timothy’s stomach ailment in 1Timothy 5:23:  No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.  In addition, Paul was unable to remove the painful malady he called “a thorn in the flesh” which God gave him (2 Corinthians 12).

A mistake occurred when the churches began to teach evangelism is a spiritual gift and only the spiritually gifted could and should preach the Word.  The Bible doesn’t indicate this; in fact the opposite is true.  Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) is the responsibility of all Believers.  Sadly, many Christians are deceived by this false teaching and many accepted it as truth (not bothering to examine the Scriptures) because it relieved them of the burden of sharing the gospel.   

Looking to scripture to correct this error, we’ve already learned Phillip was an evangelist.  He didn’t operate from a house church.  He took the gospel of the kingdom to the streets and to foreign lands.  We find him preaching and teaching God’s Word in Samaria, for instance (Acts 8).    

Paul gives us the role of an Evangelist in the first few verses of 2 Timothy 4:1-5.  They’re not out and about in the world helping to overcome its social ills.  Their main role is preaching the gospel to the lost (unsaved) rather than preaching inside a building.  But here’s the thing every true Believer should know.  You are Jesus Christ’s ambassador here on earth and the Lord has entrusted you with the ministry of reconciliation.

Please turn to 2 Corinthians 5:17-21:  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us (not just evangelists) the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us

Every child of God is called to be an agent of reconciliation, but the sad truth is the majority never share the gospel with anyone.  Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”  Now some people in the church have labeled this statement nonsensical or foolish, however, I disagree.  Francis of Assisi delivered a clear message to the faithful.  Far too many Christians believe they can lead people to Jesus Christ simply by putting their own personal life on display for all to see.  This strategy is not only not biblical it is doomed from the start.  These folks fail to account for the flesh, i.e. our sinful nature.  Old Adam makes his presence known at the most inopportune times.  So, in this case, “actions” do not speak louder than “words.”  The “words” Francis of Assisi declares Believers are to use is the gospel, which a 4th grader can understand and repeat (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  I know because I’ve taught children of all ages and they get it!

Permit me to illustrate.  Just the other day I was traveling a congested road, driving at the posted speed limit, in the far right lane, when suddenly in my rear view mirror I saw a car speeding up behind me.  The driver got so close to my rear bumper through my rear-view I could read the exasperation and impatience on his face.  Patient and demonstrating self-control he was not!  I was merely following a long line of cars in front of me, so I had no idea what this driver was thinking.  Perhaps he possessed the ability to “leap a line of cars” with a single bound…  He finally sped around me on my left, cutting me off in the process; I had to brake.  As he sped away I was able to see the emblem of a fish and two decals promoting Jesus and religion on his rear bumper.  I did not witness this young man displaying any “fruit of the Spirit” in our brief encounter.  However, even a church deacon has an off day now and again, so I’ll not sit in judgment of this man’s behavior or character based on one experience.  All I’m saying is, if you’re going to drive around with religious symbols on your car be mindful of your behavior; the world is watching!  (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 5:1)   

This serves to bring us back to the teaching on ambassadors of Christ Jesus.  You are to be mindful of your walk (how you live in this world).  You can’t walk worthy of your calling… if you have one foot in the church and the other foot firmly planted in the world.  Jesus Christ was the first to overcome this world (John 16:33), and He has given each Believer the gift of the Holy Spirit to “help” them overcome “the flesh” and the constant peer pressure, that is, the pull of this world.  We are to be “in the world,” but we are not to be “partnered with it.” 

You don’t need to memorize the entire Bible in order to evangelize.  All you need is love and knowledge of the gospel.  Paul instructed Timothy to preach the word; be ready in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2a).  be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of (who) an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:5;Acts 21:8).   In other words, Paul was saying:  “In order to make full proof of your ministry, you need to do the work of an evangelist."  Timothy was encouraged to be“a messenger of good tidings;” one who traveled and preached the gospel.   You don’t need to hop on a plane or train to fulfill your role as an ambassador of Jesus Christ.  We’re not evangelists in that sense; instead we are to “Bloom where we’re planted.”  Your ministry or “good work” begins right where you are.

Pastors and teachers– in Koine Greek this word is rendered Poimen (poy-mane’), Noun Masculine, Strong’s Greek #4166, meaning:  shepherd, literally.  We have this example from scripture:  Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered’ (Matthew 26:31).

While the role of the Evangelist is a special calling by God because he leaves his family and his home to travel the world to preach the gospel to the unsaved, the pastor leads and feeds the Body of Christ, usually in a building. 

For the sake of order, God has ordained various authority figures to govern the home, government, and His one Church.  Paul said to Timothy:  The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching (1Timothy 5:17).

In this passage Paul distinguishes between the ruling elders and the teaching elder, which would be the pastor of the local assembly of Believers.    The ruling elders provide spiritual leadership for the local church in cooperation with the pastor.  They all strive to work together, in the bond of peace, to resolve any and all problems that arise.  They also provide a spiritual atmosphere where all Believers can gather and worship in harmony.  Meaning we Believers should all understand the head of Christ Jesus is God the Father, the head of man is Jesus Christ, and the head of the woman is a godly man.  Pastors are the head of their assembly, but they are not to lord their position over the faithful.  Instead, they are to set a godly example through their leadership that any saint in Christ would desire to follow. 

In addition, the pastor or teacher should be faithful to their calling.  They should be “a friend in need” to the body.  They visit the sick and disabled and even offer spiritual counseling to the body.   Sadly we’re witnessing the opposite of this today for many church leaders have departed from the one faith, seeking to “feather their own nests,” or “in pursuit of personal glory.”  A man called to fill these positions will have a heart for those they serve.  They will be more interested in the spiritual well-being of those souls entrusted to them than advancing their own career or working to increase their bank account.   As I’ve said many a time, I’ve worked with pastors who held two jobs; a full-time assignment in their church and a full-time job to support their family.  As Pastor John said to me, “It is what it is.  The work of the Lord requires diligence and sacrifice.”

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6:9).

Then there’s the third person in a local assembly of Believers Paul called a teacher.  Not all pastors and evangelists are good teachers, and I don’t believe God expects them to be else we would not need a third church office.   So, these three offices in Paul’s day were filled by supernaturally gifted men.  God does not provide supernaturally gifted man to His Church today, but these three offices remain with purpose.   

To sum up, there are no new revelations from God.  “It is finished.”  The N.T. is complete and serves to equip and edify the saints.  No one should be expecting new revelations (Revelation 22:18-19).  Therefore, the evangelist, pastor, and teacher are responsible before God to proclaim the whole council of God in view of Paul’s revelation.  They are to encourage their assembly to study the Word, and rightly divide it.  The best teacher will serve as a guide, following along with God’s Word in order to explain it.  The Believer’s responsibility is to always open their Bible to see if what they are hearing or reading is actually the truth;

Test the Spirits:  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).

(To be continued)

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