unity: sharing is caring


As a kid, I was reminded often “sharing is caring.” I was a selfish kid who did not share my stuff with other kids.

When it comes to the church sharing is caring too. In the church, it is more than a childish jingle—it is a unity that leads to maturity in Christ. In Ephesians 4:1-6, we learned the church is called to walk as one in Christ with humility, gentleness, patience and love, but this can come with its challenges. We quickly discover that diversity and immaturity within the church can cause conflicts between one another.

What is the cause of disunity in the church? There are many causes, but the primary challenge to unity we will look at today is when you use your God-given gifts for your own agenda. God did not give you spiritual gifts to make you happy, to have others in the church stare at your sweet spiritual skills in awesome wonder, nor did He give them for the praise of your glory. If this is how you view spiritual gifts it is a challenge to the unity of the church and your own spiritual maturity.

Spiritual Gifts bring diversity to the church [Ephesians 4:7-10]

When it comes to spiritual gifts there are many gifts, as we will see, but only one Giver. For Ephesians 4:7 declares, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” What is grace referring to in this verse? Grace refers to the ministry of spiritual gifts that come from Christ. Grace is expressed through the gifts of the Spirit, which He has shared with the church to resemble the ministry of Christ. Who are the recipients of Christ’s grace-gifts? According to the verse, “each one of us.” In other words: all followers of Christ share grace-gifts [cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11]. No one in the church misses out on these spiritual Christmas gifts.

How are these grace-gifts made possible? In Christ, the Conqueror of sin and death. Who by His grace died, buried, resurrected and ascended victorious. Christ is like the conquering king who showers His subject with spiritual gifts. Note the interesting quotation from Psalm 68:18, “When He ascended on high He led a host of captives and He gave gifts to men,” which was a praise song that explains how kings brought gifts to the people of Israel. The reason for these gifts was to praise God. Paul links the idea of triumph and applies it to the Son of David—Jesus Christ—whose ascent to the Father declares victory over sin and death [vs.8-10; cf. 1:19-22].

Christ is supreme ruler over all things and shares with His people diverse gifts for His praise. Diversity would seem to at odds with unity, but this is not the case within the church. That is the beauty of the church and the grace-gifts of Christ. The diversity of gifts is given for the purpose of the church’s unity and Christ’s glory.

Spiritual Gifts bring maturity to the church [Ephesians 4:11-16]

What is the diversity of gifts God gives to His people? In this text there are only four gifts [who are persons] presented, “apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teacher.” [v.11] Are there more than these given? Yes,[1] but these four are mentioned specifically in context in relation to building Christ’s church. Within these gifts you will see how unity is brought together through diversity, maturity and ministry.

First, the diversity of gifts is for ministry [vs.11-12]. Christ gifts people within the church, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry and building up the body of Christ.” Each gift has an important role, as described in Ephesians, in declaring the mystery of Christ to all people [cf. 2:20; 3:5].

GIFT GOD’S PURPOSE FOR THE GIFT
Apostle Directly chosen by Christ for a foundational role in unveiling the mystery of Christ [1 Cor. 12:28].
Prophet Directly called by God for a foundational role in proclaiming the mystery of Christ [2 Peter 1:19].
Evangelist Directly called to share with message of the Gospel [2 Timothy 4:5; Acts 21:8]
Pastor-Teacher Directly called to [shepherd] care for the followers of Christ [Acts 20:28; Colossians 1:7-8; 4:12-13]

Many look at this verse and think, “Is ministry just for professionals? Or people in leadership?” It might look that way, but as you read on gifted leaders are not to do the ministry for you they equip you to do ministry, so that the body of Christ might be built up. If not, then the church will be ill equipped to continue to spread the message of Christ. Think of a school whose teachers did not train students, a business whose employees did not build a product, or a parent that did not feed their child. So the church is gifted with leaders to equip, train and feed their members. Now the church is different than a school, business or family in the stability, longevity, and authority. Christ will build His church and schemes of man or Satan will not stop what Christ has started.

Second, ministry is for unity and maturity [v.13]. The goal of ministry is that the church would be built up in unity and maturity. As we minister for Christ and to one another the result with be continued growth of the church. Some churches look more like ratty childlike tree house made from scrap lumber and metal sheeting that need constant attention because no one is doing any work of ministry to maintain unity. Other churches are like colossal monuments of stone built with strong engineering and careful precision to stand the test of time with little to no maintenance because they understand the unifying and maturing work of ministry. In either the case, the load is not entirely on the leaders, for the entire church is in the cause together becoming more like the fullness of Christ.

Third, maturity is for spiritual security [vs.14-16]. Spiritual security is important for the church. How does spiritual maturity keep the church secure? The church will be secure from false teaching [14]. No church is ever at a point when it is mature enough to be not be deceived by false teaching. Like naïve children we need to be aware of the deceptive lies that are stirring that seek to sweep away the unity of the church. Therefore, the church must be secure in love being able to share with one another how to grow in Christ [15]. Mature followers are not ashamed to share hard things to help one another, and mature followers are willing to accept biblical counsel in order to be more like Christ.

Also, the church will be secure in working together to keep each other strengthened [16]. Every part of our body is important from the head [Christ] down to the toes. Anyone who has ever had a sprain knows how important our joints are to strength. Mark it down; you will not mature as a follower of Christ unless you are involved in ministry. If you go to church just to fill your mind with knowledge, but do not do anything with what you know you will not grow. Your growth will be stunted and you will become spiritually stagnant.

Our pastor often uses use the illustration of the Dead Sea to describe spiritual growth. Why is the Dead Sea called dead? The Jordan River goes into the sea, but no river goes out. The Dead Sea is all input, but no output. It just gets saltier and more stagnant. Nothing can live or grow in it. Likewise, followers of Christ who do not use their spiritual gifts will become just like the Dead Sea if they just input knowledge and do not output service.

How can you prevent yourself from being stagnant and dead in your walk with Christ and your involvement at church? It begins by using your diverse gifts for the unity and the maturity of the church and your relationship with Christ. Diversity of gifts does bring unity to the church and glory to Christ. A church that walks in unity shares their gifts, which have been graciously given to them for the care of one another and the glory of church. Sharing is caring when it comes to the unity of the church.

What is your spiritual gift[s]? The best way to discover your gift is through prayer to God, counsel with your leaders, and implementation. How are your gifts being used? Are they being used for your glory, or for the glory of your church and Christ? If ministry is a chore rather than something you cherish, then you have a pretty good idea you are serving for the wrong reasons and you are a challenge to the churches unity. How would the work of ministry be different if you looked it as “get to” rather than “have to”?


[1] Cf. I Peter 4:11; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12

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