We’ve been covering the mission of the church these last few weeks.
A church is a body or family of people, called by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit to build each other up and testify about Jesus in the world.
Church is not an event or a product, it is a family with a mission.
This morning we are going to talk for a few minutes about the individual Christian.
What does it mean to be a Christian?
We will see three answers to that question this morning in Ephesians chapter 4. Let’s read Ephesians 4:11-16.
We are going to see that every Christian is a saint, every Christian is a work in progress and every Christian is a minister.
1. EVERY CHRISTIAN IS A SAINT
Notice the word saints in verse 12.
In many traditions the title of saint is reserved for a special few, for them a saint is not a regular person in the church pews but a rare individual who has extraordinary gifting and impact in the world. These saints are assured a placed in heaven due to their devotion and good works.
As protestants we don’t recognize a sainthood in this way.
The New Testament teaches us that it is not devotion and good works that earn a place in heaven. In fact there is absolutely nothing that can be done to earn a place in heaven.
Rather eternal life is a gift made possible by the substitutionary death of Christ. It is given by an act of pure, undeserved grace. It is given to anyone who transfers their trust or confidence from their own works to the work of Christ.
A saint is not someone who has earned a special place in heaven.
A saint is someone who has been given a special place in heaven by the grace of God.
The English word saint is a translation of the Greek word hagios. Hagios can be defined as “consecrated to God, holy, sacred, pious”.
Holiness is a major theme in the Old Testament. To function as a priest in ancient Israel, a man had to be purified by a ceremony involving the ashes of a rare, spotless red heifer. Only a priest could oversee sacrifices and only a purified and holy man could serve as a priest.
One of the elements involved in sacrificial services was the incense at the altar. God gave the priests a special recipe for that incense which was a holy or sacred product. Anyone who used the recipe in any other place or for any other purpose was to be cut off from their people.
In the inner Tabernacle and temple was a small room known as the holy of holies. Only a priest could enter that place and only after extensive purification. Tradition tells us that priests who prepared to enter the most holy place had a rope tied to their ankle in case they might bring any impurity into the room and bring death upon themselves.
Thayer’s Greek lexicon describes hagios as “things which on account of some connection with God possess a certain distinction and claim to reverence, as places sacred to God which are not to be profaned.”
Even without religion, we have a sense of holiness – of things that are set aside with a special value and purpose. The man who carries a pristine pair of Air Jordans in a special bag to the basketball gym, the grandmother who display her fine china in a lighted hutch and the wife whose prized pearl set is kept in a special felt box – all recognize something of the concept of holy.
The more you understand the concept the more amazing it becomes to know that the common term for the Christian in the NT is hagios or saint.
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.
1 Corinthians 1:2
The New Testament tells us that a person is made holy, or made a saint not by good works but by the blood of Christ.
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.
Faith in that sacrificial blood of Jesus is the one qualification for membership in the sainthood.
This is one of the wonderful works of God’s grace offered to us in the gospel. Whoever trusts in the work of Jesus will have their sins cleansed, erased and forgiven and will join the company of the saints.
I think that the term saints or holy ones is a term of endearment in the New Testament. It recognizes the new identity given to the Christian by the gospel.
It also speaks to the lifestyle or behavior of the Christian.
A saint can’t act in any old way.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people (hagios).
2. EVERY CHRISTIAN IS A WORK IN PROGRESS
Notice the word equip.
This word in the Greek means to fix or to mend. To put into order. To adjust something that is out of adjustment. To make complete something that is lacking.
When Jesus found James and John in their boats they were mending their nets. This is the same word in the Greek.
And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.
In the local church God carries out restoration projects in the hearts of his saints. In Christ we are saints, but we have wounds that need healing. We have deficiencies that need addressing. We have brokenness that needs repairing.
We are all works in progress.
I have a friend who is very interested in God, but is very reluctant to come to church. He feels that he is the only one who has a rough background. He feels that he is the only one who doesn’t have his life put together. I’m trying to teach him that everyone in this room is a work in progress.
Someone here is caught in the snares of addiction.
Someone here is living with shame and self-loathing.
Somebody here is walking in the shadow of dark clouds of depression.
There’s a person in this room who is under the impression that your marriage is broken beyond repair.
You need to know two things:
- You are not alone.
- This is not what you are intended for.
No matter what your struggle is this morning – God can fix it. God can mend it.
There’s no person, no situation so broken God cannot restore it.
God wants to restore you. If there’s something lacking in your life God wants to complete you. If there’s something out of alignment, God wants to adjust it. If there is something broken, God desires to restore it.
God’s desire for you is to be whole and complete. Ready for action in the world.
How does God accomplish that mending? Ephesians tells us that one of the ways that happens is through the Word of God. God has given certain roles to the church, sometimes they are referred to as supporting roles. These are leaders who bring the word of God into a church.
Apostles and prophets originate and proclaim the Word of God. Evangelists take the Word of God to new people and places. Pastors and teachers clarify and apply the Word of God in local communities.
The leaders in the New Testament saw their primary purposes to be prayer and the ministry of the Word. As the Word is proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit, lives are changed.
In the church God makes saints. As he mends and restores saints they become ministers.
3. EVERY CHRISTIAN IS A MINISTER
There is something very important in Ephesians 4 that I don’t want you to miss. Who is it that does the work of ministry?
Notice that it is not the church leaders. It is the saints who are responsible for the work of ministry.
Paul has alluded to this already in Ephesians 2. In that incredible chapter, Paul explains that salvation is not a matter of works but of grace. It is by faith that sinners are made into saints.
The grace of God does not end there, however. In 2:10 Paul tells us that every saint is a masterpiece in the hands of God, created to do good works which God has prepared in advance for them to accomplish.
Saints are not saved by works, but they are saved for them.
As Martin Luther said, God doesn’t need your works, but your neighbor does.
God’s intention is that as you grow and become strong in the gospel you become useful to the world around you.
Men, God’s desire for you is to bring your strength to bear in your home – loving and leading your family in the pursuit of Christ’s kingdom. Leading in prayer and teaching the Word of God.
Saints, God’s desire for you is to be strong in grace as you love and serve your neighbors and coworkers.Every Christian ought to be a minister of prayer in their spheres of influence.
Every Christian ought to be a minister of the gospel, able to clearly present the gospel so that others can believe and be saved.
Every Christian ought to be engaged in meeting the practical needs of the communities around them.
We are saints, mended and equipped to become ministers.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown