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In the Work of Ministering
‘And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ.’—Eph. 4:11, 12
The object with which Christ when He ascended to heaven bestowed on His servants the various gifts that are mentioned is threefold. Their first aim is—for the perfecting of the saints. Believers as saints are to be led on in the pursuit of holiness until they ‘stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.’ It was for this Epaphras laboured in prayer. It is of this Paul writes: ‘Whom we preach, teaching every man in all wisdom that we may present every man perfect in Christ’ (Col. 4:12; 1:28).
This perfecting of the saints is, however, only a means to a higher end: unto the work of ministering, to fit all the saints to take their part in the service to which every 82 believer is called. It is the same word as is used in texts as these: ‘They ministered to Him of their substance; Ye ministered to the saints and do minister’ (Luke 4:30, 8:3; 1 Cor. 16:15; Heb. 6:10; 1 Pet. 4:11).
And this, again, is also a means to a still higher end: unto the building up of the body of Christ. As every member of our body takes its part in working for the health and growth and maintenance of the whole, so every member of the body of Christ is to consider it his first great duty to take part in all that can help to build up the body of Christ. And this, whether by the helping and strengthening of those who are already members, or the ingathering of those who are to belong to it. And the great work of the Church is, through its pastors and teachers, so to labour for the perfecting of the saints in holiness and love and fitness for service, that every one may take his part in the work of ministering, that so, the body of Christ may be built up and perfected.
Of the three great objects with which Christ has given His Church apostles and teachers, the work of ministering stands thus in the middle. On the one hand, it is preceded by that on which it absolutely depends—the perfecting of the saints. On 83 the other, it is followed by that which it is meant to accomplish—the building up of the body of Christ. Every believer without exception, every member of Christ’s body, is called to take part in the work of ministering. Let every reader try and realise the sacredness of his holy calling.
Let us learn what the qualification is for our work. ‘The perfecting of the saints’ prepares them for the ‘work of ministering.’ It is the lack of true sainthood, of true holiness, that causes such lack and feebleness of service. As Christ’s saints are taught and truly learn what conformity to Christ means, a life like his, given up in self-sacrifice for the service and salvation of men, as His humility and love, His separation from the world and devotion to the fallen, are seen to be the very essence and blessedness of the life He gives, the work of ministering, the ministry of love, will become the one thing we live for. Humility and Love—these are the two great virtues of the saint—they are the two great powers for the work of ministering. Humility makes us willing to serve; love makes us wise to know how to do it. Love is inventive; it seeks patiently, and suffers long, until it find a way to reach its object. Humility and love are equally turned away from self and its claims. Let us pray, let 84 the Church labour for ‘the perfecting of the saints’ in humility and love, and the Holy Spirit will teach us how to minister.
Let us look at what the great work is the members of Christ have to do. It is to minister to each other. Place yourself at Christ’s disposal for service to your fellow Christians. Count yourself their servant. Study their interest. Set yourself actively to promote the welfare of the Christians round you. Selfishness may hesitate, the feeling of feebleness may discourage, sloth and ease may raise difficulties—ask your Lord to reveal to you His will, and give yourself up to it. Round about you there are Christians who are cold and worldly and wandering from their Lord. Begin to think what you can do for them. Accept as the will of the Head that you as a member should care for them. Pray for the Spirit of love. Begin somewhere—only begin, and do not continue hearing and thinking while you do nothing. Begin ‘the work of ministering’ according to the measure of the grace you have. He will give more grace.
Let us believe in the power that worketh in us as sufficient for all we have to do. As I think of the thumb and finger holding the pen with which I write this, I ask, How is it that during all these seventy years of my 85 life they have always known just to do my will? It was because the life of the head passed into and worked itself out in them. ‘He that believeth on Me,’ as his Head working in him, ‘the works that I do shall he do also.’ Faith in Christ, whose strength is made perfect in our weakness’ will give the power for all we are called to do.
Let us cry to God that all believers may waken up to the power of this great truth: Every member of the body is to live wholly for the building up of the body.
1. To be a true worker the first thing is close, humble fellowship with Christ the Head, to be guided and empowered by Him.
2. The next is humble, loving fellowship with Christ’s members serving one another in love.
3. This prepares and fits for service in the world.
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