CLARK E. WADE's picture

"In reading this (Ephesian letter), you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ. Ephesians 3:4

The Secret of the LORD have they who fear and worship HIm and HE will show them HIS covenant and reveal to them its deep, inner meaning." Psalms 25:14

"Our passage from Ephesians says more...The gospel includes not only the person of Jesus Christ and His unfathomable riches, but also that mystery which was hidden in past ages--which has to do with God's eternal plan. The practical outworking of God's eternal plan is the church as it is described in the same epistle.

"Our understanding of the gospel is one-sided, and too much focused on man. As strange as it may seem to some, the New Testament gospel contains things which have nothing to do with sin and lost souls. When we reduce the gospel to mere salvation of the sinner, we distort it and fundamentally alter its character and message. And we counterfeit its results. When I preach only salvation, all I get is converts. If I make forgiveness the central theme of the gospel, the only result is people whose sins are forgiven. We could proceed to list a number of things in this way, and it would occur to us how improper and unbiblical modern evangelism is compared with New Testament witness.

"And what was the result of the work and ministry of the apostles in the New Testament? Church, communities, the body of Christ! Did they preach the church? Was the community of believers the focus of their message? Never! They proclaimed Christ! They were witnesses of the incomparable Christ! They spoke of the mystery and plan of God which HE purposed before the foundation of the world and which HE carried out in Christ Jesus and churches were the result of their preaching! Outwardly, they were communities with various strengths and weaknesses, each with its own merits and disadvantages. Inwardly, however, they were churches which embodied the living God, churches in which Christ resided, which took on the form of a body. The head was Christ and members were one in Christ.

“The results of modern, large-scale evangelism cannot even be compared to the fruits of New Testament apostolic preaching. That is the best evidence that we are not preaching the same gospel they did. It is proof that we are not preaching Christ but rather things pertaining to man and his situation. The things we preach may be biblical, but that is not the deciding factor. God evaluates all things by Christ. The Bible testifies of Christ. We have to put the gospel’s original substance and power—as well as all its forgotten aspects—back into our evangelism. Then we will encounter God’s eternal purpose, because, in the final analysis, what the gospel really proclaims is that God’s purpose can now be carried out in Christ. Everything which stood in its way before has been attended to or disposed of.” (Manfred Haller, “God’s Goal: Christ as All in All”)

This heavenly epistle, this unfolding of "God's Eternal Purpose," writ as a lyrical song to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and HIS Son, is a divine subject that has been lost for 1700 years. As an experiment, I looked up the "belief statements" of several denominations and could find nothing written regarding God's Eternal Purpose. Considering that Paul made God's Eternal Purpose in Christ the central focus of his preaching and teaching, I think this is significant. What I did discover is that most of these belief statements, as Manfred Haller pointed out, seems to focus on God's gift of salvation. In other words, rather than seeing the church as God's divine vehicle, created out of the Son in order to fulfill God's Eternal Purpose, most of these belief statements are centered on man and what God has done for him. Here is a belief statement example:

We believe in the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Genesis 1:26; Matt. 28:19, II Cor. 13:14

We believe that Jesus Christ, Son of God, Born of the Virgin Mary is truly the Savior of the world. Matt. 1:21; Rom. 4:25.

We believe in the gift of the Holy Spirit to believers; and the gifts of the Spirit to the faithful. Luke 11:13; I Cor. 12:3-11.

We believe that the Church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head, and shall be preserved to the end of time. Romans 12:4; I Cor. 12:12-28; Col. 1:18; Matt. 16:18.

We believe in eternal life, which is the gift of God. Romans 6:23.

We believe that all persons are sinners standing in need of God's forgiving grace. Romans 3:10-26.

We believe that all persons must repent of their sins and through faith accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord if they would enter the kingdom of God.Matt.4:17; John 3:1-7; Matt. 3:2.

We believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the whole world; and that everyone who will believe in the atoning sacrifice of Christ's blood on the cross may be saved. John 3:16; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14-22.

We believe that Jesus Christ will come again and at His coming God's eternal kingdom will begin. Luke 21:27; Acts 1:11; I Cor. 1:7-8; Phil. 3:20; I John 2:28, 3:2.

We believe that it is our sacred duty to identify ourselves with a congregation of believers with whom we can worship God, observe the ordinances of Christ, exhort and support one another, labor for the salvation of others, and work together to advance the Lord’s Kingdom (Acts 16:5; Hebrews 10:24).

We believe in the Bible as God's own Holy word; written by men of God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. II Peter 1:21.

We believe that soul winning is the “one big business” of the Church on earth, and that every hindrance to worldwide evangelism should be removed (James 5:20; Mark 16:15).

We believe that tithing and offerings are ordained of God to sustain His ministry, spread the Gospel, and release personal blessing (Malachi 3:10; 1 Corinthians 16: 1, 2).

Do you see here how so much of this belief statement does center on man's salvation? It appears that over half of what is stated here does refer to what God has done for man. But God had a purpose for the creation of man before the foundation of the world that was planned in HIS heart before the Fall. What we have done in centering our preaching and teaching on man's redemption rather than God's eternal purpose is to egregiously miss God's high calling in Christ Jesus.

As we continue to contemplate God's Eternal Purpose in this epistle, there are a couple of things that may happen if the LORD is gracious to us:

1. The scales will fall from our eyes; we will realize how far we have strayed from God's purpose. It will dawn on us how narrowly New Testament truths have been handed down and continue to be taught. We will see how carelessly and indifferently we have regarded the deep things of God.

2. The longing will awaken in us to do everything we can to see that God's principles and desires are obeyed, and His intentions realized. (Manfred Haller, "God's Goal: Christ as All in All).

What I want to do here is to add thoughts and resources that may help us in our understanding of God's Eternal Purpose. If we would ever experience revival in the church, we must see revival of the deep things of God in Christ Jesus. We need to pray that God's Eternal Purpose will be recovered in its New Testament fulness and glory and that we will no longer contend with God by substituting other spiritual things in the place of HIS purposes as revealed in Paul's writings.

If any of you know of other resources or writings that would be of benefit, please post those as well.

P: I pray here in the Name of Jesus Christ, that those who follow You, who love You, who serve You will not give rest to our eyelids until we have made a place for Your Eternal Purpose in our thinking, in our practices, in our praying, in our serving. May everything we think we know submit to all that You are in Your Eternal Purpose. Forgive us LORD for substituting spiritual things, spiritual experiences, and all spirital pursuits that do not lead us deeper into Your Eternal Purpose as co-workers and co-participants with You.

CLARK E. WADE's picture

Some random musings on our ordination as ministers of Christ


A couple of nights ago, I had what felt like an epiphany of sorts on Ephesians 4:12-13 that I wanted to share with everybody. I spent some considerable time writing these thoughts and when I was almost finished, the electricity went off in my house for a second and I lost everything that I had written. But I felt this was important to give it another try and re-write it. I was also struck by the observation and prayer of "reformr" regarding his question as to why there was such a a lack of love in the churches today and attempt to answer this in some small way here.

“And He has given to the church, first apostles, then prophets, evangelist, pastors/teachers for the equipping of the saints THAT THEY should do the work of the ministry to building up the body of Christ.”

Have you ever given thought to how revolutionary, how radical this passage is? God has given gifted people to the church to equip the saints, that “they should do the work of the ministry to build up the body of Christ.”

Another way we could paraphrase this is in saying that Christ is passionate that every member of His body be a minister. And what is it they are mandated to minister? To “build up the body of Christ.”

There are no shirkers in this army of ministers. No one sitting in the sidelines at all, not a single member. Nothing is left to “the” minister because in Christ’s economy, “the” minister doesn’t exist because we are all called to “do the work of the ministry to build up the body of Christ.”

How I have often thought of the privilege of sitting in a meeting where Paul, or a Timothy, or a Titus, was in a room equipping the saints for this “work of the ministry in building up the body of Christ.” And then I realized that what they would be telling the saints in homes of a Priscilla and Aquilla was probably not very different from the very words we are reading in these epistles.

Time after time, and in letter after letter, we see that the fellowship of the saints is to be marked by mutual affection, mutual ministry, mutual admonition and teaching, and a deep sense of equality among members. The scriptures admonish the saints to gather together to “admonish one another“ (Heb. 10:25), to “encourage one another” (Heb. 3:13), to “teach one another” (Col. 3:16), to “ submit to one another” (Eph.5:21), and to come to the assembly prepared to bring a “song, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue or interpretation.” (I Cor. 14:26). These are the saints who know that they are ordained ministers, called to “build up the body of Christ” and minister HIS person one to another. Their sense of ministry is not over-localized onto one or two official ministers, but ministry is shared “by” and “to” the body of Christ “for” the body of Christ "by" the power of His indwelling life operating mightily through each member—one to another.

And to those brothers who have walked in the spirit, who have more experience than the rest, he tells us to offer to them “double honor” or “respect.” But no one is above another, for we are all brothers. Actually, the one who is exalted in this type of fellowship is the brother who places himself beneath the other brothers in service to them, in cultivating their gifting. We see this vividly in Paul’s exhortation here in I Corinthians regarding “the unseemly parts” of the body of Christ:, and that they are also given “greater honor:”

“And those parts of the body which we consider rather ignoble are the very parts which we invest with additional honor; and our unseemly parts and those unsuitable for exposure are treated with seemliness, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so adjusted the body, giving the greater honor and richer endowment to the inferior parts which lack importance.” (I Cor. 12:23-24).

Someone said if we want to see what we have never seen before, we need to do what has never been done before.

Imagine if we began to take to heart our calling as saints as co-laborers, co-workers, co-ministers of our Lord Christ Jesus and that we are “ordained’ from On High to “build up the body of Christ” through taking our place in that body and actually functioning in our gifting, the gifting that is given to every member, the gifting of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, given to every member for every member? (I Cor. 12:7).

Imagine how radical it would be if we began with our seating arrangement in many of our congregations so that the members are actually facing one another rather than a stage. The task that lies before us is to restore and renew something of the amazing vitality and vigor of the early church, and this can be done if we set our hands to the plow and begin envisioning the Christian enterprise anew as something that actually takes place as we hold to the Headship of Christ.

There needs to be a radical shift in our mindset as followers of Jesus Christ. As long as we speak of clergymen as “the ministers” such language marginalizes our own part and place as equal ministers, equally called by Christ to “build up His body.” Our language is a revelation of what we actually think and is a barrier to improvement and a proper understanding of the revelation of the body of Christ given to Paul in these letters.

We pray and long for revival, but we have no idea how that would come. We think God is going to just “drop it on us.” But much of our religiosity is so encrusted and ridged. We think church is what happens when we gather together to hear a communication from one way to the saints who don’t know that they themselves are ordained to “build up the body of Christ.” Our fellowship time is often what happens when we “turn around and greet someone” in the congregation, and for many, this is the sum of it. This notion has to change as we pursue redemptive fellowships, one to another in the presence and pursuit of Jesus Christ.

Elton Trueblood writes:

“Renewal will not come merely by the acts of professional renewers or by hierarchial operations; it will come only when Christians understand and implement the idea that vocation is universal. Renewal does not come unless the members accept unreservedly and unapologetically the fact that each one is called to be a member of Christ’s team…Much of our present danger is that we do not see our task in its proper magnitude.”

Much of the church world is so weak and emasculated because the members of Christ’s body do not see or take their place as ministers. Sadly, in some cases, the leaders of churches do not see their calling as “equippers” but as people who are “above the congregants.” This is what one pastor-author wrote in a cover article in Christianity Today in 1997 (Gary M. Burge, “Are Evangelicals Missing God at church?” Christianity today, October 6, 1997, p. 20ff):

“…in worship, the pastor must become priest…The pastor assumes the role of mediator, incarnating God to the people…

“Through our craft, we will facilitate worship…As pastor-priest, we bring to the congregation the glory of our encounter with God. Having spent long, enduring time in the Lord’s presence, we speak to our congregations out of those encounters…And as we worship, liturgists and leaders become a priesthood, mediating God, showing the depth of their own experiences, radiating God’s glory, pointing weary souls heavenward…”

When I read this, I think of Lucifer who was the worship leader in the Great Congregation, who began to take unto himself the very self-praise that I see in these words. I would point this brother to Ephesians, to walk humbly with his God before the saints, and to see that his purpose as a leader is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry in building up the body of Christ.” It is not to draw attention to himself, no matter how "radiant" he thinks his walk is with God. His vocation, if taken seriously, is to cultivate the ministry possibilities in the saints rather than to nurture a dependency on his gifting, talents, and oratory. Good grief!

The early Christians met together often. The book of Acts says virtually “everyday” they were gathering together in the Temple and in their homes. But the main point is not where they met, but how often. They loved getting together, a lot because they met the Lord in each other. And as they gathered together, their love for one another in Christ Jesus grew.

How we need a resurgence of this type of love for one another in informal gatherings around the pursuit of Jesus Christ. These early Christians met together, face-to-face, sharing their lives, their hopes, their dreams, their confessions, their strengths and weakness, and most of all, their unabashed love of Jesus Christ.

We have a small fellowship here in Crescent City that is growing in love for one another. We huddle together often, with our arms around each other in prayer. We sing songs to one another. We tell each other that we love each other. I see the gifting in these brothers and sisters growing by use, and they are becoming bolder in ministry, one to another. We do things together and sometimes work together on different projects at each other’s homes. We call up on one another to encourage one another over the phone. We are becoming dearest friends in Christ. I look forward to the day when people will actually look at us and say, in reality, “Look how they love one another.” If we were to be meeting in mostly formal settings and just looking at the back of each other's heads, this kind of love wouldn't be growing as it is. If this is our general experience of church life, then the fact that we are not loving one another isn't such a mystery.

I’m writing this as an admonishment to all the brothers and sisters here. It’s fine and good to attend a church meeting to hear a sermon and sing some songs. But if that is the main and central place where we experience fellowship, that is just not enough. We need to seek each other out and "assemble together" as Hebrews 10:25 writes, "to admonish one another." We think our major role as Christians is to attend meetings where we listen to equippers equip us. But if their equipping is authentic, then the fruit of that equipping will be the gathering together of ourseleves as saints to admonish and instruct one another under the guidance and Headship of Jesus Christ operating through one another.

We need to gather together outside of church programs to build one another up in the faith. This is not “the" minister’s job or calling, it is ours. When the saints take this to heart, there will be a revival on the order of a spiritual explosion, it will be dynamite!

It's an awesome thing to understand that we, every brother and sister who is in Christ, has been called into the ministry to build up the body of Christ.

Let us pursue this heavenly calling with all the passion and fire that is in us through Christ, and not grow weary in well doing but continue to encourage one another, inspire one another, pray for one another, teach and admonish one another, devote and delight ourselves in one another, and love one another fervently with the compassion of Jesus Christ.

I love you brothers and sisters and thank you for all the ways you have encouraged me and the others.

Let's keep growing and going and glowing in the Spirit of God! There is much work to do and the harvest is white and ripe. Let us become the laborers our Lord prayed for. You are all ministers of Christ, called by Him to build up His body. Let's take our places to encourage the faint-hearted, to uphold the arms of the weak, to visualize the untapped potential of our brothers and sisters who do not yet understand that they have a ministry. Let us become an army of "Barnabus's" "sons and daughters of encouragement" and build-up the body of Christ in our day! Amen.