What Happened to the Church Jesus Built - Pt. 2
By Tommy Thornhill

As the close of the last issue it was pointed out that (according to my understanding), the gifts of Eph.4:11-13 were functioning offices, designed to establish and maintain the unity of the faith, and bring the Lord’s church (people) to maturity. Some contend the gifts were supernatural gifts, but I disagree. Let me elaborate a little more.    Note the context. In Eph.4:7 we read, “But to each one of us grace was given, according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” What was the purpose? That “…He might fill all things” v.10. Then in v.13 he writes, “till we all come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”

The gifts were given by Christ to supply everything necessary to bring all saints to unity and maturity, so their function is to build up the body Eph.4:,12, 16.  As seen in a previous lesson, the church (through its members) was designed to make known God’s manifold wisdom “to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (the spiritual realm), the means by which He would send the gospel of Christ throughout the sinful world Eph.3:10-11; 1.Tim.3:15. If you read carefully the passage, Eph.4:7-16, you will note that the emphasis in these verses is not miraculous gifts, but gifts for the spiritual development (equipping) of the saints of God to enable them to perform the spiritual work assigned to the church of which they are a part Eph.4:12, 16.  While it is true that some of the evangelists, pastors/teachers in the early church had “miraculous gifts” this is not what Paul has in mind in the passage we are considering.

You should notice in the context, that the gifts in Eph.4:11 were meant to teach, equip and edify the brethren. In fact, you will notice that the one thing these gifts have in common is the idea of teaching and edifying, not the use of miraculous gifts. Some say, what about the word “till” (until) in v.13? As pointed in the last article I don’t  believe the word as used in the context refers to some specified duration that will end at a certain time. Rather these gifts were to continue until the goal or results sought after were reached. This goal, unity of the faith and maturity, is one that each generation must seek after and develop itself. I sincerely believe this is what the context teaches.    

The task of the apostles and prophets, guided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was to record the doctrine of Christ (apostles’ doctrine). When the NT was completed, God’s people had available all matters of faith, worship and work, including the pattern for the local church’s organization and function. When the apostles and prophets died, they had no successors, so their function was no longer active. Yet, their work remained behind, for all future generations to follow. We find this work in the NT.   Unlike the apostles and prophets, the active function of evangelists, pastors and teachers has not ceased. Their work, that of imparting the words the apostle left behind, continues 2.Tim.2:2; 4:1-5. Even though some had miraculous gifts in the 1st century, spiritual gifts are not needed to function as evangelists, pastors and teachers. They have the completed word of God at their disposal 1.Cor.13:9-10; Jude 3. All they need is a knowledge of God’s word and a desire to teach it boldly and plainly, for God has decreed that man would be saved through the foolishness of preaching 1.Cor.1:18, 21; Rom.1:16. As long as there are people who need saving and kept saved, there is a need for men to function as evangelists and pastors/teachers. The responsibility of preaching the gospel and equipping and edifying the saints to bring them to maturity and a unity of the faith is ongoing.     

As long as these gifts are utilized as God designed them to work, they will bring any group of Christians to the unity of the faith and maturity in any given locale. They will be a church of Christ functioning the way God intended. They will “no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every word of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting…from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” Eph.4:14. 16. When these gifts are not utilized, or people allow them to be abused, a local church will never fulfill the purpose for which it claims to exist. With the simplicity of God’s plan, the church Christ promised to build, and did build, in the first century grew and prospered and spread throughout the world. It grew in spite of the open conflict it faced from the beginning, first from the hostile, worldly, materialistic Jews, followed by the hatred of the world and its pagan carnality. To be a follower of Christ required a complete separation from the human philosophies and sinful worldly practices of paganism and the rejection of material Judaism. The saints recognized only the authority of Christ and allegiance to His cause. They were not attracted to the allurements of the world. Their commitment and courage kept them from compromising their faith for the sake of the world. The world’s bitter hatred and enmity toward God’s people brought severe persecution against the church. (In my next article we will notice what happened to the church when it came in conflict with the world). of paganism and the rejection of material Judaism. The saints recognized only the authority of Christ and allegiance to His cause. They were not attracted to the allurements of the world. Their commitment and courage kept them from compromising their faith for the sake of the world. The world’s bitter hatred and enmity toward God’s people brought severe persecution against the church. (In my next article we will notice what happened to the church when it came in conflict with the world).