Study 3: Life in the Church

You have an indispensable role in the church: to use your spiritual gifts and pursuit of godliness for the growth and benefit of the body.

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called. He gave some as… pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

Ephesians as a whole is about life in the church of Jesus Christ. The first three chapters lay out the theology, and from chapter 4 to the end is how this is to be lived out practically. These three chapters (4-6) contain more commands than any other book of the New Testament.

What we find through this chapter is that the Christian life is not only intensely practical, demanding vigorous application of doctrine to every-day living, the church is a body unified in truth and under the Lordship of Christ, where every member contributes to the growth and health of the whole.

The Argument of Ephesians 4

v1-6       live a life worthy of your calling into the Church of Jesus Christ
v7-11      gifts of grace have been given to the church and every Christian
v12-16   each must exercise his gift & position for the building of of the body
v17-23   this means we should live a renewed life coming from a renewed mind
v24-32   the principle of putting off – being renewed – putting on

Summed up:

  1. This is the life of the church: discipleship as each member contributes to the growth and maturity of the body as a whole.
  2. This growth is to be fiercely pursued in sanctification (the process of putting off sin, being renewed in our thinking, and putting on righteousness).
  3. The key is renovation of the mind (we are being taught in Christ, the source of Truth – in contrast to our former ignorance, darkened understanding and futile thinking).

The life of the church is in the personal discipleship relationships; as we help one another in this process, as we grow up together in a mature man (v13) where each person supplies that which is lacking in his sphere of influence.

Discipleship is about Imitation, Renovation, Cultivation, and Conformation (see Study 2). It’s about taking the doctrines of Scripture and making them convictions in your life that will transform the way you live.

The Discipleship Approach

1 – The Discipleship Relationship

  • Your family
  • A friend/relative in crisis
  • An immature believer needing confrontation
  • A person asking advice
  • Someone ‘assigned’ to you

Understand that your first priority is discipleship of your family. This is your responsibility. But God will – as you mature in your walk – bring others into your sphere of influence. Be in ‘discipleship mode’. How can I encourage, exhort, teach, pray for, learn from? In what way can I stir this person towards greater love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25)?

Remember the principle of imitation. This sobers us. It is self-purifying. Consider the responsibility of spiritual influence and tackle the issue of hypocrisy in your own heart.

2 – Identify Flawed Thinking (How do they think about…?)

  • God
  • Self/Man
  • Sin
  • Salvation
  • Sanctification

Don’t be tempted toward ‘behavioral change’, but understanding that the issue is always about the thinking (Eph 4:17-21, 1 Cor 10:3-6). Where are there doctrinal errors? Have they bought into the world’s way of thinking? Are they under the spell of false teaching?

Ask questions. Probe. “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.” Prov 20:5

3 – Work on Renewal of the Mind

  • Lay down a doctrinal foundation
  • Get resources for the particular issue at hand (see Joel James A Quick Reference Guide for Counsellors and Disciplers)
  • Work out steps for moving from knowledge to experiential knowledge (Col 1:9-12)
  • Keep driving towards conviction
  • Pray together

We should be asking: “How does this doctrine work itself out by faith in these particular areas of your life?” That means you need to be in the disciplee’s life (and being discipled, you should be open and vulnerable enough to receive deep, probing questions). Remember, our relationships should never remain superficial.

Until When?

So you should be engaged in the lives of those in your sphere of influence – working through doctrine carefully, and seeking ways to apply it. You are being equipped for this work of ministry (Eph 4:12). Until? “…until we attain to the unity of the faith.” (v13) Unity happens, not when we sign off on some doctrinal statement, but when it becomes a shared conviction, put into practice in godly living. Until “…every man is complete (mature) in Christ,” Colossians 1:28.

Christ is the goal. We should strive to be like Him – pure, holy and righteous. Confessing sin, building spiritual friendships, sacrificing for one another, praying for one another, loving one another. This is the life of the church. This is discipleship.

With what kind of Attitude?

Galatians 6:1 “…you who are spiritual, restore (set right, align, reset)…” 

Spiritual is simply referring to 5:22-23 “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control…”

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