Ephesians 2:18-22 – Through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
As we give our attention to the five ministry gifts it is important to keep focused on Jesus. Each of the ministry gifts is a manifestation of the ministry of Jesus and does not stand alone on its own merits. Paul reminds us, “through Him we have both access in one Spirit to the Father” (emphasis mine). The Godhead determined for Jesus to build His church upon the apostolic and prophetic ministries. It is through apostolic teaching and prophetic vision God’s will and purpose is communicated. John the apostle declares in the book of Revelation that he “fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’” (Revelation 19:10).
As with the apostolic gift, the prophetic gift is still needed. Today, the prophetic does not bring new revelation or anything “extra biblical,” but helps to restore the Lord’s church to His original intent. Throughout history, men have distorted the truth of God and have built their own systems. The writers of the New Testament warned God’s people that this would happen. Consider what Peter said in his second letter, “False prophets arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1-2). The true prophetic voice points to Jesus. The true prophetic voice is anointed of the Lord to envision God’s people in God’s purpose for current times.
The writer of Hebrews tells us, “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22). As we draw near to the Lord through the Holy Spirit and the study of His Word, our expected result should be “prophetic vision” for our life and service to Him. When listening to the preached word and as you pray for God’s guidance in your life, expect to receive through the prophetic gift, what the Lord wants to reveal to you. Praise God for the apostolic and prophetic gift He has made available to His church.
When I listen to preaching and teaching, when I read articles and books, I am asking the Lord to reveal to me understanding for my life and what is being spoken and how it relates to culture and what the Lord is doing today. I am listening for His Spirit to give to me prophetic understanding about His church and the culture in which I live.
Father, thank you for the prophetic gift You have given to Your church. Thank You for prophets who hear Your voice and deliver to the church Your message for contemporary times. I ask for You to increase prophetic awareness in me that I might walk in a stronger relationship to “the testimony of Jesus.”
Ephesians 4:11 – He gave some as apostles.
In our next five devotionals, we will look at the Lord’s purpose in these five ministry gifts for the growth and development of the body of Christ. These ministry gifts and their function are important to the maturation of individual believers. The first of the five is the “apostolic gift.” The original apostles are known as “the apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14). Christ is building His church upon the foundation that the apostles and prophets laid, “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).
These men were given to Christ in His earthly ministry by the Father. “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word” (John 17:6). There will never be more apostles known as the “apostles of the Lamb,” since they were given to Jesus in His earthly ministry. It is important to understand that the “apostolic ministry” was meant to continue until the Lord returns. The apostolic ministry today reinforces what the apostles taught. They are used by the Holy Spirit to “equip the saints for the work of service and to build up the body of Christ: until we all attain the unity of the faith, and 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 4:13-14).
It is important to know what the Lord is presently doing in the earth. We started to hear teachings about these five ministry gifts around 1948. Since that time, each of the five gifts has been restored to the church and is still developing toward greater maturity. It is through the apostolic ministry that a great unity is manifesting in the Lord’s church. It is unity around the message of the kingdom and not a particular church system. The church is unified throughout the world as we pray for the nations. There is increased city-wide unity as pastor’s work together for the greater cause of Christ. The Lord is at work unifying the generations. There is much emphasis on fathering throughout the Lord’s church today.
The church of Jesus is growing in numbers and in maturity. Individuals are growing in their commitment to the kingdom of God. The unity of the faith is happening. Increased knowledge of the Son of God is taking place. It is easy to be critical, but an honest examination of the church throughout the world reveals “apostolic times” are among us. Jesus is preparing His church for great things as He wraps up the ages and prepares to return for His bride.
Father, I present myself to You as a willing vessel. Help me attain to the unity of the faith. Increase my knowledge of the Son of God, causing me to mature into the measure of the stature of Christ. Grow me up to be used by the Holy Spirit for Your pleasure.
Ephesians 4:15 – Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.
Paul clearly articulates the will of God in this scripture. The larger context of Paul’s instruction begins with verse 11. There, Paul outlines five specific graces or gifts the Lord has given to His church for the purpose of producing growth in the saints of God. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are gifts given to accomplish the Lord’s purpose in the earth. In verse 12, Paul states their purpose, which is “the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”
As an individual waits on God through study of His word and prayer, they receive much in terms of understanding and ability. In God’s eternal purpose, He has established these ministries as a vital part of the “equipping” process. There is an anointing that is imparted through these gifts of God. “Equipping of the saints” has a core purpose of helping God’s people achieve maximum potential in God’s calling and service. Equipping includes many things such as structuring teachings, bringing correction, instilling vision, being an example to the saints, bringing understandings of God’s purposes, and impartation of God’s gifts, to name a few.
Our growth in Christ includes the “work of service.” Jesus told His disciples, “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Service is the cornerstone of the Christian life. Service is a heart attitude. It is not a “works mentality,” but resides at the very core of the love of God. Jesus is our model for everything. He raises up leaders in His body that are to emulate Him. Unfortunately, some leaders take privilege to themselves and expect to be served. New Testament leaders understood they were to serve the body of Christ.
Service includes evangelism. Jesus said that “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). The saints of God are called to serve the lost by sharing the good news of the kingdom of God. As saints of God, we are called to live a lifestyle that represents God’s righteousness. The Holy Spirit supplies to each believer the power and grace necessary to serve the needs that come their way. The ministry gifts are intended to build up the body of Christ. As individuals, we should represent Jesus in the flesh. As a body of believers, the same is true. Christianity is not about a gathering that meets in a building, but a people who are equipped and given to the service of others. We are to portray the true nature of Christ in the earth.
Father, in Jesus’ name equip me through the help of Your ministry gifts for the work of service. Increase in me a burden for the lost and an ability to bring others to a saving knowledge of Your Son. Strengthen me in my relationship with other believers that we might be built up together in Christ.
Matthew 13:23 – The one sown on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.
Jesus taught many aspects of the kingdom of God through parables. Matthew 13:23 is an excerpt from the “parable of the sower.” In this verse, Jesus is describing the effect of God’s word on the person who is like good soil where seed has been sown. The soil represents a human soul. As we have seen previously, the soul is made up of our intellect, emotions, and will. Our soul is in a constant state of growth. No one can say they have arrived in terms of their total understanding of God’s word. Our relationship with the Godhead is constantly developing and growing. Only in eternity will we find full development.
We begin our journey with the Lord like a newborn baby. “Be like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). The key to development and growth in the kingdom of God is a constant hungering for the Word of God. This longing should never disappear! The Holy Spirit gives us the desire to read, to study, and to search out the depths of God’s truths. We should be moving from milk to the meaty food of Scriptures. The writer of Hebrews had to stop a theme he was developing in Hebrews 5, because he realized that his readers were not ready to go further. “Concerning Him, we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11).
The Christian life is a life of development and growth. God’s life in us is organic in nature. His life is measurable in our growth and development. That measurable growth can only come through longing for His word, regular times spent in fellowship with Him through prayer and supplication, and a relationship with other believers. All three of these areas are necessary in order to be healthy and growing. These three ingredients will affect growth in your mind, emotions, and will. Relationship with the Father and the Son through the Spirit will provoke much thinking and reshaping of our thought processes. This is also true as we interact with God’s people. It will produce growth which helps us to mature as sons and daughters of God.
Growing and developing can be very painful at times. As this is true physically, it is equally true spiritually. This is why Peter declares that “the apostles were strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22).
Father, I thank You for the seed which has been sown into the good soil of my life. I am depending on the Holy Spirit to continue to help me in my development and growth. Increase my love for Your word, for prayer, and the fellowship of Your people.
John 1:12 – As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.
In John 1:12, John speaks of the most important right an individual can possess, “the right to become a child of God.” The world thinks that we are all God’s children. It is true, in biblical terms, that our genealogy can be traced back to Adam. The Bible speaks of Adam as “the son of God” (Luke 3:38). Adam lost his standing through sin. God established the law of a “blood sacrifice” in the Garden of Eden when He took the skins of an innocent animal and covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness. Through what God did, we have the first prophetic picture of God’s provision for fallen humankind through His Only Begotten Son. Paul calls Jesus the last Adam who has redeemed us back to God making it possible for each descendant of the first Adam to once again have a “right standing” with God the Father. In our spirit, we have a sure standing as sons and daughters of the living God. Jesus’ victory has secured our standing as children of God.
Paul writes of our relationship with God in his letter to the Romans, “All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). The question each believer must ask throughout their life is, “Am I being led by the Spirit of God?” Sons do what the father directs. We live in a society where sons do their own pleasure and this even seems correct. Young people strive for independence. It seems like the goal in child development. Jesus came to do the will of His Father. Even as a child, He understood “being about His Father’s affairs” (Luke 2:49). Later as an adult, Jesus taught, “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30).
Being led by the Spirit of the Father is what sons of God do. The Lord did not save us simply to transport us to heaven. The Father’s plan is to have sons and daughters throughout the earth whose utmost desire is to do His will. The true witness of a son of God is someone who is seeking the Father to know His will in their life so that they may please Him in everything they do. When a person comes to know that their standing before God is absolutely sure, they must do God’s will or simply be unfulfilled in their lives.
My personal experience has been to know absolute fulfillment by doing what the Lord has directed of me. Equally true, I have been miserable when disregarding God’s will and pursuing my own interests. There is a contrast between a child and a son. I know I have the right to be God’s child as Jesus taught in John 1:12. As I mature in my relationship with the Father, I now know I am a son of God because I must do His will as Jesus Himself came to realize.
Acts 8:12 – When they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.
Acts 8:12 is a powerful Scripture that reports a number of things which are very important. First, “many believed” what Philip was declaring. The good news of the kingdom is that the kingdom of God has come, but not in the way many Jews expected. There are many teachings within modern-day Christianity about future events. Not all of the events will happen the way they are being taught. The Lord has given us what He wants us to know about the future. The kingdom of God did not come as an earthly kingdom, as many Jews expected, but rather in the Spirit. Christ was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit. The promise of God is that we will be raised from the dead by the same Spirit that raised up Christ. (See Romans 8:11). The Spirit brought transformation in human lives, both for Jew and Gentile. The Spirit of God has affected the nations throughout history. It is through the Holy Spirit that God’s rule is known in the earth.
The kingdom that Philip and the apostles preached has a king presently ruling from a heavenly throne. God’s covenant with king David was that his heir would rule on an everlasting throne. Jesus Christ is the son of David that is ruling just like God promised. This is why our message needs to contain both the good news of the kingdom and the name of Jesus Christ, “Savior Messiah.” The good news to the world is that this King has overcome the powers of darkness that rule throughout the nations. This King’s inheritance is the nations. “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession” (Psalm 2:8). The good news is that God’s servant is reigning as both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:8).
The response of the men and women who believed was that they were baptized into Jesus’ name. They identified with His kingdom as they were born again of the Spirit. In the waters of baptism, they testified to the world that they no longer belonged to this world’s systems, but to Jesus Christ and His kingdom of righteousness.
The kingdom of God that Philip preached was a kingdom of power. Act 8:13 tells us the Simon, who was a sorcerer, also believed as he witnessed the miracles taking place through Philip. The world is filled with skeptics and many that participate with the realms of darkness. They are trying to discover reality, but only the kingdom of God contains the reality they need and satisfies the soul. Our witness to the world is a vital part of our Christian life. Our testimony, that begins in the waters of baptism as we are baptized by God’s ministers, should continue with a lifestyle born of the Spirit of God in righteousness and peace. We should expect signs and miracles to happen in and through our lives as we minister to others. Our testimony should not only be in what we believe, but in demonstration as well. The world is waiting for the testimony of Jesus lived out in power in the lives of His people.
Father, I embrace the King and His kingdom. Let my life be a testimony to the world that Jesus is both Lord and Christ.