The Family Business (Ephesians 4:15, 16)
Topic: Ephesians Passage: Ephesians 4:15–4:16
The Family Business
Ephesians 4:15, 16
(One Body: Each Part Working Properly)
February 12th, 2017
I. Family-Owned and Operated Since…
Let me ask you this: “What’s the oldest family-owned business you can think of?”
Thinking locally, can you guess the oldest family business in Phoenix? Let me give you a hint: It was founded in 1881, when the town was only 11 years old, and it's rolling in the dough. Anyone know? Up until 2008, it was the Holsum Bakery. It's still in business, but is now owned by a Georgia-based company. 127 years is a long time, isn’t it?
But listen to this…listen to an Associated Press story from 2010:
In 1632, John Tuttle arrived from England to a settlement near the Maine-New Hampshire border, using a small land grant from King Charles I to start a farm. Eleven generations and 378 years later, his field-weary descendants — arthritic from picking fruits and vegetables and battered by competition from supermarkets and pick-it-yourself farms — are selling their spread, which is among the oldest continuously operated family farms in America. "We've been here for 40 years, doing what we love to do," said Lucy Tuttle, 65, who runs the 134-acre farm with brother Will. "But we're not able to work to our full capacity any longer, unfortunately." Tuttle added that she and her brother and their sister have done their best "to lovingly discourage" their children from becoming generation No. 12. "We would be saddling them with a considerable amount of debt," she said.
Can you imagine founding a business and having it last for 378 years…eleven generations of your own descendants? Pretty amazing!
But like the Tuttles were experiencing, every family-owned and operated business faces or has faced the uncertainty of what the next generation will do. Yes, many family businesses don’t continue on because of the economy or poor management or tragedy. But a good number don’t continue on because a son or daughter, or grandson or granddaughter doesn’t really understand the business, or isn’t really passionate about the work.
But let me suggest to you this morning that there is a family-owned business that is far older than the Tuttles farm…over five times as old. We find this family-owned business described in our main verses for this morning, Ephesians 4:15, 16. Turn with me there.
II. The Passage: "The Work of Ministry” (4:11-16)
Before we read those verses, let's take a very quick peek at the larger context, beginning in verse one of chapter four. Just scan over those first ten verses if you would. Let me point out two key principles revealed for us in verses 1-10:
First, in verses 1-6, Paul is stressing our need to live daily in the spiritual unity we have as members of God’s family. Notice how verse 6 concludes that string of “singular realities” (one Lord, one faith, etc.); it concludes with the truth that we live under “one God and Father of all”. As Paul indicates here, that reality should inspire and nurture in us things like humility, patience, and love.
Second, we see in verses 7-10, that just like any family (especially at Christmas and on birthdays), we have all enjoyed an abundance of gifts as members of God’s household. Specifically, in verse 7, one of the gifts that (quote-unquote) “each one of us” has been given is the gift of grace. Do you see that? What is this gift, and what is the significance of this gift of grace? Let’s find out by looking at our main passage for this morning.
To truly grasp verses or main verses, 15 and 16, we need to pull in the in-between verses. Listen to how Paul continues in Ephesians 4:11-16:
And he [i.e. Christ (cf. v. 7)] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Now, there is a lot crammed into these six verses, but let’s begin thinking about what’s here by going back to this idea of a family-owned business. The oldest family-owned and operated business I can think of is the church. It’s God’s family. And what business do we as members of God’s family own and operate? What kind of work do we do? The answer is right there in verse 12: our business is not the work of farming or the work of running a restaurant; our work is “the work of ministry”.
Now obviously when I use the word “business”, I’m not thinking about corporations. I’m thinking simply about work. The church is not a business, it’s a family. But that family has a business, or we might say, that family has a shared work. It’s “the work of ministry”.
Now “ministry” is one of those words that has suffered from the corrupting effects of professionalization. When some think of “the ministry”, they think about a group of religious professionals running around, some in robes and collars, some in Priuses and flip-flops, some in suits and ties…but it’s these vocational ministers who do “ministry” right?
But the Greek word that Paul uses here, the word we translate “ministry” here in Ephesians 4:12, is simply a form of the word for “servant”.
Jesus told his followers in Mark 10:43: “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant…” This is why this word “ministry” is also translated as “service” in many places it’s used in the NT.
So what we’re talking about here in terms of the family business, according to Ephesians 4, is “the work of being servants...the work of service”.
But if we belong to God’s family through personal faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, then we should be eager to understand more about this family business. So, in order to grasp the fullness of verses 15 and 16, as we look back at all these verses, 11-16, what else do we learn about this “work of ministry” or this “work of service”?
Let’s think about three principles we discover in these verses: First, the work of the ministry is both expressed in and nurtured by the family’s leaders. (11, 12a)
Every family business has leadership right? In the church, those leaders are listed in verse 11: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These leadership roles are just some of the gifts that Jesus gave to His church. Now, we don’t have time this morning to talk in-depth about all of these leadership roles, but we do know from the NT and from church history, that the first two, possibly three offices listed there were foundational roles.
What that means is that God used these kinds of leaders to help establish the church, but did not give any clear instruction or indication that these offices should continue.
But the last two leadership roles listed in verse 11, “shepherds and teachers” or “pastors and teachers” are simply two titles (or two functions) that describe an elder or an overseer of the church. These were men who were entrusted with the task of protecting and nurturing God’s family. And here in Ephesians 4, that nurturing work is being highlighted.
Not only are these shepherd-teachers involved in and demonstrating the “the work of ministry” or “the work of service”, but the goal of their expression is equipping others for that same work. Who do they serve? They equip “the saints”.
Who are “the saints”? No, not the football team. No, not super-spiritual people who lived long ago. Anyone who belongs to Christ by faith is a saint. The word simply means “holy one”. We’re made holy by faith in Jesus, by what He did for us.
So verse 12 is our wrecking ball, and with it we are demolishing that misguided idea that “ministry” is only for a minority of people in the church; that “ministry” is only for professional ‘ministers’. No, “the service” of pastor-elders like myself, our ministry, is to equip others to be equally involved. We’ll come back to that idea in just in a few minutes.
The second principle we see in these verses is that, the work of the ministry has as its goal, the maturing of the family according to the standard of Jesus. (12b-14)
Did you notice all the growth-related words in this passage: building up (12), mature manhood (13), measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (13), no longer children (14), grow up (15), grow (16), and builds itself up (16).
Whether Paul is using construction metaphors or comparing the church to a person maturing from childhood to manhood, the emphasis on growth here is unmistakable. When it comes to growth, the Bible does not place primary emphasis on numerical growth. That is important and sometimes highlighted in God’s word. But it must always come second to spiritual growth.
So what does our family business produce? It should produce...growth. What kind of growth? Growth in handling our money better? Growth in being better parents? Growth in dealing better with our emotional baggage? Being more involved in our community? Having more biblical knowledge? Well, in some sense…”yes” to all those. We should grow in all those ways. But in and of themselves, these are not the goals of our growth.
The kind of growth we must be passionate about at Way of Grace is growing to become more and more like Jesus. I love the way the French pastor and theologian John Calvin put it as he commented on verse 13:
It was the apostle’s intention to explain what is the nature of true faith, and in what it consists; that is, when the Son of God is known. To the Son of God alone faith ought to look; on him it relies; in him it rests and terminates. If it proceed farther, it will disappear, and will no longer be faith, but a delusion. Let us remember, that true faith confines its view so entirely to Christ, that it neither knows, nor desires to know, anything else. (John Calvin)
And all this brings us to our main verses. They reveal our third point: we see here that, the work of the ministry is carried out by every family member, doing their part. (15, 16)
Now, we already touched on this before, didn’t we? Paul could not be any clearer in verses 15 and 16. Like a human body, our growth depends on every part of the body doing…its part! If you are truly a Christian this morning, then you have to understand and you have to believe, that you have a part to play in this family business.
You have an important part…a needed, a necessary part to play. In some sense, the healthy maturity of the body depends on you. This is where Ephesians 4:7 comes in. Yes, Jesus has given the gift of leaders to the church, But (4:7) grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
To grow physically our human body needs, for example, the feet to get us to the pantry, the eyes to sort it out, the hand to put it in the mouth, the teeth to chew it, the stomach to digest it, and so on and so on. Every part has a part to play in growth!
Sometimes our biggest struggle is not NOT being involved with the church. It’s being involved for the wrong reasons. Too often, we only come for ourselves. But very clearly here, the benefits described are first applied to the whole body, which then means that every individual part subsequently enjoys those benefits
Another good quote from Calvin: “…if we wish to be considered members of Christ, let no man be anything for himself, but let us all be whatever we are for the benefit of each other.”
Now, real quickly, look at two more things verses 15 and 16 tell us about the role of every family member. The work of every family member is only effective when, verse 16, “each part is working properly”. It’s not enough that we just show up. It’s not even enough to have the right motives, although that is where it has to begin. We all need to function properly!
And how do we function properly? We function properly, we grow, we build up the body of Christ by verse 15, “speaking the truth in love”. Now wait. Who is speaking the truth in love here? Is it the pastor-teachers or the other parts of the body? Well, the answer is ,”yes”. Yes and yes! It’s both.
How do you think the shepherd-teachers equip the saints of God? They speak the truth in love. What does it look when God’s people are equipped? It looks like a whole bunch of people (notice the “we” in verse 15), a whole bunch of people “speaking the truth in love” to one another.
III. Will You Carry on the Family Business?
And so, in light of all this, if this is our family business, then we too have that conversation; we too have to ask, “Will you carry on the work?” Unlike the Tuttles who, after 387 years, were actually discouraging their children from carrying on with the work, this morning I am emphatically encouraging you to keep, in this local church, to keep the family business going.
This morning, I hope all of us are challenged in a number of ways:
First, the pastor-elders of this church should be challenged to do better when it comes to equipping the saints. It's too easy for leaders to gravitate to either one of two extremes. Either we try to do everything in the church (which we could never do) OR we turn the church into something that can be managed from the top down; something that can be handled by a few 'professionals' or sometimes, by a lot of paid staff.
But we need to be better at giving ministry away and training all of you in terms of how you can “speak the truth in love”.
I think the second challenge is that, every one of you that has confessed (as we talked about last week) “Jesus Christ as Lord” (Romans 10:9), every single one of you should be eager to learn more and more about carrying on the family business. Why? Well, number one: for the glory of God; so that His will might be done on earth, just as it is in heaven. Also, for the sake of others who need the hope of Christ. But also, please hear me, also because it’s the only way you will grow in your faith.
The passage this morning has been especially revealing on this very point. The work of ministry leads to the building up of the church; it leads to growth. But that growth only happens when each part is involved and functioning properly. So only when we, I in my role, you in your role, only when we are speaking the truth in love, do we grow to become more like Jesus.
Third, and finally, speaking of “speak[ing] the truth in love”, we, all of us, need to be challenged in terms of knowing the truth and walking in love. What is this truth, Paul is speaking about here? Does he mean that we should speak the truth to a brother or sister about an obvious fashion faux pas or if they’re having a bad hair day or if they drive like a maniac? Well, those things might be helpful, but that’s not what Paul has in mind.
“THE truth” is God’s word. Ephesians 1 says the word of truth is “the gospel of your salvation”.
Remember what the gospel is: gospel simply means “good news”. THE gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. The good news of His coming, the good news of His death on the cross, the good news of the forgiveness He makes possible.
It's the good news of a brand new life because Jesus defeated death itself. The good news that all power and all authority in this universe belong to Jesus. The good news that faith is the only thing required of us: the good news that the all we must do is believe that Jesus did it all to make us right with God.
Remember what Paul said about this gospel in Romans 1:16...For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
In some sense, the whole Bible is the gospel because the whole Bible was written for the purpose of pointing us to Jesus Christ and the rescue he made possible.
AND SO, if we want to carry on the family business, if we recognize that we have a part to play, THEN we need to know God’s word. We need to know the gospel. Moreover, just as we should be preaching it daily to ourselves, we need to know how to use the gospel, to use the word of God to build others up. AND we need to learn how to do that in love.
Some of us are very good at speaking the truth, but we wield the truth like a crowbar. Others of us can come across as very loving, but we don’t have the knowledge or maybe courage to speak the truth in love. But we need to both know the truth and walk in love in order “to speak the truth in love”.
Believer, how, during the course of your day, during the course of your week, how are you “speaking the truth in love” to brothers and sisters in Christ? (example from past week) How will you this week? AND equally important, who is “speaking the truth in love” to you? Are you in places, and positions, and with people who can speak God's word into your life?
This is “the work of ministry”, isn't it? Isn't this how Paul describes our family business in Ephesians 4? Isn't this what God has shown us this morning?
Let's pray. Let's pray that God would help all of us have a passionate commitment to the oldest family business in the world. Let's pray that we would be equipped, to speak the truth in love to one another, and that we would be able to rejoice as we see true growth occurring in our local church family.
More in The Essentials: One Body
July 9, 2017When You Don't Come to Church (Hebrews 10:24, 25)
June 11, 2017When You Live Under God's Roof (I Timothy 3:14, 15)
May 14, 2017Soul Care and Submission (Hebrews 13:17)