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Participating in God’s Work: Ephesians 4:12

April 11, 2016

In writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul writes as one rejoicing in the progress of a beloved people.  He has “heard of [their] faith in the Lord Jesus and [their] love toward all the saints” (Eph. 1:15), and does “not cease in [giving] thanks for [them], remembering [them] in [his] prayers” (Eph. 1:16).  He writes with the familiarity and the joy that one might write to a family member.  The church at Ephesus was a beloved part of the Body of Christ, especially in the eyes of the Apostle Paul.

It is interesting, then, that in chapter 4 Paul turns his attention to the topic of unity in the Body of Christ.  This beloved church is being prepared for a ministry for the Kingdom over and above their own pursuits.  The Greek word καταρτισμός (equip) appears only in 4:12, setting an interesting tone.  The word is derived from a medical term for the “setting of a bone,” but is used more generally as a word for “preparation.” The very fact that Paul is calling on the church to prepare the saints denotes a sort of newness to the task in front of them.  They are being prepared – being equipped – for an entirely new experience.

What Paul recognizes is a new horizon ahead and the need to equip followers of Christ for what is to come.  It will demand a creativity and intentionality in their approach, and the church at Ephesus are just the ones to fulfill this task.
In describing these works Paul resorts to a popular term throughout the New Testament: διακονία.  This term, meaning generally “to serve or to minister” and appearing only here in this epistle, was originally related to the waiting of tables.  A minister is one who engages in doing God’s work, and just as the model of the Son, the minister lowers himself to the service of others.

It is this ministry, then – this service – which will allow for the building up of the Body of Christ.  Notice Paul’s metaphoric approach here.  In the building up of the Body of Christ, he is saying that the church has a solid foundation – faith in Christ – which will now be built upon.  Once again it seems as though Paul is preparing the church for a new work; the foundation is laid, and now the work of discovering their unique contribution begins.

Even as Sioux Falls Seminary serves those God has placed in its care, the foundation is laid: God is at work and we are called to participate in that work.  The question moving forward is how we build upon this foundation.  What is the unique contribution that Sioux Falls Seminary has to offer to the Body of Christ, and how will we move forward in the steps necessary to develop servants who will engage in God’s work?

Ministry today is a new horizon, and just as Paul and the Ephesians did, Sioux Falls Seminary must recognize the opportunity at hand.  Let us be dedicated to “equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the Body of Christ!”

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