Today’s churches are faced with turmoil from the inside and outside world. To that end, it becomes increasingly important for them to equip themselves for the future. Paul gives us these instructions in Ephesians chapter 4 verses 11-13:
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
The author of this letter is a prisoner in a Roman jail. He was being charged with insurrection. He was not abiding by the laws of the land for he spoke of the firm and unchanging ground of God’s completed work in Christ. While in prison, Paul urges his readers to a life together worthy of their calling (4:1). Now, he knows what it is to suffer the consequences of such a life and what it is he is asking his readers to risk. In verse 11, Paul mentions the leadership gifts Christ gave to the church.
The key element in these gifts is that Christ did the giving. These were not by human device. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers did not appoint themselves. There is a lot of theological debate on the existence of these gifts and their function in today’s church. Space will not allow a fully developed discussion; however, it is crucial to keep in mind that whatever else one wants to say about them, “apostles,” “prophets,” “evangelists,” “pastors” and “teachers” are offices or ministries given by Christ through the Spirit to equip the church to grow into unity and maturity.
The Greek word for equipping has several meanings. One, medically, it means to set a broken limb back into its place. In politics, it means to bring opposing sides together so that government can go on. In nautical terms, it means to mend nets. The basic idea is that of putting a thing into the condition it ought to be.
Thus, the roles of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers is not to do the work of ministry but to equip the saints to do the work and build them up. The work of the leaders is always construction, not destruction. Their aim is never to make trouble, but always to teach, train in the truth of God’s Word, helping believers overcome the problems that hinder them, giving them a vision for reaching others with the love of Christ, and helping them develop and utilize the practical skills, gifts and talents which are needed to carry out their God-given tasks.
But, this is not an overnight process nor is it ever finished. The word “until” indicates that the process described in verse 12 must continue until a certain end is achieved. This is accomplished when all believers come to (arrive at, attain) unity in our faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature. This means a unity of belief in Christ himself, which causes us to live out and proclaim this faith. It is a unified understanding that Jesus is the only true path to God and sharing this message with others in love. The edifying of the church is to continue till we all attain this level of spiritual maturity. God wants us to grow up to be ‘one new humanity’ (2:15)—the mature, strong and loving body of Christ. This may take a long time, because it involves every Christian growing and maturing in knowledge and love. We are like a body with Christ as the head. The most important aspect of Christian growth is that we learn and live God’s word. This is the exercise which gives us strong and settled convictions and makes us fit for useful service. Since new believers are constantly being added to the church, this objective will not be realized until the Lord returns, but we must keep striving.
By KIMBERLY HARRINGTON
SALISBURY - Livingstone College’s Founder’s Day celebration on Feb. 8 was marked with stirring speeches, special presentations and generous donations.
Judge J. Carlton “J.C.” Cole, a Superior Court judge in N.C.’s First Judicial District, spoke through tears as he shared his triumphant story from being an at-risk child to becoming a judge, giving credit to his higher educational beginnings at Livingstone College.
“I understand the importance of this great institution in my life and my development. God first, but Livingstone second,” he said.
Cole described the day he first came to Livingstone College. It was a hot day in August 1967. He rode a Trailways bus eight hours from his hometown of Elizabeth City, which is also where Livingstone’s founder, Dr. Joseph Charles Price, was born as well as current president Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr. He grew up the oldest of six children on a farm, where they used outhouses and had to pump water for cooking and bathing. “But we had love and that can make a difference,” he said.
Cole majored in math and after graduation, he attended flight school to become a pilot. But due to having the sickle cell trait, he had to leave the program. He then moved to New York and eventually became a federal agent for 10 years.
After that, he moved back to North Carolina and entered law school at the age of 34. He practiced seven years before becoming a judge. More ↠
SALISBURY - The family of a former president of Livingstone College made a special presentation at the college’s annual Founder’s Day program that helps STEM students in need.
Dr. Sheldon Shipman, son of the late Dr. F. George Shipman, the sixth president of Livingstone College, announced Feb. 8 that the Shipman family was establishing a $1 million Endowed Scholarship Fund in memory of their father. More ↠