2005-11-15 - Our Purpose
In prison, Paul had a lot of time to think and to write. He wrote "to the saints which are at Ephesus" but also "to the faithful in Christ Jesus" to encourage them, not to beg them, to live worthy of their calling as saints and as the faithful followers of Jesus.
*Please note: We at CFDevotionals.org encourage each reader to get into God's word and look up the scriptures in your preferred version of the Bible. Please look up Ephesians 4:1-15. Like the rest of Ephesians, this passage is rich in subject matter. But I want to key in on its confirmation of the instructions given in the great commission.
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
It is here that we see a two-part cycle of life within the church. Jesus trained many disciples and here, as he prepares to leave this earth, he instructs them first to teach all nations - or as other translations render it, make disciples of all nations and baptize them. There is a big difference between converting someone to Christianity and discipling someone in Christianity. Jesus was a traveling teacher on earth, as were many other Jewish rabbis and Greek scholars. Jesus didn't go out and ask people to believe him, and then leave them right where they were he changed them. He taught them a better way. He trained them; he raised them spiritually. He mentored them, this is what it means to teach all nations. He told them to first and foremost commit to teaching others. The teaching is the pull of others into the life of the church.
The return action of the disciples' disciples - the second part of the church's life cycle is growth. Baptism was a symbol of the learner's commitment to what he was taught; it is like a rite of passage into a new life. This new life begins with the commitment, but continues with the follow-through. Belief leads to action. They continue to be taught and to grow.
The two-fold purpose of all the church is summarized in two words: grow and serve. Jesus had raised up His disciples at this point, so his command begins with serve. The disciples were to serve others by teaching them and baptizing them, so they could grow to become learned disciples too. And then those disciples were told to do the same the original disciples were told to do. Serve, grow, repeat. That is our purpose, that is our commission. It is our duty. And that is what Paul writes about here in Ephesians, as well.
In verses four through six, Paul hits the high marks of Christian theology. Because he just hits the high spots, the knowledge is assumed, which means some growth is implied. They know these things, they have been given this knowledge from others, and now it is their turn to give of that knowledge to others. They may serve as an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor, or a teacher - but they all must serve according to the graces, or talents, given to them. This must be done to build up the next generation of disciples.
This is a continuing circle. It is done to build up the body of Christ. Serve others to help them grow, so that they can serve others and help them grow. You are either doing these things and fulfilling God's calling, or you are breaking His circle of life for the church. If you are not growing and serving, you are not doing as you should. A circle has no end.
Elsewhere we are told to bear fruit. In nature, fruit has one function - to reproduce. A fruit grows and grows on the tree. It can get as big as it wants to, but until it drops to the ground, it cannot complete the cycle. The fruit must die, giving all of itself to the seed within, so that seed may grow into a new tree and produce more fruit which must fall to the ground and die to grow another tree and produce more fruit. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (John 12:24)
If you are a Christian, are you a serving as a tree to grow fruit? Are you serving as a fruit to grow a tree? If not, are you really in God's plan? If you are not a Christian, I pray that you will taste the sweet fruit of the gospel of Jesus, surrender to him, learn of him, grow in Him. Fulfill your purpose in him.