The Foundational Work of God’s People
Please examine the above texts carefully. These are descriptions and commands given by the apostle Paul describing the foundation for growth and maturity in a local church. Combined with the revealed word of the apostles, prophets and the sacred writings of the Old Testament, evangelists, shepherds and teachers equip saints for the work of service in God’s kingdom, bringing them to maturity. This effort is a top priority for a local church so that God’s people come to know him (Hosea 6:6) and are not eventually “destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Every Christian individually, and the local church collectively, is called to the ongoing pursuit of maturity. For evangelists and shepherds, this is the prime directive. As God’s servants, we must streamline the activities of the collective work so that nothing hinders or blurs this goal. The knowledge of God, gleaned from all scripture, preached in season and out of season, is at the root of every good work.
Notably, and often missed, is Paul’s concluding statement in Ephesians 4:16. God’s purpose of equipping saints to maturity causes growth as individual Christians use their equipping to build up the rest of the body in love. This not only makes a healthy body, it also creates a body that is able to fulfill its mission of bringing the world to Christ. The complete knowledge of God, adorned with every good work of the saints, is the only drawing power we have for a lost world. Social activities are a by-product of our shared faith, but social activities are not the means to build us up, bring us to maturity, or draw the world to Christ. Not one text in all of scripture urges God’s people to eat and play together in order to create unity or save souls.
These words by Paul, are a call to every Christian, every evangelist, every shepherd, and every church to regularly reaffirm the work of bringing the body “to the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood.”