Wednesday, 5 September 2007

The primacy of word mnistry

Preparing a sermon on Ephesians 1:1-16 and very struck again by Smith's understanding of v8 where Paul quotes Ps 68 (his view outlined in O'Brien's superb commentary).

Why does Paul write "he gave gifts to men" when the original OT says "he received gifts from men?" Answer: The captives Christ leads in his train as he ascends to heaven are those he has delivered from captivity to sin and called to be a kingdom of priests to serve God. They are therefore those God has first received, but those he then gives in service to his church.

This fits the context of Ps 68 speaking of those delivered from captivity in Egypt (v6b-7) and taken to mount Zion (v17-18), resonates strongly with the language of Numbers 18:6 and Isaiah 66:20-21.

So the "gifts (domata) God gave (edoken) to men" here are not spiritual gifts (charismata) per se, but the word ministers themselves that Christ "gave" (edoken), ie. apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers (v11). And these are given to equip the saints to serve one-another by speaking the truth of the gospel in love (v15) so that the church is built up to true unity and godliness in the knowledge of Christ, rather than being tossed here and there by all sorts of false teaching which inevitably divides both by leading people from Christ and by promotiong alternative allegiances.

Ultimately in Ephesians then, word ministry is the primary means by which the church can fulfil its supreme and awesome calling to be nothing less than a visible testimony to the principlaities and powers of God's wisdom in reconciling all peoples through the blood of his Son (3:10-11).

Let that encourage you as a pastor-teacher next time you feel your efforts are futile. You and your ministry are a particular and special gift from Christ to your congregation!!!