How’s Your Hekastology?
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians pulsates with theology. It treats such majestic themes as the grace of God, predestination, reconciliation, the sovereignty of God, justification and sanctification, and the church as the body of Christ. It is a grave mistake, however, to think that the theology of Ephesians is limited to these topics. A note of “Hekastology” pervades the letter. Allow me to explain.
Throughout the book of Ephesians Paul shows how God is working out His plan of salvation by calling men and women to Christ and by forming them into a new redeemed society called the church. The blessings of salvation come to us in keeping with the eternal purpose of God, “according to which He has chosen us” (1:4). Note that salvation has its origin in the gracious choice of God. Thus Paul emphasizes the utter helplessness of man and God’s gracious and sovereign choice of individual sinners to be saved in and through Christ. Believing Gentiles, along with believing Jews, are now being built into a great spiritual structure “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (2:20). Christ alone (and not any pastor or church leader) supports and holds together both the foundation and the walls, and it is He who gives to this spiritual edifice its unity and strength.
In the second part of the letter Paul deals more specifically with how members of this new edifice are to “walk” (a Jewish metaphor that describes Christian living). Rather than remaining spiritual infants, believers are to mature in their Christian life. In particular, Paul shows how God has provided for the growth of His church by bestowing manifold gifts upon His believing people. Christians are to perform two kinds of ministry. In relation to the world, they have a missionary task to make disciples of all the nations. In relation to one another, they are to recognize and use their gifts for the edification (building up) of the church. Each member of the body of Christ is to do his part in this task until it attains “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (4:13).
In 4:11 we learn that believers who are endowed with gifts by Christ are themselves gifts to the whole body of Christ. The apostles and prophets are mentioned first, as through them God gave guidance and direction to His people in the early years of the church. Evangelists and pastor-teachers continue that work. Evangelists may be considered as missionaries to the unconverted who possess an unusual power in recommending the gospel to others. Pastor-teachers function both to shepherd the flock of God and to instruct them in divine truth. Incidentally, this is the only place in the entire New Testament where the term “pastor” is used to describe church leaders. Elsewhere they are called “overseers” (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim 3:2) and “elders” (Acts 20:17; 1 Pet 5:1).
Paul says it is the task of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers to “build up the body of Christ” (4:12). This is accomplished not only by pastors teaching the Word of God but also by each believer employing the “gift of grace” that God has given him (4:7). As far as the goal of edification in concerned, Paul says that every believer has a contribution to make. Paul pictures the church as an organism in which each member contributes to the growth of the whole, a process that takes place “according to the effectual working in the measure of every part” (4:16).
Please notice how Paul addresses himself deliberately to “every” believer. The Greek word for “every” is hekastos—hence “Hekastology.” This isn’t just an insignificant detail! Paul seeks to drive home the truth that every believer has a special service in the church. Every saint is to make his own contribution to the mission and unity of the church, each cooperating according to his ability. This truth is also evident in 1 Corinthians 14:26: “When you assemble, everyone (hekastos) has a psalm, teaching, revelation, tongue or interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” Unfortunately, many Christians meet together on Sunday without ever “assembling” as the body of Christ in this manner! But Paul is clear: every believer has a ministry, and everyone is to participate and give to others what God has given him. The same principle is stated in Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.” Here the purpose of gathering together as the body of Christ is made crystal clear: mutual ministry. The emphasis is not on where we so often put it (“go to church!”) but rather on the truth that each of us should minister to the others when we come together as a group. In most of our churches, this is not allowed and not possible. I like how Jim Davis puts it:
Church attendance is often substituted for fellowship. To some fellowship is like a jar full of marbles. The marbles are in the same jar but there is little togetherness. The marbles have little effect on each other as they roll around in the jar. They just bump into one another. But real fellowship is more like a jar of grapes that bleed on one another. Fellowship should allow our faith to rub off on one another. The first believers had real spiritual needs that led them into fellowship with others. As they came into this fellowship of other believers with the same needs, they actually bled on one another.
Too often church attendance turns us into iceberg Christians where we just float around and bump into one another…. The first fellowship meeting [Acts 2:42] had little to do with church attendance and everything to do with togetherness.
Dear reader, may I ask you some questions? Is Christ or custom lord in your church? Is your assembly a place where Christians are stirring up one another to love and helpful deeds? Is it a place where people are free to admonish, warn, and encourage one another? And are you a participant or merely an observer?
In other words, how’s your Hekastology?
December 22, 2003
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.