August 14, 2023
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
The church, the body of Christ, existed long before there were church buildings, regular worship services, seminaries, BCO’s, or creeds. The Greek word, ekklesia, which is translated as church, was a word that might be thought of as “community.” So, a person’s ekklesia was determined by the community you were born into: Roman citizen, Jew or Greek, male or female, place of birth, free or slave. Putting a diverse group together and calling it an ekklesia required expanding the common understanding of the meaning of that word.
This helps explain why Paul starts Ephesians 4, with the strongest and, perhaps, strangest, language possible: “I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord.” It’s as though Paul finds himself imprisoned with a diverse group of men, women, citizens, slaves, Jews, Greeks, rich, and poor who are all similarly captives of Christ.
The ekklesia becomes the body of Christ when all the parts acknowledge that we were all bought for a high price by our savior, who dies that we might live. The Spirit of God transforms us to become part of the resurrected body of Jesus. Each part of the body is being reformed by the grace of God to become a new creature who performs works of ministry. This is a dynamic process; in other words, each person is constantly being reformed by being part of a body where all parts are connected so that the parts work together for the glory of God.
There’s an important lesson for the PCA today. None of us should claim to be reformed because we know more about our doctrines. Rather we want to know Christ, which occurs when we recognize our own need to personally grow, a humbling process. Put another way, I cannot be truly reformed unless I am a person who is in the process of being reformed. We grow in grace by doing ministry. In other words, everyone grows by focusing on the needs of others rather than just their own needs.
The doctrines of grace cannot be learned only in the classroom; they are only learned in community, and that community is most likely where we work. The credibility of our faith is tested in the way we conduct our daily lives of work, balancing work with family and other close relationships, including relationships with the ekklesia. So, believers, members of the body, are at work as salt and light, surrounded by non-believers, people living in darkness, and people crushed by injustice.
The second important lesson for the PCA is that pastors and laymen need to work together. Pastors have training that can help equip laymen; but laymen working out their faith in their vocation can help pastors know how to better teach practical ways of application of biblical doctrines. It is the laymen who are to do works of ministry. The pastor’s role is an equipping role.
Frank Brock is a ruling elder at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, former president of Covenant College, and served as moderator of General Assembly. He makes his home in Brow Wood, an active adult community in Lookout Mountain, GA on property adjacent to Covenant College. Along with his wife Dottie, he has three children, all Covenant alumni, twenty-one grandchildren, and eleven great grandchildren.