Ephesians 4: 11 – 13 is, I suspect, a rather well-known passage of scripture,. Yet, tucked away in the middle of Ephesians chapter 4, at the end of this familiar section, is a most curious phrase: the fullness of Christ.
I wonder if you, like me, have read this passage numerous times and your attention is so taken by talk of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, that you’ve skipped over the phrase the fullness of Christ without a second thought.
That I’d missed seeing this until this week is one of the things I love about scripture …there are always new things to see and new ways to see things!
The phrase the fullness of Christ struck me as I pondered what to write for the blog this week while reflecting on this Sunday coming.
Pondering the Sunday
I am being ordained on Sunday and it will be great to have Lisa Holmes from the Baptist Union of Scotland with us to lead this part of the service.
Deirdre Brower-Latz, who is an amazing leader and woman of God, will also be with us to preach, and I’m very much looking forward to what God will say to us all through Deirdre.
One of the things Lisa will talk about is how all God’s people are called to ministry, and if you hear a loud “amen” from me at that point it is because I think recognising that all God’s people are called is vital and I’m deeply passionate about everyone recognising and operating in and from the call of God on their life. This is one of the many reasons we emphasise “frontlines”.
Long before I ever thought I’d be one of the pastors at QPBC, I felt called to this body of people, and I am convinced that it is important that each and every one of us knows God’s call to be part of this body at this time. Or to put it briefly, it is not just pastors who are called to ministry in the context of a local church, we/you all are.
Such a sense of calling means that whether times are good or bad, whether the worship songs are to our musical tastes or not, or whether there are too many or too few church programmes or activities, we remain faithful to that call and seek, as we encounter God and are empowered by his Spirit, to faithfully minister as God leads.
So, on Sunday as I reflect on God’s call on my life, can I encourage you to reflect on his call on your life … because he most certainly has also called you!
Yet, while we are all called by God to ministry, we recognise that God calls some to servant leadership among his people and we (the church local and the wider church whom Lisa is representing) appoint and release into this calling of servant leadership people whom we consider to be ‘ordained’ to this ministry.
I feel keenly the tension between the fact that we are all called and yet some people, in this instance me, are, in recognition of the calling on our life, appointed to serve the church as a pastor, and so are set apart for this ministry.
This does not mean that I am more important, more “called”, or more gifted than you or anyone else.
It simply means I have a specific role to play in the church, just as your liver or big toe has a specific role to play in your physical body.
Back to the fullness of Christ
There are several lists of gifts in the New Testament. In Romans 12 Paul lists seven different gifts and, depending on how you count them, twelve to fifteen in 1 Corinthians 12, so, when we read Ephesians 4, I think we need to remember it is not exhaustive and that there is this wider context.
What Paul is getting at with the phrase the fullness of Christ applies to all of these lists of gifts and his point is twofold.
Firstly, this phrase is used to describe a new mode of community relationships, in which every member of the church has a distinctive, identifiable, divinely validated, and empowered role.
So, Sunday is a moment to give thanks to God for the work he has done in each one of us, and it is also a moment to reflect upon his goodness to each of us, the grace he constantly holds us in, and the gift(s) he has lavished upon us. I think if we do this then we do something very important, which is we keep our focus on God.
Secondly, the phrase the fullness of Christ also describes the equipping and building up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12) and our growth in maturity or, as Paul will say elsewhere, our growing conformity to Christ. However we define what a pastor is, I think this much is clear from Ephesians and elsewhere, the calling of a pastor (in conjunction with other gifts) is to help you grow and to equip you so that together we are the fullness of Christ as each one of us, in obedience to the calling on our lives, serves God on our frontline.