Holy Living In An Unholy World,

Body Building

By Dr. Robert Jeffress

Ira Yates, a sheep herder who was having a difficult time making ends meet—paying for the mortgage and taxes on the ranch and being able to keep food on the table. Fearful he would lose his property, he took a bold gamble: he invited a geologist—a wildcatter is probably a more apt description—from an oil company to look over his land for possible oil deposits. The company man thought there just might be “black gold” under Mr. Yate’s sheep ranch. So, on October 28, 1926, a test well, or wildcat well, was drilled, dubbed the Ira G. Yates 1-A.

At about a depth of 992 feet, they hit a gusher. That first well produced 450 barrels a day. A few months later, in 1927, a second well was drilled, and it produced 3,440 barrels a day. Two years later, in 1929, Yates 30-A was drilled, and it came in at an astonishing 8,528 barrels per hour—that’s 204,672 barrels per day. 1929 was the peak for Yates Field, producing 41 million barrels of oil.  

Mr. Yates purchased a piece of property to raise sheep on. He thought its value consisted of grazing land—what you could see on the surface—that proved virtually worthless. Little did he know that below the surface was a tremendous reservoir of wealth awaiting him. 

Far too many Christians live their lives like Ira Yates. They try to scratch out the best existence that they can while here on earth as they wait for heaven, not realizing the tremendous resources they possess. Underneath the topsoil of every Christian is a limitless reservoir of power that comes from the Holy Spirit that is available to each of us if we will simply tap into it. 

In the first half of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes the spiritual wealth that belongs to every Christian. But beginning in chapter four, Paul explains how to walk in our everyday life so that we can access that wealth.

In Ephesians 4:1, he says, “I beg you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” To walk worthy means to walk in a way that is equal to the wealth that has been given to us as Christians. 

And for the rest of the letter Paul is going to describe how we are to walk, how we are to conduct our lives in four very specific arenas. He begins by discussing our relationship with other Christians in the church. He says that we are to walk in unity. We are to “be diligent to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”

Why is unity in the church so important to God? Whenever there is disunity in a local congregation, it harms the reputation of Christ to unbelievers, and it also alienates Christians from their source of power, which is the body of Christ—other believers. 

A relationship with Christ is not enough to sustain you in your Christian life. You need not only to be connected to the head of the body—Christ, but to other members of the body. Disunity in the church causes us to become alienated from other believers and makes us vulnerable to the attacks of Satan.

In verses 1-6, Paul exhorts us to unity, but in verses 7-16, he explains what he means by unity. Unity in the church does not mean uniformity. Just as the human body has a variety of parts in it and yet functions as one entity, so it is in the body of Christ, which is the church. 

Samuel Brengle wrote: “The best neighbors I know anything about are my two hands. They have lived on opposite sides of the street for many, many years, and they have never had a row. If my left hand is hurt, my right hand immediately drops all other business and rushes across the way to comfort it and help it out of its trouble. My two hands are members of one another. And Christians should be like that. They are members of Christ’s body. They should be loving, as forgiving, as sympathetic, and helpful toward each other as are my two hands.”

But we will never experience unity as a congregation until we understand and appreciate the diversity that exists because of the unique spiritual gifts that God has given every believer in the body.

1. The Reality of Spiritual Gifts (Ephesians 4:7-11)

The purpose of the gifts, as we will see in detail, is not only to help each individual Christian grow in spiritual maturity—though that’s bound to happen—but to help the body of Christ grow in spiritual maturity.

Definition of a Spiritual Gift: A spiritual gift is a unique desire and the power God gives you to share His message with other people.

In Ephesians 4:8 Paul is paraphrasing Psalm 68:18, comparing God to a military commander who has conquered his enemies and gives the spoils of the battle to his own subjects.

Here, Paul says Jesus is that military victor who conquered Satan and sin and took us who were in captivity to Satan and made us His own and now gives gifts to us since we belong to Him. Not only that, but He also gives us, as gifts, to His church, as we’re going to see, so that we, in the exercise of our gifts, might build up His church.

There are approximately 20 spiritual gifts mentioned in three separate lists in the Bible: 

When Jesus ascended to heaven as Victor over sin and death, He gave gifts to the church—that is, gifted people—enabling the body to function and grow. Paul is talking about a variety of ministries within the local church through which to exercise our gifts.

  1. Apostles. The word means “one sent forth.” In the strictest sense, it refers to the original 12 and then Paul, who saw the risen Lord (1 Corinthians 9:1–2), were personally commissioned by Christ to establish local churches and thereby grow the universal Chuch (Ephesians 2:20), and whose authority was authenticated by miracles (Hebrews 2:1–4). 
  2. Prophets. We usually associate them with predicting the future. But that was not a prophet’s primary ministry. He is one who speaks the truth. Again, in the strictest sense, it referred to people to whom God gave a special message. In the days before the Bible was completed, God had to personally reveal his message to others like Elijah and Isaiah, who in turn spoke it to God’s people. 
  3. Evangelists. Whereas apostles and prophets were foundational to the establishment of the church, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:20, but are no longer needed today, evangelists weren’t foundational but are very much in need in our day because they build on the foundation by winning the lost to Christ. The word means “bearers of the good news.” It’s the ministry of sharing the gospel with unbelievers, both at home and abroad. According to 2 Timothy 4:5, we are all called to share the gospel—to “do the work of an evangelist,” as Paul put it—but there are some whose ministry is primarily centered on evangelizing non-Christians like Billy Graham or one who trains others to share the gospel like Dr. D. James Kennedy who developed Evangelism Explosion which has trained millions to share the gospel.
  4. Pastor-Teachers. Our English versions translate the Greek phrase as two separate gifts: “pastors” and “teachers.” But a better translation of the Greek text is to view this as one hyphenated gift: “pastor-teacher.” In other words, this refers to pastors who teach. This is an office in the church—the primary function of the pastor or shepherd is to teach his flock the word of God. 

These are not all of the spiritual gifts. Instead, these are ministries within the church that God fills with gifted people. Literally, Christ gave special gifts to the church. The apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastor-teachers are God’s gift to the church.

2. The Goal of Spiritual Gifts (Ephesians 4:12)

  • The Purpose

What is God’s goal for this church—He wants to build it up. The word “build up” is oikodome, which refers to the building of a house.

Does God want to build the church? What does that mean? Does He want the church to get larger numerically or stronger spiritually? The answer is both.

“Building up” refers to…

  1. Growing larger. 
  2. Growing stronger.
  • The Procedure

What is the work of the pastor—to equip the saints for the work of the service in order that the body of Christ might be built up?

The word “equip” Kartartizo was used to refer to loading up a ship with supplies before it sets out on a long journey. That is my job as your pastor, that is our job as a staff—not to be the paid professionals whom you hire to do the work of ministry, but to equip you, to load you up, to give you the supplies you need to win people to Christ, to counsel, to teach, to visit those in the hospital.

I think it is significant that nowhere in the New Testament is the pastor ever referred to as the minister. That is a term reserved for every Christian. We all are ministers. Nor is the pastor called a priest. We are all priests we are all involved in the ministry.

It is obvious that this is a much more effective plan for building up the kingdom of God. Imagine what would happen if every member of this church were actively involved in ministry. Someone has estimated that if every Christian would win to Christ and train one person to Christ every six months, and that new convert would do the same, in seven years, the entire world would be won to Christ.

  1. Maturity (Ephesians 4:13)
  2. Stability (Ephesians 4:14-15)
  3. Activity (Ephesians 4:16)

A simple test of a healthy body is this: are all the parts of the body present, and are they functioning? 

And whenever you have individuals in the church who are taking and taking and taking but not contributing, the result is a spiritual cancer in the church. No longer does the body grow, but instead it atrophies and dies. 

What is it that we need to contribute to this body of believers to ensure it remains healthy, vibrant, and growing? 

It would be easy to make a stewardship appeal here using the phrase “what every joint supplies.” And it’s certainly true we need your financial support. But the phrase that follows, “according to the proper WORKING of each individual part,” tells us something of equal importance you can supply to this body of believers—the exercising of your spiritual gift in a ministry in our church.

Let me encourage you first to discover your spiritual gift and then find a place of ministry to use that gift.  

Have you ever spent hours trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle only to discover some of the parts are missing? Pretty frustrating, isn’t it? God says this local body of believers is to be a picture of Jesus Christ; each part, each piece, is vital. No one piece stands out, but together, they form a beautiful picture.

That is God’s plan for Building a Strong Body.


Full Passage: Ephesians 4:7-16