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"My prayer is that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me" John 17:20-21.
This prayer, which Jesus prayed just before He was crucified, reveals the "joy set before him" for which He endured the Cross (Hebrews 12:3).
"...Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" Ephesians 5:25-27.
This was the ultimate aim of the Cross - a radiant Church. The goal of all ministry is to work with the Holy Spirit to meet this aim and fulfill the prayer of Jesus. If we do not join ourselves with the purpose of His prayer, our ministry will end up simply expressing selfish ambition and personal kingdom-building. Our ministry is not our own. It is the ministry of Christ being expressed through us.
"...until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" Ephesians 4:13.
This verse describes the goal of ministry as four things:
Unity in the faith
"My purpose is that [the church] may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding..." Colossians 2:2-3.
The central purpose of Paul's ministry was to impart "the word of God in its fullness" (Colossians 1:25). It is not in doctrinal compromise that we find unity. It is in a full understanding of the Gospel of God's grace that we discover true unity in the faith.
"...All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth" Colossians 1:6.
Unity in the knowledge of the Son of God
"My purpose is that... they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" Colossians 2:2-3 (see also 1:27; Ephesians 1:17).
God has designed for everything in the Christian life to find its focus in the Lord Jesus. It is in fixing our eyes upon Jesus that we discover Him as "the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). A desire to know the Lord more deeply should be the core motivation of the Christian life.
"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings...." Philippians 3:10.
"We proclaim [Christ], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me" Colossians 1:28-29.
God' goal for the Christian is to conform him to the likeness of Christ - in character, purpose and power. Maturity means growing up into Christ.
"Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ" Ephesians 4:14-15.
The whole measure of Christ
"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ..." Colossians 2:9-10
Christ expressed the fullness of God's nature in bodily form. Now God's plan is for His Church to do the same. It is only as the Body of Christ comes together in unity that the "whole measure of the fullness of Christ" can be manifest to the world.
"And God placed all things under his feet... for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" Ephesians 1:22-23 (see also 3:16-19).
The Five-Fold Ministry
The two verses before Ephesians 4:13-19 tells us how God will bring this four-fold goal about.
"It was [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith..." Ephesians 4:11-13.
These five ministry gifts have been given to fulfill the prayer of Jesus in John 17. They are not titles or positions, but are extensions of the ministry of Christ Himself. Christ is our Apostle (Hebrews 3:1), Prophet (Luke 24:19), Evangelist (Matthew 9:35), Pastor (1 Peter 5:2-4) and Teacher (John 3:2). Through these five ministry gifts, God prepares the Body of Christ for the ministry of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).
The Hope of Glory
"To [you] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" Colossians 1:27
This wonderful plan of God for your life is summed up in these words: "Christ in you, the hope of glory." This glory is not just the glory we will experience when we go to heaven. Our starting point is Christ's earthly glory (John 17:22). By the power of God's Spirit, we are now being transformed "from glory to glory" (KJV) into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).
The apostle Paul summed up the heart of God when he said:
"My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you" Galatians 4:19.
God's desire is for us to grow into the fullness of Christ. However, this is not for ourselves, but so that the fullness of Christ may be expressed to the world.
"Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ... by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him..." Romans 16:25-26.
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