The Way of God to Build Up the Church

Ephesians 4:11-15
Overseer Sung-Hyun Kim

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—

Ephesians 4:11-15 NKJV

He Gave the Shepherd Tending the Church as a Gift

Ephesians 4:11

It was while we were sinners that we were saved. We were not saved by our deeds. This indicates that our salvation does not validate our actions as right. Our words, deeds, and thoughts cannot break free from the ways of the world, and, moreover, each person’s values and thoughts differ greatly. If we engage in the Lord’s work in such a state, it is unlikely that we will produce the fruit that the Lord expects of us. Therefore, the Lord wants each of us to set aside our own and unite within His will. This is why it is necessary for us to be interfered with, reproached, and taught within the church.

However, people generally dislike being told what to do. Conversely, if someone advocates for their own positions and supports their desires, they are naturally liked. In such a state, what would happen if church members could elect their overseer? Would the elected one be able to speak what the church members might not want to hear? Could he reproach the church members when led astray by false teachings? And could the members, nurtured in such an environment, safely reach heaven? Fortunately, God has not allowed church members to elect their overseer.

The overseer of the church is a gift that God has granted to the church. While God grants strength and power as gifts to each individual He saved, He also particularly bestows gifts upon the church as well. In the letter to the Ephesian church, Paul wrote, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors, that is, teachers.” Among these, after the era of apostles and prophets ended, the highest form of leadership became that of the pastor. Their most significant role, teaching the Word so that believers may be corrected into a new man, led to the specific designation of pastors as “a pastor, that is, teacher.”

In the New Testament, a pastor is also referred to as an elder or overseer. Nowadays, we primarily use the word ‘pastor’ when referring to the overseer of a church, but in the New Testament, the term ‘elder’ was more commonly used. For example, Paul instructed Timothy in his letter, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honors, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” In understanding this scripture, we must be cautious not to confuse the elder as used mainly in the Presbyterian Church. It should not be assumed that the responsibilities of governing the church, deciding its policies, teaching the Word, and occasionally exhorting and refuting church members are also assigned equally to today’s nominated elders as well as pastors.

An overseer is a special gift God has given to the church. If Christ had not come into the lowest parts of the earth and suffered death, and if He had not been resurrected and ascended into the highest heavens, this gift could not have come to us. Moreover, without God’s earnest desire for everything to be united in Christ, we would not have been able to receive this gift. To refuse this precious gift and to appoint an overseer with our own hands is a behavior to directly oppose God. Let us treasure the gift God has given us. Let us be thankful to God who has bestowed upon us this necessary gift and glorify Him.

Overseer Sung-Hyun Kim
Lord’s Day Service on May 12, 2024

To Equip, to Serve, to Become the Lord’s Body

Ephesians 4:12

Many people view the church as just one of the numerous gatherings in the world. Their scattered comments about the church indicates that they are inclined to apply the same standards used for worldly gatherings to the church as well. However, the church is guided by God in His way. Anyone who truly desires for God’s will to be fulfilled through the church and who hopes for heavenly blessings to be bestowed upon it must first recognize that the church should be operated according to God’s way.

God has given each church a shepherd as a gift to guide it according to His will. The work of the shepherd is to equip the saints, enable them to serve, and thereby solidly build up the church. Regarding this, Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians Church: This is for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

Equipping means” preparing someone to take on a certain role” and “restoring damaged parts to make something usable.” Thus, the role of the shepherd is to make people in a fallen state aware of their tragic circumstances and to help them rely on the Savior, thereby enabling them to do the work God desires. To achieve this, the shepherd teaches the word, trains, and sometimes reproaches them based on the Bible. While some may focus only on gaining new knowledge from these teachings, and others may disregard the shepherd’s authority, the shepherd must persist in these efforts, in season and out of season, to fully equip his people.

Those who are equipped under the guidance of a shepherd are enabled to serve within the church. Serving does not mean engaging in activities merely to accumulate personal experiences, nor does it involve pursuing positions to earn spiritual merits. It is about serving; it is God’s way. While anyone in the world may view sacrificing and suffering loss for others as undesirable, in the church, it is a blessing. This is because God remembers these sacrifices and will reward them with eternal blessings.

Likewise, those who are equipped can engage in service, which inevitably leads to building the church, the body of the Lord. While a physical building may retain the results of the work done so far even if construction pauses, the spiritual church is different. If the enthusiasm for building the church stops, even what has been built can be compromised, so the effort to build the church must continue. Building the church goes beyond simply increasing the number of members; it involves becoming internally stronger. This internal change is the key to building up the body of the Lord. A church composed of individuals who are indifferent to embodying the Lord’s nature can collapse like a row of dominoes at the slightest touch.

The church is not just a place to gather for acquiring knowledge or receiving services. It is where those who listen to the word and change their hearts by repentance, those who manifest the proof of that change through good deeds, those who come to increasingly resemble Christ through correction, exhortation, and reproach, and those who serve with gratitude and joy! The church is the kingdom of God formed by these people. God’s plan for the church is still operating, and the plan will surely succeed. Let us join in this success by aligning with the Lord’s will in His way.

Overseer Sung-Hyun Kim
Lord’s Day Service on May 19, 2024

The Church Maturing to Fullness by Unity of Faith

Ephesians 4:13

God has bestowed a pastor upon the church for equipping the saints, for the work of ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ. Then, what should Christ’s body, built up in this way, look like as a result? In other words, what is the specific goal that pastors and saints should accomplish together to build up the church according to God’s will? Regarding this, Paul says in his letter to the Ephesian Church, “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

Above all, the church should be united in the “content of faith.” For this, we must be cautious of any doctrinal assertions or interpretations that deviate from the Gospel handed down by the apostles. As evidenced by the division in the Corinthian Church, disregarding or thoughtlessly distorting the Gospel preached to all nations by the apostles ultimately leads to the church’s division. Therefore, we must humbly accept Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians Church: “Now, I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

The church should also be united in “knowing the Son of God.” This does not merely mean having the same knowledge about salvation. In the Bible, the term “knowing” often refers to a deep understanding exemplified by the relationship between husband and wife. However, when it speaks of being united in knowing the Son of God, it refers to an even more accurate, precise, and full knowledge. This knowledge is gained through a life that faithfully learns and thoroughly obeys God’s word. Importantly, this life of deep fellowship with the Lord is not separated from a life of deep fellowship with saints. Fellowship with saints within the Gospel is a necessary condition for fellowship with the Lord.

The church should be united in the “work of achieving spiritual growth” as well. The meaning of accomplishing spiritual growth is not merely accumulating spiritual knowledge but emphasizing that growth, which cannot be achieved by human power, must be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit. The goal of this growth is to reach the measure of the stature of the fullness of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ’s goodness and kindness, His unwavering righteousness by sin, His truthfulness and faithfulness, and His lack of variation―these are what we should strive to embody. Of course, we may not perfectly resemble the Lord in these aspects. However, the Lord desires us to make every effort towards this goal.

“Lord, I have nothing. I haven’t done anything well until now, and I have nothing left.” The Lord says to us, “You possess heavenly blessings. They have already been given to you. Christ’s fullness is within you. Do not give up until it grows and bears fruit!” The Lord never gives up on us either. Though our pace may be slow, the Lord walks with us every day. He knows we cannot do it with our abilities alone, so He is with us and helps us. Let us not stop taking steps to resemble the Lord. Let us fulfill God’s will, which plans a perfect ending with perfect power.

Overseer Sung-Hyun Kim
Lord’s Day Service on May 26, 2024

The Church That Is Not Carried about Even Wind of Doctrine

Ephesians 4:14-15

There is God’s pattern for building up the church. It involves equipping the saints through the shepherd, enabling them to serve, which results in the stable building up of the Lord’s body. What happens to a church that follows this pattern? Firstly, saints become united in the “content of faith.” Secondly, they become united in fellowship with God. Thirdly, they become united in the “fulfillment of spiritual maturity.” Moreover, there is an even more important characteristic: the saints solidly stand on the truth of the Gospel.

One of the greatest threats to the church is believers being deceived by the false gospel preached by false teachers. Such deception not only destroys an individual’s spirit but also contaminates the entire church. Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesian Church, “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tosses to and from and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful potting.”

Trickery of men! Deceitful scheming! This false teaching, which deceives people like a trickster, leading their spirits to destruction and throwing the church into confusion, has never stopped until now since Eve was deceived by the serpent. If saints cannot anchor themselves in the truth, or if they constantly seek something new rather than obeying the truth because they have itching ears―if they cannot grow beyond the spiritual level of children―when false teaching penetrates, they will be unable to discern or resist it. Consequently, they will be shaken like a paper boat swept away in a rapid stream, regardless of their own will.

What is the reason that such false teaching arises? It can occur when an individual who interprets the Bible lack sufficient knowledge. Such incidents also happen due to those who neglect the responsibility to study the Bible within the theological framework shared by Christians over the past 2,000 years. Above all, what is most serious is that it occurs when false teachers arbitrarily interpret the Bible to benefit themselves and preach it, leading to a new fad. Initially, the distortions of truth by these false teachers may seem to have little impact. However, since our doctrinal system of faith has been organically connected and composed through various teachings, distortions in one part can eventually lead to a corruption of the entire doctrine over time.

To protect the church from such threats and make saints grow into perfect individuals who never waver in any situation, God has established a shepherd in each church to teach them. Therefore, saints should strive to grow solidly within the truth of the Gospel by receiving the shepherd’s teachings. We should all cherish the church’s efforts over the past 2,000 years to fight to protect the Gospel from false teachings. Let us unite our hearts to perfectly hand down the truth that has been preached to us to generations to come. Let us protect the body of Christ, united within the truth.

Overseer Sung-Hyun Kim
Lord’s Day Service on June 2, 2024

The Church Speaking the Truth in Love

Ephesians 4:15

God has bestowed a shepherd upon the church as a gift to equip the saints for the work of ministry, and for building up the body of Christ, the Church. God wants the saints of the church to come to unity in faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, and He hopes for their spiritual growth. In a church where God’s will is fulfilled, the saints are not swayed by human trickery or cunning craftiness. Instead, by speaking the truth in love, they grow to resemble Christ in all aspects.

Speaking the truth is a duty for anyone who was saved through it. However, it is crucial to keep one thing in mind when doing so. When speaking the truth, it must be done in love. Many individuals treat the truth as knowledge. They may claim to learn it, but they fail to receive God’s love; they may claim to speak it, but they fail to manifest God’s love. Truth and love are inseparable. When the truth is embodied, what appears is a life to walk in love. Where truth is separated from love and treated as knowledge, the power of God to save sinners cannot be manifested.

If someone asserts that they know God yet simultaneously argues that love is not important, they truly do not know God, because God is love. The love that God has revealed to us is a love that has never been in the world. God confirmed His love for us by sacrificing His own Son while we were still sinners. Now, having been given life through that love, what we must do now is share it, and this work goes beyond mere words. In our deeds and lives, God’s nature must be reflected, and through us, people should come to meet the God of love.

In a church that achieves growth according to God’s will, such efforts will continue. Traditionally, church growth has been associated with an increase in the number of members. However, the Bible defines church growth not as quantitative but as spiritual. In other words, the church and the saints who comprise the church should resemble God, which is the core of the church’s growth. Neglecting spiritual growth while focusing on quantitative growth can lead to serious problems. As the number of members increases, so too might the number of those who continue to pursue worldly desires. Without internal growth, these individuals can contaminate other saints, thereby putting the entire church at risk.

The church should continuously strive to resemble Christ. Those accustomed to employing human trickery and cunning craftiness must abandon such practices upon joining the church. Those who previously regarded truth merely as knowledge should come to deeply understand God’s love through their church life and demonstrate that love in their own lives. Let us now forsake the desire to overwhelm others with profound knowledge. Let us humbly offer ourselves so that the love of God bestowed upon us does not fade but is faithfully conveyed to others. Let us speak the truth in love so that people can meet the God of love through us.

Overseer Sung-Hyun Kim
Lord’s Day Service on June 9, 2024