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Feb 20, 2011

Supply Lines

Passage: Ephesians 4:7-16

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Ephesians 4-6: Invading Enemy Territory

Category: Ephesians

Keywords: supply, gifts, maturity, knowledge, experience, christ


Supplying troops in a war is vital to the success of any war effort. God has given to his troops, the church, all we need for a successful war effort in his Kingdom. He has gifted his church with all that is needed for our growth and maturity into Christ. But it takes the involvement of every one of his kids.


Supply Lines

Ephesians 4:7-16

Series:  Invading Enemy Territory—Ephesians

February 20, 2011

 STORY:  It was sometime in the spring of 1981 that I found myself riding a little motorized boat across the waters of Manila Bay in the Philippines.  Along with some friends from the church where I was working, we were headed to the island of Corregidor.  Corregidor had been the site of several of the most fierce and horrible bombardments in the Pacific theater of war during WWII. 

      As we approached Corregidor, it struck me how barren and virtually denuded of vegetation this piece of rock was.  In the midst of a tropical countryside, this piece of land stuck out like a dried scab on the face of a beautiful woman. 

      Hundreds of Americans, Philippinos and Japanese died on this island fortress between 1942 and the end of the war in 1945.  10,000 Americans and Philippinos surrendered to the Japanese there in April 1942 and joined 75,000 POWs in the horrific Batan Death March. 

      We walked the dirt roads of the island for several hours.  Huge artillery pieces still stood in crumbling massive cement gun emplacements.  It was like walking through a deserted battlefield that had not been touched since the last Japanese had surrendered less than 40 years earlier. 

      The fall of Corregidor and the surrounding Batan Peninsula was the result of a tragic failure of the American government to do anything to supply the tens of thousands of soldiers stationed in the Philippines at the beginning of 1942.   They were promised aid that was never sent. 

      As General Douglas MacArthur noted in his book Reminiscences, “A top-level decision had long before been reached that the Atlantic war came first, no matter what the cost in the Far East.  President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, in a Washington conference after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, reaffirmed a policy to concentrate first on the defeat of Germany….Unhappily, I was not informed of any of these vital conferences and believed that a brave effort at relief was in the making.” 

The then-President of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon, was not so generous in his assessment of what happened.  “For thirty years I have worked and hoped for my people.  Now they burn and die for a flag that could not protect them.  I cannot stand this constant reference to Europe.  I am here and my people are here under the heels of a conqueror.  Where are the planes that they boast of?  America writhes in anguish at the fate of a distant cousin, Europe, while a daughter, the Philippines, is being raped in the back room.”  [Reader’s Digest Illustrated Story of WWII, p. 161.]

That failure to supply the Allied Armies in the Philippines at the outset of the war resulted in THE worst death march in American military history, the Bataan Death March of April 1942.  For 6 days, from April 10-15, 75,000 prisoners of war, many of them severely wounded and already terribly malnourished after months of fighting with grossly insufficient supplies, were forced to walk 140 miles in the tropic sun to what would be their prison camps for the next3 years.  Along the way, they were deprived of all drinking water day after day, bayoneted or shot if they stumbled and fell, tortured and buried alive.  Philippino citizens along the route who took pity on them and tried to give them food or water were beaten and shot on site. 

I drove for miles in silence along some of that country highway on which so many men had suffered so much on that death march, wondering what it must have looked like just 3 and a half decades before.  All because of a failure of supply lines. 

Supply lines are critical for not only the survival but certainly the victory of any military endeavor.  They are also critical for the survival of every one of us in this room.  Sitting here today, we all depend upon certain “supply lines” for our survival.  How many different types of “supply lines” do you and I find necessary on a daily basis in order to enjoy the life we lead? 

  • Water lines
  • Power lines
  • Gas lines
  • Gasoline supply lines
  • Food supply lines

Q:  Of those 5 basic “supply lines”, which ones would you eliminate first if you were only allowed 2? 

We’re back into the book of EPHESIANS today, a book that has plenty of military imagery and spiritual battle strategy.  It’s a book all about the church and about the roles of every one of God’s children in the spiritual battle between light and darkness.  It’s OUR battle, everyone who claims to be a child of God.  It’s a battle for our very own spiritual health, our very own survival and our very own futures. 

Way back in December, we looked at the first 6 verses of Ephesians 4.  The beginning of this chapter speaks about a number of things we have in common as followers of Jesus Christ.  The emphasis is upon unity and what we share in Christ that is to keep us marching to the same Drummer and experiencing life together as a family in Christ. 

So how is it that God wants this sometimes rag-tag group of Christians to actually have ALL the supplies and resources we need to not just stand our ground but to go on offense in terms of expanding his kingdom far, wide and deep?  What are you and I supposed to be doing in order to follow our Lord and Savior into his battle-plans for our generation?

Look at Ephesians 4:7ff

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:

   “When he ascended on high,
   he led captives in his train
   and gave gifts to men.”

 9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 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.

 14 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. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

What are some of the BEST GIFTS you have ever received? Be careful before you answer.  

ILL:  Visiting The Cove, Billy Graham’s retreat center back in North Carolina several years ago.  Sandy and I spent an afternoon wandering through the halls and museum area filled with beautiful gifts Billy Graham has received through the years from kings, presidents, prime ministers, mayors, governors and other leaders from around the world where he held his evangelistic crusades.  Many of the items are made of gold or silver and are absolutely beautiful.  But they all sit in display cases or museums today.  They are wonderful gifts, but they are not the BEST gifts Billy Graham has ever received. 

IF you were to ask Billy Graham, “Billy, what are the very BEST gifts you’ve ever received among the thousands of gifts you’ve been given in this life, I don’t think he’d mention a single item in those hallways.  I don’t think he’d even mention things like the millions of dollars people gave to support his ministry.  I don’t think he would mention his modest home in North Carolina. 

      What do you think he would mention? 

  • Salvation in Christ that changed his life?
  • His wonderful wife, Ruth?
  • His 5 children?
  • The friendships of thousands of amazing people?

ILL:  Several years ago, I, along with two other pastors in this city, was given one of “the keys to the city of Spokane.”  Every mayor has a bunch of them made to give out as symbolic gestures of friendship or appreciation.  That’s the closest I’ll probably ever come to receiving something from some dignitary.  It sits in the back of one of my filing cabinets collecting dust.  Maybe some day, generations from now, my great-grandkids will start a wild story about how I was awarded that key for bravery or exceptional civic service. J  I hope not. 

      As much as I love Spokane, the “key to the city” is not even in my “Top 10 Best Gifts” in life.  It’s somewhere back there with that toy fire truck I got at age 5 that actually shot water when you hooked it up to the hose! J

      But the GIFTS I am most grateful for in life are not things I can haul around in my pocket or store on a book shelf.  The most valuable gifts I’ve ever received in life are what the most important people in my life have given to me. 

There’s my wife: 

  • she gave herself to me for the rest of life when she was just 25 years old.  I’ve been blessed beyond measure to spend day after day with this beautiful, energetic, life-giving daughter of God. 
  • Sandy gave me the best roles I’ll ever have in life too, that of husband and father of 6.
  • She gave me 6 wonderful children who have all changed my life in the most wonderful ways.

Then there’s my own mother:

  • She gave me life itself.  My mother gave me this gift after spending 9 months of her life lugging around a free-loading son whose only sign of appreciation when he was finally born was to scream and cry.  J

She and my father

  • Gave me love and nurture for 18 years, getting me ready for life on my own.
  • Wisdom about how to live life, sound counsel about specific challenges and godly instruction.
  • Time—loving, playing, enjoying, reading, building, celebrating, worshipping together. 

I could go on and on about the hundreds of people who have made life SO rich for me, not because they gave me things, but because they gave me themselves in one way or another. 

So when Paul tells us that God himself has given us something that comes from himself, it makes me perk up my ears.  The BEST and most AMAZING BEING in the universe giving ME something of himself?  You can bet it’s better than any city key or toy fire truck or even billion-dollar gift anyone could give. 

Ephesians 4: 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Every single one of US sitting in this room today who knows Jesus Christ as our own Savior and Lord has been given something that Jesus personally picked out for US!  “EACH ONE…” 

The Commander-in-Chief of Heaven’s Host is unlike any other leader in history.  In most militaries of the world, when you enlist, they give you Army issue underwear, socks, pants shirts and boots.  You’re just plain lucky if you get the right sized boot for your foot or briefs for your butt.  Most militaries are the epitome of “one size fits ALL!” 

Not in God’s kingdom.  God himself in the person of Jesus Christ, has given…issued…to every follower of Jesus just the right measure, amount and type of “grace” that He alone knows will be best for us and needed in this battle.

The picture Paul paints here is of a victorious warrior freeing captives…prisoners of war…from the Enemy’s brutal captivity.  As he nurses us back to health and installs us into his divine army, he also issues to each of us particular “grace-gifts” that he knows we will need to successfully fight in this divine war. 

Listen again to this passage in Ephesians 4:8--

This is why it says:

   “When he ascended on high,
   he led captives in his train
   and gave gifts to men.”

 9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

Without getting all caught up in the Greek here with you, very simply, Paul is telling us that the all-powerful, glorious God of heaven “descended” to life on this earth, to death on the cross and to burial in the tomb.  It is the very same “one” who “ascended” from this earthly life to assume his throne over the entire universe.  And as he did, he handed out gifts to every person who will ever be a part of his church. 

Then in vs. 11, Paul tells us what 4 of those gifts were that Jesus handed out to his church so we could win the battles before us.  In this list, it’s actually 4 types of leaders in the church. 

      I say this “list” because the N.T. contains 3 or 4 “lists” of “gifts” that God has handed out to his church.  Those lists are found in…

  • I Corinthians 12-14
  • Romans 12:6-8
  • Ephesians 4 (here)
  • I Peter 4:10-11

None of those lists have the identical list of spiritual gifts.

None of them have the same number. 

Which leads many theologians to believe that none of them is a complete list of the gifts but rather representative of the larger body of spiritual gifts God likes to hand out to His church. 

In this list in Ephesians 4, we have 4 different “gifts” or groups of “gifted leaders” in the church as well as WHY they are given to the church.  But first the list of gifts here.

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers….”

What’s one of the frequently repeated words here?  “SOME.”  Clearly God wants us to know that not everyone has been issued the same equipment!  In fact, I think it’s possible to say that not every generation of the church or every location of the church has the same exact gifts in the same exact proportions. 

      Without going into a lot of detail, it’s my personal belief that apostles and prophets referred to here are probably not even around in most churches today.  The early church needed apostles and prophets to give them the authoritative word of God in that period before the written Word of God, particularly the New Testament books, had been written, disseminated and compiled into the complete Word of God we now enjoy in the New Testament. 

      I don’t think the evidence is totally conclusive, but I think that in today’s church, the possible presence of apostles and prophets is not nearly as important or necessary for the church as the presence of evangelists and pastor-teachers.  You may hear, particularly in Charismatic circles, that someone has an “apostolic gift” or a “prophetic gift.”  But even where certain men or women seem to be gifted in raising up new and large ministries, I question whether that is really how apostles and prophets functioned in the life of the early church when Paul was writing this.   

Today, what the church needs desperately is people who are

1.) gifted at sharing the gospel of Christ in a convincing manner so that people outside of Christ put their faith in Jesus Christ, and 2.) people who can teach, disciple, shepherd and mentor every one of those new, middle-aged or old believers in Jesus to the place where they in turn are becoming fruitful in Kingdom service. Look at what vs. 12 says:  God gave us these gifted evangelists and pastor-teachers…

“…to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up….”

WHO is supposed to be “working” in the church according to Paul?  [Everyone—evangelists, pastor-teachers and “God’s people”…everyone!]

WHY are they “working”?  [To build up the church, Christ’s body, 13 “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.”  We are ALL to be working together for 2 basic things:

1.)     to become as united in “the faith” in Jesus as possible.  Literally this means to get as closely knit together in our understanding of biblical truth, “our faith”, as possible.

2.)    To become as united as possible in “the knowledge of the Son of God.”  That speaks to our shared experience of knowing Jesus in every conceivable experience of life—experiencing life with Jesus together in everything from school to work, life to death, plenty and suffering, etc.

Focusing on those to shared realities in Christ will lead all of us to “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  We’ll all be filled up with Christ’s life and experience Him to the full in life when this is happening.

      The Church of Jesus Christ, you and I, will only become a formidable fighting force for the Kingdom of God when each one of us is living out the giftedness Christ gave to each of us when he called us into his family.  It’s all about 100% of God’s kids exercising 100% of our calling through 100% of the gifts God has given us. It’s all about TEAMWORK!

Want to know what has messed with teamwork in a terrible way in the church?  This pattern that we’ve all gotten in…this “co-dependent relationship” between “the clergy” and “the laity”… where a certain small group of people (clergy) are paid to do a certain LARGE set of responsibilities in the church (teaching, preaching, counseling, administrating programs, marrying, burying, calling, etc.) while another LARGE group of people (laity…the rest of the church) pay so they don’t have to feel guilty about doing as little as possible.  (Obviously, I’m making a broad generalization…maybe? J)

      Let me put it this way.  If all the Christians in the world were killed, including every priest, pastor, elder or bishop, and you were one of only a dozen Christians still alive on planet earth, would the church grow and flourish with your current level of spiritual growth and ministry to others…or would it shrivel up and die? 

      I indict myself with a question like that.  So don’t think I’m just here throwing grenades indiscriminately.  I’m the product of my times and training and past church experience just like you are.  But one thing is clear:  the Early Church was so very dynamic, alive and growing in part because they hadn’t gotten into the mindset that you and I have been raised in that I’m somehow more responsible for the actual “work of the ministry” of the Church in our generation than you are. 

Only as each of us draws life, direction and strength from Jesus Christ can we hope to reach that wonderful experience Paul ends this paragraph with when he says this:  16 “From him [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament [i.e. every believer], grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

      Your growth somehow depends upon my work in Jesus’ church…just as my growth somehow depends upon your work in Jesus’ church.  If we are going to reach our city with the life of Jesus, EVERY ONE of us will need to be growing up in the love of Jesus and doing the work God has gifted us to do.

      Isn’t that the way maturity always works:  the more mature we are the more work and responsibility we assume in our family, right? 

Illustrate:  growing responsibility comes with increasing age from infant to child to adolescent to adult to spouse to parent.  Stagnant growth at any one of those stages will dramatically affect the lives of those around me.  So will dynamic personal growth.  If I can continue to grow in personal maturity as I’m carrying out the roles of husband, father, friend, brother, pastor or neighbor, everyone will benefit. 

It’s the same for the family of God, the church. It’s the same for you as it is for me. 

So how are YOU “growing and building yourself up in love…as you do your work of the ministry?”  

  • Are you aware of the spiritual gift(s) God has given you?
  • Are you employing them actively in the church, Christ’s body?

Mosaic Fellowship is just one visible, active expression of Jesus’ larger Body of “the church in Spokane.”  Mosaic doesn’t exist in isolation from the rest of God’s church in Spokane any more than YOU exist in isolation from the rest of Mosaic. If you are regularly and passionately involved in a ministry that isn’t part of Mosaic, great!  I applaud you for your growth and contribution to the church of Spokane. 

      But if you need a place to serve so you are growing personally and building up others, let me tell you where we need you at Mosaic. 

[See insert of “Where Mosaic Needs Gifted People”.

  • Invite them to indicate areas of interest and put it in the offering today.]


(Indicate your interest by checking the appropriate ministry.) 

TEACHING GIFTS:  evangelists, pastor-teachers

  • Life Community leaders—Fill, Mix & Pour (in homes or at Mosaic)
  • Youth ministry teachers (home-based)
  • Outreach Bible Study leaders (downtown apartments)
  • Children’s teachers (Mosaic Sundays)
  • Sunday worship preaching
  • Ministry training workshops

SERVING GIFTS:  helps, hospitality, service, giving

  • Alpha Course helpers, servers, cooks, set-up & clean up
  • Hosting a Life Community or Alpha class in your home
  • Facility maintenance, cleaning, upkeep and upgrades
  • Sound, lighting and technical personnel
  • Nursery helper/child care helper for home groups
  • Children’s Ministry helper (Sunday AM)
  • Beta group host (monthly fellowship times)
  • Transportation help
  • Serving dinners at City Gate or Cup of Cool Water
  • Meal prep for special needs (funerals, illness, births)
  • Alpha retreat helpers
  • Missions, benevolent & project supporters
  • Greeting team members
  • Office administration help
  • Fellowship dinner helpers
  • Communion servers/preparers
  • Sunday morning set-up (chairs, curtains, etc.)
  • Parking greeters

ENCOURAGEMENT GIFTS:  exhortation, encouragement, mercy, pray, shepherding, discerning spirits, wisdom & knowledge, worship ministries

  • Life Community leaders
  • Mentoring and discipling
  • Prayer counselors, prayer team members
  • Spiritual counselors
  • Marriage mentors; pre-marital mentor couples
  • Recovery group leaders
  • Hospital visitation
  • Phone-care shepherding
  • Alpha prayer team
  • Worship team members (vocalists & instrumentalists)
  • Financial counseling
  • Bible study assistants

LEADING GIFTS:  leadership, administration, faith,

  • Ministry team leaders (prayer, outreach, children, youth, worship, music, men, women, art shows, etc.)
  • Retreat coordinators
  • Children’s ministry shepherds
  • Life Community shepherds
  • Outreach event leaders
  • Missions team leaders
  • Community service teams


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