“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart…” (Ephesians 4:11-18 KJV)
I’ve heard it said that doctors can’t truly heal anyone; all they can do is to somehow help the body be able to heal itself. I think this is true, and it’s the same spiritually. One thing Paul writes in Ephesians 4 is that some healthy members of Christ’s body have been assigned certain functions by God, aimed at ensuring the body as a whole is functioning as intended. The words “apostle,” “prophet,” 0r “pastor” aren’t special positions of leadership, they are functions of service to the body. Their main role is to identify and remove spiritual trash, and prevent or heal spiritual disease, like a waste management system in a city, or an immune system in a body. Paul said the goal is that the entire body of Christ become united and in harmony, building itself up in love and coming to the fullness of Christ, the spirit of God.
So what does spiritual trash or disease look like? The New Testament actually answers this question over and over, including in the passage above, where Paul identifies some unhealthy or useless things that need to be eradicated: “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive…” That’s a bit wordy, but it just means that in order to be healthy and mature, the body of Christ as a whole must heed and taught by the spirit of God instead of the natural mind of man. We must leave behind the multitude of religious doctrines which are taught as divine yet have been shaped in the minds of selfish men. The shocking truth, which is strongly supported by the apostles and Jesus himself, is that the most trash-producing and disease-causing force among the body of Christ isn’t “sin” as we have been taught – it’s the multitude of doctrines and religious ways which have been formed in the mind of man! Therefore, as I have said, I believe Paul is saying the primary role of apostles, prophets, pastors, etc. is simply to help remove or nullify these useless and damaging “winds (influences) of doctrine” from among God’s people, so that they can receive and live from the life of God (also known as “Christ”) within them. That sounds easy or simple, but many people see their way and understanding as divine and/or find their identity in it, so as a result they strongly resist the idea that they have been deceived, and will shun or even persecute those who say so. However, if we’re going to mature, we ALL have to face this fact: many things we have been taught and many ideas or “truths” we have held dear and defended, are false and distracting at best, or spiritually poisonous at worst. It’s called humility, and it’s a prerequisite for true salvation.1
In the last verses of the passage above, Paul, as an apostle, pleaded and “testified in the Lord” that the members of Christ’s body “no longer” (meaning at least some still did) walk like those who haven’t been awakened to the reality of Christ within them – living according to the darkness of the natural human mind, being alienated from the life of God because of ignorance and a calloused heart. Do you see that the only fault Paul warned about was not “sin” or bad behavior, but to stubbornly live from one’s human mind and nature, without the light of spiritual revelation as the foundation of understanding? That is what is spiritually deadly, not cursing or drinking or looking at pornography or losing one’s temper. To live from one’s own mind and nature results in alienation from the life of God which is within and available all the time. Religion is essentially darkness imitating light; it is formed when blind men (which is ALL men apart from the spirit), instead of admitting their blindness and waiting for the gift of sight in order to proceed on solid ground, instead pretend or convince themselves they can see based on doctrines they believe. Religious men stumble in gross darkness, yet proclaim how wonderful what they see is. They may be so blind they will spend their whole lives, even die, for an idea which has no existence in the mind or heart of God.
If you teach others – then please, please, for your own sake and for the sake of others, make sure first and foremost that you understand the new covenant, the basis of which is to live by the spirit/anointing of God (Christ) in you, and are pointing others to do the same. I am becoming more and more convinced that spending time in quiet spiritual communion with God, away from the teachings of men and without any sense of obligation or agenda, is ESSENTIAL to begin to be taught by the Spirit of God and learn to recognize what is and is not of Him. I honestly think this is how all spiritual knowledge is given, and it’s not usually easy or quick. The Bible can help inform you or keep you on track, but it is not “divine” itself, and even it is subject to the spirit. Sometimes, the natural mind just has to be made to shut up, to be quieted, so you can be aware of God’s presence, letting him minister to you in ways deeper than thought. This can be done anywhere at any time, but the less distractions and noises the better.
Let’s realize that the spirit of God is very able to teach and lead us. Let’s humble ourselves by being willing to see just how wrong and off-base we may have been, no matter how right it seemed we or others were. Let’s shut up our minds in God’s presence, and let go of what we “think” and what WE “believe,” allowing His spirit and presence to minister to us, communing with Him spirit to spirit apart from any duty or agenda. As we do, we’ll receive revelation, we’ll receive guidance, we’ll find the fruit of the spirit appearing in our lives naturally, instead of religiously trying to force things we really don’t find within. This is my heart, and I hope I’m in some way serving the body of Christ in these writings. God bless you.
1.James 4:6, Ephesians 2:8
2 Corinthians 5:14, 1 Corinthians 15:45
2. Romans 14:17