A sermon from February 15, 2015
What are the dangers inherent in convincing ourselves that we can live outside of God’s normal means of personal spiritual health and growth? They are equally clear in this passage. If we attempt to do what we are not wired by redemption to do, we will be susceptible to lingering immaturity in specific areas of our life and to doctrinal error or confusion, and we will live in danger of being deceived. Think with me for a moment. Each of us is able to cite occurrences of each danger in our own circles of pastors. I have counseled pastors who damaged their churches because they had failed to grow up. I have experienced churches damaged by pastors who were moved away by the latest wind of fad doctrine. I was a self- deceived pastor, thinking I knew myself better than I did and thinking I was more spiritually well off than I actually was. These warnings are not just for the average Christian but for every member of the body of Christ. They call everyone in ministry to humbly admit that in the middle of the already–not yet, there is a war that is still taking place for the rulership of our hearts. And because there is, we all need the warning, protective, encouraging, rebuking, growth- producing ministry of the body of Christ.
Now, what methodology has God chosen to employ to guard, grow, and protect us? It is the public and private ministry of the Word. This passage particularly emphasizes the member ministry. Again the words are specific and clear: “Speaking the truth in love . . . joined and held together by every joint . . . when each part is working properly . . . builds itself up in love.” There is no indication in this passage that any member of Christ’s body is able or permitted to live outside of the essential ministry of the body of Christ. But I think it is exactly at this point that we can be tempted to draw conclusions from this passage that it doesn’t actually teach. Because it ascribes to the pastor the responsibility of training God’s people for their member- to- member ministry function, I am afraid that we have unwittingly concluded that the pastor is above a need of what the rest of the body needs and does. But the passage never teaches this; it actually teaches the opposite. The pastor is in the unique position of not only training the body for this ministry but also of personally needing the very ministry for which he trains them. Remember, the words here— “every joint,” “each part”— do not leave much room for exemptions. Again, I think of it this way: if Christ is the head of his body, then everything else is just body, including the pastor, and therefore the pastor needs what the body has been designed to deliver.
Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling