Sermon Manuscript …
Working with People in the Church
The final message of Ephesians and of 2008–Ephesians 6:21-24
One fine day a bus driver went to the bus garage, started his bus, and drove off along the route. No problems for the first few stops–a few people got on, a few got off, and things went generally well. At the next stop however, a big hulk of a man got on—six-feet-eight, built like a wrestler, arms hanging down to the ground, he glared at the driver and said, “Big John doesn’t pay!” and sat down at the back.
Did I mention that the driver was five-feet-three, thin, and basically meek? Well he was. Naturally he didn’t argue with Big John, but he wasn’t happy about it.
The next day the same thing happened–Big John got on again, made a show of refusing to pay and sat down, and the next day, and the day after that and so forth. This grated on the bus driver, who started losing sleep over the fact that Big John was taking advantage of him. Finally he could stand it no longer. He signed up for bodybuilding courses, karate, judo and all that good stuff. By the end of the summer he had become quite strong–what’s more he felt really good about himself.
So the next Monday, when Big John once again got on the bus and said, “Big John doesn’t pay,” the driver stood up, glared back at the passenger and screamed, “And why not?” With a surprised look on his face Big John replied, “Big John has a bus pass.”
Getting along with people is really a challenge isn’t it? Most of us are in the middle of some conflict with someone right now. It could be a husband/wife struggle, or a parent/child tension, possibly pressure from a previous spouse, or friends giving you grief at work, maybe a person in your ministry constantly challenging you, testing the Lord and refusing to grow. Or it may even be the loneliness of leadership or of no friendships at all.
All of us battle with how to deal with other people. It is true, those who are lost are slaves of sin, but even Christians who are ready for heaven don’t live perfectly. So how can I learn how to deal with people? What are the attitudes necessary to deal with people? Let me give you three, though I am confident you can think of more.
1 Trust in the sovereign control of God
To be able to deal with people, we really need to believe God is in charge. When you know God is sovereign over every person and every event, then you realize you are exactly what God intended you to be. You will no longer blame someone else. You’ll no longer say, “You made me this way,” because apart from your sin you are exactly what God intended you to be, if He’s sovereign.
Plus you will no longer say to anyone, “You ruined my life,” because God says He will work all things together for good. You will no longer wallow in self-pity, since even though others meant something towards you for evil, because God is in control, He meant it for good. As you deal with people you remember righteous Joseph and his cruel brothers, innocent David being chased all over the desert by jealous Saul, and both Peter and Paul who did jail time and more. God is in control of the people around you, and that will help you deal properly with people.
2 Value all people as made in God’s image
People are not unplanned biological accidents. No, they are creatures made in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 is clear, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Man was originally created in the image of God. And though the fall has marred God’s image in man, it has not disappeared from us. How do we know that?
In speaking about the tongue, James 3:9 says, “With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God.” What’s the big deal? People have the unique capacity to know God, to commune with God, to be morally accountable to God, to be creative, self-perceptive, and have the ability to show God’s love, joy, heart and other Godly qualities once they’re in Christ.
Being an image-bearer means people have incredible capacity to be like God, please God, show off God now. They can be incredibly significant in this life for God’s glory. Also they’re made to enjoy a real, living, alive relationship with their Creator–dogs can’t. Plus it means each person is stamped with immortality. Each will exist forever as body and soul entities in heaven or in hell forever. There is no hell for dogs or animals, but only for distorted image-bearers. Being an image-bearer means every person will live forever in the next life, since only people and angels have an eternal destiny forever. Remember all people have great value in that they are eternally made in God’s image. You say, “Chris, what about Christians?” Not only are we to see them as those Jesus died for, but we are to remember that . . .
3 Each Christian gives you a picture of Christ
Every true Christian is gifted in such a way as to show off Christ in a very unique way. Each true believer can demonstrate Christ to you and when in relationship, help you to become more like Christ. In fact Christians are like tools, used by God to mold you, shape you, scrape you, sand you, encourage you, motivate you and hammer you more into the image of Christ. And–we are deeply sinful and flawed people, and often do not read others well. You are never better than anyone else spiritually.
Those truths can help us in dealing with people if we own them. If we remember God is in control, people are made in His image and all Christians are designed by God to help us grow to be more like Christ, you and I will value people more–we should, and that is true. But you say, what I really need are some examples of how to deal with people–I need someone to show me, someone I can model, look up to or be encouraged by in my pursuit to be like Christ.
Today as we wrap up a five-year study of this amazing letter to the Ephesians, Paul does that very thing. At the very end of the letter, Paul lets us see into his heart, shows us how he feels about people, and provides a window into how to work with people in the Church. Unlike some Christians I know, Paul liked people. He was not a loner, but ministered to others and with others as a team. Paul was secure enough to share his ministry with others, and was committed to the ministry enough to reproduce himself into others. And one of them in particular comes into view in these closing verses.
As he signs off this letter, you and I will learn how to work with people in the Church . . . how God deals with people . . . what is important as we interact with one another, and the importance of encouraging and loving one another. Is there someone in the church you struggle with? Is there some relationship you have that is strained? Are there people you avoid talking to on Sunday? How about a family member who is getting on your nerves this Christmas? Then you need a strong dose of Ephesians 6:21 to 24.
Having just finished with his strong exhortation to prepare for spiritual warfare, and ending that exhortation with a personal request for specific prayer in verses 19 to 20, Paul knows the Ephesians could not pray knowingly or intelligently for him without more information, so Paul adds these words starting in verse 21. “But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. 22 And I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. 23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.”
Paul sent his close brother and fellow-servant Tychicus to Ephesus. His mission–should he decide to accept it, was to deliver Paul’s letter to the Ephesian believers, then give them a verbal, person-to-person, intimate report about Paul’s situation to encourage them. Paul is telling us how important information, prayer, encouragement and personal contact really are for the church of Christ, for you and me. Prayer, visits and correspondence via letter, e-mail or phone are still the major way Christians can enrich, build, love and serve each other in the body of Christ here and around the world. We should never have so many missionaries we can’t saturate them with communication and prayer. And the missionaries we do have should have our consistent prayers, communication and visits.
And we should always be interconnected as a church. But make this personal–do you pray for and communicate with each other? Do we work at staying close relationally to each other? Let me ask you–when you struggle with someone, first do you evaluate your struggle to see if your struggle should be abandoned for the sake of love and grace? And second, do you talk about them or talk to them?
There are times that I struggle with people and the Spirit of God and the Word of God lead me to abandon my struggle. I am expecting too much from them, or I realize they are already aware of their own weakness, or its obvious they didn’t intend to hurt me, or their comment about being from Hemet meant no harm. But if I believe the Holy Spirit would have me talk with them, I am reminded to make sure I don’t talk about them to others, make certain I am more aware of my own sins and weaknesses and try not to make what I say to them such a big deal.
It is so rare to have to talk to someone about any sort of intentional defiant sin issue. And 90% of the time I do have to speak to someone about a concern, they are almost always already aware of their weakness and my role merely is to encourage them and support them in their own battle with their weak flesh and sinful bents.
The main point of verses 21 and 22 is to communicate to each other in the church–don’t talk about people, talk to them. And your main goal is to love and encourage, not critique and discourage. Our goal in talking to each other is to strengthen and to build, not to weaken and tear down. So what does Paul do?
#1 Bring clarity–a factual report of what is happening
Verse 21a says, “But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing [what I practice].” Paul begins by contrasting what he is about to say with what he just finished saying on spiritual warfare, by using the word “but”. He doesn’t use the strongest contrast so there is a sense of connection, and when you look at verses 19 and 20 you recognize the connection immediately–Paul asked for specific prayer. In verse 21 he informs them that further details for prayer will come to the Ephesians in another fashion. Information about Paul will not come by message but by messenger–not through principles but a person, not in text but through Tychicus.
Paul is communicating purpose here. In verse 21 the word “that”, which is the Greek term hinaindicates purpose. Paul says, let me tell you my purpose–this is what I want to do. With the verb “you may know”, Paul wants them to know the facts. Do you remember Jack Webb of Dragnet? His famous line was, “Just the facts ma’am–just the facts.” And Paul uses a tense with the verb “you may know” communicating that he wants them to know the facts surrounding his ministry and circumstances–all the details, then continue to own those facts.
Back in verse 20 Paul made it clear that he was an ambassador in chains, so his reference to “you may know my circumstances” here in verse 21 is letting them know that there is more to know. In fact, look at the phrase in verse 21, “how I am doing,” which is literally what I am continually practicing, what is presently going on with me. We all know Paul is chained to a soldier 24/7 in Rome, but what we want to know is how Paul is presently dealing with all this–give us the details Paul, fill in the personal details, what’s the scoop, the skinny?
Only godly men understand the importance of details, and they have learned the importance of facts from their wives. Astronaut Michael Collins said the average man speaks 25,000 words a day and the average woman 30,000. Then he added, “Unfortunately, when I come home each day I’ve spoken my 25,000 and my wife hasn’t started her 30,000.” I can’t tell you the number of times I have failed to give Jean the details–was it a boy or girl, the baby’s name, when was it born?
One weird truth about verse 21 is the word “also”–see it? The word also is in the Greek text and is the cause of great discussion. What does Paul mean when he tells the Ephesians that they may also know about his circumstances? He is referring to the Colossians, since Tychicus is also going to Colossae and delivering the letter of Colossians to them. So he says here in Ephesians that they and the Colossians also may learn about Paul’s circumstances. As Paul deals with the Ephesian believers, he wants to bring clarity, the facts of what is happening to him, out of love for them and for needed prayer in the future. But Paul doesn’t stop there. In dealing with people in the Church, Paul also wants to . . .
#2 Bring intimacy–a personal report sharing my heart
Look at the rest of verse 21, “Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you.” Prior to this time in Rome, papyri letters were sent by a relay of several messengers passed one to another like the pony express, except many were on foot. But by the first century, Caesar Augustus changed the Roman postal system from relays through many messengers to a single messenger who would personally deliver the letter. Tychicus was going to function under the new method of postal delivery and carry the letter personally, enabling the Ephesians to receive firsthand information about Paul and his ministry. He is going to provide personal communication.
Christian, as a general rule, face-to-face communication is better than using the phone, and the phone is better than e-mail or letter. Plus, never confront through the mail, and never by e-mail—never. Bring intimacy to your communication–do it face-to-face in person. When you struggle with someone, if you can’t overrule your concern with grace and love, then go talk to them face-to-face.
For fifteen years or so, I pastored the pastors of a large church, and I spent most of my time forcing them to talk to each other. I would say, just go talk to them and you will find a friend and brother. Most of what you are thinking is presumption or speculation. Just go talk to them–99% of the time, issues immediately disappear once Christians talk to each other face-to-face.
Here in verse 21, Paul is telling the Ephesians he is sending Tychicus to them to share with them personally, intimately, face-to-face, and bringing them up-to-speed with his current situation. Tychicus is very close to Paul and is a highly-valued fellow ambassador who has served with him for years by the time he writes the Ephesians. The name Tychicus means fortunate, and he was. He is mentioned five times in the New Testament, but each time it is very brief, so we don’t know too much about him. But he was fortunate to be able to minister with Paul as a friend and fellow servant.
We first meet Tychicus in Acts 20:4 as a part of the team who accompanied Paul back to Jerusalem with a huge offering to confirm their love for the Jerusalem Church and build bridges between Jew and Gentile believers. Tychicus is mentioned as being with Paul toward the end of his first Roman imprisonment in Colossians and Ephesians. Then near the end of Paul’s life, Tychicus was sent on two different church establishing trips, one to Crete to replace Titus in Titus 3:12, and one to Ephesus in 2 Timothy 4:12 to replace Timothy in their church planting efforts. Tychicus was a true servant leader–he did whatever was needed. He saw himself as a servant.
Tychicus didn’t have any credentials–he didn’t have a doctor’s degree, didn’t go to seminary, no particular heritage. We don’t know of any great sermons he preached (in fact we don’t have a word he ever said), and he didn’t have any particularly unique talent or ability–but he was faithful, able and available to go where he was needed. And this willingness made him so valuable Paul says some kind things about him in verse 21. Paul isn’t a flatterer, but he was not slow to acknowledge the faithfulness of others.
One of the keys to dealing with others is to focus on what is true, on those things you can encourage. No matter who you are dealing with, give honor to whom honor is due. If someone worked hard, acknowledge it. If someone served you or met a need, give them honor. If someone ministered to your heart, affirm them. So look at how Paul describes Tychicus in verse 21, “the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord.”
There is a rule in the Greek language called Grandville sharp–when there are two nouns joined by an “and”, and the first noun has a “the” (article) and the second noun does not have a “the” (article), then the two nouns joined by and always refer to the same person. That is the case here–Tychicus is the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord.
Are you a beloved brother or sister–someone who is typically loved because they are so giving, so sacrificial and so sympathetic? The beloved brother is loved by almost everyone universally. Not every Christian is called the beloved brother or sister–yes everyone is to be loved, but some are easily loved, like Tychicus.
And are you a faithful minister, literally a faithful servant? Every Christian is to serve, all of us are commanded to be servants, each of us has a spiritual gift to use in service directly to the church body–but not every servant is faithful.
Having served in pastoral ministry now for thirty years, I have to tell you that faithful servants are cherished, treasured, esteemed and valued above all. Faithful servants can be counted on, they fulfill their commitments, they take care of their responsibilities, they are on time. If they are delayed or sick they are responsible to find replacements, they treat their service like it was a job they were clocking in for, and they serve as if they were serving Jesus Christ Himself personally–because in actuality, they are and they do.
Notice Tychicus is a brother and a servant in the Lord. He is in Christ and Christ is in him. The Spirit loves through him and serves through him, and all of what he does is for the Lord. You can count on a faithful servant, and you never have to be concerned about a faithful servant when he oversees an area of ministry. This type of Christian is proven–he has established a pattern of service, a pattern of faithfulness and fellowship that is certain.
Single guys and single gals–the number one quality of a future mate is not that they go to church, prayed a prayer, made a decision, or went on a mission trip. The most important quality is proven. They have served Christ for such a long season there is no doubt this man or this woman truly walks with Christ and lives for Him. Ministry leaders only elevate the proven. All Christians honor the proven–don’t take advantage of them, don’t take them for granted. They are beloved faithful servants.
Tychicus was not only a blessing to be around, beloved–he was a huge help that could be counted on in every way. He was faithful. And what is this brother going to do? Verse 21, “will make everything known to you.” This is a future tense, so when he arrives after his thousand mile journey from Rome to Ephesus, he will personally make everything known to you. The Greek word “know” in this phrase is yivoskw–which is personal, intimate knowledge. It is not the knowledge of facts like earlier in the verse, but intimate personal knowledge–the knowledge of relationship.
Why such interest? Paul ministered in Ephesus for two years–Paul was the vehicle God used to bring them to saving faith in Christ. Paul was in prison for preaching that Gentiles and Jews could both be saved and be one in Christ, and the Ephesians were mainly Gentiles. They wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes, so Paul says in verse 22a, “And I have sent him to you for this very purpose.” Like a letter that has been sent and received, Paul sent Tychicus to the Ephesians for two stated reasons/purposes. Do you see them? Each purpose starts with a “that”.
First Bring relationship
When Paul says in verse 22b, “so that you may know about us,” he is wanting to Tychicus to communicate heart-to-heart. Tychicus was not only supposed to deliver the letter to the Ephesians, but also supplement the letter with personal, intimate news. The Greek word for “know” is again personal, intimate knowledge.
When you hear of a friend who is hurt, you not only want to know the details of how he got hurt, but how he is doing personally–you want to know what is going on with him. If the man who had led you to Christ was in jail in a foreign country, you would desperately want not only to know the details of where he was. You would want to know his heart, how he was, and what was really going on. So Paul sends Tychicus to let the Ephesians know the intimacies of what was happening to him personally.
One of the most precious benefits of being a Christian is the ability to communicate heart-to-heart to talk about your motive, to be humble enough to express what is really going on with you. Couples, carefully practice the art of sharing your true motive. Discipleship groups, cautiously practice the art of exposing your heart. Parents of teens, begin to show them why you say what you say. In heaven, I believe we will know each other heart-to-heart perfectly. And Paul wraps up this letter with the intention of bringing relationship. And the second purpose is to . . .
Second Bring comfort
Verse 22 ends with “and that he may comfort your hearts.” Comfort is also translated encouragement or strengthen. Heart is the center of a person–the seat of religious and moral conduct, will and emotion. Paul sends Tychicus to Ephesus with the letter, and with a purpose to encourage and strengthen their hearts–not just to inform, but to minister. Why? To relieve them of all their personal concerns for Paul. To share the stories of how Paul is glorifying God, sharing the Gospel, impacting Jewish leaders, seeing Praetorian guards turn to Christ–to encourage their hearts and strengthen them in their walks with God.
Think about the challenge of hearing about your mentor who is sharing the Gospel while in jail–to you who are free to share the Gospel with everyone every day in Ephesus. Think about the drama of a Jewish leader who so passionately loves a mostly Gentile church that he not only writes the letter, but makes certain his man is going to comfort their hearts. Paul’s love is not show but sincere, not merely doctrine but doing.
It is one thing to say that you love your brothers and sisters here, it is quite another thing for you to sacrifice for them personally–to be more concerned for their well-being than your own well-being. Think about you being destitute, poor, with nothing, in jail awaiting trial–yet your greatest concern is the hearts of others who love you. That is love.
Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? Paul doesn’t just bring clarity, he brings the intimacy of relationship and comfort. How about you? Now as Paul closes the letter he shares a two-part prayerful blessing.
One My heart to you–intimacy with God
It was the custom in the ancient world for correspondence to end with a wish from the gods for health and happiness, much like a mushy, serious Hallmark greeting card today–may Zeus give you juice. Here Paul continues the custom, but he expresses a true desire in a prayerful blessing to the one true God.
What does Paul wish for the Ephesians? Verse 23, “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Is this the peace for your well-being, where the internal conflict of every fallen heart has now ended? Probably not. The peace Paul prays for here is the absence of hostility that exists between you and God, and most likely the peace that ends hostility between you and your brothers and sisters. The peace we have with God through Christ should affect our relationships with one another. Plus Paul is praying for peace between Jew and Gentile, which is impossible unless God transforms the hearts of both.
Paul also wishes for love with faith. That is dependent love, acts of sacrifice that are reliant upon God, love that only comes from being filled with the Spirit–supernatural sacrificial love that comes from a personal God who is our Father, and Jesus Christ who is our Lord. Paul prays for intimacy with our personal, loving, gracious Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ our Master.
Two My prayer for you—unending love
Verse 24, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.” Paul ends with grace–the core attribute of genuine salvation. God’s riches at Christ’s expense–not the only attribute of God, not the most important attribute of God, but grace is the quality of God that opens the door to God that our own sin shut. Grace is God giving us through Jesus Christ, what we don’t deserve.
So Paul prays for this grace to be enjoyed by all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who are graced by God will be loving like Christ. Grace is for those who are committed to loving Christ and only those who are graced by God can love Christ. Paul is making love a major emphasis in this final prayer.
God has already told us in 1 Corinthians 13:1 that if any of us don’t love, if we don’t love in any given situation, if we don’t love others today, if we don’t love people at work this week, we are just a big noise. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
As believers we need to maintain expectations of each other’s love, for our God is confrontational, in your face, about any lack of love. First Corinthians 16:22, “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed. Maranatha.” These are strong words. Accursed is anathema–it means to be damned. WOW! If you don’t love the Lord, Paul says let them be damned.
The letter to the Ephesians is saturated with exhortations, commands, encouragements and examples to love. The entire letter is about God’s love for us, Christ’s love for us, our love for each other, a husband’s love for his wife and a believer’s love for other believers. This is why Paul ends with, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.”
Incorruptible is an unusual word–the word means a love that will never decay, an unceasing love, an eternal love, a love that will never perish. Paul uses the word incorruptible elsewhere in the New Testament as a contrast between our current decaying, failing, rotting, dying body and the eternal perfect glorified body which will never decay. If we have been graced by God then we will love the Lord Jesus, and God’s grace provides a love that will never decay. So beloved Christians, as Ephesians closes . . .
1 God commands you to love
The warning is this–if sacrificial actions empowered by the Holy Spirit for the glory of God and a heart desire to please Christ are not a regular part of your lifestyle, there is a strong possibility you are not saved. You don’t love in order to get saved, but once saved you will love. First John 4:19 says, “We love, because He first loved us.” (Our love is God’s love through us.)
You don’t even need to pray for more love, since Romans 5:5 says, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” All true Christians love, and if you don’t, it is a major indicator that you may not know Christ. You must turn to Christ in repentance and faith.
2 Your love for Christ is first
Paul knew the Ephesians well and he understood their culture–he knew their bent toward intellectualism was putting them in danger. So he repeated the command to love about fourteen times in this epistle. What is frightening is, regardless of his continual commands and encouragement to love Christ and others, when the Holy Spirit spoke through John to the Ephesian church thirty years later in Revelation 2:4, he said, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
The danger for us is the same–doing our job, running our home, raising our kids, watching TV, eating our meals, doing our ministry, hearing the Word of God command us to love Christ first above all. Yet we can lose our first love. What does John say we do to get it back? Revelation 2:5 says, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place–unless you repent.”
Remember what it was like to love Christ first. Remember when your love for Him was your greatest passion. Repent from where you are now–see lack of love as sin–it is. Repeat the deeds you did at first which showed you loved Christ. To start 2009 right some of you need to return to your first love.
3 Your love for others will be obvious
In these closing verses, Paul demonstrates his love for others by being more concerned about communicating to them clearly and as personally as possible than he was about his own comforts. True Christians demonstrate their love for each other in tangible ways–in obvious ways. This is so certain that 1 John 3:10 says, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” Then verse 17, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” And 4:20 to 21, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”
My beloved brothers and sisters–each week when we close our service, it is more than words I am calling you to demonstrate. It is the actions of Christ through you to your eternal family. As we close this epistle, let’s make certain we practice your position. We’re loved by Christ, filled with love, so let’s practice loving each other.