If you have wondered why your life gets disrupted and your world turned upside down sometime, it is because the presence of the Lord is coming forth in your life. He comes forth conquering and to conquer (Revelation 6:2). He has to bring down the kingdoms of your world so He can establish His Kingdom within you. The Kingdom of God comes not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! For, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:20-21.
You remember the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in John chapter eleven. Lazarus had died. Jesus told Martha, “Your brother shall rise again.” And Martha said, “I know that he shall rise again in the last day.” Jesus responded saying, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Many, like Martha, only think of the resurrection as an event that takes place in the last day. However, Jesus said He was the resurrection. So the resurrection is a person; it is Him! He is the resurrection. His life is resurrection life, and His resurrection life is coming forth in the Body of Christ. It is a process that has already begun in us. His life is coming forth out of the grave of our earthen nature. He descends into us and, in a sense, is entombed within us, and then His ascension begins in us, and we ascend with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). It is a spiritual resurrection!
We’re going to begin this message with a prophecy of the many-membered Body of Christ in the Psalms, for it is in them that the Lord shall descend and ascend.
Psalm 139:14 I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are Thy works; and that my soul knows right well.
The Holy Spirit speaks here in behalf of the many-membered Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is fearfully and wonderfully made, a wonderful work of God.
Psalm 139:15-16 My substance
was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the
lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Your book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
The Body of Christ is made in secret. The world knows nothing about it; it is even hidden from much of the Christian world. When the Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign, He responded saying, “An evil generation seeks a sign and no sign will be given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonah who was three days and nights in the whale’s belly, and so shall the Son of man be three days and nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:38-40). The three days and nights speak mystically of the Church Age when He is hid within the Body of Christ. The third day represents resurrection life. This is what the prophet Hosea spoke about when he said, “In the third day He will raise us up and we will live in His sight” (Hosea 6:2).
In Your book all my members were written. Paul reveals the book of Christ to us in II Corinthians 3:3. You are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. Now we need to take a look at the last part of verse 15, which will lead us to the book of Ephesians, for Paul uses this prophecy in Psalm 139 as a foundation for the building up of the Body of Christ.
Psalm 139:15b I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Ephesians 4:8-10 Wherefore He
said, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts
9 Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.
Paul is not talking about the Lord going down into the literal earth; he is talking about His presence and life descending down into our earthen nature, and that is what the psalmist was talking about – Christ being wrought in the lowest part of the earth. That is where the secret work of creating the many-membered Body of Christ is taking place. He descends into us and then He begins His ascension. As He ascends He leads captivity captive. Those of us who have been captive to our earthen nature are freed from that captivity and brought under His Lordship. Then He gives gifts unto men. The gifts He gives are the ministries of verse eleven; they are the gift-ministries.
Ephesians 4:11 And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.
The title doesn’t make an apostle or prophet or pastor, etc. The Lord Jesus Christ is the real apostle. He is also the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor and the teacher. He descends into the many-membered Body of Christ and ascends and functions through some as an apostle, some as a prophet, some as a pastor, etc. That is why I say there is only one apostle or one prophet. The one the Lord functions through as an apostle has an apostolic ministry, but the Lord is the apostle. It is not uncommon for one who claims to be an apostle to think too highly of himself and that diminishes the ministry.
Ephesians 4:12-13 For the
perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the
Body of Christ:
13 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 fullness of Christ.
This is the purpose of the ascension gift ministries – to build up and perfect the Body of Christ. We must understand, though, that the apostles and prophets themselves do not build up the Body of Christ. It has to be the Lord Jesus Christ functioning through them that accomplishes it. Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Psalm 127:1.
Do you understand why Jesus said, “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Holy Spirit will not come unto you”? He has to have people He can function through. He cannot come forth in us as Jesus the Nazarene. He has to become Spirit first. Then as Spirit He can descend into man and rise up within some as an apostle, as a prophet, as an evangelist, as a pastor, as a teacher, as an elder, a deacon, etc. He gave gifts unto men (verse 8). These are the gifts of Himself. The perfecting of the Body of Christ is the Lord coming forth to be glorified and admired in them (II Thessalonians 1:10).
Ephesians 4:14a That we henceforth be no more children…
Christians that are not under the ministries of verse eleven will always be immature children. There is no other means for becoming mature sons of God. Some would say, “Well, we don’t have or believe in apostles and prophets in our religious organization but we have the pastors and teachers.” If that is the case, you don’t have the pastors and teachers of verse eleven. The true ministries of pastors and teachers work hand in hand with the apostles and prophets. They are one because they are all channels for the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. If the ministry of apostleship is rejected, then the Lord Jesus is rejected. If the ministry of prophet is rejected, it is the Lord Himself that is rejected.
Ephesians 4:14b …tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, where by they lie in wait to deceive.
Who is “they” that lie in wait to deceive? It is those who claim to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers when it is not Christ in them doing the work. They are the ones Paul spoke of to the church at Ephesus when he said, Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:30). They want to look important, and to do that they keep the people in a state of immaturity. Have you noticed how many congregations are only spectators? True ministry begets ministry.
Verse 15-16 But speaking the
truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even
16 From whom the whole Body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the Body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Do you see what happens when there is true ministry, when it is the Lord ministering through the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers? In verse eleven they are the ones working with the Lord in building up the Body, but when you get to verse 16 it is every joint supplying. Every member learns to function under true ministry. The ascension gift ministries of verse eleven are the channels for the Lord to descend into the Body of Christ so that He can ascend in them. A spiritual resurrection of the Lord Jesus is taking place in His saints. He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.
Copyright © 2003 by Henry DuBose