As we saw last time in Ephesians 3:7—Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power—a minister is more than just the guy who “makes his living as a minister in the church.” Yes, the word is used of men who were full‑time preachers, but in its primary meaning, it refers to ALL believers being ministers (i.e. being a servant) to the needs of other believers. We quoted Hebrews 6:10, but more pointed is I Peter 4:10‑11, where Peter also writes to believers as a whole: “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
Briefly, God’s Word gives us no less than eleven ways in which God’s people minister to (serve) one another. First, we are to edify (build up) one another (Rom. 14:19). We never say something that tears someone down, rather all that we say and do builds others up in Christ. Second, we are to admonish (warn) one another (Rom. 15:14). “Rebuking” is done only by the pastor (I Tim. 5:20; II Tim. 4:2; Tit. 1:13), but all of us should lovingly and humbly warn others of the consequences of wrong behavior. Third, we are to bear each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2, 5). If we can’t empathize with another believer, at least we can sympathize and try to ease the burden. Fourth, we are to forgive one another (Eph. 4:32). Yes, there will be times when a Christian brother or sister says or does something that upsets us, but we forgive them and go on. Fifth, we are to comfort one another (I Thes. 4:18); we should all console and encourage other believers. This is not just a pastor’s duty. Sixth, we are to exhort (challenge) one another (Heb. 10:24‑25). We should stir up each other’s spiritual affections and challenge one another to be what God wants all of us to be. Seventh, we are to meet each other’s physical needs (Jas. 2:15‑16). Instead of living by today’s philosophies (“Let the government take care of it” or “Let the insurance company cover it”), we should rather take care of physical needs as they arise. The rule is: If you see a need, meet it. Eighth, we are to confess our sins to one another (Jas. 5:16). If we wrong someone, hurt them, or offend them, we must go to them and get it straightened out. Ninth, we are to pray for one another (Jas. 5:16). How important this is! Tenth, we are to promote unity within the body (Eph. 4:1‑3). We are to strive to keep Christ’s Body unified through an emphasis on spiritual things. While we must not unify at the price of doctrine, we must strive to keep the true body unified. Eleventh, we are to love one another (I Jn. 3:11). This encompasses all the others. If we have a “self‑emptying self‑sacrifice” (agapē) for our fellow believers, it is going to show brilliantly.
All of that is true service, true ministry. Many today who “do something for God” want fanfare, they want bells and whistles to go off, they want a trophy, they want some kind of reward for their efforts. But that is not service; it’s remuneration. True service is doing things without thought of compensation or even recognition. May we repeat, the rule is: If you see a need, meet it. The second most important area of local church ministry is the body ministering to itself, that is, believers serving believers. In fact, as we’ll see in Ephesians 3: 8b‑9, preaching is the primary ministry in this age. Therefore, the two major areas of Christian ministry are preaching and the body ministering to itself.