SPIRITUAL GIFTS, PART 5

Wisdom from Mr. Scott: The right tool for the right job. It certainly applies to the church.

Gifts that Equip and Mature the Church

Ephesians 4:1—14

The earlier chapters of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians deal heavily with doctrinal truths. Specifically, Paul teaches his readers about God’s saving grace as it relates to His creation and the role of the Church in achieving His will. By the time we get to chapter 4, Paul turns from the intricacies of doctrine to the believer’s responsibilities in light of those doctrines. This is pretty typical of Paul’s style: first he reveals doctrinal truths and then he proceeds to shows how to practically respond to those doctrines.

1. Unity, Ephesians 4:1—3

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Back in 1:18, Paul began to teach his readers about the hope of their calling, and with verse 4:1, he is going to show how their behavior should reflect that divine calling. Simply understanding Biblical doctrines gets us nowhere unless that knowledge moved down to hearts from our heads. Paul’s readers, and we today, need to see how those doctrines impact our daily lives.

The “calling” does not refer to the calling to ministry or to a particular occupation. Moody makes this interesting observation:

It is a call that comes to all Christians by the sole fact that they are Christians.

Since Christians have graciously accepted God’s call to salvation and been given a new life and a new relationship with God, we are obligated to live in such a way as to bring honor and glory to Christ. Essentially, our overarching obligation is to live in peace with the Body of Christ and in unity with that same Body. We do this practically by living according to what some scholars have called “the four graces of unity,” which are:

  • Humility

  • Gentleness

  • Patient

  • Love

Christians should strive to cultivate these graces in our relationships within the Church. None of these things “just happen” when we get saved; they all take work to implement in our daily lives.

When we live this way, we will be fostering a unity of the heart made possible by the Spirit of God. We should note Paul’s careful use of words: living a worthy life does not create unity of the Spirit, but it keeps the unity of the Spirit. The English word “unity” comes from the Greek henotes, and can mean several different things, but within the context of these verses we should understand that as we live in peace with our fellows in the Body of Christ, the unity (the “oneness”) of the Spirit is preserved. What is the “unity of the Spirit?” We get a clue from 1 Corinthians 12:13—

For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free —and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is a greatly under appreciated gift because the Holy Spirit brings a unity to the individual—integrating all his parts (body, soul, spirit) to create a wonderfully functioning human being—but He is also a uniting bond to the whole Body of Christ. Through the bond of the Holy Spirit, we are held together in love. The Holy Spirit does all that for us, but our job is to live right, which is what Paul is writing about here.

2. The ground for unity, Ephesians 4:4—6

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Using a series of “ones,” Paul goes on to show how significant a thing unity really is. He repeats the word “one” numerous times in these three verses illustrating a deep truth, which Calvin notes:

Christ cannot be divided, faith cannot be rent.

The first group of three “ones” is :

  • One body

  • One Spirit

  • One hope

These three “ones” are connected like this: The one body is vitalized by the one Spirit, moving towards one hope.

The second group of “ones” is made up of the following:

  • One Lord

  • One faith

  • One baptism

Loyalty to one Lord results in commitment to one faith and is symbolized by one baptism.

Finally, Paul writes that there is only one God, and He is the Father of us all. This echoes something written by the Old Testament prophet Malachi:

Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another? (Malachi 2:10)

In the Old Testament, God was the Father of the Israelites, but now in the New Testament, He is the Father of all who believe, whether Jew or Gentile. Paul’s point: God loves unity, therefore we ought to live in unity.

3. Gifts given to help, Ephesians 4:7—13

God is such a loving heavenly Father! He demands certain difficult things for us to do—like living in unity—and He gives us certain gifts so that we are able to that which He demands of us!

All members of the Church are gifted in some way so as to be active participants in maintaining the unity of the Spirit within the local church. That’s the point of verse 7:

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

The “grace” given is not saving grace, but is related to “charisma,” spiritual gifts given to believers, like those mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. Each believer’s “grace” is given by Christ as He decides. Not all believers receive the same gifts or the same number of gifts. Christ’s distributes them as He sees fit.

Verses 8—10, a quote from Psalm 68:18, is the scriptural proof for what Paul just taught. The source of the gifts given to the Church is the ascended Lord. The setting of Psalm 68 is uncertain, but the original setting pictures the Lord triumphantly returning to His Sanctuary after defeating Israel’s enemies. He had taken booty from the battle and Had given it all to His people. Christ, then, is the sovereign conqueror (destroying death, hell, and the grave) carrying the spoils of His conquest, and giving them as gifts His to His people. It’s all a very poetic way of saying that Christ is sovereign and that He gives gifts to members of His Church as He sees best.

The precise nature and purpose of these gifts are given in verses 11—13.

Apostles. To the Church, Christ gave the apostles. In all likelihood, this particular gift is restricted to the Twelve and to Paul. This gift is traditionally seen as a “foundational gift,” given to help establish the Church.

[The church is] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:20)

Prophets. This gift, along with the previous one, probably ended with the Apostolic age. There were a dwindling number of prophets in the New Testament, like Agabus (Acts 11; 21), Philip’s daughters (Acts 21), and the men in Acts 13, but with the giving of the spiritual gift of prophecy any member of the Church can now engage in the prophetic ministry.

Evangelists. These are itinerant preachers who move from church to church, from group to group, preaching the Gospel. Paul was such a preacher, and we have evangelists today.

Pastors and teachers. In the Greek, this is actually a single grammatical unit. The teaching of God’s truth is the foundation of all pastoral care. The job of the pastor-teacher is to feed the flock and teach the Word.

4. The purpose of these gifts, Ephesians 4:12—14

…to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (verses 12, 13)

To prepare God’s people for works of service that will build up the church. The implication is that evangelists and pastor/teachers are given to the Church to train the members to do “works of service.” There is an expectation that every member of a congregation will be active within their local church in some way that will be to the benefit of the Body of Christ.

To encourage maturity. While it may sound like Paul is saying believers will become prefect, verse 13 is not teaching this. A “built up” church is one that is maturing or growing in the faith. The “unity in the faith” and “the knowledge of the Son of God” are the means of growing in the faith. When a congregation assembles together in unity, placing their trust in Christ, learning about that same Christ, their relationship with Him will deepen as well as their relationships with each other. “The whole measure of the fullness of Christ” refers to the Christlikeness that ought to characterize each believer. In other words, even though a congregation grows and matures together, individuals within that congregation should be manifesting their own personal spiritual growth.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. (verse 14)

Even though these special gifts may be in use in a church, there will be dangers to be avoided. Even the most spiritual of believers, endowed with and using his spiritual gifts, must be on constant alert against false teaching and false teachers.

Naturally, we won’t be completely mature or perfectly reflect Christ’s nature until He comes again (1 John 3:2), Paul indicates there should be a “measure” of tangible Christlikeness in each believer.

3. The goal, Ephesians 4:15, 16

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

The ultimate goal of these gifts (or ministries) is to encourage steady growth among believers. Unlike the kind of scheming false teachers mentioned in verse 14, those who are true believers, using their gifts in the proper fashion, will minister to their people in love. There is another way to render verse 15 that should be mentioned:

Instead, speaking the truth, in love we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

It’s a minor change, but it does serve to illustrate how we should be growing in faith: in love. In other words, love would be the means by which God’s people grow into maturity (Bruce).

The analogy of the body growing up into the Head is a difficult one to understand. Scholars have pointed out the fact that in relation to the rest of his body, a baby’s head is very large. As the baby grows and develops, his body is essentially catching up to his head in terms of proportion. This sounds like a common sense way of looking at this analogy.

Speaking of “the body,” is it grows and matures properly, it will function as it should, each part under control of the head. Under the control of Christ, the members of the Body of Christ will function is complete harmony together.

If we could summarize this section of Ephesians 4, we would acknowledge that Paul sees the unity of the Church as organic, not organizational. Real unity is not enforced by a church constitution, but is the result of a congregation maturing in the faith, yielding to the Holy Spirit as He gifts its members. Only when this happens does the Church grow in the beauty of perfect symmetry.

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