EPHESIANS 4:7-16 MANUSCRIPT
7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?[b]10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[c] and teachers,[d]12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,[e] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
In last week’s passage, Paul tells us of our high calling to be unified in our pursuit of likeness to Christ so we might represent Christ to the world, thereby bringing glory to God. We are to be like Christ in humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another. This is absolutely central to our faith. We are to be a people who grow ourselves, and also promote growth in the body so that she might become more like Christ. In this next section of Chapter 4, verses 7-16, we are going to look deeper into how Christ has made this high calling possible for all believers.
We are going to look at this passage in four parts. First, what has been given to the church? Second, How have these gifts been given to the church? Third, What is the purpose of these gifts? And fourth, What does it look like when these gifts are properly used?
1. What has been given to the church?
look with me at verse 7
7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
At the end of last week’s passage it could be easy to feel overwhelmed by the daunting task presented. However Paul says, “yes, this something big, this is something you can’t do on your own, BUT GRACE was given”. “Here is your task and I know it is bigger than you, I know you don’t really have what it takes in yourself, but I have given you grace so that you might be able to fulfill it. Paul says, “to each one of us”. This grace has been given to each and every person who has placed his or her trust in Jesus Christ pause “Do you get what Paul is saying? He’s saying that if you’re here today, and you’re a follower of Jesus, then Christ has given you a gift of grace.
Well, how is it possible for gifts of various kinds and measures to help us in our unity? It seems like if your goal is unity, you would give the same gift to all people in the same amount, right? Fairness right? That makes sense to us. That’s what we try to do as parents so that there is no fighting or jealousy over the gifts we give to our children, but Jesus chooses to give different gifts and different amounts.
Lets look at a couple reasons why it is possible and actually beneficial for us as followers of Christ to receive gifts of different kinds and measures. The first and most obvious reason I see is the blessing of diversity. Grace is given to us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. That means that Christ in all his wisdom gives us the specific gifts and abilities that we need in order to perform the specific task that he has in store for us. Think of a restaurant for example. A restaurant needs different types of employees in order to run efficiently, to satisfy their customers, and to make money. So if a restaurant hired only busboys, it would be very difficult to meet the objectives. The tables would be very clean but there would be no food for people to eat, no one to seat guests when they arrive, no one to take peoples orders and so on. You need all the different jobs to make the restaurant work the way it was meant to work. In the same way, the body of Christ needs all of its’ different parts in order to work the way that Christ intends. In 1 Corinthians 12:17-19, Paul says,
“17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.19 If all were a single member, where would the body be?20 As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body.
The other reason I want to point out that shows us why it is beneficial that we have received different gifts is at the beginning of this first sentence in verse 7. Paul says, “grace was given”. Grace is something that we have done nothing to earn, and then Paul re-emphasizes, in case we might forget, it WAS GIVEN to us. In other words, it’s something that we didn’t earn.
A gift says nothing about the one who receives it. A gift shows the wealth and greatness and character of the giver. pause So boasting is immediately eliminated at the beginning of this first sentence. Paul says also in First Corinthians chapter four verse seven,
”For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
We are no different any of us. If we were to stack up all of our achievements and all that we have done ourselves in our flesh, all of our piles would look exactly the same. Because what have I done on my own? I have sinned against and disgraced a Holy and perfect God. Ok, that seems pretty bad. Well what do you have over there? You too have sinned and disgraced a Holy and perfect God. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. THAT is what we have done. That is what we can put on our own resume. So Paul says, who sees anything different in YOU? The difference is not from you. This grace that you have (in order to do the task that Christ has laid before you) has been GIVEN TO YOU. You did not work for it, you did not inherit it from your parents, it is a gift given from Christ to you. It says nothing about who you are or what you have done, but it says everything about who Christ is and what He has done. pause So all the glory and all the praise that you might receive from using your gift well can only truly be pointed at Christ. Because the gift glorifies the giver.
Just as the athlete bows his head and points to the sky after scoring for his team as if to say, “let’s Give God the credit, He is the one who has gifted me with these talents and abilities.” In the same way, we do not take credit for what God alone deserves the credit for. When God chooses to use you in one way or another, He is one who deserves the credit for what has been done. So when people compliment us on what a great job we have done in this or that area of service, it is important for us to always have that mindset of pointing it back to God. I’m not saying we should always be down on ourselves. We should be encouraged by compliments. God uses our brothers and sisters to encourage us in the work that he calls us too, but let’s not let compliments fool us into thinking that WE are the ones who deserves to be praised. The giver gets the glory. Lets say that together. The giver gets the glory. This is the kind of attitude that will help us to be humble and gentle like Christ as Sam pointed out last week. When we realize that all we have is a gift, it is possible for us to think of ourselves less, and to give grace even when circumstances call for the the opposite.
The gifts Christ gives us are given in order to help us in this task. At this point in the text Paul reminds us exactly where these gifts come from. This will answer our second question.
2. How have these gifts been given to the church?
Lets look at verses 8 and 9. Paul says, Therefore, (because He gave us gifts) this is why the psalm says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives and gave gifts to men”
The “he” in this verse is Christ. He is the one who has ascended in order that He might give these gifts. So Christ ascending or going up into heaven is the reason he can give us these gifts. That in itself is not exactly clear. Thankfully Paul helps us to look a little deeper into what it means to say that Christ ascended.
“In saying he ascended, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?”
Paul says that Christ’s ascension implies that He came down. How does he make this connection? Christ was already in heaven. So when we say that Christ ascended or went back to heaven, it makes it necessary for us to remember that he first came down from heaven. Paul points us to the gospel. Christ saw us where we were, slaves and captives to sin and death. He descended down from his throne in heaven and humbled himself as a man. He lived the perfect life that we were created to live, and He died the death that we deserved because of our sin.And then he rose, victorious and triumphant over death and sin and all that enslaved us.
So it is because of the victory. Because of Christ’s victory over sin and death displayed in his triumphant return to heaven that he gives gifts to his church. So how has Christ given us gifts? By his victory over all that enslaved us.
Jesus defeated pride and he gives us humility. He defeated lust and gave us pure and selfless love in covenant marriage relationships. He defeated self-centeredness, that self-seeking desire within us and gave us the power to think of others more highly than ourselves.
This is the key to our unity. The good news of the gospel is where it comes from. Christ’s victory over sin and death is the reason that we can be truly restored and empowered with these gifts in order to truly give of ourselves for the unity of the body so that God may be glorified in his church.
Christ restores all of our broken qualities and gives them to us as gifts so that we might fulfill his purpose for us. In the same way he is also the restorer of people. Look at some of the gifts that Paul mentions in verse 11.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers”
Jesus gives to us as gifts restored people. He takes a man who was once great in his religion, he worked hard for his own name, he was judgemental, self righteous, and a complete enemy of God’s kingdom. He breaks him down and he restores him as one of the greatest gifts to the church, the apostle Paul himself. The gospel is powerful. Jesus is powerful and he has overcome everything that is keeping you away from him. There is no sin too great, there is no person too far gone to be restored by Christ. If you have never surrendered your life to Christ, what is holding you back? Is it fear, because Christ has overcome fear. Christ says put your trust in me. Let me take your fear and I will give you hope and strength and peace. Is it shame? Because Christ has taken our shame upon himself and defeated it. He says let me take your shame and I will show you your Father in heaven who has adopted you as His own and looks upon you and sees my righteousness. If you would like to know more about what it means to really surrender your life to Christ I ask you to please come and talk with me or with Pastor JB or with a friend close by after the service. If God is speaking to you right now and calling you to come to Him in surrender, please do not wait. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, we are not guaranteed the next hour. So please talk to someone. We would love to spend time with you and tell you more.
Let’s continue on to our third question.
3. What is the purpose of these gifts?
We have seen what has been given, and that is grace. We have seen how grace has been given, through the victory of Christ over sin and death. So now let us look at the purpose of this grace in verse 12. Jesus has gifted us with these ministers; the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers…
“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
Those who minister to the church equip the saints, meaning all believers (think back to the “each one of us” from verse 7), for the work. What is that work? It is the ministry that builds up the body of Christ.
Paul again points us back to this unity that we are called to. He doesn’t say you are equipped for the building up of your own body. All that we have been given is for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. This is the “one body” from verse 4. Christ has died and risen to give us everything that we need to do the work of ministry to the body.
How do these particular ministers that Paul mentions equip us to do the work of building the body? We can think of them almost like construction foremen. Each one oversees a particular part of the project from initial planning to foundation to framing and so on. They see to it that all the tools and the directions needed are available to the workers. Without them things would be chaotic and unorganized. Nothing would get done. These ministers are gifts given so that we might have all we need. The apostle types and prophet types and evangelist types equip us with the gospel itself that we might come to know Christ. The shepherd types and the teacher types are with us for the long haul in local congregations helping us to learn more about what it means to live a life that honors Christ, and how to use the gifts he has given us in the most effective way.
Grace was given, gifts were given, ministers were given so that each one of us might perform the work of ministry that builds up the body of Christ.
That brings us to our fourth question. If we have everything we need to do the work, what does the body look like when this work is being done properly?
4. What does it look like when these gifts are put to use?
Let’s look at verses 13-15. We are equipped to do the work of ministry that builds the body of Christ,
“until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
When we are using our gifts which Christ has gifted us with, the result is that we grow to be more like Christ himself both individually and corporately. Paul says that as we grow we will start to look more like Christ in our stature. We will not be like children anymore who are easily deceived and will believe anything we hear. We start to become more like the mature man who is strong and grounded in what he knows.
In the same way that we are weak and needy when we are physically children, we are weak and needy spiritually when we first come into Christ. But Paul warns us that it is dangerous for us to stay as children. The devil is cunning and deceitful and will use any method he can to keep us from coming to know Christ, to keep us from growing in Christ, and to render us completely ineffective for the Kingdom. So part of us growing up into the maturity of Christ is that we might not be deterred by false teaching and become ineffective members of the body of Christ, if not worse.
This is something that I desperately need to be reminded of. I think we all need to be reminded. The devil is ready and waiting. Are we growing to be able to discern what is Christ and what is a lie?
Paul does an excellent job reminding us again and again that Christianity is not in individual religion. Unity is what we aim for. Back to verse 13, The unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God points us to the perfect faith and perfect knowledge of Christ that we will have in heaven. This is what we are aiming for. Perfection. We are to work to build the body of Christ UNTIL WE REACH THIS PERFECT UNITY. We will not reach it this side of heaven but we must press on towards it with every breath we are given. That is why Paul says we must grow up into Christ. He does not say that we wait until we get to heaven and then we will be like Christ. We grow up throughout our lives. Our lives should have an upward trajectory. When we come into Christ we have a measure of faith and a measure of knowledge in Christ. This should not stay the same throughout our lives. We must seek more faith and more trust in Christ as our salvation and provider and healer and all that he is, and we must seek more knowledge of who Jesus is and what he has done as he reveals himself to us through His word. As we grow in this connection with Christ, it strengthens our root. It makes firm our foundation and helps us to become like the strong full grown man who is immovable in his resolve. As we become more rooted in this way the other fruit begins to show as well. We begin to look more like Christ in every way. We begin to experience the humility and gentleness that help us not think too highly of ourselves because we trust that Christ will give us all we need. We experience patience and the ability to bear with one another because we know who Christ is and what he has done for us. We know how patient he has been with us and how long he has held back his hand when we deserved to be punished.
So practically what does this look like for you and me on a daily basis? Each and every day our goal is to grow in Christ likeness. What do we need to do that? More faith and more knowledge. Our knowledge helps to build our faith so how do we get more knowledge? It’s right here in God’s word. So the first thing is that we must spend time getting to know God in His Word. As we grow in knowledge we can grow in faith as well. What do we do to grow in faith? We grow in faith as we take steps of faith. Whatever God places in front of you this day you commit to saying yes to and you commit to following Him in it. Place your trust in Christ rather than yourself. It is not a one time thing. It happens each and every day, and in every situation that arises you must decide am I going to trust in Christ in this situation or am I going to trust in myself?
We become more like Christ when we know Christ and when we trust in Him. When we ourselves become more like Christ we help the body to become more like Christ.
Let’s look briefly at verse 16 as we close.
16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Brother, Sister, we have a job to do. If we go back and look through the passage, we see each one of us have been given gifts. The ministers God has gifted to his church equip all of us to do the work of building the body. And here in this last verse we see this condition. “When each part is working properly.” So it seems that we have been given the specific gift we need in exactly the right measure, we have been equipped by those God has gifted us with, and we know what our task is. To build the body to look more and more like Christ until our last breath. We must grow so that we can promote the growth of the body. A member of the body who is not growing is a member who is not working properly. In other words, a member who is living in sin, or a member who is plateaued and not growing is not helping the body but is actually keeping it from growing to its full potential.
Each and every part of the body has a part to play in the growth of the body as a whole. The power does not come from us, for it is Christ FROM WHOM the whole body builds itself up. and it is because of Christ’s death and resurrection that the body can be built up in love rather than torn apart by selfish ambition.
Maybe you are sitting here today thinking, what does this mean for me? What do I do with this? I want you to take some time now and ask yourself these questions.
1. Am I really growing spiritually? Not only my bible knowledge or my church manners, but do I really look more like Christ today than I did a year ago? Do the things I say and the things I do point people to Christ or do they point people to me?
2. Do I promote unity or discord among the body? Am I quick to tear others down? Am I prone to gossip? Do I always want to prove I am right? Is it always important that I get my way?
3. Am I afraid of trying to help others spiritually? Do I feel like I don’t know enough? Like I am not good enough?
We all fall short and there are times when we seem to be not growing at all. There are times when I have looked back at my day and said, I can’t believe I said that hurtful thing or that I was so prideful in that situation. But there is grace and mercy at the feet of Jesus and there is power in His name. All of our sin and shame has been defeated and we now have everything we need to pursue this calling that Christ has placed upon our lives. So let’s ask now for the faith to follow in all that Christ has for us. Let’s ask for faith to trust that He will do all that He says he will do. And let’s ask that we might know Christ more today than we did yesterday.