Theme - Gifts of the ascended Christ and their use in the ministry of the Church.
Basis of the theme - is that all must be done in the unity of the Spirit so as to have a successful ministry.
Introduction: Quote from Kevin Dyer; Unity, Leadership, Change and Vision.
"I come from the state of Tasmania in Australia. In a small town not far from where I lived is a beautiful stone church. The hand cut stone is magnificent and the architecture is outstanding. As the church towers skyward, everyone can see this beautiful landmark.
The church was built back in the 1880’s when many people in the small town got together and worked on the church. Some cut stone, others laid them, while still others worked on the stained glass windows. It was a united effort.... amazing in the fact that many people from different backgrounds helped build the church.
When they got to the top of the walls and were ready to put the roof on, an argument broke out. People took sides. The work stopped and division swept through the congregation. The roof was never put on, and for 90 years that church building stood incomplete without a roof. Four generations were born and died. Children wondered why the church was never finished. Young people could not believe that it stood incomplete. About 15 years ago they finally got together and finished the church. But for 90 years it stood as a terrible testimony to division and disunity."
Text: Ephesians 4:1-16
This portion impresses on us the importance of unity in the body of Christ, whether it be in the local Church or in the Church universal. I would like us to focus more particularly to the local, or individual church. We must remember that the local church should reflect the universal church in its unity.
The passage outlines certain ministries within the church which have the purpose of building up the members to a deeper spiritual life. The application of these ministries must be grounded on unity amongst the believers.
When Roy Savage shared with us from this portion, he divided it up under the three headings, Unity, Diversity and Maturity. However, in this instance I have divided it up under different headings.
I. vs. 1-6 we have The Walk Worthy of Our Calling.
II. vs. 7-13 we have Gifts From the Ascended Christ.
III vs. 14-16 we have The Outcome of the Gifts.
I. THE WALK WORTHY OF OUR CALLING vs. 1-6
1. "Our calling in Christ" vs. 1
We first see in verse one ‘our calling in Christ.’
The apostle has commanded us to walk worthily of our calling. That is, we are to conduct our behaviour in a manner that is suitable for one who is called a Christian. You see, all those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are members of His one Body and we have become the habitation of the Spirit of Christ. If Christ then is within us, our outward behaviour should become the character of Christ.
2. "The character of Christ" vs. 2
We read of lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering and love.
In Galations 5:22,23 we see this as being the fruit of the Spirit which is to be evident in our lives.
(1) "lowliness" - This word is only found once elsewhere in the New Testament and that is in Phil. 2:3 "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves."
The word may be better rendered as "modesty". That is, we are to recognise that we ourselves are of no particular importance. We have nothing of ourselves to be proud of and therefore there is no room within us for a boastful spirit. Everything we have, we have received by the grace of God and all glory belongs to none other but Him.
(2) "gentleness" - This word is better rendered "meekness". That is, we are to have a heart of humility. When someone says something about us that is unkind, we have a natural tendency to flare up in anger. That is because we are not meek.
They said of Christ, "He has a devil", and He meekly endured it.
They said, "Say we not right that Thou art a Samaritan?". But He answered them not.
"When He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not". Here is the meekness of Christ. It is the attitude of a person that is unwilling to provoke others and not easily be provoked themselves.
(3) "longsuffering" - This implies a patient bearing of injuries, without seeking revenge. It is to endure without raising a temper.
(4) "forbearing one another in love" - We are to bear with one another, that is, ‘to put up with’ each other, in the spirit of love. Love is the governing principle towards all the saints of God.
Now we should note that the Greek word here used for love is the word ‘agape’. Here we are dealing with a divine love. A love that will stand strong through any discrepancy that is among the saints. Many comment on the noticeable love we have here, but will it hold out in the day when disagreements occur?
So these four words briefly sum up the character of Christ. We are called upon to clothe ourselves in this character and if any part of it is missing in our lives, then we are not walking worthily of our calling in Christ, and we are grieving His Holy Spirit. And should this be the case there will be no unity amongst us. This unity is now mentioned in verse three.
3. "Unity" vs. 3
(1) We must ‘endeavour’ to keep unity. We are to do our utmost. If others fight against us, we must take all possible care not to fight back. If others despise and hate us, we must not despise and hate them.
(2) What is the unity of the Spirit? It is the unity which God Himself has made. All believers are members of the body of Christ, which is His Church. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and He has placed us as individual members into the one single Body. The Spirit has united that Body and now we are to recognise it.
We keep the unity of the Spirit when we recognise every true believer as members of Christs body, of His flesh and of His bones. Eph. 5:30.
(3) We are to keep this unity in the bond of peace. Peace itself is a bond. A peaceful disposition and conduct will bind Christians together whereas discord and fighting disunite the hearts and affections of each other. But beware - this is not to be ‘peace at any price’.
There is no room for compromise in the Church of God. Peace is to be kept so long as the truth is held on to, but should disharmony arise through the speaking of truth, then we have no choice but to stand firm, no matter how uncomfortable one may feel.
4. Seven unities to be kept. vs. 4-6
(1) "one body" - That is the Body of Christ and, as we have seen, that Body is composed only of people who have been washed from their sins in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit and thus made members of Christ.
(2) "one Spirit" - This is the Holy Spirit by Whose operation we have been baptised into the Body of Christ. 1. Cor. 12:13 "for by one Spirit we were all baptised into one Body". Now this Holy Spirit is the one who has given us gifts and the one who governs the Body. We are all actuated by the one Spirit and therefore we should be one.
(3) "one hope" - This is the hope of the Church, to be with the Lord in glory and to be transformed into His image. All Christians are called to the same hope of eternal life.
(4) "one Lord" - Who is of course, Jesus Christ, who is the head of the Body, to whom all believers are made subject. All Christians own Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour.
(5) "one faith" - This is not the faith by which we are saved, but it is the faith of the Christian Church, the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. It is the one standard of truth that God has given to be proclaimed in the world. It is the Gospel, containing the Christian faith. No other faith or belief or god can save us except for Jesus Christ.
(6) "one baptism" - It is somewhat controversial as to what exactly is suggested here. Some say it refers to water baptism but I believe it to be the baptism of the Holy Spirit by which we are made members of the Body of Christ.
(7) "one God and Father of all" - This is our one God and Father Who owns all members of the Body as children.
(a) He is above all - with respect to His divine nature and perfection; He has dominion over all for He is the Creator.
(b) He is through all - that is He upholds and governs the Church
(c) and He is in you all - He dwells within individual members by His Spirit.
Now these seven unities are kept by everyone who is called a true believer and are things which we hold onto.
II GIFTS FROM THE ASCENDED CHRIST vs. 7-13
1. Each of us has a gift. vs. 7
"But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christs gift". Every member of the Body has been given a gift - we have a diversity of gifts amongst us.
1 Cor. 12:4 ‘There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit’.
Now there are certain outstanding gifts of which we may say have a public character, yet we must realise that every member has something which he may contribute to the blessing of all. No matter how feeble, insignificant or unknown he may be, he has received something from the risen Lord for the help of the rest.
Every believer has a place to fill in the Body of Christ. If he is not functioning according to the will of God, he will affect the whole body for the worse. However, If he is functioning according to the will of God, he affects the Body of Christ for good. No-one is without a gift, and it is the duty of the individual and of those in leadership to recognise these gifts in the Church and then put them to use. To neglect this duty would be to grieve the Holy Spirit and would be to the detriment of all.
2. "captivity captive" vs. 8
What does it mean that when He ascended on high He led captivity captive ?
Simply this, that He led captive those who held us captive. Our blessed Lord in His triumph over death and ascension to the right hand of the Father has led captive him who had the power of death up to that time. In other words, our enemy Satan is now a defeated foe. He has been led captive, and now men, being delivered from the powers of Satan and darkness, have been given gifts for the growth of the Church.
3. "ascended/descended" vs. 9,10
Here in brackets we see a short explanation of the previous verse. If Christ ascended on high this of course means that He descended. And we read that He descended into the lower parts of the earth. That is, He descended to earth and was born as a lowly man and He died and was buried in a tomb. He who has gone up higher than any man ever went, once for our redemption went lower than any other man has gone.
4. "The Given Gifts" vs. 11
Now we go on to see that gifts have been given to the Church so that she might grow spiritually mature.
These we read to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. There is a slight difference here in regards to the list of gifts given in 1 Corinthians and Romans. In those instances, the Holy Spirit is enduing the members of the Body with spiritual gifts for a varied service; however here in Ephesians we see that certain Spirit endued men are themselves the gifts who Christ has given to the Church. In Corinthians and Romans the gifts are spiritual enablements for specific service; in Ephesians the gifts are men who have such enablements.
These gifts in Ephesians are primarily for the edification and maintenance of the Church; they are for the building up of its individual members in the knowledge of Christ.
(1) apostles and prophets. - The apostles and prophets laid the foundation of the Church. Eph. 2:20 reads, "having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself the chief cornerstone." 1900 years ago the apostles and prophets fulfilled their ministry and we are no longer looking for them.
The apostles and prophets laid the foundation and if I understand correctly, this temple of the Lord which is His Church, has been under construction for the past 1900 years and I believe it is almost complete. You do not put a foundation on the roof. There are no longer apostles and prophets, but I believe, and I stand to be corrected on this, that the prophets are replaced by our preachers. 1 Corinthians tells us that prophecy is for ‘edification, exhortation and comfort’. Our preaching should be for the same.
(2) evangelists - An evangelist is the bearer of glad tidings. In other words, the Gospel. The ministry of the evangelist is particularly to the outside world. If God gifts a man to be an evangelist, He fills his heart with fervent love for a lost world; gives him the ability to proclaim the gospel in freshness and in power.
(3) pastors - A pastor is a shepherd who has a heart for the sheep of Christs flock. He is a carer. The evangelist finds new converts and brings them to the flock and the pastor seeks to lead them into the green pastures of Gods Word. He is there to minister to the sick and to build up those who are weak.
Now remember we are talking about gifted men. Let it be known that no theological seminary, no college or university can ever make a pastor. Now I believe we should all realise this because the assemblies have been reaching out for pastors for all the wrong reasons.
(4) teachers - Then we have teachers. -The teacher opens up the truths of Gods Word in a clear orderly way so that people may grasp it and profit by it. He expounds to us the doctrines of the Bible. And I believe that we are in desperate need of teachers today, to stir up the gift that is within them, and begin to teach.
5. The reasons for these gifts. vs. 12
"for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ."
(1) the equipping of the saints
The reason for these gifts in the Church is so that the saints are equipped to carry on the work of ministry.
It is not alone for the pastors and teachers to do all the work. When God gifts a man to be a pastor or a teacher he is to exercise that gift for the purpose of perfecting and developing the saints in order that THEY might carry on the work of ministry, in order that the whole Body may be edified.
So brethren, do not come to the meeting to be a spiritual sponge. We are to fill up, but then we to overflow so that others may be filled. Then we will be carrying out the true principle of New Testament ministry.
(2) How long will these things continue? vs. 13
"till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
So we see that the present ministry will continue until the entire Church is gathered home to Heaven, and Christ will be fully displayed in every one of us. This will be when the Head is joined to the Body. But until that day, we should strive to put on the character of Christ so as to produce a Christlikeness in ourselves.
III THE OUTCOME OF THE GIFTS vs. 14-16
1. Become grounded in the truth vs. 14
"that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,"
We know that children’s minds jump from one thing to another. And many of Gods children are the same. They are never truly established in the truth and can be carried away by any wind of doctrine.
So God has set in His Church those who are responsible to instruct and build up the saints so that they will be no longer children being tossed to and fro, but will be mature people, firmly grounded in the truth of the Word of God.
We are not to be carried away by the trickery and deceitfulness of men. If somebody brings to you strange and new ideas, ask them for a "thus saith the Lord". - Ask them to give a Scripture and verse for what they have to say and then go to the Word yourself and check to see if these things be so. It is the Word of God we stand upon, not the words of men and only in the Lords inspired Scriptures do we find the truth. So the first outcome of the gifts is that we be no longer children, but become mature people, grounded in the truth.
2. That we speak the truth in love vs. 15
"but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the Head - Christ".
In verse 14 we see that we are to have a good confession. Now we see that it is just as important for us to make manifest that confession by living a godly life. It is necessary to stand for the fundamentals of truth but we are also to bear witness of those fundamental things by the way we live. And we find here one of the greatest fundamentals - and that is love.
1 Cor. 13:2,3 - "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing."
See we are to be ever speaking the truth on the foundation of love. Now this is not simply the testimony of our lips but it is the life which we live and the way we act towards and treat others. We are always to be speaking the truth in love as we live by the power of the truth of God and are dominated by the love of Christ. Thus we will be daily growing into Him, becoming more like Himself.
Are people seeing more of Christ in you from day to day?
3. The final result vs. 16
"from whom the whole Body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the Body for the edifying of itself in love".
This is what the Church is aiming for.
(1) Firstly we see that the Body is joined and knit together.
In other words, every member must be united together for us to function effectively. If there is any selfishness on behalf of a particular person, or any dislike or contention among people, then there will be no real Christian fellowship between us. Its too often that little things come between us that hinder us from functioning as we ought to be.
(2) We also find in this verse that every part is to do its share.
You have to contribute your part and I have to contribute mine. If any of us disregard our responsibilities the whole Church is affected.
(3) and lastly we note that when every member does his share effectively, the Body of Christ will be edified and growth will occur.
This growth is not necessarily in numbers but in spiritual value.
Thus we find this Ephesian passage is most important for the Church.
• All that the Church does must first be done in unity. There is to be no divisions amongst us and we are to work together for the same goal.
• The gifts that are within us are to be recognised then put to use, especially the gifts spoken of here.
• Then the end result will be that we grow to be a spiritual, mature and godly people that will be pleasing in the sight of God, rather than be spiritually weak children, serving no-one but self.