Ephesians 4:7-16, Four Gifts for the Church, pt1:

  • In this section, the church as the body of Christ is to mature. This growth in unity, maturity, and stature comes from Christ himself through four gifts. He gives grace to each of us so that we might be active in the ministry of building up the church (4:7).
  • And Christ also gives to the church gifts of people in different roles who share in the vital task of equipping all of God’s people for ministry (4:11–13). So that we can do our ministry, speaking the truth in love, growing as the body of Christ together, and as individual members of that body (4:14–16).

 

  • Strictly speaking, Ephesians 4:7–16 is a narrative of Christ’s activity as the giver of gifts and source of the church’s growth. Yet this story implies several requirements that elaborate further what it means for us to walk worthy of our calling (4:1).
  • Outline:
  • 1) The Gift of Grace, v7
  • 2) The Gift of Giving, v8-10
  • 3) The Gift to Equip, v11-13
  • 4) The Gift of Growth, v14-16

 

  1. The Gift of Grace: (v7)
  • Firstly, verse 7 continues the use of “one” found in the previous verses (“one body … one God”; 4:4–6). Yet the word “but”, alerts us to a new sense of “one.” And so “Each one of us” includes all of God’s people, not just the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers mentioned in verse 11. Now to the gift:
  • Grace has been given (4:7). This gift is “grace,” from the Greek word charis, which is related to but not identical to charisma, “gift”. According to 2:8, God saves us by grace, but in 4:7 there is a new expression of God’s generosity. In 4:7–16, “grace” empowers God’s people for the work of building up the church. Previous passages in Ephesians revealed God’s “glorious grace” (1:6) and “the incomparable riches of his grace” (2:7; see also 1:7).

 

  • Therefore, God’s amazing grace has the capacity not only to save us but also to transform and empower us for a life of service (2:10). It is grace that draws us into ministry as it drew Paul into ministry (3:2, 7). E.g. In 3:7 Paul “became a servant … by the gift of God’s grace given” In 4:7, he uses the same Greek words to speak of the gift of grace given to each of us for our own ministry.

 

  • According to the measure of Christ’s gift (4:7). Though this could refer to God’s gift of Christ to us, the following verses make it clear that Christ is the giver in this case, not the gift. Elsewhere Paul uses the word “measure” to underscore God’s authority to give as he sees fit or to determine our sphere of ministry (Rom 12:3; 2 Cor 10:13).
  • Yet only six verses after 4:7 in 4:13, measure is used in reference to “the fullness of Christ,” which is immeasurably vast (1:23; 3:19). Thus, we can interpret the verse as: grace was “given as Christ generously allocated it.”
  • With this thought in mind, Paul moves to show how the giving of grace by Christ reenacts a particular story about God from the Old Testament.

 

  1. The Gift of Giving on Unity: (v8-10)
  • He gave gifts to men (4:8). Christ’s giving of grace was foreshadowed in the story of God in Psalm 68. The introduction “this is why it says” suggests a biblical antecedent. Yet when we examine the specific verse, Psalm 68:18, we find a perplexing inconsistency between Paul’s quotation and the apparent original: “When you ascended on high, you took many captives; you received gifts from people …” In addition to the shift from second person (you) to third person (he), we find a puzzling variation from God receiving gifts in Psalm 68 to God giving gifts in Paul’s paraphrase. What might account for this reversal of the direction of giving?
  • Several commentators explain the variation by pointing to a Jewish interpretive tradition of Psalm 68 that adds an element of giving to verse 18. An ancient Jewish targum (Aramaic paraphrase) of Psalm 68:18 reads, “You ascended to the firmament, O prophet Moses; you captured captives, you taught the words of Torah, you gave gifts to the sons of men.” Even if Paul did not know this particular paraphrase, he may well have been aware of Jewish traditions that included giving among the actions of the one who ascended in Psalm 68:18.

 

  • These traditions accurately summarize the story of the whole psalm, even if they alter the meaning of verse 18. Psalm 68 celebrates the strength of God. The God who ascended on high did not just receive gifts. He also gave them. God “gave abundant showers” to the land and “provided for the poor” (Ps 68:9–10). Psalm 68 ends by celebrating the fact that God “gives power and strength to his people” (Ps 68:35). Thus the quotation in Ephesians 4:8 represents a major theme of Psalm 68, the ascendant God giving to his people. The story of God in Psalm 68 prefigures the story of Christ in Ephesians 4.
  • Ascended … descended (4:9–10). Paul’s commentary on Psalm 68 in Ephesians 4:9–10 reads: “What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.” Most interpreters agree on the basic meaning of Christ’s ascent (his resurrection and journey to heaven), but there is little consensus about his descent. Does this refer to his death and burial, to his visiting the underworld after his death, to the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost, or to his incarnation? Given the likelihood that Paul would have thought of the surface of the earth as the lower regions, he probably envisioned Christ’s incarnation as his descent (similar to Phil 2:6–8).

 

  • The final phrase of 4:10 states that Christ ascended to the highest heavens “in order to fill the whole universe.” More literally, the Greek could be translated, “in order that he might fill all things.” This intentionally echoes 1:10 in which God’s cosmic purpose is “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” At the end of chapter 1, Christ is “head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (1:22–23). Christ’s giving of gifts contributes to his effort to unify and fill all things.
  • Why did Paul choose to include a Christological interpretation of Psalm 68 in his discussion of Christ’s giving in Ephesians 4? You could, after all, remove verses 8–10 from 7–16 without affecting the main storyline. Their inclusion, however, highlights the fact that Christ’s giving to his people replays the story of God’s giving to his people. Christ is faithfully living the story of God as told in Psalm 68.