Ephesians 4:7-16, Four Gifts for the Church, pt2:

  • As we established last week, this section deals with the church as the body of Christ – growing. This growth comes from Christ himself through four gifts.
  • 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)
  • Grace has been given (4:7). Last week we saw that “grace” is what empowers God’s people for the work of building up the church. His grace not only saves us, but it also enables us to be transformed and empowered for a life of service (2:10).
  • In addition, this grace can be measured according 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.”

 

  1. The Gift of Giving on Unity: (v8-10)
  • Secondly, we saw that ‘He gave gifts to men (4:8). Christ’s giving of grace was foreshadowed in the story of God in Psalm 68, and Paul refers particularly to verse 18. This psalm 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. However, tonight we move on to the final two gifts.

 

  1. The Gift to Equip: (v11-13)
  • Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers (4:11). This verse specifies one dimension of Christ’s gift that we might not expect if we are familiar with Paul’s teaching on gifts found in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12–14.
  • There, the gifts are specific, diverse abilities or empowerments for ministry. In Ephesians 4:11, the gifts are not abilities or empowerments but rather people serving in certain roles.

 

  • The verse teaches that Christ gave people-gifts to the church, to the people of God whom they are to serve. Now let me develop this though. Earlier sections of Ephesians cast light on the list of people-gifts, as Paul identifies himself as an apostle (1:1). He also notes that the household of God is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (2:20).
  • The first two people-gifts, apostles and prophets, served a foundational role in the early church. Yet according to verse 11, the people given by Christ to the church also refer to the present age (the evangelists, the pastors and teachers).

 

  • Now this passage does not explain the distinctive work of each role, only what they have in common, namely their source and their purpose. Apostles were authorized and sent to preach the gospel and to plant, nurture, and oversee churches. Prophets communicated God’s truth to God’s people, not only concerning the future (1 Cor 14:1–40). An evangelist has the role or responsibility to share the gospel with those who had not received it. Pastors were those who oversaw and cared for God’s flock, much like literal shepherds with their sheep. In fact, in the New Testament, it is used in the sense of “pastor for people” only here, except for passages that speak of Jesus as the shepherd of his flock (John 10:11–16; Heb 13:20; 1 Pet 2:25). Finally, teachers instructed God’s people in God’s truth.

 

  • But these roles overlap considerably. Paul, for example, was an apostle (Eph 1:1), he also evangelized (1 Cor 1:17), taught (Col 1:28), and exercised pastoral oversight of his churches (1 Thess 1–5). Moreover, it’s likely that Paul prophesied (1 Cor 13:2: 14:3–6, 37).
  • Furthermore, the Greek language used in Ephesians 4:11 suggests a strong connection between the role of pastor and teacher. A literal translation of this verse reads, “[Christ gave] the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.”

 

  • However, the emphasis in our passage, is not on the distinctions between the roles, but rather on what they share in common. They are all gifts from Christ to the church. Why?
  • To equip his people for works of service (4:12). These roles share this common work! This does not mean, of course, that equipping is the only thing apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers do. But their job descriptions overlap in a key task that is highlighted here. As all of God’s people are set apart by Him, and all are to be equipped by those Christ gives to the church for this task.

 

  • God’s people, are therefore, equipped “for works of service” (4:12). This verse reveals that all of God’s people participate in the ministry of Christ. All of us are his ministers, not in the sense of being “ministry professionals” but rather as people set apart by God to serve him and people in both the church and the world.
  • Therefore, the people-gifts prepare all of God’s people for their work of ministry, which in this passage is focused on the building up Christ’s body.

 

  • Verse 13 tells us more on this. It refers to the people of God, and their ministry and building up of the body of Christ “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and to become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
  • This spells out three crucial dimensions of Christian growth: unity, maturity, and stature.
  • 1) Until we all reach unity (4:13). Interestingly, back in verse 3, unity is portrayed as something already provided by the Spirit that needs to be preserved. Verse 13 sees unity as the goal of ministry, something for which we strive. Once again, who we are “in Christ” (united) determines how we are to live (building unity).

 

  • 2) Become mature (4:13). In Greek, the phrase eis andra teleion means, “to a/the perfect/complete/mature man.” The singularity of “man” indicates that this phrase does not refer to the individual maturity of the multiple members of the body of Christ.
  • It stresses that the singular “man” points to the church as the body of Christ becoming mature. The use of eis andra teleion, however, suggests an even more specific sense. The body of Christ is to grow not just into maturity but into the perfect man! This is also reinforced in verse 15, which says in Greek that we are to grow up “into Christ in every way.” The body is to “become mature” as it grows into the maturity and completion of Christ himself.
  • 3) Attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (4:13). According to 1:23, the church is the body of Christ, “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” In 3:19, Paul prays that we might “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” But verse 13 suggests growth in size, as Christ sets the standard for the church’s growth – we therefore grow collectively as we grow individually.

 

  • The Gift of Growth: (v14-16)
  • This ties in with the previous gift. And as we have seen up to this point in our passage, it is the church, the body of Christ, that grows in unity, maturity, and stature. The use of the plural “infants,” shows that corporate growth and individual growth go hand in hand. If the body of Christ grows, then individuals will no longer be spiritual babies.
  • Just look at how Paul refers to spiritual immaturity; (being infants, being tossed around like little boats). It refers to the tendency of being influenced by false teaching, especially that motivated by deceit.

 

  • However, of the previous gift is properly employed, then the church as a whole will grow in true faith and knowledge, which means that individual believers will also grow up in Christ.
  • But there is a necessary attitude, speaking the truth in love (4:15). Which means that the truth we speak must also be truth we live. What is this truth? The truth to be spoken in love is the good news of God’s work in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:13 identifies “the message of truth” as “the gospel of your salvation.”

 

  • The core of Christian truth speaking, involves sharing the good news of Christ in all dimensions. Speaking the truth in love undoubtedly involves speaking in a loving manner. But “in love” points to more than just our mode of communication. In 4:25 it says: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” This parallel verse shows that speaking the truth in love means not just speaking kindly but also speaking in the context of our relationships in the body of Christ.

 

  • God’s love in Christ draws us into fellowship with each other and binds together our corporate life (Col 3:14). Therefore, we speak the truth in love when we live in a community in which God’s love in Christ determines our way of life. And then we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (4:15).
  • The Greek reads more literally “we will grow up in every way into him who is the head, Christ.” This means we become the mature body of Christ. But the emphasis of the original is once again on Christ as the goal of our growth, just like in 4:13.

 

  • Yet Christ is not just the target of our growth but also the source. Verse 16 begins with the phrase “from him” as it explains how the whole body grows. Christ as the head of the body is the source of its multifaceted growth. This sense of Christ’s headship was foreshadowed earlier in 1:22–23, where God appointed Christ to be head “over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” As head of the church, Christ is filling it up. Thus when it comes to the growth of the church, we would expect Christ to be the source of its growth, much as nourishment for a human body comes from the head by way of the mouth. Most of all, Christ supplies grace to the church so that it might grow up (4:7).
  • The whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (4:16). Verse 16 accentuates the importance of each member of Christ’s body for its growth. The complex phrase, “joined and held together by every supporting ligament,” which is even more complicated in Greek, reveals that every part of the body is somehow connected to and dependent on every other part (similarly, 1 Cor 12:12–27). Therefore, the body will grow up only “as each part does its work” (Eph 4:16). The Greek of this expression echoes verse 7, reminding us that Christ gives grace to each one so that each one can help the body grow.
  • Thus Ephesians 4:7–16 ends much as it began, with Christ as the one who gives to each one of us. His grace enables all of us to engage in the ministry of building up his body, the church. The church will only grow as it should when each member contributes. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers are given by Christ to the church to in order to equip all of God’s holy people for our ministry, so that we might help the church grow in unity, maturity, and stature. We do so mainly by speaking the truth in love. When we grow as the body together, we will also grow as discrete members. Christ is both the source and the goal of our corporate and individual growth.