We return this week for another look at Ephesians 4, verses 1-16, this week focusing on verses 11-16. Last week, much of our attention was on verses 7-10, where Paul quotes Psalm 68, verse 18 in order to illustrate his point in verse 7, that “grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Having spoken so much about the unity of the faith and “the unity of the Spirit” in verses 1-6, Paul then shifted to speaking of the diversity of gifts with which Christ has blessed His bride, the Church. That diversity, however, was given for the building up of the church in maturity in that one faith, in order to ever more increase that unity; the “unity of the faith,” as Paul now calls it in verse 13. He summarizes in verses 15-16:
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him Who is the Head, into Christ, 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.
Paul says in verse 7 that “each one of us” has been given grace, “according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Each individual saved believer in the church has been blessed with spiritual gifts. Each and every one. That should draw our minds back to Chapter 2, and verses 8-10, where Paul insists that our SALVATION is
by grace … through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
We are saved by grace through faith, not by works, but we are saved for works, for those things that God had prepared beforehand, that we should be engaged in, for His glory. And, He has also given us spiritual gifts, “according to the measure of His grace” to equip us for those works (4:7).
Now there are many different kinds of gifts, some of which are exercised in a visible way, like those of “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherd and teachers” (v.11), but the focus of those gifts is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Paul is not concerned here with producing a complete list of all the different gifts so that we can identify where we might fit in the “work of ministry.” Peter O’Brien writes that:
The New Testament contains five such lists (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10; Eph. 4:11-12; cf. 1 Pet. 4:10-11) which between them number more than twenty different gifts, some of which are not particularly spectacular (cf. Rom. 12:8). Each list diverges significantly from the others. None is complete, but each is selective and illustrative, with no effort to force the various gifts into a neat scheme [as much as people have tried to fashion schemes, lists and catalogues, as well as “tests” to determine specific gifting]. Even together all five do not present a full catalogue of gifts. [Peter O’Brien, Ephesians, p.298]
My encouragement is for each believer in the body to pray, recognizing that God has gifted each one for specific purposes, and gathered us all here for His GLORY. Then look around and see what God is doing. Is there an area of ministry where there is need for more workers? Can you help? Join in! Do you feel a resonance in your heart for a particular area of ministry, for a particular need? Is there a need that is not being met? Are there things that we could be doing? Can you help? Jump in! As Paul also writes in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, each and every part of the body is important, every gift is necessary for the “body” to function well, to “grow” (Eph 4:16).
Paul continues in verses 12-13, describing what we are being “equipped” for and what the body is being guarded against. He gives us two “for’s” and three “to’s.” We are being equipped:
· for the work of ministry,
· for building up 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.
This is the goal: maturity in the faith; being built up, together, in the body of Christ; growing, together, into Christ, into His image. Paul wrote in Romans 8, verse 29 that God has chosen us, has “predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that He [Christ Jesus] might be the firstborn among many brothers.” That is an amazing thought, but this is what the Word tells us, that we should not be content to remain as spiritual “babes,” seeking only the “milk” of the Word, but should be desiring to mature in the faith.
The writer to the Hebrews expressed disappointment in an attitude of contentment with immaturity in the faith with these words:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Growing together in the faith, maturing together as a body, is important because, as we know, we, our children and grandchildren, are being bombarded “by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Satan himself, and moving through many “false teachers” (2 Pet 2:1), “false brothers” (2 Cor 11:26; Gal 2:4) “false christs and false prophets” (Matt 24:24; Mark 13:22) is seeking to deceive and draw brothers and sisters away from the “unity of the faith.” In order to protect the body, we need to “grow up in every way into Him Who is the Head, into Christ” (vv.15-16).
Are you “walk[ing] in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph 4:1)? Are you exercising the gifts that Christ has given you for the “building up of the body” (v.12)? Are you seeking to be constantly maturing in the faith (vv.13-16), both personally and in the body?
The Christian “walk” is not stagnant, but vibrant, always seeking to grow, and to grow together; being SANCTIFIED, and being SANCTIFIED together; growing in holiness; growing in LOVE.
To more easily download or print these notes, please click the link below for a PDF version.
Pastor’s Notes PDF March 26th, 2017