Main Text: Ephesians 4:7-16
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? 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 and teachers 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, 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.
As we continue our verse-by-verse and chapter-by-chapter study through the book of Ephesians, let’s remind ourselves of a few facts:
- Historians do not refute the life and death of the Apostle Paul.
- Paul wrote this letter from a prison cell to the early church in Ephesus.
- The Christians in Ephesus faced many of the same faith challenges that we do today.
- The beginning of Chapter 4 started a new theme for this letter. The first 3 chapters emphasize how we have been made new. Chapter 4 to the conclusion emphasizes why we have been made new: to live new.
Since we have received salvation and every spiritual blessing in Christ, and since we have been made new and our identity is now first and foremost in Christ, therefore we must “walk in a manner worthy of the calling…bearing with one another in love”…and we must have unity as one body (Ephesians 4:1-6).
All of those that now trust in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and follow His life and teachings are now considered the “Body of Christ”. You and I now make up the Body of Christ and represent Him on planet earth and do His work. The Spirit of Jesus now indwells in His followers so that His works of love, healing, proclamation, compassion, and teachings continue. His work is not over! In fact Jesus said that our work would be even greater (John 14:12). Let’s unpack today’s text:
Christ gave me gifts that He knows people need (v 7)
The Holy Spirit living in us will empower us to serve others in meaningful ways. Some of you can lead; others have teaching and administrative gifts. Some of you have natural abilities given to you by God; others have supernatural gifts given by God’s Spirit.
God knew that you would live in Arizona. He knew what neighborhood you would live in; He knew where you would work or attend school; He knew where you would shop and eat; He knew who your friends and relatives would be; He knew where you would attend church. He also knew what gifts would be needed in your neighborhood, school, work place, and church. God gave you your gifts because He knew the needs of those around you. He knew what Red Mountain would need too.
God in His infinite wisdom has wired you, filled you with His powerful Holy Spirit, and gifted you to serve those around you. This is to bring Him glory. The question is whether or not you are participating and involved. Are you using your gifts only for self-improvement or for the benefit of others?
Spiritual gifts are from God to reach people and propel the Gospel (v 8-11)
Paul began by quoting from Psalm 68:18. In that Psalm, God is pictured as marching in triumph before all Israel after the exodus of Israel from slavery. When he came to Mt. Sinai, the earth shook under His feet. Next, God set His sight on Mt. Zion, in Jerusalem, and He moved with thousands of thousands of chariots up the slopes of Jerusalem to victory, leading captives in his train and giving gifts to men.
Paul took this Psalm that originally applied to God conquering Egypt through his main man Moses, and he applied it to God conquering Satan, sin and death through his main man Jesus. Jesus went from sitting at the right hand of God the Father to descending to the earth. Jesus didn’t just descend to the earth but he descended to the grave and burst forth conquering it. He ascended far above all things to the highest heavens. When he did, he gave gifts to men.
Paul drilled down into five specific gifts Jesus gives: apostle, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The focus of this specific list of gifts is not the office or title but rather the ministry of these gifts. Apostles – those who take the Gospel to new areas. Prophets – those who call for Christians to repent of hard heartedness. Evangelists – those who reach out to those far from God. Pastors – those who care for people, equip people to do ministry, and protect the flock. Teachers – those who love to study and explain. The Church needs all of these gifts functioning within the congregation.
Everyone has the responsibility of serving others (v 12)
Everyone is in full-time Christian ministry. Every day, every hour, whatever you are doing, wherever you are, you are in ministry. None of us are ever off-duty in our faith. Pastors are not hired to do the ministry – we exist to help you do ministry well.
Everyone is gifted for ministry. There is no such thing as a Christ follower that is uninvolved in ministry. There is no such thing as a follower of Jesus that just attends on weekends. Church attendance is an oxymoron. Christians aren’t just to attend church. Biblically, Christians are to serve the church – they are to serve the body of Christ. Nobody is off duty. Every Christian is gifted by God to serve – you need to be building each other up.
Serving others brings unity within the Church (v 13)
Verse 13 says, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God”. Most people leave churches, split churches, and destroy local faith communities because they are not happy with the way that they are being served. The minister isn’t doing enough for them. The programs aren’t as good as down the street. The changes that are being made make them uncomfortable. Conflict results from unmet expectations. If your expectation is to serve, you will not be disappointed because that is up to you.
When you do not serve others you become prideful rather than humble. When you focus on meeting the needs of others rather than having your needs met you will be satisfied and the more we do this the more bountiful this place becomes with heartfelt, fruitful, and life-giving ministry. Serving each other brings unity.
Serving others brings spiritual maturity (v 13)
Paul continues, “...to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”. Spiritual maturity comes from those who are doing. I love information. I love Bible study. I love asking God to open my mind to better comprehend His great love for me. However, Christians wrongly think that following Jesus is simply cognitive. They think it is something you just believe in your head, when in reality is comes out in how you behave in your life. What the Bible says must work itself out in how we live (James 2:14-26).
People who know a lot but don’t do a lot are self-deceived about their spiritual maturity. They think they are mature when in fact they are not. Spiritually mature people seek understanding but are also involved serving others. They are doing things that Christ was doing. They are loving people, telling the truth, teaching the Gospel, and encouraging those in need. The people who are serving others are the people who are becoming more like Christ. It is impossible to grow spiritually without serving.
Serving in the Church protects us from spiritual nut cases (v 14)
When we serve others using our natural and spiritual gifts, not only do we mature spiritually but also we are protected spiritually from the latest fads, nut jobs and spiritual freaks that are trying to steal the show.
Those that are focused on serving will not find themselves following the latest fads and gusts of our culture. Here is our game plan: read your Bible, talk to God, love Jesus, serve together, and love others. This will protect you from being led astray into heresy and strange and unorthodox folk theology from the latest moneymaking best-selling book. If you love God, you love reading your Bible, and you love using your gifts to serve others, you will stay in community with one another and you are less likely to get caught up in the latest heresy and regret it.
Serving others allows us to speak into the lives of one another (v 15)
The Christian life must be done in strong community. Doing it alone at home for no good reason is a sure way to spiritually shipwreck. We are to be honest with one another about our struggles. We are to help one another in the faith. We are to use our spiritual gifts to build one another up graciously. Serving produces humility, promotes growth and maturity. We must accept this and be changed by it.
When everyone is serving others, the body is healthy and becomes like Jesus (Verse 16)
Everyone is important. We have to work and serve together. When you don’t use your gifts you handicap the whole body. Get involved. Insist on being involved in ministry and loving others. Not only is it a great blessing to others but it will also mature you in the faith. The Church is to build itself up in love.
Do your part to have a healthy body!
Apply to Life
This week, as you reflect on the message, think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing and fellowship as you open God’s Word together.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Ephesians 4:7-16
When Paul lists the various types of ministry in verse 11, how do you see each of these roles working today?
As a church, how are we ‘equipped for the work of ministry’?
In what ways are you equipped in the following areas of your life:
Why is the church’s maturity something that Paul eagerly desires? In what ways do you see maturity exhibited in the church?
Take a moment to share a time when you acted like a child. What caused you to act this way? Who or what caused you to become aware of your actions and their effects on those around you?
The church is a body, as illustrated by Paul in verses 15-16. As you think about the diversity within the church, how do you view this as a great strength?
What does it mean for this body (the church) to ‘work properly’?
As we think about Christ as the head of this body, in what ways does our understanding of the Gospel reveal to us the reality of Christ’s headship and our place within His Church?