Ephesians 4:7-12

Sunday Morning Bible Study

April 30, 2006


One of Paul’s great themes in this letter to the Ephesians has been unity. In Paul’s day, there was a pretty huge division within the churches, the division being between the Jews and the Gentiles. And yet Paul has shown that God had always planned for Gentiles to be saved and Paul has been making a case for these two diverse groups to get along. Last week we talked about the ingredients for unity – an attitude of humility, gentleness, patience, bearing each other up, and hard work.

And now, even though his focus is on unity, don’t mistake unity for “sameness”. There is to be diversity in the church. We are united, but we’re also all different.

A man pleaded with the psychiatrist, “You’ve got to help me. It’s my son.” “What’s the matter?” “He’s always eating mud pies. I get up in the morning and there he is in the backyard eating mud pies. I come hoes at lunch and he’s eating mud pies. I come home at dinner and there he is in the backyard eating mud pies.” The psychiatrist reassured him, “Give the kid a chance. It’s all part of growing up. It’ll pass.” “Well, I don’t like it, and neither does his wife.”

One of the themes we’ll be venturing into this morning is about growing up.

:7-12 Grace, Gifts, Growing

:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.

gracecharis – grace; that which affords joy, pleasure, delight; It’s not something earned, but something given.

One of the Greek words that is often used to describe spiritual gifts is the Greek word “charismata”, where we get English words like “charisma” or “charismatic”. The word means a “work of grace”.

I think the “grace” here is a reference to the spiritual gifts that God gives to the church.

What are “spiritual gifts”? They are special abilities that the Holy Spirit gives to Christians. They are different from natural talents, which are things that a person is born with. These are supernatural abilities that God gives to His people in order to get His work done on earth. 

We each get the gifts that Jesus wants us to have. These gifts are a result of God’s “grace” in our lives. They are not things we “earn”, but things God gives.

Notice how Paul mixes the ideas of “grace” and the “gifts”:

(Rom 12:3-8 NKJV) For I say, through the grace given to me (perhaps Paul is talking about his own spiritual gifts), to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. {4} For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, {5} so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. {6} Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; {7} or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; {8} he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Paul mentions just some of the gifts that God gives to His people. More are listed in 1Cor. 12.  You can learn more by checking out the studies on our website.

according to the measure …

What’s is the measure of Christ’s gift?

(Rom 8:32 NKJV) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

I would say that God has plenty to give to us.

:8 Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men."

Paul is quoting from Psalm 68:18.

The initial picture is that of a triumphant warrior who returns from his victory leading a parade of prisoners. This great warrior takes gifts from the conquered people and distributes them to his own people.

But I think there’s more than just this initial picture.

Paul is linking the event we call the “ascension” with the giving of gifts to men.

After Jesus rose from the dead, He showed Himself to the disciples for a period of forty days, after which He ascended into heaven.
It was the ascension that triggered the release of the Holy Spirit upon the church. Jesus said,
(John 16:7 NKJV) "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
This is why Jesus told the disciples to “wait” in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). They were going to receive power from the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). And with this power came the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

:9 (Now this, "He ascended"; what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?

What does it mean that He “descended”?

I believe that when Jesus died, He went to Sheol, the place of the dead.

(Mat 12:40 NKJV) "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

(1 Pet 3:18-19 NKJV) For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, {19} by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison

Before the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, when a person died, their soul went to this place called “Sheol”. There were two sides to Sheol, the place for the wicked and the place for the faithful. The place of the wicked is known as hell. The place for the faithful was known as “paradise” or “Abraham’s bosom”. You see a picture of this in Luke 16 where Jesus tells a story of a rich man and Lazarus both dying and going to two different places where they can see each other but not go to each other.
The suggestion is that after Jesus died on the cross, He went to Sheol, not to suffer more, but to preach. Our belief is that He went to the place known as “Paradise” and preached to the faithful dead to tell them that He had paid the price for their sins and then He led them out of Sheol to heaven.

:10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

above all the heavens – There are three types of “heaven” – the atmosphere, outer space, and the place where God and the angels live.

When Jesus ascended, He went above all. He ascended to the throne of God.

:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,

Paul now mentions some of these “gifts”. We might be more apt to call them “ministries” or “callings”, but Paul calls them “gifts”.

Some churches make a big deal about these ministries and call them the “five-fold ministries” (even though there are technically only four). They will say that every church needs to have these same ministries in them. I’m not sure I’d agree.

apostlesapostolos (“away” + “to send”) – a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders

The basic idea of the word is to be “sent”. And in that sense we are all “sent”. We are all commanded to go and preach the gospel. But most of the time in the New Testament the word is pretty much limited to the “twelve apostles”.

When Judas committed suicide, the apostles felt it necessary to replace him so there would be twelve of them. But they added a prerequisite, that the twelfth apostle needed to be like them in that he had been with them from the times of John the Baptist up to the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 1:21-22). Paul later says that there were the “signs of an apostle” (2Cor. 12:12) which included miracles.

Later in the book of Acts we do see the word applied to a couple more fellows, Barnabas and Paul (Acts 14:14)

In a way you could make a case for using the term “apostle” today, and I think some of the best folks you could apply it to are those that we send out to the mission field.

But personally I prefer to use the term pretty sparingly. It seems to me that this is a term that often comes attached to some sort of authority, as in, “you must obey the apostle”.

prophetsprophetes (“for” + “to speak”) – in Greek writings, an interpreter of oracles or of other hidden things; Literally, it’s a person who speaks for God. It may involve talking about the future since God knows the future, but it most simply means to “speak for” God.

It seems to me that there is a difference between the use of the gift of prophecy with the position of a “prophet”. I think that many folks might have the gift of prophecy from time to time. But I think when you attach the word “prophet” to a person, you need to be sure that this is someone who speaks for God with a great deal of accuracy and consistency.

There is an individual who is called a “prophet”, a man named Agabus. In Acts 11:28, he prophesied that there would be a great famine throughout the world, which did indeed happen. Paul also ran into this fellow just before being arrested in Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-11). God used this man to warn Paul, but Paul felt that he needed to still go to Jerusalem despite the dangers that faced him.

Are there prophets today?

Again, I have found in my experience that when we begin to think of a person as a “prophet”, that we run the risk of not checking and testing the things they say. And I have seen that it can be a great temptation to “speak for God” and get people to do what you want them to do.
I’d say that Billy Graham is pretty close. Though he is an evangelist, God has also spoken to our nation through this man’s ministry much like Isaiah and Jeremiah of the Old Testament.

evangelistseuaggelistes (“good” + “messenger”) – a bringer of good news, an evangelist.

There was one person in the Bible who was called an “evangelist”, Philip (Acts 21:8). This is not the apostle named Philip, but one of the fellows that had been chosen to help serve food at the church (Acts 6:5). He started his ministry as a waiter, as a “deacon”, as a “servant”. When the church began to experience persecution, Philip packed his bags and headed north to Samaria where he began to preach the gospel.

(Acts 8:6 NKJV) And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
Then in the middle of this revival, Philip was moved by the Spirit to head south to Gaza where he found the treasurer to the Ethiopian queen reading from the book of Isaiah. Philip told him about Jesus and the man got saved.

In a sense, we are all called to be evangelists. Telling people about Jesus isn’t something that is to be left to the professionals. It’s something we all need to be doing. We all should be concerned for people who don’t know Jesus. We all ought to have a heart for people to come to Jesus. Paul told Timothy:

(2 Tim 4:5 NKJV) …do the work of an evangelist…

But there will be some with a special gift, a special over-and-above ability to lead others to Christ.

For some, it may be a ministry to the big crowds. We think of Billy Graham or Greg Laurie.
For others, it may be speaking to people one-on-one. We may not always know the names of those folks.

pastors and teachers – it seems that in the Greek, these are meant to be a single type of “gift”, the “pastor-teacher”.

I’d say that Chuck Smith has been a great example of this for us. I believe that it is God’s heart that the churches all over the world be led by pastor-teachers.

pastorspoimen – a herdsman, a shepherd

What does it mean to be a “pastor”, a “shepherd”?

When we think of the best shepherd there ever was, we think of Jesus.
(John 10:10-14 NKJV) "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. {11} "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. {12} "But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. {13} "The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. {14} "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.

Being a shepherd requires self-sacrifice, laying down your life for the sheep.

Being a shepherd involves protecting the sheep.

Being a shepherd requires knowing the sheep.

Peter wrote to leaders to encourage them in their ministries.
(1 Pet 5:1-4 NKJV) The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: {2} Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; {3} nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; {4} and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

God’s shepherds should serve God willingly, not because someone talked them into it.

God’s shepherds aren’t in it for the money.

God’s shepherds are gentle with others and are not “lords” over others.

God’s shepherds are examples that others can follow.

teachersdidaskalos – a teacher; one who explains the things of God to others.

It is important to God that His people learn to hear and understand His Word.

Even way back in the book of Deuteronomy,
(Deu 8:3 NKJV) "So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.

The apostles understood this need in the church. As the early church began to grow, the apostles got busier and busier. They grew concerned that they were not able to spend the time doing the most important things. And so they asked the church to raise up helpers, “deacons”, servants to help with the work of the ministry. They said,

(Acts 6:4 NKJV) "but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

God uses His Word to equip us:

(2 Tim 3:16-17 NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, {17} that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
One of the ways that we become equipped in God’s Word is through the ministry of teachers. You are taught on Sunday mornings. There are many great churches around us that have wonderful teaching. I’d encourage you to spend time listening to KWVE as well.

And as important as it is that we be taught, my goal is not for you to become addicted to listening to me. My goal is that you become addicted directly to the Word of God.

Max Lucado writes,
“Some of us have tried to have a daily quiet time and have not been successful. Others of us have a hard time concentrating. And all of us are busy. So rather than spend time with God, listening for his voice, we’ll let others spend time with him and then benefit from their experience. Let them tell us what God is saying. After all, isn’t that why we pay preachers? …
If that is your approach, if your spiritual experiences are secondhand and not first hand, I’d like to challenge you with this thought: Do you do that with other parts of your life? …
You don’t do that with vacations … You don’t’ do that with romance … You don’t let someone eat on your behalf, do you? There are certain things no one can do for you.
And one of those is spending time with God.

:12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

equippingkatartismos – complete furnishing, equipping; a pretty rare word – in some ancient papyri it’s used for “house-furnishing”; a related word carries the meaning of training, disciplining, instructing; another similar word is used in Mat. 4:21 to describe the “mending” of nets. One ancient use was a medical usage, probably with the idea of “making well”. It’s also found in Gal. 6:1

(Gal 6:1 NKJV) …you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness

saintshagios – most holy thing, a saint

That’s you and me. Everyone who has come to put their trust in Jesus is considered a “saint” in God’s eyes.

The Gospel – Here’s the deal: We all have this huge problem. We all sin. We all disobey God. And our sin has consequences. In the store they tell you, “You break it, you buy it”. For us, if we sin, we pay the price. And the price is death, separation from God. But God doesn’t want you to pay for your sin. God has a better idea. God sent His Son Jesus to die for you, to die in your place, to pay for your sin. And when we come to the point where we’re ready to receive God’s remedy for our problem, God does something amazing. God forgives us and declares us “righteous”, as if we had never sinned. We become a “saint”. How do we take God’s remedy? We trust Him. We turn from our sin and we trust Him to forgive us.

Once you’ve become a saint, you’re ready for the ministry.

The “ministry” isn’t just for the paid professionals. It’s for all of us.

ministrydiakonia – service, used of those who execute the commands of others, it means being a “servant”.

But for me, the way I see this verse, the goal in life isn’t to become a “saint”. The goal is to become a “servant”. You don’t grow up to become a “saint”, you grow up to become a “servant”.

The way I see it, when the church is doing all that it’s supposed to be doing with the help of God, three things should be happening:

1.     Winning the Lost.
2.     Equipping the Saints.
3.     Sending the Servants.

Everyone in this world starts out as a lost person. They need Jesus. And when we come to help them realize they need Jesus, something happens and they become a “saint”.

But that’s not the end of it. The goal of the church is not to have a lot of people come to know Jesus and come and sit in church. Our goal is to take those who have become “saints” and “equip” or “mature” them so they grow to become “servants”. And as they grow to become “servants”, we need to learn to “send” the servants. You can’t be a servant if the only thing you do for Christ each week is sit on a chair and listen to me. God has things for you to do. He has ministry for you to do. And that ministry may involve winning more lost people to Christ or equipping more saints for the ministry.


Where are you?

A pilot is flying a small commuter plane into Seattle. The plane flies into fog and becomes hopelessly lost. The passengers are getting more and more concerned because being a small commuter, they can see the pilot and realize he has no clue where they are. Finally, through the fog, they see a tall office building. The pilot begins circling the building, until finally he spots someone in a window. Without hesitation, the pilot rolls down the window and shouts out to the person standing in the window of the building, “Where am I?” The person in the window shouts back “You’re in an airplane!” Upon hearing this, the pilot immediately turns the airplane, dives through the clouds, and executes a perfect three-point landing on the runway. The plane taxies to the gate and the pilot shuts off the engines. One of the passengers asks “How did you know to make the turn at just the right place?” The pilot replied, “It was really quite simple. I asked the person in the window a question, and the answer I got back was totally accurate but completely useless. Of course, that told me the building housed Microsoft Technical Support, and I knew that building was right next to the airport, so I made the turn and landed!”

I hope I’ve told you more than just useless information. But I also hope that this morning you might have a little better clue as to where you are.

Are you a “lost” person? You need Jesus.
Are you a “saint”? God wants you to become a servant.
Are you a “servant”? Then go and serve.