11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
(Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV)
Yesterday we worked our way through a somewhat hard-to-understand section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, recognizing Christ as the victorious King, having won the battle over death and sin. In the same tradition as the kings of old, Jesus brought home captives held against their will (anyone who trusts in Jesus as Lord and Savior, like you and me), and gave gifts at His discretion.
The kings of old gave physical gifts like gold, silver, precious stones, livestock, grain, etc. Jesus gives spiritual gifts as a result of His victory over sin and death.
There are three main passages in the New Testament that deal with spiritual gifts – Ephesians 4, Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians 12. All three passages are written by Paul as part of letters to churches, and all three passages stress that these gifts are not for the glorification of the individual, but for the edification and building up of the local church, the body of Christ.
Note that each of the lists are slightly different in content, but have the same goal. We will address the list given in our text today, and let you follow the hyperlinks above and read the other passages on your own.
So what spiritual gifts does Paul address in his letter to the Ephesians?
those individuals who were called by Jesus and knew Him personally (face-to-face). This would be the original 12 disciples, minus Judas Iscariot, plus his replacement Matthias (Acts chapter 1), plus Paul, whom Jesus met face-to-face on the road to Damascus, and later taught one-on-one in the desert.
individuals whom Jesus has given the ability to speak forth Divinely inspired messages from God to mankind. These messages may be about the past, the present, or the future.
individuals whom Jesus has given a supernatural ability to preach the Good News of the Gospel of Christ to those around them. Jesus gave all of us the responsibility and authority to share the Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8), but He supernaturally empowers some with the ability to do so on a broader scale.
- pastors and teachers:
individuals whom Jesus has given the ability and responsibility of care and teaching of others in the church. While this gift is shown here as two words, it is really one gift. Think of this gift as a shepherd tending a flock of sheep.
So why does Jesus give these gifts? Verse 12 tells us – to equip His people (His followers, you and me) for works of service to others.
And what is the goal? Verse 12 again, so that the body of Christ, the local church, as well as all followers of Christ, the larger “church” made up of all followers of Christ, may be built up, be encouraged, be strengthened.
And what is the end result? Verse 13, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. In other words, until we reach maturity in Christ, and Christ’s work that He gave each of us to do (Ephesians 2:10) is complete.
And what happens when we reach that point of maturity and finish our work for Christ? We get our promotion from this life to the next.
So until that happens, that implies that we have work to do, and we still have a higher level of maturity in Christ to grow into.
May we work hard, enjoy the journey despite the hardships of this life, and look forward to reaching the goal Christ has for each of us, and our eventual promotion to everlasting life with Him in heaven.