Why does Jesus give gifts to the His Church? Is it for our own personal enjoyment? Paul say NO! The gifts Jesus gives are for God’s glory, for the building up of the Church, to unite us, to mature us, and to be rooted in love. Be encouraged by this truth as we dig deep into the word of God.
- Vs. 1–3 exhorts us to walk in such a way that maintains the unity of The Spirit in the bond of peace.
- Vs. 4-6 describes 7 absolutes upon which our unity in Christ rests.
- Vs. 7–11 describes the ascension ministry gifts of Jesus Christ which are given for the equipping and edification of the body of Christ.
- Vs. 12–16 deal with the goal or purpose of the ascension ministry gifts to the church.
- 4.7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
God is the God of grace because He is the God Who freely gives. His giving of gifts and the ability to use them has nothing to do with anything we have done, but is unmerited, unearned, and undeserved.
- Matt 25.15 And unto one He gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took His journey.
- 1 Peter 4.10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
Because every ministry gift and the fruit of that gift stems from God’s grace, all the boasting and glory belongs to the Gift Giver, not the recipient of the gift. In our physical bodies, our hands function differently than our eyes, which function differently than our toes. So, too, in the body of Christ. Although we are one body, each part of the body is designed by God to function in a unique way according to the gift each has been given. That is a wonderful picture of the beauty of expression within the various parts of the body of Christ whether within the local body or universally.
- 4.8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
This is a quote from Psalm 68. Psalm 68 is a victory hymn that was composed by David to celebrate God’s conquest of the Jebusite city of Jerusalem and the triumphant ascent of God up to Mount Zion (cf. 2 Sam. 6–7; 1 Chron. 13). After such a triumph, the king would bring home the spoils and the prisoners. Paul sees this Psalm as prefiguring Christ’s returning from His battle on earth and victorious ascension into heaven with the trophies of his great victory at Calvary. Colossians 2:15 tells us that Jesus openly defeated the powers of darkness on the cross; but it was at His ascension that His victory was completed. According to Romans 1.4, the resurrection of Jesus Christ completed the proof of His being the Son of God. When Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of The Father, Our blessed Redeemer, The Lord Jesus Christ led captivity captive and He gave gifts unto men. He gave gifts unto men- The Greek word for gifts is doma, not charisma. There is a listing of gifts in Romans 12, commonly known as the motivational gifts, and the charismatic gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. Paul is not talking about the charismatic or motivational gifts that are given by the Holy Spirit to each believer. He is referring to the doma or domatic gifts, or what is known as the ascension ministry gifts. They refer to men who have been gifted by Jesus Christ to minister to His body, the church. These offices are the fruit of the ascension of Jesus Christ. Thus, ministry is a divine calling, not a career. God, not man, calls and placesmen into these offices, with or without seminary or bible school training. A degree from a seminary or bible school may provide you with academic accreditation but only God can call you into ministry.
- 4.9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 4.10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
Prior to the death of Jesus Christ, hell was divided into two compartments, as is told by Jesus in Luke 16. There was a fixed gulf between the two that was uncrossable. One side was a place of torment, while the other was a place of comfort, overseen by Abraham, or as the bible calls it, Abrahams Bosom. The Old Testament sacrifices could not put away sins, only cover them and look forward to better things to come as we learn in the book of Hebrews. It took the perfect sacrifice of the sinless Lamb of God, Jesus Christy to put away sin. Thus, those who believed in the promise of God to send the Messiah were saved by their faith, but could not be brought into the heavenly scene until the perfect sacrifice of Jesus was accomplished. In Hebrew thinking, everyone who died went to Hades (sheol), the abode of the dead. If you were righteous, Hades was a place of delight. If you were wicked, Hades was a place of torment. Hades was a catch-all term. Jesus did not go to hell in the sense of fire and brimstone while his body was in the tomb. As horrible as hell, the place of the damned is, we must remember that hell and death will be cast into the lake of fire after the great white throne judgment. Thus, the phrase, “descended into the lower parts of the earth” does not mean that Jesus went to the place of the damned. He did not go to the place of torment called Hell; and although some churches teach this doctrine, it is not Biblical. Remember what he told the thief on the cross? “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) And John 13:1records that Jesus knew that it was time to ascend to the Father. So we know that when Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross (John 19:30), He went into and emptied that compartment known as “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22), leading all the saints from there up to glory or paradise.
- 2 Cor 12.4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
- Rev 2.7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ‘
So what does it mean that He came first to “the lower parts of the earth”? Psalm 139:15 My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Here David used that phrase to describe His earthly birth. Jesus left heaven and was born on earth. That was His Incarnation. Matt 12:40 “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.” Here the reference was a prophecy of Jesus’ burial after the crucifixion. So Jesus came to live on this earth for 33 years, was crucified, buried – put into the earth for three days (“the sign of Jonah” – Matt 12:39); On the third day, Jesus physically busted out of that tomb and ascended up to the Father. So the one who descended is Jesus, who is now at the right hand of God (Eph 1:20; Heb 12:2). What was the purpose of all of this? That He might fill all things! What could possibly be mode glorious than being filled with the fullness of Jesus Christ? Verses 11-16 form one long sentence in the Greek text.
- 4.11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Apostles- a “sent one”; a delegate, envoy, or messenger. A term used particularly of the 12 disciples who had seen the risen Christ (Acts 1:22), including Matthias, who replaced Judas. Later, Paul was uniquely set apart as the Apostle to the Gentiles (Gal. 1:15–17) and was numbered with the other apostles. He, too, miraculously encountered Jesus at his conversion on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1–9; Gal. 1:15–17). Those apostles were chosen directly by Christ, so as to be called “apostles of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1). They were given three basic responsibilities: 1) to lay the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20); 2) to receive, declare, and write God’s word (3:5; Acts 11:28 21:10–11); and 3) to give confirmation of that word through signs, wonders, and miracles (2 Cor. 12:12; cf. Acts 8:6–7; Heb. 2:3–4).
- Mark 16.20 And they (the apostles) went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen
You do not read in the book of Acts that every single believer was walking around laying hands on the sick and performing signs and wonders. There are no “A” Apostles today. Prophets- By strict definition, a prophet is an inspired speaker who ‘forth-tells’ the word of God under the anointing of God’s Spirit. The gift of a prophet was a gift in which one received direct revelatory messages from God that could forth tell God’s Word and foretell God’s future. According to Eph 2.20, Apostles and prophets are foundational for the church’s work. In 1 Cor 14.3, we read that whenever a person speaks prophetically, it will be to edify, to exhort, or to comfort. There are New Testament references to prophets in Acts 13:1, 11:27, 28, and 21:10. Again, it’s important to make a distinction between the office of a prophet, and the ability to prophesy. To prophesy is one of the gifts found in 1 Cor 12:8-10, and the Spirit of God can come upon any individual in the body of Christ and enable them to speak forth an inspired word. That doesn’t mean, however, that they are a prophet. For example, in Acts 21:8,9we see that Philip the evangelist “had four virgin daughters who prophesied.” This doesn’t mean they were prophets, but they were using the gift of prophecy that the prophet Joel had foretold, as Peter quoted in Acts 2:17: “… I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh … and your daughters shall prophecy”. There are still prophets today in the body of Christ, but keep these guidelines in mind:
How can you identify a False Prophet?
- Never in a prophetic word will the gospel of Jesus Christ be altered.
- Never in a prophetic word will there be an added revelation to the completed canon of Scripture.
- Never in a prophetic word will the revealed will of God be contradicted.
- Never in a prophetic word will someone say, ‘Give me money.’ That is a false prophet!
Evangelists- There are also “evangelists,” who are those who bring good tidings. I would say there are capital “E” Evangelists and small “e” evangelists. Examples of Evangelists in the Scriptures would be Philip, Timothy, Paul, and other Apostles. In our lifetime we’ve also had Evangelists, such as Billy or Franklin Graham and Greg Laurie. However, every child of God, in one way, shape, or form, is also called to be an evangelist. We are called to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ wherever we go – to work, school, the marketplace, etc. We’re to be the people whose feet are “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15). We are to herald the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. Pastors and Teachers-The word “pastor” can also mean to shepherd, or to tend, as in Jesus’ instructions to Peter in John 21:15-17, and Peter’s exhortation to the church elders to “feed” (“shepherd”) “the flock of God which is among you” (1 Peter 5:2). And one of the qualifications for a person to be a pastor is that he be able to teach; thus, a pastor-teacher. Some see a distinction here between the office of pastor and teacher. While it is true that not all who have the gift of teaching are called to be pastors; all pastors are called to be teachers as well. These offices are expressions of the grace of God that He has bestowed upon His people.
- 4.12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (the responsibility of these gifts to the church is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ) 4.13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect (mature) man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
Perfecting-The word for equipping usually means fixing something that’s broken (as when nets are torn, Matthew 4:21) or supplying something that is lacking (as in 1 Thessalonians 3:10, “We desire to supply, or equip, what is lacking in your faith“). Thus the ascension ministry gifts are not only meant to repair what’s broken and supply what’s lacking in the believers. They are also meant to edify and strengthen those motivational and charismatic gifts that are in you, so that you may be fully prepared and equipped to minister (serve) in The Name of The Lord and bring Him glory. The church is edified (built up) through the Word of God (Acts 20:32 and 1 Cor. 14:4). Churches are not built up and strengthened for spiritual warfare or evangelism through man-made programs, entertainment, recreation, or social events. The church is a spiritual body and man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. It is unfortunate that there is a mentality within the church at large that the men on staff of any church are the only full time ministers, and then there is the rest of you. Picture a football team all huddled around their coach before kick off. A great cheer goes up, then the coach runs out onto the field & all the players stand on the sidelines & cheer him on. He receives the kick…then gets nailed by 11 opposing tacklers! As foolish as that sounds, that happens when a church picks up on the idea that the Pastors are the “paid professionals” & are the ones to be doing the work of the ministry! While it is indeed true that some are called by God to serve Him full time vocationally, every Christian is called and equipped by God to serve Him full time. In verse 13 Unity of the faith– Paul is not talking about a structural or organizational unity, but a spiritual unity around a common faith. We shall never fully come to the perfect man, until we arrive in glory. This unity of the body of Christ is not to be understood as in the World Council of churches, which is ecumenical, and a part of the great Whore of Babylon.
- 4.14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine (tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching), by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
In verse 14, we learn that another purpose for the ascension ministry gifts is in order that the body of Christ would have the discernment to know false teachers and their false teachings. By the sleight of men; this is a metaphor taken from gamesters, and signifies the mischievous subtlety of seducers. The Bible warns that in the last days people “will not endure sound doctrine,” but will follow teachers who will tell them what they want to hear (2 Tim 4:3-4). Paul warned the Ephesian elders about these false teachers (Acts 20:30). So did Peter in 2 Peter 2. Thus, one of the most important functions of the role of pastor-teacher is the responsibility before God to instruct and warn the people of God of the many “isms,’ and the heretical winds of doctrines and teachings being proclaimed.
- 4.15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Speaking the truth in love. Love is an excellent thing; but it must be blended with truth. Truth is an excellent thing; yet it is necessary that we speak it in love. Both knowledge and love are crucial. Knowledge without love puffs up, Paul said (1 Corinthians 8:1). But love without knowledge is confused and aimless, and disintegrates into sentimentality. That’s why Paul prays in Philippians 1:9 “that your love might abound more and more in all knowledge and discernment.” Love abounding in knowledge and discernment is what builds up the body of Christ. The word “truth” isn’t heard much in our society anymore. Present thinking is that truth is ‘relative’, or that the truth is “whatever you believe”. No it’s not! ‘What you believe’ does not define what is true or real. God’s truth is not relative, but universal and unchangeable. Many people reject the concepts of only one faith and a singular, absolute truth. But God declares (and it’s emphatic in the Greek language) that there is THE faith (Jude 3), and THE truth (John 17.17). The Bible states there is only one true faith and the God of Scripture is the only God of truth (Isaiah 45:22, 65:16). There is only one true gospel (Gal 1:6-8). When we share the gospel with the lost, we must NEVER compromise the truth, but neither should we speak the truth in an unloving way. 2 Tim 2:25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, :26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. What delivers souls out of the realm of darkness and death? God’s truth or the truth about God. Paul wrote that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4) Then he went on to describe this liberating truth:
- 1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, :6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Notice, there is only one Mediator, which means that Jesus is the One we go to for access to the Father.
- John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.”
God’s ultimate design and goal for the body of Christ is that we may grow up into him in all things. God’s design for KF is that we steadily and constantly be growing in grace and in the image and likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why we were redeemed. You see beloved, the Christian life is not about me, it’s not about you, it’s all about Jesus Christ and bringing Him glory.
- 4.16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Verse 16 tells us that it is in union with the Risen that the whole body is fit together perfectly. We get our English word harmony from the Greek term translated fitted and knit together. Filled with and motivated by the love of Christ, each part of the body is called to use their gifts and talents to build up the other parts of the body grow for the glory of God. Believers are not given gifts for their own private benefit, or hide them because they are shy. Remember what Jesus said to the person that hid their talents in the earth. No matter how super spiritual a person seems to be, no one can grow to maturity in Christ if they choose to stay isolated from the rest of the body. That is one of the reasons why we are warned in Hebrews 10 about then danger of neglecting or forsaking fellowship with one another. According to 1 John, ministering to one another in love is proof of new birth. It is out of a love for Jesus Christ and a love for one another that we are called to use our gifts to serve, love and edify one another in The Lord. The most excellent gift in the body of Christ is love. The great commandments are to love God supremely and love one another. The fruit of the Spirit is love. The presence of Jesus will not remain in a church that is not serving one another in love. The presence of Jesus will not flow out of a person or congregation that is selfish and self-centered.