College & Career Class Lesson Summary, January 27, 2019

Today we made some progress in Chapter 4 as we allowed Paul to capitalize on the notion of the gifts that Christ gave to the captives He freed.  We noted last time that as Paul quotes Psalm 68, he is writing of Christ, being the warrior to went to battle, defeated the enemy, liberated the captives, then delivered the spoils of war.

Ephesians 4:7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 4:8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 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.) 

We also took note of something Christ said to the Pharisees that Matthew records in Chapter 12 of his gospel.  Jesus had just performed a miracle and there were Pharisees who were suggesting that He did these miracles by the power of Satan.  Jesus, probably in shock of the idiocy of their thinking responds,

Matthew 12:25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: 12:26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? 

It is absurd for someone who is wanting to advance his kingdom (i.e. Satan) to do so by defeating his own team.  Then Jesus says this,

Matthew 12:29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. 

In the context, Jesus is likening the strong man unto Satan and certainly the strong man’s house (his domain) is Satan’s kingdom.  This kingdom has goods, which are the captives to the law of the land – Sin and Death.  Jesus speaks of the strong man needing to be bound before his goods could be spoiled.  When Christ died at Calvary and resurrected 3 days later, Christ effectually bound the strong man and defeated the kingdom of Sin and Death.  In that, Christ led those who were captive by sin and death from their captivity.  He set them at liberty.

Luke 4:17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 

The spoils of the war that Christ fought (and won) are not objects of gold or silver – they were the captives themselves.  Think about that – Christ, by entering into the strong man’s house and binding the strong man, reclaimed the strong man’s goods – you and I.  So, when we think about what comes next in Ephesians, consider that the “gifts” that Christ gave unto us are PEOPLE.  We have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, but, we shouldn’t loose sight of the fact that believers are gifts to one another.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

We find 5 different PEOPLE gifts that were given unto us for a specific purpose – to perfect us for ministering which ultimately edifies the body of Christ.  Perfection of the saints simply refers to our being fully/completely furnished.  It is equipping us wholly to minister and to edify.  Ministering is serving.  Paul doesn’t have a specific ministry in mind as what is being written is very generic.  And, this stands to reason.  If these gifts were given to equip us for ministering, then that would be true universally, regardless of what “formal” ministry opportunity presented itself.  We should also note that the word ministry comes from the same word that is translated deacon elsewhere in scripture.  This should help give a clue as to what a deacons function is.  (Perhaps we can explore that at another time).

By ministering to one another, we effectually build each other up.  This is edification.  It isn’t shallow complements or attempts to not hurt someone’s feelings by not being honest with them, but it is the actual product of what ministering does.  In other words, the body of Christ grows through service – each member of the body, as it serves one another, causes the corporate entity of Christ to grow and develop and advance.

As we examined this, we looked at what the makeup of the body of Christ is.  We recognize that the body of Christ is the corporate collection of all believers, whether Jew or Gentile, regardless of time or geography.  However, even though we are all one in Christ, we are still individual members of His body and as such, we have different functions we have been gifted to fulfill.  Note this from Paul in Romans 12,

Romans 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 12:7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 12:8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. 

When Paul writes of the “office” in verse 4, don’t allow your mind to wander down an idea of a liturgical hierarchy.  The “office” isn’t a position of authority or power that is held, but is nothing more than the function one is gifted to manifest.  (to read more on this, see my post from Romans 12 – https://libertythrugrace.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/romans-chapter-12-pt-3/)

According to Romans 12:6, we have gifts that differ but they differ not because one believer is more naturally gifted or was able to hone him/herself into a fashion that is more usable for God, but is because the GRACE OF GOD determined them to differ.  It is vital then for each of us to recognize what God has given us, by His grace, and to pursue it.  Unfortunately, many believers neglect their gifts because they either,

  1. Don’t recognize their own gifts
  2. Recognize their gifts but fail to use them
  3. Are too busy coveting someone else’s gifts
  4. Are too busy trying to steer folks away from the gifts they are called to manifest unto gifts that the person doing the steering wants them to do

Yet, it is vital to recognize that these gifts are not a grab bag of free children’s toys.  These gifts are the expression of grace and are given to each believer by God Himself.  Read 1Corinthians 12 at some point to get the full picture of this, but suffice it to say, verse 18 reminds that God has set every member of the body as it has pleased GOD.  God gifted us with what we needed to be gifted with in order to edify the believers around us in our lives (the body of Christ).  It does us no good to covet another’s gift because God didn’t give us that gift in the first place – and there is probably good reason and we should rest in the wisdom of God as to why He chose to not gift us with certain abilities.  Full satisfaction can be had by recognizing our gifts and expressing them, not by wishing you had something else.

1Timothy 6:6  But godliness with contentment is great gain. 

We also spoke about these 5 gifts Paul mentions in Ephesians 4 and noted that there were many others throughout scripture.  In fact, we noted that Paul spends far more time on how believers are to minister to other believers than he does on how believers are to minister to the lost.  Why is this?  Does Paul not want the lost to come to Christ?  Certainly not – but Paul understands that to run a race, the body needs to be conditioned.  The body of Christ grows both internally and externally.  Being fully equipped by our ministering and edifying enables us to be ready to reach the lost.  This isn’t to suggest that God can’t draw folks unto Himself regardless, but it is to demonstrate that Paul (and God, by extension of inspiration) desires the believers to be fully rooted and grounded so our witness resembles the same.  The body of Christ grows internally to the extent we are serving one another; and it grows externally to the extent we are sharing the good news of Christ and what being in His body is all about.

God gave us apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to help accomplish this internal growth.  Again, it isn’t to say there are not other functions in the body, but these are the ones that Paul chose to highlight.

An apostle is simply a “sent one” that has orders to carry out.  It is widely accepted that to be an apostle, one had to have received his orders from the risen Lord, personally.  There are no scriptures that actually spell this out, but at this point, it seems safe to conclude that there was something special about those who were sent with specific orders that the risen Lord gave to them personally.  Regardless, the scriptures do give us the written accounts of the apostles of the day and therefore would still work to edify us, regardless if apostles actually exist today.

prophet is one who is able to express hidden things or able to understand/interpret oracles or messages.  This isn’t from a mystic standpoint, but someone who is able to express the spiritual nature/wisdom of the things of God.

An evangelist is one who heralds salvation.  The word gospel comes from the same word that evangelist comes from and these folks have a keen ability and desire to share the good news of Christ.  This isn’t to suggest that those not called to this function can’t share the gospel or should share the gospel, but it is to say that God has gifted some with an insatiable appetite to do so.  Those who have this gift should never attempt to usurp some spiritual authority over others whom they perceive aren’t “winning as many souls” as they are – they should simply focus on the gift they have and ALLOW GOD TO GIVE THE INCREASE.

pastor is a shepherd.  They serve as watchman over the sheep – to keep them from danger, to lead them into green pastures, to lead them beside still waters, to restore the souls of the sheep, to make it so the sheep are content with his leadership and provision.  Sounds like Christ, right?  Christ, as the supreme shepherd, is the model pastor.  The pastor serves the body of Christ by manifesting Psalm 23 in his life.  Note, the shepherds are not those in town, attired royally or rubbing elbows with the politicians and aristocracy.  The pastor is outside, in the field, humbly caring for the sheep.

teacher is one who instructs and relays information.  The teacher serves this function by breaking down the information into consumable portions and instructs in the ways of righteousness and of faith.  A teacher is similar to a prophet in this regard.  The teacher always has the mind of the student at heart as he tries to keep them focused on the pinnacle of all that infuses his teaching – Christ.

What’s your gift?  What has God graced you with?  Are you fulfilling your function in the body?

Our story continues…