Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Ephesians 4:7-16

7 Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 For it says:

When he ascended on high,
he took the captives captive;
he gave gifts to people,

9 But what does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower parts of the earth? 10 The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, to fill all things, 11 And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head — Christ. 16 From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building itself up in love by the proper working of each individual part.

The Original Intent

1) How do these verses connect with the ones written at the beginning of the chapter and the book? (verses 7-16)

Having just completed the description of who the believer is in Christ, how dead we are outside of Christ, and how our unity with Christ binds and unifies all believers together, Paul then instructs the Ephesians how to walk worthy of their calling in Christ as it relates to their relationship with one another. (Ephesians 1-3, 4:1)

He explains their unity with each other by describing how they all belong to the one God, One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all.” (Ephesians 4:5-6) In verse 7, Paul explores how each believer is different by God’s design through Christ’s gift of grace on the cross and in His resurrection.

It is because of Christ’s ascension to heaven after His resurrection that He gives grace to His people through the Holy Spirit whom He sends to indwell each believer. (verse 10, Romans 3:24, John 14:16-17) The gifts are a portion of the grace given to each believer by the Holy Spirit and are to be used to glorify God by equipping “the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son […].” (1 Peter 4:10-11, Ephesians 4:12-13)

Thus, the diverse gifts listed in this passage are given to individual believers by Jesus to equip the believers to grow in unity through their increased knowledge of and faith in Jesus Christ.

The Everyday Application

1) How do these verses connect with the ones written at the beginning of the chapter and the book? (verses 7-16)

Is this list of grace-gifts given to believers a complete list? No, it is a partial list from Paul. Other biblical passages tell us of other gifts given by the Holy Spirit, but the one thing all gifts have in common is they are all used to glorify God. (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 1 Corinthians 12:26-31, 1 Peter 4:10-11)

Paul may have provided this particular list of gifts because the outcome of their use will unify a group of believers in the faith and knowledge of Jesus. (verses 12-13) We cannot have unity without a common knowledge, understanding, and faith in Jesus Christ, which is how these verses are rooted in the first part of the letter. (Study chapters 1-3 with us! Journey Into Done!)

As we learn about Jesus, we are unified under one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. (Ephesians 4:4-5) We are told to grow in the knowledge of Jesus in multiple places in the Bible. (2 Peter 3:18, 2 Peter 1:2-3, John 17:3, Philippians 3:8)

The people with these particular gifts have the responsibility to lead in unity and teach the ways of Jesus. Both are vital in our walk as we share Jesus with a world that does not understand unity within diversity and does not understand Jesus or His ways. (verse 1, 1 Corinthians 2:14)

Believers in Jesus don’t always agree on every detail of our faith, after all, we are diverse! In the words of Rupertus Meldenius, a German Lutheran theologian of the early 17th century, our bond should be “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

The Original Intent

2) Why does Paul seem to misquote Psalm 68:18? (verse 8, Psalm 68:18)

Psalm 68 describes a king who is victorious over his enemies. The captives he takes into his kingdom would normally give gifts to their new king. However, in Psalm 68, the king gives gifts to his new captives, offering them salvation, power, and strength. (Psalm 68:19-20, 35)

Those who put their faith in Jesus have been taken captive by the Gloriously Good King and saved from the old kingdom of sin and death and have been transferred to a new and brilliant kingdom of life, strength, and power. (Colossians 1:13) With his understanding of New Testament and Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection from the grave, Paul understood Psalm 68 to ultimately describe what Jesus has done for the believer.

Jesus descended to the earth as a man, God in human form, and ascended to heaven after His resurrection “to fill all things.” (verses 9-10) This includes giving His captives an abundance of grace which include salvation and specific gifts that build up the church body.

His gifts of grace for those who trade the chains of Death for Life in Jesus include everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) This includes gifts that build His church and bring more captives into His kingdom by sharing the good news of offered freedom by the Good King!

Paul’s restatement of Psalm 68:18 is not a misquote, but rather a deeper interpretation of the passage as fulfilled in Jesus’ victory on the cross and His ruling reign as King of All.

The Everyday Application

2) Why does Paul seem to misquote Psalm 68:18? (verse 8, Psalm 68:18)

What a glorious thing it is to be a captive of the victorious King of Kings! Captivity by Jesus is a safe-holding for all eternity to enjoy Him forever, but we do not automatically become transferred to His good kingdom.

The Savior is only accessible through faith, trusting His work on the cross while acknowledging and repenting of our sin that separated us from Him in the first place. (Acts 3:19-20) Everyone’s default destination is the Kingdom of Sin and Death. Until we willingly ask for His rescue, we remain chained to Death.

According to Scripture, there are 3 facets of salvation.
1) Salvation from sin’s punishment.
This takes place when one bows the knee and accepts Jesus as Savior and Lord of their life. We gain access through faith and repenting of our sin. (Acts 2:38) Sin no longer is our taskmaster; we are free to walk in the love of our new Lord, Jesus Christ! (Romans 6:14, 18)

2) Salvation from sin’s power. (2 Corinthians 9:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9)
Souls rescued by Jesus gradually grow a distaste for sin and an appetite for the holy ways of God. This heart desire is cultivated in us by the Holy Spirit; He shifts our hearts as we lean into Him and practice turning away from sin and toward our new King as we “walk worthy of the calling” we have received. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

3) Salvation from sin’s presence.  
One day, we will be free from every hint of sin; sin and death itself will die forever and its stains will no longer color any aspect of our life as we dwell perfectly with the triune God. (1 Corinthians 15:26) What a glorious day that will be! Until that day, may we grow in our “maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.” (verse 13)

The Original Intent

3) What is the purpose and result of the gifts listed in the passage? (verses 11-16)

The gifts Paul lists are those of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (or possibly translated as pastor-teacher). These specific gifts are to be used in the church to lead and teach about Jesus, equipping “the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ […]”. (verse 12)

Since Paul has already discussed the unity of the believers in the midst of their gifted-diversity, it is fitting he would instruct the Ephesian believers to learn from the people with these gifts. It is through them God had chosen to teach the believers about unity and Jesus.

During this time in history, Ephesus was filled with magic, sorcery, and false teaching. Teaching about Jesus and the church’s unity because of Him was necessary so they would not “be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit” in the culture surrounding them. (verse 14)

Paul pleads with the Ephesian church to turn their back on the influences of their community and join together under the leadership and teaching of the church, so they can “grow in every way in Him who is the head– Christ.” Just as each part of the physical body is meant to function with different tasks and duties, so the Body of Christ, the Church, is made up of diverse people with diverse gifts. How is this diversity unified? Through the Head, Jesus Christ, who orders and directs the Body, the Church. (verse 15)

The Everyday Application

3) What is the purpose and result of the gifts listed in the passage? (verses 11-16)

In his first letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul also addressed the idea of the unified church made up of diverse members with diverse gifts. He writes there is one Spirit, one Lord and “[…] there are different activities, but the same God working all of them (the gifts) in each person.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

Does this sound familiar? It’s similar to the Ephesians 4 passage!

The Spirit is actively working in His people, distributing gifts to each person as He sovereignly wills. (1 Corinthians 12:11) Paul says these manifestations of the Spirit are given to each believer “for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7)

What is the common good? To love God, grow in fellowship with Him, be unified with one another, and respect the good gifts of other believers. Each person is necessary because each part of the church, just as in a physical body, is “fitted and knitted together by every supporting ligament”. Each part of the church is vital in promoting “the growth of the body for building itself up in love, by the proper working of each individual.” (verse 16)

Are you growing “in every way into Him who is the head – Christ” by listening to those God has appointed to lead, teach, and equip you?  (verse 11-12, 15) Are you using your gifts, whatever they may be, to glorify God and in serving His people? Each member of the kingdom has the opportunity and responsibility to use their gifts for the church to the glory of God; let’s use ours to the full!

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