Unity and Maturity Through Diversity Ephesians 4:7-16

Unity and Maturity Through Diversity             Ephesians 4:7-16

New Living Translation (NLT)

However, he has given each one of us a special gift [a grace] through the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say: “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.”

Notice that it says: “He ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world [to the lower parts of the earth] 10 And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

During the 1800s, it was common for sons of wealthy families to ‘enter the church’ as a career…

  • It provided a regular income, a home, prestige and status
  • If a man were reasonably conscientious and made friends in ‘high places’, he could progress in his career and make a satisfactory living without resorting to too much hard work!

Now, there is nothing wrong with being part of the established church and ministering to people

  • The issue concerns motive… Why are we doing what we are doing?
  • Is it to serve God and others… or to satisfy our own needs and aspirations?

Clearly, it is right to work hard and use our gifts, abilities and talents to clothe and feed ourselves, take care of our families and support the needy… To have sufficient … not too little and not too much

  • Problems arise when we are focused more on ourselves than on God
  • When we use our gifts, abilities and talents to promote the Kingdom of Self rather than the Kingdom of God
  • Warning lights should flash if we find ourselves praying, in effect: “My kingdom Come” not “Thy Kingdom come!”

God is more interested in our availability than our ability

We give God thanks for the gifts and talents and abilities that He has chosen to grant you and others

  • But also remember that it is God’s Spirit who changes hearts and brings healing and peace of mind, not our efforts, however worthy
  • It is He who works through you and me to bring about His purposes… So we must “wait for His counsel” (Psalm 106: 13)

Perhaps we all need to be reminded that humility is the key factor… God can remove your ‘candlestick’ in an instant if we fail to give Him the glory and focus on self-satisfaction!

Note that the opening words of Chapter 4 focused on humility and unity

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.

And as Paul’s letter unfolds, we see these themes explored more fully…

However, God has given each one of us a special gift [a grace] through the generosity of Christ.

  • Note that each one of us has been given a special gift!
  • They are granted because of Christ… not because of “me”!
  • A gift is something given freely, without price… The cost is borne by the giver, not the one who receives… So with gifts from Christ… He has paid the price.

Our job is to: (a) acknowledge that all good gifts around us are sent from heaven above and (b) allow God to work through us to make us fruitful for Him by saying “Your will not mine be done

There have been periods of my life when I have served enthusiastically… worked my socks off… Spent countless hours in preparation, practical service and using my talents in Christian service… Yet failed to involve God much at all!

Verses 8–10 are rather mysterious… Paul is drawing on truth revealed in Psalm 68… Thus:

That is why the Scriptures say: “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.”

The crucial point to note is that the ascension of Christ is not a footnote in history… It has considerable significance…

  • First, for our freedom found in Christ {No longer captives to sin}
  • Second, to the issuing of gifts

Notice that it says: “He ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world [to the lower parts of the earth] 10 And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire Universe with himself.

These are powerful truths… Christ is “above all things” and His influence extends across the whole Universe

In verse 11, Paul resumes his main theme

11 Now these are the gifts that Christ gave to the church [as opposed to individuals]: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists and the pastors and teachers. 

There are four broad areas of gifting given to the church mentioned in verse 11: apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors/teachers

  • Every church needs access to the full range of gifts… In practice, those so gifted may not be resident in that particular church but must have regular contact with it and strongly influence its life…

But with these particular gifts comes responsibility… Thus:

12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

These specially gifted individuals are not ‘superior’ … Their job is to “equip God’s people to do His work” and “build up the body”… There is no place for ‘Christian celebrities’

  • I wonder if we have rather lost sight of some of these four gifts?
  • Most churches are generally strong in the pastors/teachers area… but what of the other three? {Apostles, prophets and evangelists}

Some people argue that ‘Apostles’ {‘those who knew Jesus directly’… or ‘one sent on a mission’} were solely for the establishment of the early church and are not relevant today

  • Others argue that if Apostles {today, called mission workers} are no longer relevant then neither are prophets, evangelists or teachers!

Building the body (“the church”) has a single aim… Thus in verse 13:

13 This [building up] will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

So the hallmark of a mature church is not measured in numbers or finances or buildings… but in “unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son

  • And the sole measure of our maturity is in terms of “measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ”… which is quite a challenge!

Paul continues in verse 14:

14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 

Most of us are ‘innocent as doves’… but we need to be ‘as wise as serpents’, too…

  • There are people, notably outside the church but also inside it that seek to preach false doctrine…
  • John refers to them in his letters as ‘antichrists

Bible study and prayer is not a passive element of Christian living… It is essential, if we are to avoid being slowly sucked into what one song-writer described as “a candy-coated gospel

Of course, we must always be willing to learn and be open to what the Spirit has to say to the church in these days… but any teaching that violates the Scriptures is false and must be opposed.

A challenging task lies ahead of us… but the rewards are great…

  1. We won’t be tossed and blown about by new-fangled doctrines and trends…
  2. We won’t be deceived by persuasive people who attempt to corrupt the true gospel of Jesus Christ

Paul concludes on a positive note

15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work [note!], it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Look at the prize that awaits a church that fully grasps the reality of genuine unity:

  • We proclaim the truth boldly but “with love”…
  • We grow more Christ-like
  • We fit together instead of falling apart!
  • We help others to grow in faith
  • We become a “healthy church…full of love”

Is this the kind of church for which we are striving? Are we prepared to give up worldly ambitions and bring every gift, talent and ability to the foot of the Cross?

 


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