PURPOSE: To teach that those who are in the one Body [the Church] are recipients of grace, demonstrated and shown through ministry gifts, also of grace, for the purpose of bringing the total Body to the maturity of Jesus Christ.
Grace does not stop with our initial repentance, faith, and confession of Christ. Grace continues with every breath we breathe; every step we take; every morning we rise from our beds. Grace is the continuing work of God in the Christians life.
The following are some works of grace which God has bestowed upon us.
THE WORK OF GOD WHICH DELIVERED US FROM THE CONDEMNATION OF SIN AND DEATH (v. 7). Grace is the means by which we are delivered from the condemnation of sin and its death. It is provided for us through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is only the propitiation or appeasement; God judging our sin [all sin] by placing it on the sinless, guiltless Jesus Christ. Grace continues and becomes efficacious [effective] when we respond to His grace by faith in Him. That same grace provides not only salvation, but also gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit as He sees fit, for living by grace in His power.
“But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” 1 Corinthians 12:11 (KJV)
Just as every individual who is born again, by faith in Jesus, is in the one Body, so too, has everyone received a grace-gift(s) in which to serve the Body. There is no one who is in Christ who is not also gifted to live for and serve Him.
All this is the “gift of Christ”. We are brought into one Body by Christ; we are gifted by Him to serve in the Body as He [the Head] directs and leads by the person of the Holy Spirit.
THE WORK OF GOD ON THE CROSS WHICH DELIVERED US FROM CAPTIVITY (vv. 8-10). Because of the cross on which Jesus bled and died God the Father was and is able to deliver us from the captivity of sin. His resurrection gave us victory over hell and death.
If you watch people; as I have a tendency to do; you will see many enslaved by sin. Illegal and legal drugs, like cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, prescription drugs, etc., and you know what I mean. You see some captive by other things in their lives. Men and women, married and unmarried, are enslaved to their lustful desires; whether those desires are greed for wealth, or sex; makes little difference; they are none the less enslaved. Some are enslaved to their comforts and entertainments.
When Jesus arose from the grave He led those who were Old Testament saints out of captivity. I believe this is vividly illustrated in Matthew 27:51-53:
“And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”
He then placed into captivity everything that places man in bondage – sin, hell, death, and Satan.
By ascending into heaven He opened the avenue for the Holy Spirit; in fact sent the Holy Spirit; to come and dwell within all who trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit would not have come to abide in all who know Jesus except He [Jesus] ascended into heaven first. By ascending He not only gave us the person of the Spirit, but He also gifted us; gave us tools for ministry, and the Holy Spirit is the power of the gifts.
His descension is His incarnation [Jesus coming as God in flesh]. Because of His death, burial and resurrection His mortal body was changed into an immortal body. The Scriptures declare that there is a man (in bodily form) in heaven:
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” 1 Timothy 2:5 (KJV)
Because of and by the ministry of the Holy Spirit the Church is the Body of Christ on earth. It is being made more and more into the image of Christ in heaven, in every individual who abides in His Body on earth. This by no means implies that individual’s in His Church are sinless, but contrary to that, His working in us shows that we are needy of Him.
Jesus’s desire, His heart is to be the FULNESS of everyone who will come to Him.
THE WORK OF GOD IN THE GIFTS WHICH HE GIVES US; CONTINUING THE WORK (vv. 11-12). God desires, and Jesus desires to continually be at work in us; fulfilling His will and glory. The reason for the gifts of the Spirit is His grace.
The gifts listed are not natural talents, but special gifts of the Spirit for glorifying Jesus in the ministry. The apostles and prophets are the one’s upon whom the church is built (2:20). There is no such thing as “apostolic succession”. At least not in the sense of the Roman Catholic religion. Apostles are not declared or made by a local congregation, but they are called out individually by God for the purpose of going to an unchurched, unevangelized area, and doing the ground work; preaching the word and the gospel of Christ to establish a local congregation. In the truest New Testament sense an apostle today could be a missionary. There can be no more apostles because the foundation has already been laid; there are no more eye witnesses of Jesus Christ risen from the grave; there are no more disciples who personally walked with Jesus in the land where He walked. Missionaries do the work that the original apostles did in going about, preaching the gospel to people groups who have not heard, and showing them the love of Jesus Christ.
The prophets were preachers who were gifted with a special understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures, and given the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit for the New Testament Church and Scriptures. They were and are those whom are sensitive about sin and its destruction in human life. They have a heart for hearing God and His Word. The Church is built on the apostles and prophets. The prophet today would probably be better known as “Preacher”. This is still how local churches begin. The local church is where the gifts and power of the Spirit are demonstrated. The Body of Christ is manifest in the local church.
Evangelists are gifted by God to seek out the lost and are particularly gifted at presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ in a clear and understandable way. They are also gifted to teach others how to be soul-winners.
Where the previous three are itinerant [traveling] messengers the pastor/teacher is one who sticks around awhile. He loves the people as his own family. He preaches the Word of God to them and teaches them how to apply the Word to their lives. He is one who is really more concerned about their spiritual walk, spiritual growth than numerical growth. The pastor will leave the numerical growth up to the Lord. The pastor simply sows the seed of the Word and the gospel and leaves the increase up to the Holy Spirit. He teaches by word and example.
In verse twelve we see a twofold purpose for these spiritual gifts;
1. The perfecting of the saints to do the work of the ministry;
2. Edifying the Body of Christ.
Number one, the ministry of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor/teacher is to equip the believers to do the work of the ministry. These four are the equipping/leadership gifts of the Spirit. There are other gifts listed in Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 27-31; and here in Ephesians 4:11. Each of these gifts of the Spirit are needed in the local church to for the people to grow and be healthy and powerful for the glory of Jesus Christ. Number two, the equipped Body will be operating in the unity of the Spirit and truly “building up” the Body of Christ. When everyone “in Christ” recognize their place of service, then, the Church has been built up and is honoring and pleasing to Jesus.
THE WORK OF GOD AND THE FRUIT OF THAT WORK (vv. 13-16). When the Body of Christ is being equipped and built up there are four evidences of spiritual growth.
We become more Christlike caring for the needs of others, experiencing others hurts and sorrows. We grow in knowledge of Him and His Word and work of His Spirit. We reach a place of maturity where we are not offended by truth; or the color of the carpet. This lever of maturity is still seeking the fullness of Christ.
- We begin developing a stability of faith. We begin to understand truth and are not tossed around by false doctrines and teachings. We are learning to test all teachings by the Word of God.
- We have a love for truth, coupled with a lover for people, the lost, and even backsliden When others are confronted with the truth love will not permit us to condemn, but we will admonish them by pointing to their real need; realizing from whence we have come.
- We realize that there must be a unified work. We have purpose through cooperation. By joining our hands, prayers, finances, families, ministries, and our hearts we are in cooperation with one another and ‘building up’ the Church. That means we would be the most powerful force on earth; through Jesus Christ.
When you have grace working in you through Jesus Christ you will be the better for it, and the world will benefit from it. Grace works everyday in the lives of those who follow Jesus Christ. Let each of us submit to the work of grace and the Spirit of God every day.
-Tim A. Blankenship