4:7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.NIV Although the church is one unified body, each of its members has a special ability to be used for the good and growth of all. No one is overlooked; everyone is important to building up the community. The word “grace” is used here as it was in 3:2, 7-8, referring to the privilege of having been called by God. Although Christians are called to be unified, God in his wisdom did not make believers photocopies of one another. Instead, each believer is given grace (one or more gifts) as Christ apportioned it. In his infinite wisdom, Christ gave different gifts to different people. Every believer has a gift; no one has all the gifts. In this way, believers need one another in the church as they seek to accomplish the work of the kingdom.
|*LIFE APPLICATION BOXED GIFTS|
|One hundred trained, talented musicians playing together can produce music that is breathtakingly beautiful. The same one hundred musicians playing independently of each other can produce earsplitting noise. The difference is that while the second group is completely self-absorbed, focusing only on themselves, the first group is in harmony, concentrating on the music and following the conductor. The analogy for the church should be obvious. When we focus on following the Lord and fulfilling his purposes for us, it is a beautiful—even awesome— thing to see. When we focus on ourselves and pursue our own selfish agendas, it is a pitiful or even laughable sight. God has given to each believer gifts according to Christ’s own matchless gift. These gifts are not just for our own personal benefit, however; they are for the good of the whole body. What are you doing with yours?|
4:8 Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.”NRSV The phrase “therefore it is said” is a favorite rabbinic introduction to a scriptural quotation. It conveys and reaffirms the divine authority of Scripture. Here it introduces a scriptural basis for spiritual gifts. Psalm 68:18 pictures God as conqueror as the ark of the covenant was being brought up to Zion in triumph by David (2 Samuel 6; 1 Chronicles 15). It had been removed in battle. As David returns the ark to Jerusalem, he also brings the tribute of war extracted from the captured foes. Some of the spoils was given to the temple, and some was distributed among the warriors. Paul used that picture to refer to Christ’s ascent into heaven. The work and authority for apportioning spiritual gifts rightly belongs to the ascended Christ. Paul’s development of this theme prepares readers for his thoughts in 4:11. In the psalm, the victory is over David’s foes. In Paul’s reference, Christ, the Son of David, is triumphant in destroying his foe Satan. In the psalm, the conqueror receives gifts and, as was the custom, distributes a portion of the spoils to his people. Paul’s reference means that God began to give special gifts to people following Christ’s return to heaven.
The statement “he made captivity itself a captive” has one of two meanings: (1) He led the captured ones (as one would lead a train of vanquished foes) into their captivity, or (2) he captured the captors (that is, he reversed the captivity; he enslaved the enslavers). Both meanings imply that Christ vanquished our enemies (such as death, Satan, and sin) and captivated them. He returned in triumph to heaven (ascended on high) and, in turn, gave gifts to his people.
Paul used the picture from Psalm 68:18 to explain how Christ conquered his enemies, returned to glory, and bestowed gifts on his church. The gifts God gave to his church (in the form of people called to special functions) are described in 4:11-12.
* LIFE APPLICATION – OPEN YOUR GIFT
|Oneness in Christ does not destroy individuality. The Holy Spirit has given each Christian special gifts for building up the church. Now that we have these gifts, it is crucial to use them. Are you spiritually mature, exercising the gifts God has given you? If you know what your gifts are, look for opportunities to serve. If you don’t know, ask God to show you, perhaps with the help of your minister or Christian friends. Then, as you begin to recognize your special area of service, use your gifts to strengthen and encourage the church.|
4:11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.NRSV This expands on the thought begun in 4:7-8 regarding the gifts Christ gave. In this context, these gifts are actually people who have been called to special functions. Not all people have all the gifts, for Paul was clear to explain that some would be gifted in one area and some in another. The list given here is by no means complete (for other types of gifts, see Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12). According to the Greek, all the people listed are direct objects of “gave,” indicating that God gave these people to the church as gifts. The offices listed here focus mainly on those who proclaim the gospel and teach the truth.
First listed are the apostles and prophets, they are the foundation for Christ’s temple (see 2:20 and 3:6). “Apostles” included the eleven men Jesus called (without Judas), plus others who are called apostles—such as Paul himself (Romans 1:1), Matthias (Acts 1:26), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Jesus’ brother James (Galatians 1:19), Silas (1 Thessalonians 2:6), Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7). It seems that the qualifications for being an apostle were to have seen the risen Christ, to have been sent out by him to preach the gospel, and to be working on behalf of the kingdom, building its foundation (as noted in 2:20). Paul also notes “signs, wonders, and miracles” as marks of a true apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12).
God also gave prophets to the church. These people, also laborers on the church’s “foundation” (2:20), had special gifts in ministering God’s messages to his people. At times they would foretell the future (Acts 11:28; 21:9, 11), but more often their job was to exhort, encourage, and strengthen God’s people (Acts 15:32; 1 Corinthians 14:29). God spoke through prophets—inspiring them with specific messages for particular times and places.
The evangelists were the traveling ministers, similar to the missionaries of today. They went to non-Christian people and proclaimed the gospel to them, often being the first to start a church in a particular area (Acts 21:8; 2 Timothy 4:5).
Next, God gave pastors and teachers. These two gifts are likely the same. While the apostles, prophets, and evangelists had a universal sphere of function (the church as a whole), the pastors and teachers probably served in the local churches. Like shepherds, they tended God’s “flock,” handling the day-to-day affairs of their congregation—administering, counseling, guiding, feeding.
|*LIFE APPLICATION WHO’S YOUR MINISTER?|
|How many ministers are there in your church? One? Three? If it’s a big church—eight or ten? Before you answer that question, read Ephesians 4:11-12 carefully. Here Paul shows that God gives pastors and teachers to his church not to be the ministers of the church but to equip the ministers. Who then are the ministers? All Christians are to be ministers, so you are one of them. The role of pastors and teachers is to train and equip the “saints” (all believers) to be able to serve in whatever ways that God has called them. So if your church has one hundred members and only one minister, there’s a big problem. We are all called to be ministers. What is your ministry? How are you being equipped for it? In what ways are you using that training and your gift(s) for the building up of the body?|
4:12 To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.NRSV These specially gifted people (4:11) were given to the church for one ultimate goal: to equip the saints. The word for “equip” means to make right, like the setting of a broken bone, or to bring to completion by training or restoring. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers furnish and equip the believers to do the work of the ministry, which results in the building up the body of Christ. The church builds itself in the faith as the members care for one another, show love, and generally manifest the other gifts God gives (as mentioned in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12). Yet the church also builds itself as it reaches out to its surrounding community with the love of Christ, drawing others into the fold. God has given his church an enormous responsibility—to make disciples in every nation (Matthew 28:18-20). This involves preaching, teaching, healing, nurturing, giving, administering, building, and many other tasks. Fulfilling this command solo would be impossible. But God calls us as members of his body. No one should be a bystander, an observer. Everyone must do the work of ministry. Some of us can do one task; some can do another. Together we can obey God more fully than any of us could alone. We tend to overestimate what we can do by ourselves and underestimate what we can do as a group. But as the body of Christ, we can accomplish more together than we could dream possible working by ourselves. Working together, the church can express the fullness of Christ.
Source: Life Application Bible Commentary