Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 49
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000|
|Dr. Barber explores the role of spiritual gifts in the preservation of the unity of the Body of Christ—the Church.|
Preserving the Unity of the Spirit – Part 2
We are going to push on in chapter 4 and find something that is very exciting. In chapter 4 Paul wants us to see how diversified we are. In other words, we are one in the Spirit, but we are so different in our gifts, our personalities and our individualities. This is all by the design of God. Do you ever want somebody else to be just like you? That is the way most of us are. We can’t seem to accept the fact that it is God’s plan, God’s idea, that we are different, that we are totally different, that our gifts are different, that our personalities and abilities are all different. There is diversity in the body. However, when that diversity is properly put under the leading and control of the Holy Spirit of God, that diversity actually works to preserve the unity of the body. He wants us to have unity not only by the way we bear with one another, not only by the way we believe, but by the way we are built together.
Remember in chapter 2 we are told we are of God’s household and also His Temple. We are living stones being fitted into His Temple, each one of us with different sizes, shapes, gifts, personalities and individualities, but every one of us under the control of the Spirit of God. If someone played a middle C on the piano for a while, it is a pretty note. If he played it for a long time, you would say, “Will you quit? You are driving me crazy!” Isn’t it great that unity doesn’t mean uniformity? It doesn’t mean we are all alike. Wouldn’t that make church the most boring place you have ever been in your life? If that fellow added an E and a G and a high C, all of a sudden you would say, “Whew, that sounds good! Now that blends.” You’ve got more than just one. You’ve got other diversified notes. But when you put them together played by the same hand, you have unity amongst the diversity. That is what Paul wants you to see.
This is the body. This is how it functions. When we are each functioning under the Spirit’s power, letting His ability be ours, then our gifts begin to function. Even though our gifts are different, we are still preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We are different.
Folks, you need to grasp that and stop coveting somebody else’s gift and somebody else’s ministry and simply say, “God, anything short of hell is grace. I accept what you have given to me. I receive what you have given to me. Let me just be who I am in your power.” When you do that, the unity of the body is being preserved.
First of all, let’s look at the source of our diversity, our diversified gifts. Where does it all come from? Whose idea is this anyway? Look at verse 7. Paul says: “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
What was the supreme gift of grace? It was the Spirit of God. God gives the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God is the one who gives out the gifts. But remember, it is God’s idea. The source of it all is the Lord Jesus and what He did for us in His finished work on Calvary, in His resurrection, His ascension and ultimate glorification. Christ became the source of all of our diversity.
When Paul says “to each one of us grace was given,” he is talking about grace gifts. Those grace gifts, as you know from I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, are there to minister inside of the body.
The idea of “measure” is a neat word. It is the idea of portioning something out. Someone in the church told me something that I think it is a great idea. He said, “Sometimes we would have pie left from a meal. We knew we had enough for two pieces but it had not been cut yet. We always let one of our children cut the pie, but the other one got the first choice of the piece.” Now I like that. That means it is going to be cut evenly. You had better believe it is going to be cut evenly because if you cut it unevenly, and the other one gets the first choice, you get the smallest piece.
Paul is saying it is Christ who cut the pie. Don’t you wish sometimes that you had a bigger piece of the pie? I mean, you look around and see what others get to do that has a kind of glamour to it. Then you look at your own piece of pie and say, “Wait a minute. I got short-changed. How come my piece of the pie is so small and their piece of the pie is so large?” Friend, what he is saying here is, we haven’t got a thing to say about it. Christ is the one who made sure that the pie was cut. He is the one who made those kinds of decisions. You see, so often in the body of Christ, we don’t realize that. We are jealous of others. We are envious of others. We want somebody else’s ministry. We want somebody else’s gifts without realizing anything short of hell is grace. Just to have a gift at all is certainly beyond what any of us deserve.
The word for grace, charis, means that which you don’t deserve. It is Christ who is the source of every bit of it. Again, unity is not uniformity. We are all diversified in our gifts as to the amount and as to the gifts themselves.
Look with me in Romans 12. I am not going to do a study on gifts because that is not Paul’s whole concern here in Ephesians 4. He is just bringing up something to help us learn how to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. In Romans 12:3 Paul is going to share that his being an apostle is by the fact that God chose him to be an apostle. He had nothing to do with it. God cut that piece of pie. He put Paul’s name on it. Now I am sure some of the other people around that day would have loved to have been an apostle, but God didn’t choose them. He chose Paul. Romans 12:3 says, “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted [or proportioned or measured], to each a measure of faith.” Every one of us is given something. We are all different, and God did it. He is the source of all this.
If you have a problem with what you have, go to Him. He is the one who saw to it that the pie was cut. He is the one who decided what proportion of the pie each of us got in the measure of our grace gifts. Romans 12:4-5 says, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Do you see that unity, that bond there? Even though we are different, we are still a part of each other.
You might be saying, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I had been given the gift of speaking? I would love it a whole lot better because I like the gifts that are seen, that are visible, that people praise you and applaud you for. I don’t like the gifts that are behind the scenes and nobody ever sees. Nobody ever says anything. There is no glamour in it at all.” He cut the pie! We didn’t! One of the biggest problems people have is they don’t seem to be grateful for their portion of the pie that He cut. The source of all these grace gifts, of this diversity of the body, is the Lord Jesus Himself.
Let’s make sure that we understand the difference between a grace gift and a talent or ability. I think this would be important right here. You see, a grace gift is something given at salvation. You may be able to play the piano. You may be able to sing so well that you make the birds jealous. I mean you have just got talent flowing out of your ears. That is your ability. That is your talent. It has nothing to do with your salvation. A grace gift is given at salvation by the Giver. He gives the Gift of the Holy Spirit of God. When He is in your life, He comes in bearing gifts. Those gifts are for ministry within the body of Christ. “You mean I am seeing things one way but you might be seeing them another way?” Yes. “You mean it is not wrong?” No, because we are diversified. If I take care of what I am seeing and you take care of what you are seeing, then the body is unified as the Spirit produces that unity.
Now He doesn’t throw away our abilities. He doesn’t throw away our talents. He uses them, but He infuses them with His divine grace gift that comes in at salvation. You must see the difference and see how they work together. So who is the cause of all this diversity? Who thought this thing up? The Lord Jesus Himself. He is the One who wants it this way. He is the One who sees to it that it is going to continue to be this way. He is the source of our diversity.
The second part is the most exciting. There is a sacrifice required in order for us to have the diversity of gifts. If you realize what it cost God for you to have a grace gift, then perhaps you would get busy allowing that gift to function in your life. If you are not using your gift you are frustrating the grace of God. A person who is not willing to be a part of that which God has set up is slapping God right in the face. It cost Jesus something in order for us to have these gifts in His body on this earth.
Let’s walk through what we are talking about here. The thrust of what Paul is talking about here is the work of Jesus on the cross. The giving of these gifts, absolutely ties into the result of His triumph as our resurrected and ascended Lord. There is one thing about the Gospel that we don’t talk about much. We talk about the resurrection of Christ, but very few times do we ever talk about the ascension of Christ. Somehow we forget the fact that until He ascended into heaven and went into the throne room by His own blood, as Hebrews says, as the God-man, He could not even have a body on this earth. He certainly could not give gifts to that body. He had to ascend and go back to the Father. That is what Paul is about to bring out.
Ephesians 4:8 says, “Therefore it says, ‘When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.’” Paul is jumping back to the Old Testament to the book of Psalms. Turn with me to Psalms 68:18. This is such a beautiful picture of what Christ did for us. In the Old Testament it was a picture of God, who was always the deliverer of His people. When He ascends to His Holy mountain, there is where He rules and He reigns. Verse 18 of Psalm 68 says, “Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captive Thy captives.”
The writer is giving a picture here of those days when the general would go out to battle. He would win a victory, and then on the way back into town the commander and his chariot would be up front. Boy, he is proud. He has won the victory. The people line the streets and are all shouting, “Hallelujah, the victory has been won.” Behind him, chained to the back of his chariot, are all the people that he has conquered, the generals and the leaders of the armies. Then behind them are all the spoils of war. As soon as he gets into town, he goes up to the holy mountain and there on the holy mountain, the riches or spoils of war, are given to him. He in turn disperses them to all the other people. He has to receive the gifts in order to give the gifts.
Now I am saying that for a reason. In Psalm 68:18 it says, “Thou hast received gifts among men,…” When Paul quotes that Scripture, he doesn’t say that. He says, “And He gave gifts to men.” The liberal stands up and says, “There is a contradiction in Scripture right there. It says in the Old Testament that He received gifts. Paul says He gave gifts.
There is something wrong here.” Friend, how are you going to give them until you have first received them? Paul just takes it that extra step that the Psalmist did not take. He is not contradicting anything. He is just fully explaining what the Lord Jesus did for us on the cross when He ascended back in to heaven.
Now, let’s go back to Ephesians 4. I want you to see the rest of Verse 8. “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” The Lord Jesus came down and conquered sin, death and many other things. He ascends back to the heavens. He has His captives with Him. Then and only then can He give gifts unto men.
There is a wonderful picture here of what Christ has done for us. You see, without the ascension, there would never be a Christ who could send His Holy Spirit, the Gift, who in turn could display all the different gifts. What did He say in John 14? “I must go to My Father.” Why? “So that the Holy Spirit might come.” He is the gift. The Holy Spirit is the one who is going to be making sure He carries out God’s desires of having the pie sliced in the way that it is sliced. But Jesus has to ascend first. You say, “I don’t understand. He is the Son of God. Why does He have to qualify for anything? Why does He have to ascend in order to do anything? He is God.” That is right, but He is also the God-man. We forget this. He uniquely became a brand new creature never seen before. He became the God-man. Not only that, but when He ascended, He went into the throne room by His own blood and there received the name that is above every name. He was exalted on high. Now, as Lord of the Universe, He qualifies to give gifts unto men.
Paul is pointing to what it cost God for us to have our gifts! Jesus had to go to the cross! Jesus had to resurrect! Jesus had to ascend! Jesus had to go into the presence of the Father before the Spirit could come who is the actual one who disburses the gifts unto men.
During World War I there was a tradition in the towns, particularly in France. During the war, many times the cities defended themselves. Therefore, their little army was the army of that particular city. They had a tradition. They had walled cities with huge gates and walkways over the gates. When the group of men who had left the town to represent them in battle came back, the people would get on top of that gate. They would have a choir who would chant. The men would come back, wounded and broken and bleeding from being in battle, but they came back waving their flag, which meant they had won the victory! The people on top of the wall would shout at them, “What right do you have to enter through these gates?” They would hold up the hands of the wounded. They would hold up the hands of the bleeding. Then they would raise that flag and say, “We have been to battle, and we have won the victory!” The gates would swing open, and they would walk through. The streets would be lined with people. They would shower them with hallelujahs for the victory that had been won.
Can you imagine the Lord Jesus’ return back into heaven? He ascended. He is the ascended Christ. Without His ascension, we would have no gifts. Without His ascension we would have no body. Without His ascension, we would have nothing. He had to ascend and go back to the Father so that the Spirit could come and give gifts to the body. As He walked up to the gates of heaven, the choir of heaven on that gate would say, “What right do you have to enter these gates?” The Lord Jesus Christ would hold up His hands with the nail prints in His wrists. He would show them the nail prints in His feet and the spear mark in His side. Then He would say, “I’ve been to Calvary, and I have won the victory!” Then the gates would open up in heaven, and the Lord Jesus would march triumphantly to the Father and sit at His right hand, the name above every name, the One who is going to send His gift to His body who will dispense the gifts unto all men.
It cost God everything for us to be diverse. It cost God everything for us to have our gifts. Until we are free in His Spirit, empowered with His might, then the church is not operating. Whatever we are doing is nothing more than a secular organization on this earth. We have got to see that. We are not preserving the unity of the Spirit when we criticize a brother because they see things differently. They are gifted differently. Friend, we need to function in the gift that was blood bought for each one of us. You’ve got enough to do simply living in your own gift.
That is why Paul says to work out your own salvation. Begin to function in the gifts that you have and honor the fact that it cost Him everything for you to have those gifts. He illustrates them in verses 9 and 10. “(Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?” Here is where theologians jump on this thing. They say, “Well, Paul says, ‘the lower parts of the earth.’ Where are the lower parts of the earth? The grave. That’s Sheol or Hades in the New Testament.” That is not what he is trying to show you. He is saying He went as far down as was necessary. He descended to the very pits, as far down as He could go. He says in verse 10, “He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)”
There are a lot of different definitions of “fill all things.” I think he is talking about His power and His presence, as a result of His crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and glorification. His power and presence now fill all the universe and all things. He fills it. It is there. Do you know how it is manifested? Through the people of God who have tapped into the divine ability of His Spirit working in them. The church is the body of Christ, the dwelling of God in the Spirit, people with gifts to minister to that body.
Do you realize that the very moment you get in touch with your gifts and start living, you are preserving the unity of the body? The only unity we have is the unity that the Spirit produces when we are being filled and controlled by the Spirit of God. Otherwise, we are tearing the ligaments and have no clue about what oneness is all about. What you think about the unity of the Spirit dictates the way you live.