GIFTS TO BUILD
Lord, thank You for giving me a gift to use in Your service.
Read EPHESIANS 4:7–16
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a] says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
a. Ephesians 4:8 Or God
b. Ephesians 4:8 Psalm 68:18
c. Ephesians 4:9 Or the depths of the earth
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire / to work and speak and think for thee; / still let me guard the holy fire / and still stir up thy gift in me’ (Charles Wesley, 1707–88, ‘O Thou who camest from above’).
Paul is well aware that divisive personal issues arise in the local church. Sinful human nature being what it is, Paul knows that the exercise of what he always called ‘gifts’ remains potentially a serious source of tension. The opening chapters of Ephesians stress our oneness: children of the one God, one with Christ. There is no place in the church for divisions based on human biology, or differences of mere ethnicity. Even if we ever solve that tension – and we haven’t – personal tensions between individuals still remain, often born out of pride, ambition, self-interest, or jealousy. A temptation for some people in leadership positions is to value power or popularity too much. A temptation for some people is to be jealous of others’ gifts – particularly the upfront gifts (About 20 gifts are listed in Rom 12 and 1 Cor 12). Paul’s answer has always been that gifts are exactly that: gifts given by God for the benefit of others and for the building up of the church.
Maintaining the cosmic dimension with which the letter begins, Paul recalls phrases from the psalms (Ps 68:18) underpinning the assertion that gifts could only be given as a consequence of Jesus’ having ascended higher and beyond all that is, and filling the universe. Only then could we be endowed with the gifts necessary to grow and maintain the church until Jesus’ return. All gifts matter, but no gift elevates one person above another. No gift is to be idolized – or despised. The only gifts to be coveted are those available to all: faith, hope, and love, of which the greatest is love (1 Cor 13:13). It is only right, therefore, that today’s passage ends with the greatest gift. Only when all members of the church are open, honest, and loving with each other will we grow together into that unity which must mark the people of God.
Awaken Your gifts within me, O God, that I may serve Your people. Fill me with Your ultimate gifts of faith, hope and love, in Your Son’s name.
Lord, our consummate desire is that we all come into the unity of the faith unto Your fullness.