Gifts

Ephesians 4:11. “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;”

There are other scriptures that enumerate these and more spiritual gifts, but Paul’s emphasis here is on gifts that were given specifically for the establishment of the Church (apostles and prophets) and the continuing growth of the Church (evangelists, pastors, teachers).

The apostles had the work and the privilege of building the foundation on the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ.  They preached powerfully of the risen Christ, and people came in crowds to here them and to be baptized and added to the Church.

Today’s prophets are not those who foretell the future; instead, they are those who are gifted with a strong ability to interpret and clearly explain the scriptures.   I’ve had some remarkable prophets during my lifetime, including my own father. He was a very good teacher who could take the hard things of the Word and make them understandable.

Evangelists, pastors, and teachers are gifted to continue the work of building up the Church, of edifying the people, of continuing the work of sharing the gospel so that people will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The evanglist is a “bearer of glad tidings.”  His work is aimed more at the world outside the church. He preaches to the lost, although believers are often rekindled to be more active in their witness to the lost when there are evangelistic services in the church.

The word pastor means shepherd. It is actually a very tender gift, and a great blessing to the people whose shepherd truly has a pastor’s heart. Not all  who call themselves pastors were called or gifted by God for that ministry. Some cause a great deal of pain because of their lack of compassion, their determination to build their own name and legacy. A shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.  He cares for them tenderly, and is greatly loved by those to whom he ministers.

And finally, the teacher.  In I Corinthians 12:8  we read, “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit.”It could be said that a pastor is gifted with the word of wisdom; a teacher with the word of knowledge. Many pastors have both.  Some have great biblical knowledge, but do not have the gift of being a pastor.  It is a wise teacher who knows when he is not called as a pastor.

This is an interesting subject, and there have beeen many good studies written on the topic of the spiritual gifts. The main thing for us is to remember that these gifts were given for the building up of the Church, ministry to the lost, and ministry to one another.

He Led Captivity Captive

Ephesians 4:8. “Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”

When He ascended up on high:  this is a direct reference to the time when Jesus said farewell to His disciples and rose up into the heavens.  He had appeared to over 500 witnesses (I Cor. 15:6) after His resurrection, allowing so many to see Him in order to establish that He was indeed risen from the dead.  After spending time comforting His disciples and reassuring them of the coming presence of the Holy Spirit, He rose back into His heavenly home.  What a dramatic event that must have been!  I can hardly imagine what it must have looked like, what the disciples must have been thinking and feeling as the Lord they loved disappeared into the sky.

He led captivity captive:  Psalm 68: 18 says, “Thou has ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive: Thou has received gifts for men: yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” We see the phrase again in Judges 5:12. “Awake, awake, Deborah:  awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.”  The clear translation and meaning in that verse is that Barak was to “lead captive him who held you captive.” That understanding would clarify Ps. 68: 18 as well as this verse in Ephesians.

Again, Isaiah 14:2 says, “And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.”

 Jesus triumphed over him who had the power of death up to that time,  that He might deliver those “who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage:” (Heb. 2:15).  Satan, our greatest enemy, is now a conquered foe.  He has been led captive by Jesus Christ.  Satan has no power over the souls of those who have trusted Jesus Christ by grace through faith. He has been defeated, and Jesus Christ has taken His place on  His throne in heaven.  From there, He gives gifts to His church for its edification and blessing.

Grace

Ephesians 4:7.  “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”

This verse is the beginning of a passage in which we are taught that God has given gifts to every believer to be used in the ministry of the church, in the sharing of the gospel, in ministry to each other.  We have one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one Body in Christ. Each member of a body is to function in full accord with the other members if the body is to be healthy and get the job done.

I have a little problem right now.  I think it’s arthritis, and probably not much to be done, but I’ve noticed over the past few days that the second toe on my left foot is very sore and aches a lot.  Amazing how one small member doesn’t really feel too important until it starts to send out pain signals.  And if it stops “working,”  it will affect my balance and my stride.

The truth is, our human bodies break down and wear out as we age.  The larger truth, a glorious truth, is that the body of Christ will never age, never break down, never fall to illness or death.  Yes, there can be members that are out of sorts, but Jesus said that the gates of hell itself will not prevail against the church.

I want to be a member of the body who uses my gifts even as I age, whatever they may be, to further the work of the church. We are all given something.  Some gifts are public.  Everyone knows who has them, what they are, and how effective these gifts are.  Other people have more quiet gifts, and sometimes go completely unrecognized.

God recognizes them all.  He measures out the gifts according to His will and wisdom. Our job is to allow Him, through the Holy Spirit, to use us as He will.