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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Friday, May 10, 2013
Thoughts on Ephesians 4:11
Before we get to Ephesians 4:11, I want to look at Ephesians 4:7-8, in order that my take on Ephesians 4:11 might be better understood.

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led captive a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men" - Ephesians 4:7,8 [NASB]

When you come across these verses in Ephesians 4, you may stop and think to yourself, what does Paul mean here? Is he talking about spiritual gifts? Is he talking about the Holy Spirit? Is he talking about the grace of God (as pertaining to his own salvation) as a gift? What does it mean that grace was given to each one of us "according to the measure of Christ's gift"?

One thing we want to avoid, when we ask this question, is a sort of Etymological fallacy where we read the word "gift" and immediately read into it an arbitrarily narrow technical meaning. That is, we shouldn't assume that the word gift here means "spiritual gift" or the "gift" of the Holy Spirit.

In order to avoid making such an error, we go back and follow the flow of what Paul has said, is saying, and is going to say. Paul writes as a man building a convincing and rational argument. It is his way to first lay out the facts and then to reason from them. It follows then that if we know what point Paul is making, we should be able to see what role this verse plays in making or supporting that point.

A Quick Outline

In the first chapter Paul tells the reader every believer was chosen by God to be a believer before the foundation of the world. This election was according to the grace of God, and not the will of man. We are redeemed are united in Christ who Himself is the means and the guarantee of our waiting inheritance. Since this is all the work of God, Paul thanks God for the fact that there are believers in Ephesus, and letting them know that He is praying to God that God would increase their understanding concerning the person of Christ.

In the second chapter Paul surveys for his readers, the scope of what Christ has already accomplished on their behalf. He explains it was God who made them alive when they were still spiritually dead. This life from death is described by Paul as God's grace. But we were not merely made alive we were exalted to the right hand of God in Christ. Such things were not done for because of anything that we had done. God did not choose us on account of anything we had done - his choosing us is described as the gift of God; a work that God purposed to before ever it was done.

Paul ends chapter and begins chapter three by informing the reader that both Jews and Gentiles are spiritual equals, being recipients of this same grace, the same spirit, and being members of the same household of God. This spiritual equivalency (between Jewish and Gentile converts) although planned from the start by God, was nevertheless a hidden truth that was revealed in Christ, and it was not the only work of God's grace which had been hidden and was now being revealed.

Of particular note, because it informs our understanding directly with regards to the text we quoted at the start (v.4:7), is the passage that begins in verse 3:7 and ends with verse 13. Here Paul explains that He was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, what was given to Him by the working of God's power, for the purpose of making these mysteries known.

He lets the readers at Ephesus know, at the end of this chapter, that it is because of the eternal purpose of God that he, Paul, is ministering to them in prayer and in doctrine, it is for their growth that God is at work in Paul, and that God is able to do abundantly more for them in this regard than they can possibly imagine.

In Chapter four Paul, having established that God called him to faith and to ministry, encourages his readers to walk also in a manner that is worthy of this great call. In particular Paul focus, as supplied in previous chapters, is unity, presumably between Jews and Gentiles. Paul continues to expound the points of Christian unity, but in verse seven - the verse we began with, Paul begins to touch on the points of diversity.

In order to avoid assigning arbitrary meaning to the words grace and gift in Ephesians 4:7, let us review how Paul speaks of these in the previous chapter.

In Ephesians 3:2, Paul describes being given a stewardship of God's grace, c.f, "if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you;" [NASB]. The grace that Paul was describing was not some general and arbitrary notion of "unfavored merit" - it pointed directly to the fact that God chose us apart from our own merit - which was a mystery up until the coming of Christ. Paul was a minister of this teaching, God gave Paul this stewardship: to teach that those individuals who are saved, were not brought to spiritual life on account of their own merit, effort, or even initiative. That God had predestinted them to this before ever there was a world. The salvation of God's elect is all of grace, and none of works - that is the "grace" that Paul was made a steward and minister of.

In Ephesians 3:6,7 Paul writes of the gift of God in this way, "to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power" [NASB]. Paul was made a minister of the gospel according to the gift of God's grace which was given to him according to the working of God's power. In other words, God Himself supplied the power for Paul's teaching that salvation is the gift of God. and not a work of man, and that spiritual life was predestined to those whom God elected beforehand to give it. the gift of Christ here, is salvation by grace.

So when we read in Ephesians 4:7, "But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift." - it is simply saying that God provides for those whom He is saving, and has determined to save, the gift of all that He has done for them already in Christ.

The hard part comes in verse 8, where Paul spontaneously quote from Psalm 68:18, to make the point, "Therefore it says, 'When He ascended on high He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men'" [NASB].

In order to appreciate why Paul quotes from Psalm 68, we should do a quick survey of Psalm 68.

The first verse in Psalm 68 paraphrases what Moses would say when the Ark of the Covenant was lifted up for the purpose of leading Israel from one camp in the wilderness to another

Psalm 68:1 - Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, and let those who hate Him flee before Him.

Numbers 10:35 - Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said, "Rise up, O Lord! And let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You."

If you follow along in the book of Numbers, especially around chapter 20 and 21, you will see that Psalm 68 is something of a commentary on what the Lord had done in the book of Numbers. The prayer was that the Lord would scatter the enemies of Israel, and that is exactly what the Lord did. But David shows in this Psalm, the character of God in answering that prayer. God did more than just scatter the enemies of Israel - He was with them in their trials, and rescued them out of them all of them.

By the time we get to verse 18, which Paul quotes in Ephesians 4:8, David is describing the Lord (who sits enthroned above the Cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant, which was carried before the hosts of Israel when they moved through the wilderness) leading the (former) captives of Egypt as His own captives. These captives are not empty handed, but have received as gifts, the plunder of Egypt; gifts that they received, not because of anything they had done, but because God had worked such works as to provoke Egypt to supply them. Gifts which were intended not only for Israel, but also to furnish Israel's worship of God.

Paul looks back to this verse which describes the former slaves of Egypt now held captive by their covenant with God, and supplied with gifts that they rightly owed to God's provision in the first place, and put to use in furnishing and supplying all that was needed in preparing the tabernacle of God, and all that would stand within it, and reaches into that verse with the understanding given to him by the Lord, and pulls from it that symmetry between what happened there and what happens in the life of the believer.

We were slaves to sin, but our now slaves to Christ. What we have now (our salvation and the fact that we were predestined to it), we cannot say that we earned, even as they could make no such claim. We are captives who have been freed from one yoke, and put to a better one. We serve God, not with what we produced, but with what He supplies. This is what Paul is saying in this verse. Just as the Ark of God's Covenant ascended mount Zion with David dancing before it, and was set in that tent that David had pitched for it, so also Christ having descended to the earth, ascended to the right hand of God. Even as God provided the gifts that were given to the Egyptians so that He might receive them again when they made the tabernacle and all that was in it, so also Christ also provided the gift of God's grace in electing then saving those whom God has chosen to save, so that with their salvation they might use the gift of their salvation to serve God.

The text goes on to tell us that Christ provided these men to the church to build her up: Apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors and teachers. I should mention that while all pastors are teachers, not all teachers are pastors - which is probably the reason why the other men whom Christ has given as gifts to the church, are identified in the original text with their own definite article, and why pastors and teachers share between them the same definite article.

Is Paul saying that Christ gave these five "spiritual gifts" to the church? No. he isn't, though some will read that into the text. I reject it because Spiritual gifts are a new covenant thing - they are the expression of the indwelling Holy Spirit that is unique to the new testament, and frankly, the Apostles were already apostles before Pentecost (when the Holy Spirit was given to believers in this new capacity, and subsequently when the Spiritual gifts came into being). There were prophets in the old testament, and men whose blessed feet carried the word of God over mountains long before the Spirit descended at Pentecost. Likewise with teachers, and overseers.

If you want to call these "offices" that's not quite as good as simply calling these "men" - Christ supplies such men. The Apostle Paul was a gifted teacher and Evangelist. His "gift" was the Holy Spirit who expressed Himself in Paul in the capacity of a teacher, a miracle worker, a leader, a man of profound faith, and as world-changing evangelist - who knows what other ways the Spirit expressed Himself through Paul? But to say that Paul had the "gift" of Apostleship? I am inclined to conclude that these men were certainly gifted, but not necessarily according to gifts that bore the titles that were given to them.

I don't believe, therefore, that there is such a thing as the gift of "Apostleship", or the gift of "pastoring" for that matter - there are gifted men who have been given to the church in this capacity, and the role they fill is certainly a gift to the church, but thease are not spiritual gifts in the sense that people use the phrase.

I should qualify that a bit too, in closing. Some people think of spiritual gifts as discrete, well defined, spiritual abilities or powers that the Holy Spirit imparts to believers in the moment they are saved. I think that we do not receive gifts in this manner - we receive the Holy Spirit, whose expression in our lives, can be described in terms of various graces, the grace of teaching, the grace of faith, the grace of mercies, of leadership, etc. Everyone who comes to saving faith receives the same Spirit, but the Spirit manifests Himself in diverse ways throughout the body of Christ. One man is more in tune with the mercy of God than another, and we say he has the gift of mercies. Another more in tune with the generosity of God, and we say he has the gift of generosity, another is full of trust by the same spirit, and we say he has the gift of faith, etc.

That is how I think it works. The manner in which the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in a believer's life is described as a "gift" - but it doesn't describe a power or ability that operates apart from the Holy Spirit - it is the working of the Holy Spirit Himself in that believer, through that believer, and for the building up of the church of Christ.
posted by Daniel @ 11:03 AM  
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