What Price Unity? No. 2.
Reading: Ephesians Ch. 4v7-16.
It might first appear that Paul is moving from what we have in common to how we differ from one another. Here he begins to discuss the spiritual gifts, which have been given to believers and the gifted ministries, which have been given to the church. But Paul is not simply emphasizing our diversity, but unity in diversity. He is emphasizing the inter-relatedness of the gifts which are distributed to individuals but which are necessary for the welfare of the whole church.
If life is to have meaning, and if God's will is to be done, all of us have to accept who we are and what we are, give it back to God, and thank Him for the way He made us. What I am is God's gift to me; what I do with it is my gift to Him. - Warren W. Wiersbe in his autobiography, Be Myself.
All of us have been given gifts by the grace of Christ. These gifts are given to each one of us. And all of us can function in diversity for the common good of the Body of Christ. That’s why I say there is wisdom in the gifts of unity. This distribution of spiritual gifts is for the benefit of the Body the whole church and that needs to be emphasised again and again.
1. Ponder The Provision of Spiritual Gifts! v7-10.
“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measured of the gift of Christ”
a. Paul’s Reminds Us There Is Grace To Accompany Gifts: v7.
Paul has been teaching how the body of Christ functions and matures. The Lord has provided everything the body needs, grace in order to enhance harmony one with another, gifts so that the body can live and grow through the very ordinary lives of humankind. We should be alerted to the fact that grace was one of Paul’s best loved words. The Greek word translated “grace” comes from “charis” occurring some 156 times in the New Testament. Would you believe it, 110 of those mentions of the word come from the pen of Paul. Charis always presents to us the idea of “free” undeserved favour. Now, once we understand that God’s free and undeserved favour has given us any gifts we have, we will surely be more diligent in developing and using those gifts for the glory of God. Gifts without that accompanying grace can and will be harsh, abrasive, and presumptuous in the effect they have on others, creating egotism and self aggrandisement. Gifts without grace in other words produce pride, friction, and carnality. James M. Gary’s hymn puts it well:
Naught have I gotten but what I received;
Grace hath bestowed it since I have believed.
Please take seriously to heart the fact that all gifts are given so that we can make known to this sin sick world and to our fellow believers what our Lord Jesus can do through those who are totally given up to Him.
b. Paul’s Reminds Us There Are Gifts To Accompany Grace: v8-10.
In 1 Corinthians Ch’s 12-14 we are instructed that the gifts of the Spirit are given so that the whole church can be built up. Unity is enhanced by spiritual gifts because we come to understand that we need one another.
In Ephesians Ch.4 v 8 -10 we discover that gifts without grace are undesirable, but so is grace without gifts, the church need both gifts and grace. Remember, the gifts given by the Lord to His church came at Pentecost in fulfilment of the promise in Psalm 68v18. “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive. Thou has received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord might dwell among them.”
When Paul wrote Ephesians Ch.4v8-10, he was thinking of a victorious king who was victorious in battle, he returns home and enters the city in great triumph; he is weighed down with the spoils of war and wants to give generously these gifts to his people. He has released the prisoners held by the enemy and returns them to their family and home; to them especially he wants to give many gifts.
There is a lovely parallel here, The Lord Jesus triumphed greatly over sin, and He carried the battle into the enemy’s territory and led out of captivity many (“He led captivity captive”). Jesus then takes His place on high and “gave gifts unto men.” And of course, He lavishes gifts, wonderful gifts on His own! Here’s the point, those to whom the gifts are given are responsible for the gracious out working of those gifts in their own personal lives, and you just cannot misappropriate such wonderful gifts, these gifts we must use wisely and for the glory of God.
2. Ponder The Persons Spiritually Gifted! 11-13:
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Ephesians Ch4v11).
Apostles: To guide the infant church on the way forward!
Prophets: To guard the church as it matures!
Evangelists: To tell the good news of the gospel!
Pastors: To tend the babes in Christ!
Teachers: To teach the saints of every age!
These are not gifts given to individuals they are gifted individuals who have been given to the church. Again, he is emphasizes the inter-relatedness of all the members in the Body of Christ. We need all the gifts and all the gifted individuals God can supply. We need one another. And our inter-relatedness is based on the activity of the Spirit in our midst. It is not based on tradition or style. It is based on the life of the Spirit in the community of those who have been made alive by the Spirit.
If you have a talent, use it in every which way possible. Don't hoard it. Don't dole it out like a miser. Spend it lavishly like a millionaire intent on going broke. - Brendan Francis.
Talent is God-given; be thankful. Conceit is self-given; be careful. - Thomas La Mance.
You have your gifts not so much for your own sake as for the sake of others. You are like an apple tree that produces fruit not for its own consumption but for the consumption of others. Your gifts are given so you can bless others by ministering to them. If you have the gift of teaching, you have it so others in the body will be taught. If you have the gift of hospitality, it is because others need the gracious welcome they receive from you. If even one gifted person fails to function, the body of Christ is deprived of a ministry it needs to function well. - James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 230.
3. Ponder The Purpose Of The Gifts And Gifted! v12-16:
“For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians Ch.4v12-16).
The equipping gifts are for our growth. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are leadership gifts. God equips people and gives these people to the church. In fact, God places this leadership in the church in order to change us. The call of every Christian is to be being conformed to Christ. This is the task of those called to lead. In other words, stop complaining about my gift and what I do or do not do with it and get to work excising your own gift and in so doing you will grow up and become a mature Christian whom God can use for His glory.
These people are given for the equipping of the saints for the work of service. Contrary to popular belief, the job of spiritual leaders is not to do the entire ministry. It is to equip the saints so that the saints can do the work of ministry. All of us are ministers. We are not all called to be pastors. But we are all called to the work of service or ministry. Notice the result of this activity. It is for the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature, which belongs to the fullness of Christ. What a powerful result!
God has ordained this to be the means whereby the church is strengthened. He will use this method to bring us to the unity of the faith. He will use this to bring us to a mature man. Our lives will be characterized by the fullness of Christ. So the first result of this training process is maturity.
Another result of this training process is stability. Verse 14 tells us that as a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.
In other words, God wants us to come to the place where we are stable in what we believe. This stability will be evidence both negatively and positively. Negatively, we will not be tossed here and there by everything we hear from every strange teacher that comes down the pike. That characterizes children, but mature saints should not be. Positively, by speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ. From a positive standpoint, truth and love are joined together. Indeed, both must collaborate together for any positive effect to be experienced. Truth without love is harsh and judgmental. Love without truth is condoning and produces no change. When truth and love are joined, we are enabled to grow up. Truth and love produce growth.
Not only do we need maturity and stability we also need cooperation.
And this is the final result of our growth in unity. Verse 16 describes the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies according to the proper working of each individual part. This is a description of the cooperation that exists as individual members of the church use their gifts to accomplish the work God has for us.
God has placed us together. But we are not placed together in order to do our own thing. We are held together by that which every joint supplies. As each individual part is properly working, this causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
The unity of the Spirit is not something we manufacture, but it is something we must maintain by our willingness to cooperate together for God's purposes in our midst. We must each make a personal decision to submit to the leadership of His Spirit in our midst if we are to experience the unity only He can give.
We must ask Him to produce His character in us to enable us to deal with one another in both truth and love. We must see that we are one body in Christ, and member’s one of another.
The Atlantic Monthly (11/94) told about superstar tenors Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti performing together in Los Angeles. A reporter tried to press the issue of competitiveness between the three men. "You have to put all of your concentration into opening your heart to the music," Domingo said. "You can't be rivals when you're together making music." That's also true in the church. Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 2. See: Ro 12:5; 1 Co 1:10; 3:3; 6:6.
Back at the turn of the century, there was a plague of locusts in the Plains of the United States. In a matter of a few days that swarm of locusts swept over the states of Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas. In less than a week, they did over five hundred million dollars' worth of damage (in the currency of that time).
Locusts don't have a king to get them organised. They don't have a draft board to call them into ranks. By instinct the locust knows it has to be in community with other locusts. When that occurs, they are able to topple kingdoms. The wisdom of the locust is the wisdom that tells us we must have community. - Haddon Robinson, "The Wisdom of Small Creatures," Preaching Today, Tape No. 93.