A Gift From God - Part One
Scripture: Ephesians 4:7–13
A Gift From God-Part OneEphesians 4:7-13
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith
You build an indoor 50 meter pool in your backyard. You secure sponsors so you train throughout the day. You attain the best swimming coach in the world. All your equipment is top of the line. Everything is in place for you to achieve your goal to compete at the Olympic level. Yet you have only one little problem. You still have not overcome your fear of the water. How far do you think your swimming success will go?
Likewise, there are many things necessary to succeed as a Christian. Yet without one excelling in one specific area, you will miserably fail in whatever you seek to do for God. It's a character trait. We learned about it last week. What I am talking about is humility.
Last week in verse 2 we read, "With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love." A Christian without humility is like a swimmer who is scared of the water. He is ineffective and very deluded.
Verse 2 is so important, I asked, challenged, dared all of you to ask someone that knows you the best if they felt you demonstrate humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance and love. If you can't do that, it shows you have work to do in the humility department. I received some good feedback last week and the positive discussions some of you had with your spouses. I'd be curious with a show of hands as to how many asked your spouse or someone who knows you well that very question last week. I won't do that because possibly for some of you, the inability to raise your hand might simply be too humbling!
We will never get anywhere as a church without humility, so I'll present the dare again. You have nothing to lose except your pride! Before the sun sets today, will you ask your spouse (or someone who knows you well) how he or she believes you are doing in fulfilling the God-honoring, Holy Spirit-driven, Gospel-centered traits of humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance and love.
If there is a stalemate in your marriage because both of you are too prideful to ask the other, I would suggest the husband take the initiative and show that He desires to lead his family with the same humility Christ does the church (we'll get more of that in chapter 5). Let's remember men, our leadership is always seen in a descending to greatness as the humility of Christ becomes more and our love for self becomes less.
So last week we sought to understand the transition between chapter 3 and chapter 4 in Ephesians. Based on all that God taught us about Himself and our glorious position in Christ thanks to His amazing grace in our lives (chapters 1-3), there are now expectations upon us as Christians to live out those truths in line with His empowerment and the Gospel message we have received (chapters 4-6).
That is why verse 1 of chapter 4 begins with a "therefore." Based on who God is and all that He has done for you in Christ, "therefore" live your life in light of it!
And of all that God could command us, what was His first order of business? That we in our churches and we in our homes would be unified. Verse 3, "[To be] diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." How? Verse 1, we "walk in a manner worthy of [our] calling" and demonstrate the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces, such as, verse 2, humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance and love. Why? Because verses 4-6, there is no division when it comes to God - one body of Christ, one Holy Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord Jesus Christ, one faith given to the church, one spiritual baptism and one Holy Father. Do you understand the need to be unified?
So now where does Paul now go with God's commands? Unity was the expectation for the corporate body. What is the expectation for the individual believer? Or I can put it this way, God wants His church to be unified as one, but within that unity He wants to see a celebration of our diversity. And what is one of the many ways we are diverse from each other? It's the key thought from today's passage. Verse 7, "Grace was given." Verse 7, "Christ's gift." Verse 8, "He gave gifts to men." And verse 11, "And He gave." If we are in Christ, God has given each of us spiritual gifts that make us different from every other believer on the planet. And He expects us to use them!
1. Overview Of The Gifts (verse 7)
Our time is limited due to the upcoming baptisms, so let's get moving with the first point. Verse 7 gives us an overview of the gifts. "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift."
So before in verses 1-6 we learned the focus was on the unity of the church. Now the focus is individualized. We see the contrast initiated by the first word in verse 7, "but." God wants our homes and churches unified as one, "but" the greatest way He is honored is not in our uniformity (everybody looking like everybody else), "but" rather in our diversity. That is through our ethnic backgrounds, convictions, interests, talents and specifically here, our spiritual gifts.
Verse 7 starts off saying "to each one of us." That includes you! If you are in Christ, "each one of us" has been given by Christ something that is very special. Verse 7 says it relates to His grace. God's in His grace has given to "each one of us" spiritual gifts and through that grace empowers us to use them.
A word on spiritual gifts. These are not talents that God gives all people from the time they are born. For example, we have many men and women in our church that are talented musicians. Yet there are talented musicians among Christians, Muslims and atheists. Perhaps it differs in degrees, but either you have it or you don't.
I remember about 20 years ago I had this ambition that I would learn guitar, write and sing songs. I gave it two years. I took professional lessons and practiced. Usually I can accomplish what I set my mind to do. This was a square peg in a round hole. It never worked for me. Despite my effort, I just could not pick it up. Then a couple years ago I told Judy Fossa I would like to learn violin. She lent me a violin. Within two weeks the violin was returned.
Spiritual gifts on the other hand are abilities given only to God's people. They are special abilities that God has given us to serve Him. There are lists throughout the New Testament, especially in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 that give us examples of spiritual gifts - things like teaching and mercy and encouragement and serving and leadership and administration. We don't ask for the gifts or seek them. They are given according to God's sovereign will (1 Cor. 12:11). He distributes just as He desires.
Every Christian has blend of spiritual gifts. Think of yourself like a snowflake or fingerprint, unique and unlike any other believer. Understand that there are things you can do unlike any other believer. Think of the body of Christ and realize you are a specific body part. When you serve, the whole body is blessed. When you refuse to use your gifts, the whole body suffers. No Christian can replace you in God's plan.
2. Origin Of The Gifts (verses 8-10)
Now in verses 8-10 (our second point) we hear a little about the origin of these spiritual gifts. And to do so, Paul does it in a very unique way by quoting Psalm 68.
In that psalm, God is pictured as marching in triumph ahead of all Israel after the Exodus from Egypt. When He comes to the Sinai, the earth shakes beneath his feet. Kings and armies are described as fleeing before him while His people peacefully sleep around their fires. Then from Mt. Sinai, God sets his sights on Mt. Zion and moves up the slopes of Jerusalem in victory, leading captives and receiving gifts from men. In other words, the Psalm is about celebrating God's conquests and triumphs (adapted from Hughes, Ephesians, p. 132).
Some historical perspective will help set the context. When a king defeated an enemy city, he would march back to his city in a parade celebrating with his army the spoils of his victory. Often showcased were the defeated warriors and the goods they plundered in the conquest. Those goods would then be distributed to his people.
What Paul does is he takes these words from Psalm 68 and applies them to Christ. So think of the historical context of a conquering king and what the Scriptures teach us about the conquering Messiah when I read this verse. Verse 8, "Therefore it says, 'when He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.'" That is the quote from Psalm 68.
Then Paul applies it to Christ in verse 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? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens)."
So Christ ascends back to heaven. We call that "The Ascension" and it is spoken of in Acts 1. It occurred forty days after the Resurrection. Yet the verse also says that before His Ascension, Christ "descended into the lower parts of the earth." I don't believe this is a reference to hell or hades, but rather understanding of His great humiliation.
Think of it as this. God willingly took on flesh, left His glory in heaven and descended to the lower parts of His creation, a place called earth. He came to live among us as a man, demonstrate a perfect life qualifying Him to be our substitute. And then He would go to the cross and be punished by the Father on behalf of all of our sins.
So I believe Paul's point is not to stress a specific location, but rather to present the depth of His incarnation, showing the supreme range of His condescension to His exaltation in the Ascension.
So like the Psalm, Christ finishes His work on earth in triumph. The King conquers death, sin and Satan as His captives. He ascends to His place of glory (cf. Eph. 1:20-21; Jn. 3:13) after defeating and plundering the enemy. And then distributes gifts from His victory to the people of His kingdom. Yet the gifts He gives are not the earthly treasures from the battle, but rather spiritually gifted people to serve His people on His behalf.
So the focus here is spiritual gifts that God gives to His people. Why does He do that from His perspective? The end of verse 10 tells us. "So that He might fill all things."
God gives gifts and distributes gifts so that He might receive glory in the universe (Eph. 4:10) through things like: His will accomplished though us, His people ministered to through us and the mere fact that His people are not selfish, but they serve and they are not useless, but they are equipped. Therefore, when we refuse to use our spiritual gifts, the body of Christ suffers and God does not receive the glory He deserves. On a cosmic level, any believer not using his or her gifts is a problem of God-sized proportions.
So a three simple questions. Are you a Christian? Do you realize that you have spiritual gifts? Are you using your spiritual gifts for God's glory?
Last week we learned that in order for our church and home to be unified, we all need to walk in the Spirit and demonstrate Christlike humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance and love. And this week we learn that in order for church and home to operate, we all need to be exercising our spiritual gifts.
I've used this illustration before. After football practice in college we would all gather at the fifty yard line, take a knee, take off our helmets and listen to our coach. And the one thing I always remember him saying was, "Men, know your role on this team and seek to execute it to the best of your ability." Everybody from the quarterback to the water boy had a part to play. If individuals did not take that seriously, the entire team would have difficulty achieving success.
So Coach Randy is asking you - what is your role on this team called Grace Bible Church? If I called you out, could you tell me your position?
You know when I was a teacher I could flunk those who refused to work. When I was a coach I could bench them. When I managed a large aquatic facility I could fire them. I can't do any of those things to you. You are all volunteers! So what motivation do I have to get you to work? Very simple, I have the words of God that I presented to you this morning - His command and the great promises of His grace and your reward. If you are not excited about being directly commissioned, gifted and empowered by the King of the Universe to do His will, there is not much more I can do to get you engaged.
We need to get to our baptisms, so Lord willing, we will finish up this sermon next week. But for now I ask you if you are not serving anywhere, to repent and use the spiritual gifts that the victorious King Jesus has entrusted to your care through His grace, for His glory and for your joy in being used by Him to serve in His body.