The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
August 5, 2012


1) Ephesians 4:7-15 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Ephesians 4:7-15
by Tom Edwards

As Paul continues in his message to the Ephesians, he declares, "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift" (Eph. 4:7).   

During the early church, some of the gifts given by God's grace were the miraculous gifts, which were bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands (Acts 8:14-19; 19:5-7); and though these men were instrumental in imparting the Holy Spirit, so that these gifts could be acquired, it was up to the Holy Spirit to determine and give whatever specific gift each recipient would receive (1 Cor. 12:11).   In 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul lists these gifts as the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, effecting of miracles, prophecy, distinguishing of spirits, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.  (Just as the gift of "tongues" pertained to not merely languages, but also to the ability to miraculously speak a language that one did not know, even so the "faith" mentioned here is not merely the one acquired through hearing God's word [Rom. 10:17]; but, rather, a faith whereby to work miracles.)

We can also point out, however, that, though the previous mentioned gifts were all miraculous, this is not always the case of some of the other gifts referred to elsewhere in the Scriptures.  For instance, Romans 12:6-8 has a mixture of miraculous and non-miraculous gifts: "Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."

In Ephesians 4:11,12, Christ also gave certain men for the upbuilding of the body of Christ.  They were apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers; and having miraculous gifts would help them in their work, during the time of the early church and prior to the completed New Testament.   

Paul states in Ephesians 4:8-10: "Therefore it says, 'WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.'  (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 that He might fill all things.)"

Concerning the phrase, "...HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES...," this is likening what Christ accomplished to the ancient conquerors who would return triumphantly to their homeland with their chained captives following in procession, to be seen by all.  By completing what He did on earth and being victorious over all evil, Jesus' train of captive enemies includes the devil, sin, and death (cf. Heb. 2:14,15; 1 Cor. 15:55-57).  So this metaphorically expresses the Lord's triumph over these -- and a triumph we can have, too, when we abide in Christ.  Compare this also with Colossians 2:13-15: "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.  When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him."   The Contemporary English Version translates this last verse as, "There Christ defeated all powers and forces. He let the whole world see them being led away as prisoners when he celebrated his victory."

Notice in Ephesians 4:8 the connection with Christ's ascension and His giving of gifts: "...WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH...HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN."  Jesus had to return to heaven to be able to do this.  For instance, in John 16:7, the Lord states to the apostles, "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you."  That Jesus would first have to "go away" pertains to His ascension, following His death, burial, and resurrection.  And before He did return to the Father in heaven, Jesus also told the apostles, "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." This is fulfilled in Acts 2:32-36: "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.  Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.  For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: 'THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE THINE ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR THY FEET."'  Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ -- this Jesus whom you crucified."

We often talk about the importance of Christ's death -- and sometimes include the necessity of His resurrection.  But what about the need of the Lord's ascension?  That was also essential for our salvation.  For example: "Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Heb. 9:23,24).  Jesus Christ is not dwelling on earth as our high priest, but He became one in heaven (cf. Heb. 8:1-4); and it is there where He intercedes for us, according to Romans 8:34: "who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us."

In addition, Daniel 7:13,14 shows that Jesus had to first ascend back to heaven in order to be given dominion, glory, and a kingdom.  And the purpose being so that "all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him."  So without the ascension, there would be no kingdom, no rule of Christ on earth, no church, and no saved people.  For without the Lord's ascension, there would also have been no sending of the Holy Spirit to the apostles, according to John 16:7; and, therefore, man would have remained without the completed gospel and lost in sin.  

In Ephesians 4:9,10, Paul speaks of Jesus as the one who descended and ascended.   This clearly refutes the misconception some people have, who believe that Jesus has not always existed.  Instead, they view Him as not coming into being until the time He was conceived by Mary.  But think about this passage.  Jesus descended.  He, therefore, descended from heaven into that baby whom Mary gave birth to.  Jesus Himself declares in John 3:13, "And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man."  Also John 6:38: "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."  So there was a pre-existence of Jesus, before His coming into this world.  Compare also John 17:5: "And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was."   Jesus is also shown in John 1:1-3,14 as Deity and the Creator of the universe.  So He existed in eternity before time itself.  Micah refers to the Lord as being "From the days of eternity" (Mic. 5:2).

Another misconception that is cleared up in Ephesians 4 pertains to the distinction between "evangelists" and "pastors" (v. 11).  This is not realized by many in the denominational world who often view pastors and evangelists or preachers as all referring to the same thing.  However, one major difference is that the pastor was to be the husband of one wife and have believing children, according to Titus 1:6; but such requirements are not demanded of the preacher or evangelist.  

Ephesians 4:11 might also remind you somewhat of 1 Corinthians 12:28: "And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues."

Paul then shows the purpose for these men: "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12).  Since the early Christians did not have the canon of the New Testament to turn to, these men were necessary for the church's direction and development.  Of course, when the completed revelation came, then these gifted men would no longer be necessary.  For spiritual development stems from God's word, rather than simply by having miraculously gifts, which the Corinthians well illustrate.  For they had abounded in miraculous gifts (cf. 1 Cor. 1:7), but were greatly lacking in spiritual maturity.  Paul indicates that they were not "spiritual men," but "still fleshly" and characterized with "jealousy and strife" (1 Cor. 3:1-3).  So they needed to look to God's word (cf. Acts 20:32).   

Paul speaks of the temporary nature of miraculous gifts in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10,12: "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. ... For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known."

The "perfect" refers to the completion of God's word.  For around the time this letter was written, they were still receiving (through miraculous gifts) various portions of the gospel.  As Paul says, "For we know in part and we prophesy in part."  But when the complete New Testament would be revealed, then that partial message would be replaced with the perfect or complete message, which James refers to as the "perfect law of liberty" (Jms. 1:25).  The complete revelation would enable the man of God to be "perfect" (complete, mature), "thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16,17).  For in the gospel's entirety, God "...has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence" (2 Pet. 1:3).  

When Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, "For now we see in a mirror dimly," we need to realize that mirrors of Paul's day did not give the clear reflection as ours today. Rather, theirs were made out of polished metal; so the reflection would be dim.  Paul is using this analogy to again express seeing just some of God's word in contrast to observing the completed revelation, which is likened to a clear view in looking at someone face to face.  

Note how long it would be important for these gifted men to help the church, according to Ephesians 4:13: "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." Through God's completed and final revelation, which these men gave by the Holy Spirit, unity of the faith is possible.  We need to, therefore, do as Jude exhorts, to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).  

However, there are many people who view Ephesians 4:13 as referring to heaven itself, and as being the only place where this "unity of the faith" will ever be attained.  For they see all the religious division in denominationalism and cannot foresee any type of unity of the faith here on earth.  But is Ephesians 4:13 alluding to a fulfillment in heaven or one on earth?  

Notice the very next passage, which answers this.  Here Paul declares, "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" (Eph. 4:14,15).  So the result is that we can be spiritually mature and not led astray by false teachings, that we be not tricked or deceived; but, rather, we will know the truth and be able to teach it in love.  So this pertains to while on earth -- not in heaven.  For there will not be any false teachers in heaven who would try to deceive others there.  

Paul had also been very concerned about the Corinthians falling prey to deception in 2 Corinthians 11:3: "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ."  So the answer for them is the same as for these Ephesians.  They all needed to grow in the knowledge of Christ and strive to be like His perfect example.  For Paul points out that "we are no longer to be children..." (Eph. 4:14).  The term "children" is used with different connotations in the Bible.  For instance, when Jesus states that we must become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3), He is speaking of the innocent quality of children.  However, when Paul says "we are no longer to be children," he is showing that we are not to be spiritually immature as children.  In other words, the Christian is to be childlike -- but not childish.  This also corresponds with 1 Corinthians 14:20: "Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature."

So, obviously, Ephesians 4:14,15 has reference to what is taking place on earth -- where false teachers and deceitful men are.  For in heaven, we won't have to worry about such people.  

Being stable in the faith is what the Lord wants for all of us.  Compare James 1:5-8: "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."  Notice, too, Paul's warning to Timothy: "But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:13-15).  

So instead of being mislead by false doctrine, Paul speaks about the Ephesians "speaking the truth in love..." (Eph. 4:15).  Actually, the Bible shows that everything we do is to be done in love, according to 1 Corinthians 16:14.  So teaching the truth is just one of those things -- though also a very important one.  

By His life on earth and His ascension back to heaven, Jesus has accomplished so much for us.  Through that, He was able to give gifted men to the world who were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit to impart God's word; and though those gifted men are no longer on earth, we still have that glorious, divine message in the gospel that God had intended for the world; and, by which, we can be saved, united, and made complete, if we will take heed to that message.  For it can put us and keep us on the right course that leads to heaven -- instead of veering onto the paths of false teaching that leads to eternal separation from God.  So may we who are Christians continue to grow in the Lord, through His word, and teach that message in love to others. 


News & Notes

R.J. Evans writes the following about Clyde Jackson, who was mentioned last week as soon to be undergoing hospice care: "Things have changed since yesterday for Clyde Jackson.  He went to see his oncologist this a.m.   The oncologist suggested that he not give up and start on chemo therapy.  So that is the course that Clyde is going to take.  We pray for the success of his treatments." 

Let those of us who are Christians also continue to remember Cheryl Crews, Jean Calloway, Terry and Pam MacDonald, and Shirley Young in prayer, due to their health problems.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
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Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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