Ephesians 4:7-16 The Church: Gifted for the Mission

Ephesians 4:7-16

The Church: Gifted for the Mission


Chapter 4 has marked a transition in the book of Ephesians.


Paul has taken great pains to make sure we understand that in Christ to the praise of his glory he has made repair to the dividing wall of hostility between nations in his kingdom.


At Babel walls went up.


At the cross the walls came down.


In the community of the kingdom, we are one and Jesus is hour head and Chief Shepherd.


Chapter 4 verse 1 marks the transition of the exposition of this truth (though Paul will remind us of it) to the application of this truth.


Last week we saw that because we are one and Jesus is our leader that we are to walk worthy of our calling in Christ to be one in the community of the kingdom.


Today, we will see that we apply our unity by every person being gifted for the mission in properly working and supplying one’s gift so that the community of the kingdom grows into maturity.


Illustration: I sprained something in my shoulder doing snatches that I compensated for in my elbow that caused me to compensate in my knees and that cause everything to get funky. The point becomes clear and I understand why Paul used the human body as an analogy for the church. One part that is hurt or begins to rebel hurts the whole thing.


So Paul uses the body as an analogy, calling us joints held together in the body, thus helping us to see that we are all vital parts to the whole.


  1. The universal church is to grow up into Christ Jesus as a unified body v. 13–16


  1. The church is to attain the unity of the faith


  1. The church is to attain the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God


  1. Unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God lead to maturity

            in Christ and Jesus Christ is the standard


  1. Growing up in Christ leads us to not being unstable and being tossed around by every new teaching that comes along


This union comes from the union already given in Christ (2:11–22; 3:1-13), and it is moving toward full union with Christ on the earth as it is done already in cosmic harmony (1:20-21). This is how the Lord taught us to pray… “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.”


In other words, we are to grow into what Jesus has already made available to us in the heavenlies as we grow into him, who is our head and Chief Shepherd.


  1. Each Christian has a vital part in growing up into Christ in accordance with the grace given by the ascended Christ v. 7, 8–10, 16


These verses (8-10) are an interpretation from Psalm 68:18 and a parenthetical commentary about Jesus from the Psalm 68:18.


Lest we get lost in some of the scholarly language of why Paul takes the liberty to quote the text as he does in Ephesians, we are just going to say that “…we must remember that Paul’s focus is not primarily on the historical reference of the Psalm, but on its typological fulfillment in Christ and his gifts to the church.”[1]


This is the kind of inspiration work of the Spirit in the inspiring of the canon of Scripture that can help us learn to read the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus. And this is the kind of work of the Spirit that we can’t do unless expressly done in the canon of Scripture. So, don’t try to mimic what Paul did here with other quotes from the Old Testament unless expressly done by the writers of Scripture.


What Paul does here is take a passage in which a king ascends to his conquered kingdom, and in doing so he receives gifts from those he has defeated. Paul then turns it, under the inspiration of the Spirit, to tell us that when Jesus defeated the kingdom of darkness he ascended to his throne and rather than take gifts from his conquered (those of us in his kingdom) he gives gifts to us.


Then Paul launches into a parenthetical commentary clarifying exactly who he is talking about what this Jesus did. If Jesus ascended to his throne in and above the heavenlies he had to have come to earth in his incarnation to do his redeeming work. So that he who descended is the one that ascended to fill all things. This can be none other than Jesus, the King.


So, what did Jesus do in his ascending and conquering march to his throne? (See Acts 2)


  1. Grace/giftedness is given to each follower of Christ in the church


  1. Grace/giftedness is given according to the measure determined by Christ

In 1 Corinthians 12:11 Paul also says that the Spirit distributes gifts according to his will. So, as Jesus gives in his conquering march the Spirit distributes according to his will, which is the will of Father and Son.


  1. Grace/giftedness, properly exercised by everyone, makes the church grow

through building itself up in love

1 Corinthians 12:7 The manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.


  1. Christ has given certain types of leaders (fundamentally those with different kinds of teaching gifts) to promote and direct such growth, and to ensure unity v. 11-16


What is a means given here by which the church is to attain:

– the unity of the faith?


– the knowledge of the Son of God?


– maturity in Christ and Jesus Christ as the standard of that maturity?


– stability and not being tossed around by every new teaching that comes along?


The means given in this text is the gifting of a multi-faceted plurality of leadership in his church!


There is so much in New Testament scholarship that can be explored here in a classroom setting, but that is not so much the intention of the letter nor our intention this morning.


In mentioning the apostles and prophets along with what the Ephesians regularly knew already in pastors and teachers, Paul is not suggesting that apostles and teachers will always be given nor is he suggesting that they have gone away. Rather, he is stating that apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers are gifs that can be given to those inclined in their desires to lead the church who are also qualified with right character.



Paul also does not give the article (the) to teachers. Some have said that this means the pastor’s primary function is teaching. Although the pastor / elder / overseer is to be able to teach D.A. Carson suggests… “in this longer listing of different ministries it is more likely that the two groups with overlapping (i.e. teaching) functions are in view (and ‘teachers’ were a distinct group; 1 Cor. 12:28–29; Gal. 6:6)”.[2]


  1. Apostles – meaning one who is sent, an ambassador; designated by the Lord to

the 12 who were to witness about him to the frontiers of the world.


Some say this gift is not active. Some abuse this gift by assigning it to evangelist type traveling speakers.


It seems this gift is, by definition, one give to people who go to new places and start new works in the work of the kingdom.


This gift could be manifested in a church planter, a cross-cultural worker who is going to UPG type places in order to pioneer the work of the church in making disciples among all peoples.


Why give Apostles? Because the church is not to remain static, rather the church is to multiply and expand its footprint where it is needed and that is everywhere.


  1. Prophets – meaning fore-telling or forth-telling, one speaking from Father as

representing his words. Some believe this to be revealed in the role of the



It seems this particular gifting is distinct from that gifting that the Spirit may give to anyone in the church as he chooses in a moment of revelation for the group gathered.


This gift seems to be a particular ability given to leadership of the church to communicate the words of the Lord to his people. That would lead to the understanding of the role of the “preacher” as one who heralds the Lord’s word as a communicator of that word.


This makes the role of preaching vital. It is taking his revealed truth and the applications of his revealed truth (some of these applications may come in supernatural words from the Lord to a specific people) for the purpose of directing a specific group toward the Lord’s appointed purpose for them.


Why prophets? Because the Lord still speaks to his people and Jesus promised he would come to us, he and Father, and counsel us in the way (John 14-16).


  1. Pastors – meaning shepherd, one who cares for and guides to right places


This gifting is given for the purpose of keeping Father’s people headed in a healthy way toward Father’s ends.


Pastors can display apostolic, prophetic and teaching gifts. But these men are those who desire to guide and even discipline in order to get to Father’s ends.


This person is can be extroverted, but many are introverted and loves being around people and good at counseling and dealing with conflict.


Often men who are organized and administrative and strategic have this gift.


Leading people to Father’s ends is a task requiring organization and strong leadership.




  1. Teachers – meaning instructor, master, teacher


This gifting is one in which the person can explain complex truths in a communicable way to the church.


This gift loves to ask questions, research, ponder questions and search for answers. This person is usually introverted and loves people but does not seek out lots of groups for gaining their strength.


One of the beautiful truths of this passage is that King Jesus did not give all these gifts to one man, but to a group of men so that they may lead with unity through diversity leaning on each other for the exercise of their gifts.


This describes your pastors well.


Why has the Lord Jesus given leadership to his church and leadership to you, TRCC?


  1. Jesus has given leadership to you to equip you for ministry to build up the body!


  1. Our job is to pioneer, tell you God’s word, guide you and teach



  1. Your job is to take the reigns in executing the work that Father

has gifted you to do:


  1. Making disciples in every domain of society!


  1. Just apply “Up” “In” “Out” (Radical Life Lived Out)


The goal of the church (not the mission, but the goal inside of the mission)[3] is described in vv. 12–16. The pastor-teacher is to nourish the saints with the Word of God and equip them for service; the saints, in turn, perform the work of the ministry.[4]


  1. Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”


[1] D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1238.

[2] D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1238.

[3] Parenthesis mine

[4] Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1992), 548.

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