God of Order and Ephesians 4
Malemia, Africa 1996
A Conquering King and Gifts for His People
Our wonderful God has not failed to give us glimpses of His heart for His Church. If you look and pay close attention to the Scriptures, you can see mighty and glorious things about our King Jesus, and His Kingdom.
Jesus was a mighty conqueror. In Ephesians 4:8 it says, He “led a crowd of captives and He gave gifts to men” (NLT). Envision the way a conquering king would come back from a foreign land having acquired gold, silver, and valuables from the people whom he conquered. Jesus has conquered his enemies and comes back in a parade of victory, giving out gifts to His people. These gifts that are listed in Ephesians 4:11—apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers—are all a part of who Jesus is. When Jesus ascended on high in the clouds and sent His Holy Spirit, He not only made His Spirit to live inside of us for those who believe, but He also took a part of Himself and gave it to different people who believe in Him. Jesus was a faithful High Priest in all of God’s House. He was an apostle, a prophet, a Good Shepherd, and a Master Teacher. He was the Good News manifested in the flesh.
The Body Needs All of His Gifts
The Bible says that when Jesus went to Heaven and sent His Spirit, He took parts of Himself and spread them out over the Body of Christ, the Church. It is very obvious to us that the different parts of our physical bodies do different things. You can see with your eyes, and you can hear with your ears. But you cannot hear with your nose, nor see with your mouth. : ) All parts of the body are not the same, however, they all depend on each other very much.
Before continuing with Ephesians 4:11 you need to understand how much you need all of the Body of Christ. We all need ALL of the Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 says that we cannot say to others, “We don’t need you.” Instead we must say to one another, “I need you, I need you.” This is an attitude of heart that pleases Jesus very much.
Jesus had many gifts in Himself, and some of these are listed in Ephesians 4. In the Church, the Body of Christ needs all of these gifts. However, every local assembly will not have all the gifts. Perhaps there will need to be very good relationships between villages and cities. These relationships are good and necessary.
The Gift of Building
The apostolic gift is a gift that is one of building. In the first century there were very few apostles, and not very many prophets. Perhaps there were more teachers and more shepherds, but not many evangelists. Not all of these gifts were in every local church, so the local assemblies needed to have other brothers and sisters involved with them from other cities. If the church or the body of Christ in your city is to grow strong, it will be because the Believers will see and tell one another that they need each other’s gifts.
A car has many parts—glass, steel, and rubber. It has an engine, a steering wheel, lights, a horn and wheels. If we were to pile all of the parts of a car into a room, that STILL wouldn’t give us the ability to DRIVE that car. Even if all the parts were very good parts, you still couldn’t get in the car and drive away—unless the parts were put together properly. In some ways, it would just be a pile of hardware and not have tremendous value. This shows the importance of the gift of apostle.
This part of Jesus, this gift of building, is the gift that sees how to put all the parts together to make the “car” work. There are not many apostles in the world, just as there were not in the first century. The Bible lists perhaps 26 apostles in all of the first century: the primary twelve Apostles and fourteen other apostles. While others may be sincere and truly love God’s work, they may not have the gift to be able to see how to put together the car. Others, without this gift of apostle, may not be able to see how to take all the parts in the Church and put them together to be a strong Church—one that is of one heart, one mind, one purpose.
The Gift of Prophet
The second gift listed in Ephesians 4 is the gift of prophet. A prophet is able to see and smell things that are very good or very bad. He does not depend on just what he can hear or see with his natural ears or eyes. He is able to feel and to smell whether something is of Jesus or not. In this way, a prophet helps to provide pure building materials for the apostle. All of the four or five gifts that are listed here have a very special place in the Body of Christ. And if you do not have these gifts in your assembly, you should work very hard to build relationships with these gifts from other cities. When you read the book of Acts, you see this happen very often. The different gifts that are listed in Ephesians 4 travel from city to city and help to encourage and build the local saints together.
In order to accomplish this, the gifts of apostle and prophet are extremely important in eight or nine very important points listed. Without these gifts, God’s people would be in terrible poverty. They could be very sincere and love God very much, and yet always be frustrated and in difficult positions. But with the help of these gifts, complicated situations could be solved.
Mending the Body of Christ
The gifts in Ephesians 4:12 are necessary to prepare God’s people for works of service. The word “prepare” means “to mend together or knit together.” In the Greek, this is the word that God chose to define what these five gifts were for—to help “put the bone back in the right place.” If an arm is broken, a doctor sets the bone in the proper place. Sometimes it hurts to put a broken bone back in place, but it is necessary or the body would be deformed and useless. These gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:12 help to mend the Body of Christ together and to set each part in its right place.
Being Connected and Understanding the Teachings of Jesus
In Ephesians 4:13 we see that these gifts do even more for the local assemblies—they will help us all reach a unity of the faith! We are commanded earlier in the book of Ephesians to hold onto the unity of the spirit. God expects us to have unity of spirit, and God commands that we truly love one another.
However, there is a difference between unity of the spirit and unity of the faith. Without the gifts (mentioned in Ephesians 4:14) being in relationship with our local assemblies, we will be very confused about what to believe about things. It is by these gifts that we are equipped into unity of the faith.
Unity of the spirit is being connected to everyone that is bought by the blood of Jesus. We accept and love everyone who has the blood of Jesus covering them. And we desire to receive them the same way we would receive Jesus. Unity of the faith is understanding together the teachings of Jesus—teachings about baptism, laying on of hands, worship, assembling together, and the gift of the Spirit. These gifts will help make clear how to love each other, and about what leadership, and about what a Christian, truly is. If our assemblies do not have relationships with these five gifts, we will not have unity of the faith, and we will be very confused.
Ephesians 4:13 also says that the gifts help us to have a full knowledge of the Son of God. The Father’s intent is that we would understand everything about Jesus. The word for “full knowledge” in this scripture is “epignosis.” It is a word that means that we would have a deep intimacy with Jesus. God chose this word to say that we must have a deep intimate relationship with His Son. This is not a word about head-knowledge, but it is about a knowledge of the heart. It is the same word that has to do with Mary and Joseph not “knowing” each other intimately until after Jesus was born. It is the same word used when Adam “knew” Eve and they had a child.
So, these five gifts are absolutely necessary for the Church. They help God’s people to have a full intimacy with Jesus and turn their faces toward Him and find rest and strength in Him when things are very hard. They will learn to call on the name of the Lord and not be ashamed or disappointed.
The words of one song say, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to Him in prayer.” These five gifts are necessary to help God’s people have a friendship with Jesus—a very close intimacy with Him—so that when the violent storms come, they don’t forget to hide in Jesus. They turn their faces toward Him, see His warm smile, and are able to make it through the storm. These five gifts are necessary to have full knowledge, full intimacy, of Jesus.
Steady in the Storm
Ephesians 4:13 adds that these gifts are necessary to attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. This means that our personality would become just like Jesus’, so that we wouldn’t be blown here and there by every wind of bad teaching or every wind of bad circumstance. We will be able to stand very strong in God’s love. And when the storms blow across and shake everything that can be shaken, the life of Jesus inside of us will still be able to grow and become stronger. Usually God lets the storm really shake us and take us to the very brink of disaster. The Father did this with His own Son, Jesus. And Paul, another apostle, “despaired even of life,” the scripture says. These are the opportunities that the Father gives us to become more like Him. And when the storms come, and the waves toss, and the winds blow, we won’t be tossed to and fro. Rather, we will become stronger and stronger as we become closer to Jesus and closer to one another.
Speaking the Truth in Love
Ephesians 4:15 says that we will learn to speak the truth in love. These gifts help us to be able to communicate with each other in a loving and truthful way. This is a very important thing in any relationship of love. Speaking the truth in love is finding a way to please the Father and one another by communicating properly. We must speak truth, but it must be covered with love, patience, and kindness. Our gentleness must be evident, our love and our peace evident. The gifts help us to be able to communicate in love in ways that we might not be able to without them.
Learning to Trust Our Loving Master
The scripture also says in Ephesians 4:15 that these gifts help us to grow up into the head, which is Christ. Jesus is the head of everything. He is the Boss and the Master of the land and the sea. He is the Master of the clouds that rain and of the winds that blow. He is the Master of all of the little creeping animals and the larger animals. He is the Master of the birds of the air. He is the Master of every stone along the road. Our Jesus is the Master of every star in the sky and every sun and moon. He also wants to be our Master, but He invites us to enter into His school, the school of Christ, where we learn to let Him be our Master too. We learn to trust Him. We learn that He is very wise, that He knows everything, and that He is very strong to protect us. When we don’t let Him be our Master it is only because we don’t trust Him enough, or don’t trust that His ways are so perfect, and that His love is so great, that it never fails.
And so these gifts help us to grow up into the headship of Jesus, to see how wonderful He is—how trustworthy, strong, wise and loving He is. In this way, we can trust Him to have us do whatever He wishes.
David, a lover of God, wrote many love songs to the Father. The Father wrote a love song to David too, and called him a man after God’s own heart. One of the reasons why David was a man after God’s own heart was because he knew God was so good and wonderful that He would never let him down or lead him down a wrong path. God would not disappoint him or crush him. God would not give him a stone when he asked for bread. God would provide all things for him, if he would simply look to Him and yield to His way in all things. David would do anything that the Father asked, not because he was an obedient robot, but because he trusted the Father’s love and wisdom so much. This is what we all learn together with these gifts: How reliable and trustworthy our Father is, and how Jesus gives good gifts, not bad ones, to His children. So we can trust Him to be our Head, because He is so very, very good to us.
“I Have Need of You”
Ephesians 4:16 says that the whole body is “joined and held together by every supporting ligament.” Just as the arms and the legs are all fit together in the body, these gifts help the Body of Christ come together to be able to do God’s work. You can imagine that a human body would not have much use if the arms and the legs were scattered in different places. They could be wonderful parts and very strong by themselves, but if they are not connected to each other in love, and connected to the head for the head’s direction, then the body would be of very little value.
I want to encourage you, saints, to understand the value of these gifts and see all the wonderful things that come from them. Be committed to welcoming brothers and sisters from other places to help you have this wonderful list of things that comes from having relationship with these gifts. Then we can become useful to Jesus. We can become loving and wise just as Jesus is. We can become much more able to reach our community, much more able to have loving families, much more able to raise loving, obedient children, and much more able to use our own gifts in love, because we have welcomed these five gifts into our community. Probably no local assembly has all of these gifts (at least I’ve never seen one yet). So God forces us to need each other from village to village, city to city. He wants us to know that we need each other, so that we won’t remain babies or infants. He wants us to GROW into the FULLNESS of HIS SON!
For more on this topic please refer to the Foundations Series book titled “The Plumb Line.”