But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift.
The first six verses of Ephesians 4, tell of our oneness in Christ. Paul begins this following sentence with “but.” While we are united in Christ, we are not uniform. Grace has been given to each of us uniquely through the work of Christ. As Paul writes elsewhere, “one body, many gifts.”
8 Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people." 9 (When it says, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)
Verse 8 is quoting Psalm 68:18. This verse is referring to the Ark of the Covenant being brought up to Jerusalem. It symbolizes the triumphal reign of God who conquered all enemies and initiated his dwelling with Israel. (Commentators note that Paul did not go on to quote the rest of Psalm 68:18 where it speaks explicitly of God dwelling with his people. That has not yet fully come.) When a conqueror established himself, the vanquished gave gifts in tribute. The conqueror would then lavish these gifts on whomever he chose.
Paul emphasizes in verse 9, that Christ the conqueror, descended “into the lower parts of the earth,” which is a euphemism for death. Verse 10 says he ascended far above anything we can imagine. From the depths of death to the highest place we can imagine, Christ has conquered all! Nothing is outside his reign.
So it is from the context of a call to be one, though variously gifted by the one who has conquered all, even death itself, that we come to the next passage.
11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to…
Is this a comprehensive list of gifts? Comparing it with other lists in the New Testament, I think the answer is clearly no. Paul seems to be focused on these four gifts (the Greek makes “pastors and teachers” as one gift) because they are for a particular purpose. What purpose? To be chaplains for people who know God? To build sacred edifices where we can meet each week? To create spiritual Wal-Marts where we can come and get our spiritual needs met? To create intriguing philosophical societies?
… 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
Equip the saints for the work of ministry!!! Did I yell that loud enough? While I am at it, let me yell this too. “Work of ministry” categorically and empathically does not equate to training people for leadership positions within the church institutional hierarchy for “ministry” done within the four walls of sacred structure!!!
I wrote in an earlier post that ministry is not defined by what we do. Ministry is defined by WHO we are doing for. I wrote of the Trinitarian call of Creation Stewardship, Kingdom Service and Exercise of Gifts. What ever we do in response to God is ministry. Period! All of us have a call to ministry and for a small minority of us, that call will be to work inside of ecclesiastical structures, equipping the rest of us to do ministry!
Greg Ogden, in his book Unfinished Business, shows that there are essentially three aspects to equipping as described in various places throughout scripture (see Chapter 6 of his book): 1. Fixing what is broken. 2. Bringing back into proper alignment. 3. Supplementing that which is missing. It requires a team of mature leaders to do all these well. However, let us make no mistake, this equipping is the primary agenda of the apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers. Only when this happens, do we achieve the unity of which Paul writes and fully realize the reality of Christ as Lord of all.
14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.
In our culture, the head is a metaphor for intellect and the heart is a metaphor for emotion. Not so for the Greeks. The heart was the metaphor for mind, emotion, will, and intellect. The head was a metaphor for life giving source. Life emanates from the head out through the body. It makes sense when you think about it. Where does most input into the body occur? Food through the mouth. Air through the nose. Sight through the eyes. Hearing through the ears. The head is what gives life and sustenance to the rest of the body. This is the metaphor that Paul was using. Jesus is Lord of all but he is also the animating source to his body, the Church.
The problem is that the body is sickly and prone to infection and disease. We must become healthy by fixing what is broken, bringing life into proper alignment, and supplementing the body with that which is missing, even as Christ nourishes us, the body, with his life animating presence.
John Stott notes that “speaking the truth in love” is an imperfect translation of verse 15. We do not have some of the same verb tenses in English as in Greek. A more literal reading would be “truthing in love.” In other words, truth should be oozing from our pores in word, thought and deed, all the time showing the love of Christ.
Well, here is a feeble attempt on my part to be” truthing in love.” It is time drop the charade of clergy and laity, and for each of us to fully own our call to ministry, being equipped by people God has gifted us with for that purpose. The clergy/laity dichotomy is a parasite to the Body of Christ that obscures calling, trivializes equipping, and kills ministry.