Ephesiansby Robert M. Solomon
Unity does not mean there is no place for God-given diversity in the church. Built upon the underlying unity of the church are the many spiritual gifts bestowed. As Paul wrote, we all “form one body” and “have different gifts” (Romans 12:5–6).
There are different passages in the Bible that speak of spiritual gifts and gifting (Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:8–10, 28–30; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:11). In this passage, the focus is on people endowed with special abilities by the Spirit, whom Christ gave as “gifts” to the church. Their purpose is for the growth of the church.
These are important gifts to the church, each person receiving special “grace” (enablement or ability) as determined and apportioned by Jesus (Ephesians 4:7) for the different church offices. “It was he who” gave to the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (v. 11).
Based on the Greek text, many scholars consider pastor-teacher as one gift. Some also note that while apostles and prophets were necessary in the early church in order to establish Scriptural foundations, they may no longer be operative today—at least not in the same way they were in Paul’s time. One important practical principle remains in the church, however, and it is that gifts and offices must be matched properly.
Note that it is Jesus who decides who is gifted in what way. Paul adapts Psalm 68:18 to depict Jesus as the ascended Lord (after He descended to earth and won a great victory) who sovereignly gave gifts to men (Ephesians 4:8–10). Elsewhere we read that the Spirit decides on the gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11) and that the Father decides on the appointments (1 Corinthians 12:28). There is no contradiction or confusion here, for it shows that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together in unison. And it provides a model for how all spiritual gifts must be put together for a common purpose.
That purpose is building up the body of Christ, “until we all reach unity” and maturity, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). This will be expressed both in Christian service (v. 12) and in a growing knowledge of Christ (v. 13). This is how ministry should be focused—on facilitating deeper intimacy with Christ and effective and faithful service for Him, carried out by all.
Christ apportions grace and gifts to His disciples. What do you think He has called you to do, and how has He gifted you? How are you fulfilling this calling?
Reflect on Christian unity and maturity. How are they related? How does focusing on knowing Christ contribute to unity? Why is maturity connected with the fullness of Christ?