The Lord’s Day
April 2, 2006
“To Each One Grace Was Given”
Dr. J. Ligon
Amen. If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with
me to Ephesians 4, as we continue to make our way through this great letter of
the Apostle Paul to the Christians in Ephesus and to us.
Let me remind you, if you have the outline in front of you,
of where we’ve been — and even if you don’t have the outline in front of you,
let me remind you of where we’ve been.
In Ephesians 1-3, we have stressed regularly, the
Apostle Paul sets forth God’s glorious plan of redemption in His church. He
tells us who He is and what He has done on our behalf. He tells us our doctrine,
what we are to believe, what is the faith once delivered; and then, in Ephesians
4 beginning in verse 1, he will spend the rest of the book teaching us about our
response to that truth, our living out of that truth. The first part of the
book is doctrine, the second part of the book is duty — we could put it that
way…faith and life.
And we have said as we’ve worked through the first
few verses of Ephesians, in Ephesians 4:1-3, the Apostle Paul is telling us
to preserve a unity that God has already given us in Jesus Christ. Notice
that Paul is not calling us to achieve a unity that we do not have. He is
calling on us to preserve the unity that has been granted to us in the redeeming
work of Jesus Christ; that is, in Christ believing Jew and Gentile, believers of
various sorts, have all been brought together into one body. Having been united
to Jesus Christ, we have been united to one another. That reality of our union
and communion with Christ means that there is a reality of our union and
communion with one another. It’s the glorious doctrine of the communion of the
And the Apostle Paul says ‘I want you to preserve, I
want you to maintain, I want you to manifest, I want you to live out that unity
that God has given you.’ He’s not calling on us to achieve a unity that we don’t
have, but to preserve and to live out a unity that God has granted to us in
Now in verses 4-6, the Apostle Paul grounded that
unity that we enjoy not only in the saving work of Jesus Christ but in the very
person of our triune God. Our one triune God is Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit; and yet, even in His three-ness He is one. He manifests His unity in
relationship, and that is to be manifested in our relationship, and that is what
verses 4-6 are about. It talks about the one Spirit that has brought us together
in one body. It talks about the one Lord Jesus Christ, into whose lordship we
have been baptized. It talks about the one God and Father of us all who has
brought us into His one family. And so the Apostle Paul has gone from exhorting
us to manifest the unity that He has given us to explaining yet again what the
foundation of that unity is.
Now, starting at verse 7 he does something very
interesting. He starts talking about our differences. He starts talking
about our distinctions. He starts talking about the diversity that exists in the
body of Christ. But you will notice he talks about our distinction, our
diversity, our differences, in order to serve our unity. In fact, he makes it
clear that in the Christian church our very diversity, the diversity of gifts
that God has bestowed upon His people, the differences in the people that make
up the body of Christ…in our very diversity, our unity is served.
And I want to walk through very briefly…if you
have the outline, I’ve tried to walk you through the passage. One reason we try
and outline passages is on the one hand so that you are helped in reading the
Bible on your own. A good faithful biblical exposition ought to help a believer
read the Bible on his or her own more effectively, so that you’re better
equipped to follow the flow of arguments found in Bible books. But also we do
this outlining so that you will understand that the preacher isn’t just getting
up on Sunday morning and talking about whatever he wants to talk about. The
preacher’s job is to talk with you about what God wants to talk about with you,
and the only way the preacher can do that is if he is faithful to follow the
chain of argument that God Himself has given in His word. So we work through
this passage together for greater understanding, and also that you’re confident
that what you’re hearing from the pulpit is in fact what God is saying to His
people in His word.
Now notice the outline here. I’ve done it in
seven points, but in verse 7 we see the Apostle Paul saying to us that each one
of us has been made the recipient of gifts from the risen and ascended Christ.
And then what happens in verses 8-10 is almost an aside. It’s almost, having
just said that each of us are the recipients of gifts that have been given to us
by the risen and ascended Christ, that the Apostle Paul just has to stop and
tell you about that just a little bit. It brings to his mind how costly those
gifts Jesus has given to His church were to Him. He goes right back to Psalm 68.
He says this is just like that triumphant procession of God the King in Psalm
68, who’s going up to a city, all the spoils of war entrained behind Him, and He
gets to that city and He dispenses gifts to His people out of His great
victory. And he says it’s the same with the Lord Jesus Christ. He gives gifts
to His people out of this great victory He has won over the forces of sin and
death and hell.
But then he stops in verse 9 to reflect on Jesus’
humiliation. The way that Jesus obtained that great ascension and
enthronement was through the valley of humiliation. He came to the lowest depths
of the earth. He emptied Himself, the Apostle Paul will say in Philippians 2,
not of His essential attributes but of His glory; bore the shame, even suffering
the ignominious death of the cross for our sakes; and through that descent,
through that humiliation, He won this great victory, and so ascended on high.
And the Apostle Paul is reminding us in verse 10
that the purpose of Christ’s ascension is the completion and fulfillment of the
eternal purposes of God. It’s a huge, grand, plan. It’s not just saving us
from the deserved punishment of hell that we would have apart from His atoning
work and saving grace, but it’s bringing us into a family, a household, a new
society, a new community that is part of this glorious restoration of all things
in the new heavens and the new earth. And Jesus’ reign is part of the eternal
purposes of God.
And then, it’s almost like Paul in verse 11 says
‘Now, where was I?’ He just couldn’t but stop and tell us how costly these
gifts were that the Lord Jesus Christ has given us from the right hand. Then he
starts in verse 11 telling us about some of those gifts. And notice that in
the naming of different kinds of gifts — apostles, prophets, evangelists,
pastor-teachers — he’s reminding us (Paul is) that Jesus doesn’t give everyone
the same gifts. There are evangelists who are not apostles; there are
pastor-teachers who are not prophets. There are different gifts.
And Paul makes the point in verse 12 that even
though the gifts are different and they’re given to different people, all of
those gifts are given for the building up of the whole body. Isn’t it
interesting? The focus of verse 7 down to verse 12 has been on “each,” on the
individuals, on the differences that are manifest in God’s body in the gifts
that Christ has given, but each of them is given gifts for all. All the
conversation in Ephesians 4:1-6 has been about all or about the whole
or about the bodyeach. It’s about the
members. It’s about the distinctions in the body, but all of those
differences are to serve the whole body.
And then he explains in verse 13…and, by the way,
we’re not even going to try and get to verse 13 today. I just wanted you to see
it so that you could see the flow of Paul’s logic. He’s saying that these things
are for the blessing of the whole body, so — what? So that the body will be
mature, so that the body will be everything that God has intended it to be, so
that we will grow up into the fullness of Christ. And there’s that language
again that we saw at the end of Ephesians 3: that we would all grow up into the
fullness of God. Well, here it is now: so that the body will be matured into the
fullness of Christ. That’s the flow of argument of the Apostle Paul.
Now let’s look to God in prayer and ask His help and
blessing as we read His word and hear it proclaimed.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for this Your word.
We ask that You teach us wonderful things from Your law, and that by Your Spirit
we would not simply wrap our minds around the truth, but that we would be so
gripped in the very depths of our hearts that we would believe, desire, and live
out this truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hear the word of God:
“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s
gift. 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, that He might fill all things.) And He
gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some
as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of
service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 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.”
Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired,
and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.
The Apostle Paul is saying to us in this passage
that in the Christian church the unity and well-being of the whole body is
served by the diversity of the gifts that Christ has given to each member of the
one body; that in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ our preservation of and
manifestation of and living out of the unity that God has granted us in Jesus
Christ is, in fact, far from being hindered by our diversity, served by our
diversity; that the different gifts that exist in the body, that the different
types of people that exist in the body, that the different kinds of gifts that
Christ has given to His church in people and through people serve the unity of
the body, and ought to be celebrated, not apologized for or feared. And I
want you to see three things in particular that Paul is concerned that we
And the first one is simply this, and you see it
there in verse 7, that Jesus has given every single one of us gifts. Look at
what Paul tells us in verse 7: “To each one of us grace was given according to
the measure of Christ’s gift.” Paul’s emphasis is that each has been engifted of
Christ. In fact, in verse 11, he’ll almost speak in terms of the total person as
a gift to the church. It’s an apostle that’s a gift to the church, it’s a
prophet that’s a gift to the church, it’s an evangelist or a pastor-teacher, so
that the totality of who we are, expressed in our vocation, is a gift of Christ
to the church.
But as you know, there are more than these listed as
gifts of God to the church in the Scriptures. And by the way, isn’t it
interesting here that these gifts in Ephesians 4 are listed as gifts of Christ?
We often talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and rightly so. The New
Testament itself talks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the church. But the
New Testament also talks about the gifts of the Father to the church, the gifts
of the Son to the church, as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the
church. So notice that even in the very way that the gifts are ascribed in the
New Testament we see the unity of the triune God in engifting His people. Well,
in this passage it’s emphasized that it’s Christ pouring out those gifts to His
church from His exalted place at the right hand of God.
There are other gifts that are listed in the New
Testament. If you have your Bible ready to hand, turn to Romans 12 to see
one example. Paul here will say, in Romans 12:4,
“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have
the same functions, we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually
members of one another. And since we have gifts that differ according to the
grace given to us, let each 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
And again, there you see Paul speaking almost in vocational
terms about the gifts of God to His church — people who lead, people who serve,
people who show mercy, people who exhort, people who minister, people who
prophesy. He speaks almost in vocational terms.
But then he gets even more specific. Notice verse 9:
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be
devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in
honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer….”
and so on, almost to the point as if Paul is saying it’s a
blessing and gift of Christ to the church that there will be people who rejoice
in hope and persevere in tribulation, and who are devoted to prayer, or who
practice hospitality, or who contribute to the needs of the saints, as if those
activities themselves are gifts of God to the church. And so the Apostle Paul
here is emphasizing that each one of us have been made recipients of gifts from
the risen and ascended Christ. Each one of us!
Now, how often do you hear people say in churches
today that twenty percent of the people are doing eighty percent of the work,
and eighty percent of the people are doing twenty percent of the work? Now, I
don’t know whether that’s the case. I certainly don’t know whether that’s the
case in our own congregation. But I wonder whether that’s a helpful way for us
to think. Certainly none of us want to fail to be utilizing our gift in the body
of Christ, or our gifts. Because if Christ has gifted each of us, He has gifted
us because that gift is needed in the church. And even though it may not be an
up-front gift that God has given to us, yet it is needful to the church, and the
church is impoverished if that gift is not exercised.
I well remember Dr. Doug Kelly telling us in
seminary about a woman in the congregation in Aberdeen, Scotland, who had been
confined to her home for many years, unable to come to church. But she was a
woman of faith who was faithful to pray. She always made sure that the prayer
reminders of the congregation were brought to her home, and she was diligent in
spending many hours alone praying. It was she that prayed for years and years
that an evangelical preacher would come to that congregation. There had been
liberal pastors in that congregation that did not believe the word of God. And
so many people expect, when we get to glory, to hear that it was the prayers of
that godly woman that brought William Still to that congregation, who preached
the gospel for over a half century, and raised up a host of evangelical
ministers and missionaries in the Church of Scotland through that faithful
proclamation. It was she, who, when a poor seminary student named Doug Kelly
came there having to go to a preaching assignment and his alarm clock was
broken, said to him, “Douglas, have you prayed for that clock?” And he said,
“I’d never thought of praying for a clock in my life!” And she said, “Well,
let’s just do it right now!” and started praying that the Lord would make that
alarm clock work. Well, guess what? It did, and he got to his preaching
assignment where he needed to be the next day. And I wonder whether that — Doug
was already a consecrated servant of the Lord, but I wonder whether that has
been a spark in Doug’s own devotion in encouraging the people of God in prayer.
He tells that story in his wonderful book, If God Already Knows, Why Pray?
how that woman in her gift of faith and prayer blessed that congregation, and
blessed us even though most of us never met her. She had a gift that needed to
be used, that if it had not been used, the church would have been impoverished.
My friends, we need to have that attitude ourselves.
You may be a young person, and you may draw pictures for your Mom and Dad and
for your Grandmom and Grandad. And, you know, your Mom and Dad may have so many
of those pictures that there’s not even room now on the refrigerator or in their
drawers to keep them. But there may be an older person in this congregation
that’s confined to their home, or to a nursing home, or even to a hospice, who
doesn’t have a grandchild to draw pictures for them. And your picture may be a
great, great encouragement to them to let them know that they have not been
forgotten, and that there’s a young person that loves them. And you might say,
“Mom and Dad, this afternoon could we go the nursing home and visit some of our
members, some of our friends here in this church, that are in the nursing home?
And could I take my pictures to them?” Who knows how the gift that the Lord has
given you might be used in the life of such a person.
All of us have ways that we can bless the body, and
we must be on the lookout for how to do it. We shouldn’t be looking at others
and wishing that we had their gifts: we’ll be wasting our own. We shouldn’t
diminish how God will use small things in our eyes. No, we should be exercising
the gifts the Lord has given us, because Christ has given every single one of
His people gifts.
Secondly, the Apostle Paul emphasizes in verse 11
that Jesus has given different gifts to each one of us. Notice how he puts
it: “He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as
pastors and teachers….” They’re different! Not everybody is an apostle, not
everybody is a prophet, not everybody is an evangelist, not everybody is a
pastor-teacher. Those gifts are different. God doesn’t make cookie-cutter
Christians. There’s not a celestial cookie factory and one little cookie cutter
out of which we’re all made. We’re different, and that’s glorious! It’s
enriching! Have you ever enjoyed being with Christians that have gifts that you
don’t have, that have strengths that you don’t have, that have desires for God
and for His glory, and love for Christ that you don’t have? And it is personally
enriching for you to be with those who have those things that you do not have. I
have so often been blessed to be with people that have experiences and maturity
and gifts that I do not have, and I am the richer for fellowship with them.
That’s how God intends it. Our very diversity enriches us, because on our own we
don’t have all that we need. And so in the very differences of those gifts there
is an enriching of the whole body.
Then Paul goes on to say not only that we have
different gifts, but in verse 12 that Jesus has given every gift for the
well-being of the whole body, so that my gifts are not for my personal
satisfaction and enjoyment and Christian growth; my gifts belong to you.
Jesus has only proximately given them to me, but ultimately for His glory and
for your edification. The things that the Lord has given to you, He has given to
you for the well-being of the whole body. Each of our gifts belong to the whole
body and are to be exercised in that way, because all of the gifts that Christ
gives, He gives for the building up of the whole body; and, therefore, we need
to cultivate a mindset that asks first of all ‘Lord God, what gifts have You
given me?’ and then, secondly, ‘Lord God, how am I going to utilize those gifts
for the whole body?’
And we also need to create a mindset that’s on the
lookout for those gifts and is encouraging brothers and sisters in Christ in the
exercise of those gifts. When is the last time you said to a fellow church
member, “I just want to pause and tell you how you have encouraged me in your
doing of this” or in your trust in Christ, or in this way or that way? “It has
been a blessing to me,” or “it has been a blessing to my child” or “I’ve seen
how it’s ministered to our congregation”? Have you encouraged your brothers and
sisters in Christ in the exercise of their gifts?
Have you drawn your children’s attention to the
gifts of others that God has not given you, but has given to others? My wife,
Anne, was telling me after the first service that Ron Musselman, who used to
minister in this congregation, he and his wife would bring people into the home
and say to their children, “Now, this person has this gift that we don’t have”
in order to draw attention to that young person of the gifts that God had given
to His whole body through those particular people, to encourage them and to
encourage their children to be on the lookout for those very gifts.
And again, my friends, we often have no idea how
our gifts are used in the lives of others. Just this past week, I was
talking to a friend of mine who said that many, many years ago he had gone into
his law firm very early on a Saturday morning. Nobody else was there but he, and
he went into his little office and closed the door, and he was working away. And
into that law firm very early on a Saturday morning came one of our elders, who
had no idea that anybody else was there, and at the top of his lungs he was
singing, “Crown Him with Many Crowns”. And my friend said, “You know, you learn
a lot about a man when he’s alone and he doesn’t know that he’s being watched.”
And that man singing praises to God as he prepared to do his work…that
gift…what do you call it? Is that rejoicing in hope, from Romans 12? Maybe so.
I don’t know…what do you…? I don’t even know what to call it. Isn’t it
amazing how that gift has stayed in the heart of my friend for years – to see a
man who loves the Lord, serving the Lord, singing His praises as he tries to
glorify Him in all of life, even in his vocation at work?
We don’t know how the gifts that God has given to us
will minister in the lives of His people, but we do know this: that there is no
gift that has been given to us which is not intended to be a blessing to the
whole body. And so, consequently, we must think in terms of our own gifts and
callings as to how they will serve the welfare, the well-being, of the whole
May the Lord bless His word. Let’s pray.
Lord God, help us to think like kingdom
Christians that are always desiring to bless the whole body, the whole family,
the whole fellowship of the Lord’s people. We do love Your kingdom, and help us
to manifest that even in the way we use our gifts. We pray this in Jesus’ name.
Hymn: I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord]
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your
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