Ephesians 4:7-12 – Christ’s grace gifts to his church


Ephesians 4:7-12.




In the previous section [v.1-6] which we looked at last week Paul was emphasising the fact that there is only one Church of Jesus Christ. The fact that there are different congregations and denominations doesn’t alter the fact that there is still only one true church made up of those you have come to person faith in Jesus Christ.

The requirements for being a member of the body of Christ, the church, are not fulfilling certain human institutional rules but rather having declared repentance towards God and faith in Christ as Lord and Saviour one is born again into God’s family.

Without this personal salvation a person remains outside the Kingdom of God and therefore having one’s name on a congregational membership list is of no value in terms of one’s acceptance with God.


Thus true unity is based upon having a relationship with the one Triune God.


Paul’s emphasis in v.1-6 is that we are all one and that we need to work hard at maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.




Ephesians 4:7

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. (NIV)

  1. 7 begins with the word ‘BUT’ – this word indicates contrast or a qualification of what has just been said. Paul is contrating the “ALL” of v.6 with the “EACH” of v.7.


Having stressed the unity of the church he now moves on to emphasise the diversity within it. Unity does not imply uniformity. God is not in the business of mass producing believers in some kind of ecclesiastical assembly-line. As we saw in ch. 2, we are all uniquely created by God …

Ephesians 2:10 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (NIV)


  1. no one is left out.


It would be very dull and boring if we were all alike – rather there is a rich diversity of gifts which God brings together into one body. What Paul is talking about here is not simply different temperaments and personalities – you get that in evey body of people irrespective of their spiritual state – he is taliking about spiritual giftedness.


“GRACE” to each one of us grace has been given –

The word ‘grace’ is widely used and can have a very broad meaning – God’s grace is shown in the fact that he does not punish individuals or the world as a whole for disobeying him. His grace is seen in that he sends rain and sunshine that fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. This is common grace.


Then there is the ‘grace that saves’ – Ephesians 2:8 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — (NIV)

– This saving grace is given to all believers – without this salvation is not possible.


There is another aspect of grace that is given to all believers – and that is the grace to serve and this is given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

The word grace is ‘charis’ from which comes the word Charismatic. While Paul does not actually use the word ‘charismata’ in this passage as he does in Rom.12 and 1 Corinth.12., it seems evident from the context that that is what he is referring to.


We popularly refer to some churches as “Charismatic” – meaning those where the more spectacular spiritual gifts are evident – while some elements of the Charismatic Movement have been extreme it has been used by God to bring spiritual renewal to many. However, it is incorrect to refer to one section of the Church as Charismatic because the whole church is the recipient of God gifts of grace and therefore the whole church is charismatic.


Every believer has been given at least one gift from Christ to be used in his service and therefore in the service of the Church.

The lists of gift given in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and here in Eph.4 are not a restricted list but rather examples of the kinds of gifts.

FOR EXAMPLE even within one type of gift – teaching – some teaching is in public, some in small groups, some on a one-to-one basis, some to adults, some to children, some to teenagers ….

As diverse as people are, so diverse are the gifts God gives to individuals.


  1. The giver chooses the gift.


It is God who decides what gifts we are given – he is sovereign –

1 Corinthians 12:11 11 All these [GIFTS] are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (NIV)

It is therefore wrong to be jealous of the gifts of others – it is wrong to demand that God give us this or that gift. We have no right – God in his wisdom knows what gifts we should have and what gifts his church need in a particular place.


What is clear is that while we have no choice in what gifts we have , we do have a responsibility to use the gifts that he has given us.


ILLUS.: Many of us have from time to time been given gifts we can’t use. They end up in a drawer or a box in the loft until we eventually throw them out or with great ‘sacrifice’ give them to someone else.


Sadly there are some Christians who do the same thing with the gifts that God has given them – when that happens God’s work suffers. You see no one else is like you or gifted in exactly the same way so by not using your gifts you are being a bad steward of God’s grace.

1 Peter 4:10 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (NIV)

Not to use what God has given is an insult to him and a loss to his church. We are all called and gifted individually and Jesus doesn’t want us to be spectators sitting on the sidelines, he wants us to be involved on the team fulfilling the function for which we were designed.




Ephesians 4:7-10

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” 9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) (NIV)

Paul is quoting from Psalm 68:18 18 When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious — that you, O Lord God, might dwell there. (NIV)

Ps.68 is a psalm of victory which David composed – it recalled how God had rescued and vindicated his people. It is a picture of the Lord returning in triumph leading captives in his train.

It is the imagery of an ancient oriental king returning after a victorious battle bringing with him his captives and the spoils of conquest that he then distributes to his soldiers.


Paul uses this imagery to describe what Christ has done. Christ has ascended as conqueror to the right-hand of God having defeated his enemies by his death and resurrection.


Colossians 2:15 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (NIV)

In Ps. 68v18 it says ‘ he received gifts’ and here in v.8 he ‘gave gifts’ – Has Paul misquoted the verse or is there another explanation?

Without going into all the various theories put forward by commentators let’s look at two that I think best explain the verse and which are complimentary.

1] the Hebrew word in Ps. 68. can be translated ‘received’ or ‘ brought’ – thus the Jehovah in the Psalm could have received gifts from men or brought gifts for men.

2] the whole context of a conquering king is that he brings back the spoils with the express purpose of distributing them to he soldiers. Thus it is not inconsistent to speak of receiving gifts and giving gifts as part of one victory celebration.


This is clearly illustrated when on the day of Pentecost Peter says in Acts 2:33 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he [Jesus] has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. (NIV)

Christ has given to the Church what he received from the Father. It is noteworthy that Psalm 68 was used by the Jews in their celebration of Pentecost.


Verses 9-10 have been the subject of some interesting interpretation and, dare I say, speculation. Many have linked it to the reference in 1 Peter 3:19 19 through whom [that is ‘Jesus’] also he went and preached to the spirits in prison (NIV)


There is no direct link between that passage and this.


Paul has talked about Christ ascending to the Father – being exalted and seated in the place of honour at God’s right hand. Talking about ascension, exaltation and honour on the one hand he then contrasts that with Christ descension, humiliation and death on the cross.

Surely the link would best be made with Philippians 2:5-9

5 …Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place …. (NIV)

It seems that Paul is not thinking in spatial term of heaven up there and earth down here but rather in terms of Christ’s glory which he left behind when came to earth in humility and his position now – a position of cosmic authority and power from where he now gives gifts to his church.


It is because of who Jesus is and because of what he did and also because he now has full authority and fills the whole universe – that he can give gifts to his people.


In this passage it is clear that it is Christ who gives gifts.

In Romans 12 it is God the Father who gives gifts.

In 1 Corinthians 12 it is the Holy Spirit who gives gifts.

God is a Trinity and it is always dangerous to over-emphasize one aspect of God’s personhood to the detriment of another.




Ephesians 4:11-12 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (NIV)

Paul stresses again that ‘It was he who gave… ‘ – Christ is sovereign and he decides.


  1. Gifts


While Paul is here writing about people as gifts we must bear in mind that these people are gifts to the church because they have been gifted by God for the work they have been called to do.

God never calls us to do a job without equipping us to accomplish the task.


We must confine ourselves to the gifts that Paul mentions in this passage before us. Let’s deal with each in turn.





– Apostles.


The word ‘apostle’ lit. means ‘one who is sent’ and in that usage it refers to all believers as we are all commissioned by Christ to be his witnesses.

It is plain from the NT that the word is used of a specific group of men – the 11 disciples [Judas Iscariot excluded] – Matthias who replaced Judas, Paul, James the brother of the Lord and possibly one or two others . This was a small group who were chosen by Jesus and who had been eyewitnesses. It was this group who was the authority within the Church in the early days before the NT was written. In this specific sense we must say that there are no apostles today. Apostolic authority is now contained within the NT and not with a person.


If there is apostolic ministry today it is in a very much lesser sense and would apply to pioneer missionaries, church planters, etc… Their authority is never within themselves but always based on the scriptures.


– Prophets.


Closely associated with the ministry of the apostles, were the prophets. These were the mouth-piece or spokesman of God to the people. It was through them that God revealed his message. Their function was no so much foretelling future events – though that sometimes happened – but they main function was declaring the word of God.

Prophets, like the Apostles, are no longer within the church. They were the foundation upon which the Church was built.


Ephesians 2:20 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (NIV)


The foundation of the Church was laid long ago and that cannot be changed. If there are prophets today, then like the apostles, they exist only is a much lesser sense and their gift is not in receiving a new word from God – e.g. “Thus saith the Lord ….” – but in a communicating a fresh understanding of the word of God to a particular situation.

I believe that there are people who have a prophetic gift in that they have a deep understanding of the Word of God as well as insight into contemporary society and they have a unique God-given ability to speak to the issues of the day.


I have grave reservations about so called ‘prophetic utterances’ – if these are to be then they must be tried and tested against the scriptures and the character of the person concerned must also be tried and tested.


There have been occasions when someone under the guise of being a prophet has said something to another that was not from God and in so doing has ruined a life. The purpose of these gifts is for the up building of the body.

We dare not go beyond the boundaries of the Bible.


– Evangelists.


The term ‘evangelist’ occurs only 3 times in the NT – here and in Acts 21 :8 and 2 Timothy 4:5. It comes from the root word euangalizo that means ‘to proclaim good news’. The task of the evangelist is to preach an explain the good news of salvation to those who have not yet heard. Timothy was a leader of a local Church and was exhorted by Paul to ‘do the work of an evangelist’ – it was linked to a teaching role.


There is a great need today for evangelists – those gifted to communicate the gospel in fresh and relevant ways. In a country like the UK where only 3-5% of people actually go to Church there is a desperate need for a re-evangelisation of this land. Britain can no longer claim to be a Christian country. Europe is no longer Christian – it is pagan. It lives with no reference to God and unless there is a turning to God it will decay and fall apart.


We must not think of ‘evangelist’ exclusively in term of people like Billy Graham. Evangelists can do their work speaking to large groups or small groups or to individuals. [Philip and the Ethiopian].


– Pastors / teachers.


There is a long standing debate about whether or not Paul is talking about one gift – Pastor/teacher – or two gifts – pastors and teachers. The word pastor means ‘shepherd’ and the task of a shepherd is to feed the flock. How else must a shepherd feed the flock of God except by teaching them the Word of God?


While the debate about which interpretation is correct may be interesting, I think it is unnecessary. A pastor must be able to teach.


However, it would appear that there may be those who have the gift of teaching who may not necessarily have the gift of pastor.


The fact that a pastor should be a teacher is borne out by the requirement for eldership in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. A careful study of church leadership will reveal that the terms elder, pastor [shepherd] and overseers are used interchangeably.

1 Peter 5:1-2

1 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow-elder, ……….. 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; (NIV)

If the church of God is going to be built up and be strong and mature then there must be an ample supply of God-gifted teachers.


ILLUS.: Where there is no solid teaching the church of God remains weak and immature. In Africa today thousands of people are turning to Christ each day but there are no teachers to disciple and train. The leaders of the African Church are saying that unless this situation is addressed many of these converts will simply be christo-pagans. Mixing the gospel in with their animistic beliefs.


Paul was aware of this danger and so wrote to Timothy 2 Timothy 4:2-4 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine [teaching]. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (NIV)

The antidote for false teaching is true teaching. Pastoral teaching is not just a passing on of academic facts but a teaching by word and by example. [Sometimes the task frightens me!!]


I want you to notice that this is a team ministry – God has given all these to the church [ bearing in mind that apostles and prophets no longer exist in the primary sense] this is not a one man task. It is an impossible task for one person. It is also dangerous for it to be the task of one person.


  1. Purpose.


No one person has all the gifts necessary to equip the Church for service. And that is the purpose for which these gifts are given — look at v.12: to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up …


Gifts are not given for selfish use. They are given for the benefit of the body of Christ and for the glory of Christ.


Spiritual gifts are not toys with which to play; they are tools with which to do the Lord’s work effectively.” G Raymond Carlson


We ARE one in Christ – united to each other because we are united to him. Nevertheless we are all different – different gifts and different roles which Christ in his wisdom has given to each of us. It is our responsibility to determine what our gifts and functions are and to fulfill our role within the church of Christ so that the body of believers may be edified and Jesus Christ glorified.







       no one is left out

       the giver chooses the gift





       through his coming

       through his victory

       through his exaltation





       the gifts   apostles



                           pastors / and / – teachers


       the purpose


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