World English Bible translation
4:7But to each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 4:8 Therefore he says, "When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." 4:9 Now this, "He ascended," what is it but that he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 4:10 He who descended is the same also who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. 4:11 He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers; 4:12 for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ; 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 4:14 that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; 4:15 but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ; 4:16 from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love.
To achieve the unity of the Spirit that Paul wrote about in the previous lesson, he goes on here to say that Christ has given "gifts" to His people. Spiritual gifts are much in fashion these days. Many books have been written and much has been said of the gifts of the Spirit. In this passage, Paul gives the purpose for spiritual gifts. The first basis for these gifts is that their proper use is to bring about the unity of the body of Christ that Paul has been trying to describe throughout this epistle. The use and purpose of these gifts are not meant to divide the body, but to bring it into the fullness of Christ.
In verse 8, Paul uses a quote from Psalm 68:18 to re-enforce the giving of gifts. "When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." Because of His death on the cross (His descending into "the lower parts of the earth") and His ascending (His glorification by God), Jesus is in a unique position to distribute gifts to His people. Like a reigning sovereign, He will distribute His bounty to His people.
Paul lists the gifts to which he is referring. "He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some,shepherds and teachers…" These are not meant to be an exhaustive list of the gifts that Christ distributes, only the foremost that Paul is discussing. Paul says that these gifts are given so that the body of Christ will be strengthened and built up. The proper exercise of these gifts will be that the body (church) of Christ will grow in quantity and quality. People will become more like Christ, sacrificing themselves for each other and loving each other as He loves.
And, this will continue until the body becomes a "full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." The gifts will be exercised until we reach the unity of the faith and the work and actions of the body are identical to the work and action of Christ, Himself. Only then will we no longer be children, but adult, ready for the work that God has planned for us. We will be solidly grounded in the truth of Christ so that we are no longer tricked with error. We will speak the truth in love. We will grow up "in all things" to be as Christ, who is our head.
People spend a great deal of time and money today on exercise programs and equipment. Here is God's exercise program. Christ has given gifts to men and women of His choosing. He is building up His body toward a goal that only He can see. Through truth and love His people will grow into the image that He has chosen. We are being built up piece by piece.
Paul has earlier written that we are being built into a building in which God will dwell throughout all eternity. Here the image is that we are a body. The head is directing the growth and conditioning of each cell, each member or portion of its body. One day we will be fitted and working in concert and we will have attained our complete form. And, that form will be the body through which Christ will move and act throughout eternity.
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