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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on May 10, 2017 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; May 10, 2017 from Ephesians 7-10

Theme: Jesus has the authority to give His church whatever ‘gifts’ it needs to serve Him.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

We are about to come to a very wonderful portion of Ephesians—the portion in which we are told about the ministry of the church in edifying itself in love (Ephesians 4:11-16). It’s a very significant passage in which we are given a clear picture of what our Lord intends true ‘church life’ to look like. It’s a passage that stresses to us the role each one of us plays in edifying one another. But before Paul gives that wonderful description to us, he is led first—in verses 7-10—to affirm to us the authority and power that the Lord Jesus Himself possesses to give the church everything it needs to do its ‘edifying’ work.

This is a very encouraging passage; because It affirms to us that every one of us who are redeemed in Christ, and who are made a part of His ‘body’ by grace, have not only a significant part to play; but that we are also—each one—equipped by Christ in a unique way to play that part for each other. If ever there was a passage to look to to help you and I appreciate our place in the body, it’s this one!

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Note first the great affirmation that the apostle Paul makes in verse 7; that …


Paul had just spoken in verses 4-6 about the principles that serve as the basis for our unity together in the body of Christ. This unity is expressed in—and maintained by the exercise of—a diversity of ‘gifts’. Paul says, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (By the way; what a difference this is from the viewpoint of the unbelieving world. The world around us today emphasizes “diversity” almost as a thing in and of itself; but offers no unifying principle as the context for that diversity. But God provides diversity in “unity” in the church. The ‘unity in diversity’ of the church is a picture of God’s own being. There are three divine Persons in the Trinity—distinct in individual subsistence as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and with specific roles that are unique to each Person; and yet there is, in the unity of their being, only one God. In a similar way, His church is made of many individuals with unique gifts and callings; and yet they are bound together as one body.)

There are, in the passage before us, three distinct words that are translated “gift”. Generally speaking, the first word that is used, charis (v. 7; translated “grace”), highlights the grace of the giver (see Romans 6:23). The second word, dorea (v. 7), highlights the gratuitous nature of the gift (see Ephesians 3:7). The third word, doma (v. 8; which is a Greek translation, in this case, of the Hebrew word mattānâ), speaks in a basic way of the concrete nature of the gift itself (see Philippians 4:17). When Paul speaks of a “grace” given to each one of us, he is using the word charis; and is saying that to each one of us a “grace” is given (a gift given in love by the gracious Lord). In fact, in the original language, we’re told that “the grace” was given to each one of us—suggesting that it is one great act of God’s grace unequally distributed to each one. What unity!

And just think of it. To each and every one of us a portion of “the grace” is given. In the original language, Paul goes out of his way to express that this truly is a gift given to each one of us individually. Not one of our Lord’s redeemed people are left out; but each is gifted for the service of the body as a whole. (Paul gives us a wonderful picture of this, in great detail, in 1 Corinthians 12.) And note that this is given to each “according to the measure of Christ’s gift [dorea]” (or, as it’s translated in the New International Version, “as Christ apportioned it”). As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:18, “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” You are what you are in the body, and I am what I am in the body, all according to our Lord’s gracious plan—and all as a gift of His unmerited grace to one another.

If you want to find God’s gift to you in the body of Christ, look at one another! How much we should matter to each other!

Then, note that Paul shows us how …


In verse 8, he points our attention back to the words of King David in Psalm 68:18 and writes,

Therefore He says:

When He ascended on high,

He led captivity captive,

And gave gifts to men” (v. 8).

(The “He” here may be speaking of David; but it is ultimately God who spoke through him.)

If you were to go back to Psalm 68, you would find that King David is writing a song of praise to God about His rich blessings to His people—particularly in the light of salvation (see especially verses 19-20). And David uses this phrase—strange to our ears—about leading ‘captivity captive’. But it’s a phrase that is also used in other places in Scripture. The prophetess Deborah used it back in Judges 5:12; and the prophet Isaiah used it in Isaiah 14:2. It speaks of the way that a conquering king or general would go out to deliver his people from their captors; and in the process gain such victory that he takes not only the captives home, but also takes the captors captive in his victory march. It’s the picture of total victory—one that’s described for us in 2 Corinthians 2:14; “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ …”

And note that, because of our Lord’s great victory over sin and the devil (having destroyed him who had the power over death—the devil; and having released those who were subject to bondage because of the fear of death; see Hebrews 2:14-15), in victory; just like a conquering general would shower the gifts of spoil upon his own people, Jesus the Son of God now “gave gifts to men”.

The idea that our Lord would give gifts to those He saves, then, is an idea that is not new. It was promised in the Scriptures long ago. It underscores His victory as our Savior.

And finally, note how Paul affirms that …


Most translations put the next two verses in parentheses in order to show that it is a break in thought. Logically, Paul would be going right from verse 8 to verse 11, where he then begins to explain the gifts. But before he does, he says, “(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)”

To say that our Lord is the one that David spoke of—the one who “ascended on high”—would be to suggest that He first left His position on high at some point in time and “descended” to the “lower parts of the earth”. Some suggests that the phrase “lower parts” speaks simply of the idea of His incarnation. He left heavenly glory, became ‘flesh’, and walked on earth (“the lower”, as it is in some texts) as one of us (John 1:14). Others, however, see this as expressing how, in death, He descended into the lower places of the dead (Sheol). (The idea that He descended to “hell”—that is, the place of eternal judgment for sin—is not found in the scripture, but rather is suggested from a translation of the Apostle’s Creed.) And if this later idea (that is, that He descended to Sheol) is the correct one, then this may be what Peter was speaking of when he wrote that Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, “went and preached to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19).

The Lord Jesus went to all places that human beings can be in either their lostness or their salvation—from the lowest point of death to the highest point of glorification—to capture all of captivity. Right now, He sits victoriously, in full humanity at the right hand of God, with a name that is above every name (Philippians 2:5-11). He who descended has also ascended; and has conquered all (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Ephesians 1:20-23; and Colossians 1:19-20)! And Paul’s point is that Jesus now has full authority to give everything to His church that it needs—appointing gifts to each redeemed member as He chooses—in order for it to build itself in love.

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By Jesus’ own authority, dear brothers and sisters, each one of us is uniquely gifted to serve the body! Each one of us matters to each other! Let’s serve each other, then, faithfully and prayerfully under the authority of our victorious Lord Jesus!

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