Ephesians 4, sometimes we might be inclined to imbibe some of the spirit of the world in the time we are living in. We might think everything is going wrong, and could not be as good as in past days. God is trying to convince us that there are good days yet, and still better days ahead. We have seen, heard and tasted many good things, but He would like to show us there are still better things for us yet. We value the fellowship and help of the workers, both old and young.
There has been bread in these meetings here already, and it has been given in the Spirit. We have learned through broken experiences how to value a companion. Perhaps too often we use the word “I” instead of “we.” Good to realize we could not be where or what we are without the help of others.
Ephesians 4:1, Paul was a prisoner in the Lord. There have been many experiences that might have taken us out of God’s family if we were not prisoners of the Lord. Paul proved that every time there was an inclination on his part to break out of prison, there were certain things that held him in. The Lord was round about His people. When Paul got to the fences, he always saw God’s love, care and provision that softened his heart and kept him in and moved him to go no further. It is good when God can soften our hearts when we have been hardened and inclined to take our own way.
Ephesians 4:2, one of the things that Satan would try to hinder us in and probably has often succeeded, is that when there has been a little success, we have developed a wrong spirit, and instead of keeping lowly and meek, we have been exalted. If we are to be worthy of the vocation wherewith we have been called, we must keep lowly and meek. The times we feel the most worthy may be the time when we are the most unworthy.
Ephesians 4:7, “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” With the gifts, God has given us grace. In Acts, Paul spoke of the Gospel of grace. Those who have accepted this Gospel and the gift of grace can have other gifts, also. Sometimes when a friend goes to a foreign land where we could never go, they send us useful gifts, that give us some idea of the customs in that country. We learn things in that way that we could learn in no other way. We have something far more wonderful in Christ, who has gone to receive a Kingdom and has sent us gifts that are products of that Kingdom.
Ephesians 4:11, “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;”
The first gift was Apostles. Any person who has forsaken all and gone forth into the Harvest field could be classed among the Apostles. Some seem to set themselves to excel in one particular point of these five gifts, and they don’t seem to be so very well balanced. Others have developed some of each, which keeps them well balanced. An apostle means a person whom God has called and sent. There is evidence that He seals their labors by giving them fruit. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that they were the seal of his apostleship. In Matthew 13, a sower went forth to sow. He was not forced to go, but went willingly. Those who sow in tears shall reap with joy.
The next gift was Prophets. When we first went forth to preach, the problem was what we should say. One of the sweetest experiences in our lives has been when we were willing to pass through the struggles, spending time in prayer, which brought us a little message from God for others. The way the Samaritan woman at the well learned that Jesus was a Prophet was by His words and Spirit.
The third gift was Evangelists. Someone has said that an Evangelist is a person who can make living for God look good and sound good to others. One woman gave her testimony once, saying what helped her most was the harmony she saw in the lives of God’s servants – even when they spent the second year together. She had not seen harmony like that in other preachers.
The fourth gift was Pastors. They know what it was to dwell in green pastures, like David, because God leads them there. God leads and feeds them, and they in turn can do the same for others. They have a real care for God’s sheep. In Matthew 10, Jesus sent out preachers in six pairs. How important it is to have true fellowship together. He sent them to the lost sheep. Those who would preach successfully need, first of all, to be obedient and submissive to God.
The last gift was Teachers. Nicodemus told Jesus, “We know you are a teacher sent from God.” He had seen things in Jesus’ life that convinced him He could teach by example as well as by words. A person who is a good pupil will also make a good teacher. Those who have had to study hard to learn their lessons will have patience in teaching others.
God has given these same gifts to us and we need to be careful how we use them. There are many wonderful things in the Bible about these gifts and also much to warn us of what will happen to people who misuse them.
Verse 12, “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” These gifts were given for the perfecting of the saints. Every good thing God puts into the life of His servants is to show others the possibility of aiming at and seeking after the same. Everybody cannot be a Bishop or an Elder, but all can aim at being what a Bishop should be. Saints are wonderfully privileged in having even the youngest worker among them. It can have a very steadying influence upon them.
Verse 13, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” These gifts are given until we all come into the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. None of us have attained to that yet. The Lord would not like to see us remaining just as children, but He wants to see us growing like Christ, who is our Elder Brother and Example.
[Arthur Benton was born December 11, 1885 in Staffordshire, England. He went into the work in 1910 and continued in the work until his death in Somerset, Pennsylvania on February 6, 1981. He is buried in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.]