But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men." Ephesians 4:7,8 NKJV
As often as we probably hear the message to be "busy" doing Gods' work, the logical question for many might be "what should I be doing?" That question is, in fact, a very good one for it should be obvious that for the health of the body, we can"t all be doing the same thing. Fortunately for us, God has personally taken care of the confusion that could arise by giving to each of us a special gift, or gifts, that He intends for us to use while fulfilling the responsibilities of our service to Him.
Now experience has taught me that the subject of spiritual gifts can be confusing to many, and occasionally even the source of some controversy. Our God, however, is not a God of confusion so I want to spend some time discussing what the Bible has to say about the gifts He has chosen to bestow on us, and the purpose behind His decision on how to go about that.
No surprise, especially considering how long we have been talking about the body and spiritual fitness, the best way to look at the subject of spiritual gifts is to look at them in light of a picture of a human body and how it works. It may be an oversimplification, but let's imagine our physical body made up of four distinct divisions. One would be the structural system made up of the bones and muscles which support the entire body. Without it, our bodies would just collapse, and we would be nothing but a pile of jello, so obviously it's quite important. Two would be the nervous system, by which the muscles and bones are told what to do, and what direction to do it. Third would be the digestive system by which we take in the nourishment we need in order to grow, and receive the energy needed to fuel the body. Last would be the circulatory system which takes the fuel we consume to the rest of the body in order to sustain life.
When we look at these verses in Ephesians we see that Paul divides the gifts of the body of Christ into two distinct ministries. The first we could call the support ministries, and the second would be the working ministries. Look closely at the following verses.
And He Himself gave some [to be] apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ Ephesians 4:11,12 NKJV
You can see that Paul states there are four specific gifts given to some individuals solely for the purpose of "equipping" other saints for their specific work of ministry. It is this first group I want to discuss today, and next week we will look at the second group. Let's look at these four gifts in light of the four "systems" of the body we have already mentioned.
I think it is no coincidence that with all of the examples of the physical body used in scripture, these verses describing gifts seem to correspond directly the picture of the body we have already painted with it's four distinct divisions. The first gift listed is the apostles, whose job was to lay the foundations, or the support structure which the body of Christ would be built. This gift would be similar to the structural system we have previously mentioned. Second are the prophets, who were individuals who spoke by inspiration of God, revealing His words to men. You could compare this to the nervous system of the body which tells the structural system what to do. The third gift Paul tells us is the gift of evangelism, which is how the body of Christ grows larger. You could look at this as the digestive system in our bodies where all that we need in order to grow is stored for distribution resulting in the growth of the body. Last is the gift of pastor-teachers. In the Greek, this is a phrase and not two separate gifts, so Paul is using two words to describe one gift. We can see where this gift is like our circulatory system which we have already described as giving life to the body by circulating the nourishment we need in order to remain healthy.
The "supporting" gifts are the foundation of the heath and effectiveness of the body of Christ. Without them, the body would collapse and be unable to perform the work for which it was intended. Paul makes it clear that God chooses which gifts to bestow on certain people, therefore He chooses those to whom He wishes to place the responsibilities of gifts supporting the body.
Unfortunately, many might look at this picture and ask "what more is needed"? But remember I said there are two divisions in the body. There are the "support" ministries which we have discussed here, and then there are the 'working" ministries. In order for the body to perform effectively, there is a division of responsibilities that many seem to miss when discussing spiritual gifts. You could look at the support ministries and think they would be able to do everything necessary, but this is not what Paul has described. Look closely at verse 12.
for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
The support gifts are for the purpose of preparing the "saints" for their work. Next week we will look at the "working" gifts and examine what they are and what the saints are expected to do as their "work of ministry" which is very different from those we discussed today.,