THE MEASURED GIFTS OF CHRIST
Ephesians 4:7-8 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on high, He lead captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
In order to accomplish the will of God; to offer salvation to the world, it was necessary for there to be both unity and diversity within the body of Christ, and within each Christian. Unity was required in that there is only one God, one Lord, one Spirit, one hope, one faith, one body, and one baptism (Vss. 3-6 above). Then beginning inthe lesson text, Paul, as he wrote to the saints at Ephesus, told them, as well as us today, that the individual Christians making up the one body of Christ, His church, are given diverse gifts, or abilities. Not one gift, but many different gifts. From this text we know that it takes a diversity of Christian abilities to effectively maintain the unity in Christ Jesus. Different gifts or abilities are necessary for each individual member of the body of Christ in order to achieve the common edification of the body as a whole.
We can refer to Paul's letter to the Christians of Rome to help explain the lesson text. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another (Rom. 12:4-5). Each person that hears, believes, and obeys God's will, is baptized into the body of Christ. That one body is His church, and as such it was known as the church of Christ. All members belong to Christ, and, therefore, are called Christians.
In the lesson text, we are told that all members have varying talents and abilities, and, therefore, they have different duties and responsibilities. Not to achieve different individual goals, but to accomplish the common goal of the unified church as a whole. That goal is the same that was given to the apostles by Jesus Christ, and has been passed down to every individual Christian from its original commission: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matt. 28:19-20, See Mark 16:15-16). The mission of the church is one, but the duties of each individual Christian are different. It is through this diversity that unity is achieved within Christ's church.
In the following verses of his epistle to saints in Rome, Paul explained the need for varying abilities within the church. At that time, the written word of God was not complete and available to all, therefore some were given the miraculous ability and responsibility to prophesy, or teach God's word by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Other duties were to be filled by those members having the natural abilities to minister, teach, exhort, give financially, rule, and show mercy (See verses 6-8).
Further, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so is Christ (1 Cor. 12:12). Here, Paul uses the physical body of mankind to explain the spiritual body of Christ. The physical body has many members, or parts; each has feet, hands, ears, a nose, a head, a heart, a mind, etc. All of those members are needed in order to properly function as one unit - the physical body (See 1 Cor. 14-21). Like this example, Paul tells the Corinthian brethren, ye are the body of Christ (Vs. 27), having different gifts to perform different duties, as necessary in order to accomplish the unified mission of the church of Christ - to bring God's message of salvation to their own congregation as well, as to all they were able to reach throughout the world.
Most of the words contained in verse 8, of the lesson text, are quoted from Psalm 69:18. However there is much debate whether the wording used in this Psalm carries the same meaning as Paul used in this passage. As used by Paul, we learn this about the ascension of Jesus into heaven, after His resurrection from the grave. This we know, that Jesus was then, and is now, seated at the right hand of God in heaven, as King over all things in heaven and on earth. When this took place, Paul says two things occurred. First, Jesus led captivity captive. This was Jesus' triumphal moment - Satan, sin, and death had been overcome - the spiritual battle of Christ had been won, and the physical battle of Satan had been lost. With these enemies of God now being bound, and made captive, the example was given that all mankind, through obedience to the will of God, that is, by becoming a Christian, they have been assured that they, too, are able to win the same battle against the sinful ways of the world.
Secondly, when Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave gifts unto men. As we have noted above, not all gifts were the same, and by their diversity, the unity necessary in the body of Christ will be achieved. Indeed, the saints at Ephesus at that time, and all saints in the body of Christ today, have a valuable responsibility, in the body of Christ, to use their varied talents to their fullest extent possible.
We are to use the Measured Gifts of Christ given to all members of His body. One body having many members - Let us labor in unity!