Ephesians 4:7-16; Unity in the body of Christ by diversity.

Class Outline:


Our next section of study is EPH 4:7-16 - unity in diversity, “each one” is a contrast to “all,” but with the same injunction to keep the unity of the Spirit.


EPH 4:7-8

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says,


"When He ascended on high,

He led captive a host of captives,

And He gave gifts to men."


The grace given according to the measure of Christ’s gifts is a reference to the special gifts of service. They are for the sole purpose of building up the body of Christ.


Paul uses PSA 68:18 as reference to Christ’s victory and giving to His captives (believer saints) the gifts of His plunder.


The verse isn’t used arbitrarily because it references an ascent. We will look at the psalm in more detail later. The verse shown refers to the conquering of Jerusalem by Israel. It is not surprising that only David could do it. Judah and Benjamin tried after they received their allotted land from Joshua, and they failed. We have already seen that so much of what David does, Jesus does, but Jesus does it perfectly and infinitely better.


Jerusalem would be God’s capital city for His kingdom. He would choose Zion as His holy mountain forever. There the Son of God would die for the world, the same place that Abraham would willingly sacrifice his son Isaac.


Therefore, the conquering and ascent of Zion by David is pivotal in God’s building of His kingdom and Jesus’ ascent to heaven is the fulfillment of the triumph of God to establish His kingdom forever.


1CO 12:4

12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 


That the grace given is according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Comparing this with Paul’s writing in 1Co 12, we wouldn’t conclude that some believers receive greater or lesser gifts, as in some get more than others. We would conclude with certainty that the gifts given differ from one another. There are a variety of gifts, ministries, and effects. So, when we read “the measure” we would view it as a gift being measured out for one particular purpose and then given. If you needed to measure out a piece of drywall for one portion of a wall and then had different measurements for another piece and you attached them both the wall, you wouldn’t say that one was greater or better than another in value.


“measure” = different gifts, ministries, and effects (1CO 12:4).


Imagine Christ measures out your gifts that are particular to you and the circumstances of your life and that one of those might look very much like another person who has the same category of gift (say administration; 1CO 12:28), but because what you administer and the circumstances of your work are different, both gifts have different varieties and effects. If we view it this way, we can imagine Christ measuring out your gift and also measuring out the other member’s gift and their measurements being different. But certainly, one isn’t better or more valuable than another.


It will also be that not all of us will be called to the same amount of work. How much teaching, travelling, suffering did Paul face vs. Peter or John? Paul was called to write more than any other apostle by far. This is true of all in the body of Christ. Wherever God places us in the body and whatever He has predetermined for us to do and how much to do, we must all be humbly content with His choice, trusting His supernatural guidance by faith, and never try to make our own ministry.


In vv. 9-10, Paul interprets and comments on PSA 68:18 in reference to the ascension of Christ.


EPH 4:9-10

(Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)


The Son of God cannot ascend. God is sovereign. He cannot go or attain any higher. Therefore, for Him to ascend, He had to first descend.


David ascended up Zion when he captured Jerusalem. Paul likens this to the ascent of Christ to heaven with His captives. Unlike David, the Son of God had to descend before He could ascend.


David distributed the plunder to his own, and from that plunder he would begin to build the house of God. In the same manner, when Christ ascended, He gave gifts to His own and He began to build His church. As vs. 12 shows us, the gifts Christ gave us are for the purpose of building the church; “to the building up of the body of Christ.”


Then Paul gives only four of the gifts that Christ gave.


It could be that these four were the first four in great use. In other words, first the apostles for the initial building of the church, then the NT prophets for instructing the churches in doctrines that were not yet written down and distributed, and then evangelists with the gift of spreading the gospel to new towns and increasing the span of the church, and then pastors and teachers for the established churches who might by that time have in hand copies of the letters of the NT. That scenario is only a guess. He may be only focused on communication gifts, or perhaps there is no deeper reason for only listing these four gifts.


EPH 4:11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,


Some have a more restricted view of spiritual gifts than I do. A restricted view comes from attempting to make a comprehensive list of the spiritual gifts. And even those who do that cannot all agree on what gifts make the list. Some write of nine gifts of the Spirit and try and neatly, but artificially unite then with the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit in GAL 5:22-23. Some have only three gifts on their list (tongues, prophecy, and healing) and base all divine work on the spectacular.


Comparing all the lists of spiritual gifts written in the NT, we would come up with at least twenty distinct gifts. Moreover, each list diverges widely from the others, and gives its list in an apparently haphazard fashion. This suggests not only that no one list is complete, but that all of them together give no indication that it is an exhaustive catalogue. Plus, of the ones that are written, none of them come with a job description. Not even all the apostles, definitely have the gift of apostleship, had the same ministry. Add to that, Barnabas is called an apostle (“sent by God”), but he is not one of the twelve. What does the gift of “helps” look like, or “mercy” or “administration?” I conclude that there are many gifts and they are not all listed in the scripture.


In Paul’s short list, he only gives us four.


EPH 4:12-16

for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.