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The Gifts In Ephesians 4

By E.L. Bevir


      APOSTLES

      If any man build a house, he will begin by the foundation and will not try to make the roof first.

      It is hardly necessary to call attention to the fact that an apostolic service is analogous to laying a foundation.

      Indeed the great Apostle to the Gentiles uses the figure where responsible work on earth is in question.

      "According to the grace of God which has been given to me, I have laid the foundation, but another builds upon it."

      Again, there is an eminently fundamental character in the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Revelation 21: 14.

      I suppose that in whatever way the gift be considered, whether in ministry especially among the Israelites '' as Peter '' or amongst the nations '' as Paul '' it implies the work of founding.

      The foundations laid, there is no more need of apostolic work; and indeed, as someone has very justly remarked, an apostle would be entirely out of place at the present time.

      We may dismiss every other thing but those gifts which are mentioned in Ephesians 4 '' for that is our subject '' and look, very briefly, at apostolic service after the ascension and glorification of the Head of the church.

      "He has given some apostles", verse 11; this is the first gift mentioned.

      A passage in 1 Corinthians 4: 9 will give us to understand the importance of the mission and its extent; and I think will confirm what we have already noticed.

      As at the end of some great spectacle, the apostles are set forward, as the great crowning event of the whole work of God upon earth.

      The figure is evidently taken from the public games, where the last act was always the most awful, and we recollect the "morituri te salutant!" as we see these men, God's warriors against the powers of evil, brought forth as doomed to death,

      Note: I would call the careful reader's attention to this word as making the figure all the more striking; it was the highest form of a service of danger. ELB they come forth, wondered at by the whole mass of spectators '' world, angels and men; it could be no light or easy task, that of bearing the grand foundation truths of Christianity into the world.

      They must fall, but in the very act of the enemy they should confirm and consolidate by their blood the very foundation that they were laying.

      In hunger and thirst ' the offscouring of the world, the refuse of all ' they were to carry forth the full revelation of God in Christ and to accomplish upon earth the last grand act in the unfolding of God's ways and counsels.

      I well remember having the erroneous idea, from cathedral windows, that the apostles were demi-gods, with their heads surrounded by a halo, exempt from all the ordinary sufferings of men; whereas the word of God shows them to us in all the fragility of the earthen vessels, but at the same time carrying forth the power of God in the most astounding work that had ever been seen.

      All Asia was turned upside down, and wherever the Spirit of God worked Judaism and idolatry had to give place to the truth sent forth by the heavenly Christ.

      An apostle as we all know means 'a sent out one'; and it has been well remarked by another that this is the very first thought in a gift.

      They come out from Christ and bring His message: many of us like the thought of Christ coming to us, but to go out from Him is quite a different thing.

      It is impossible in a short paper to do more than present the grand features of the gifts.

      It would be well, however, to call the attention of the reader to 1 Corinthians 12: 28-29; 15: 9; and 2 Corinthians 11: 5.

      There is a very interesting connection between apostles and prophets '' which two gifts are grouped together in Ephesians 3: 5 '' which we may leave perhaps until we endeavour to investigate the gift of a New Testament prophet.

      The great character of the apostle is being sent out by the Head of the Church in the great mission of founding the assembly upon earth.

      PROPHETS

      "Secondarily prophets" 1 Corinthians 12: 28

      In the passage quoted the gift is second to that of the apostles, although the connection between the two is to be noted.

      I suppose that if we investigate this part of the word of God '' 1 Corinthians '' we shall find that the gift in question implies the revelation of God's mind in connection with Christian truth, that it corresponds to inspiration; indeed, I presume that when the scriptures were completed and there was no further new revelation to be made, the gift of prophecy ceased.

      Of course I mean the gift in the strictest sense: "He has given ' and some prophets"; and I am not speaking merely of action in the assembly.

      There was a certain inspired revelation of God's mind, so that another who might be speaking should be silent to allow the exercise of the former. 1 Corinthians 14: 30.

      The connection with the apostles is found in Ephesians 2: 20 and 3: 5, and should be considered.

      First of all, we find the foundation of the apostles and prophets '' 2: 20 '' where the work of building the assembly is being presented to us; and the two '' apostles and prophets '' are so placed together as to form one object before the mind.

      Note: There is no article before "prophets".

      "The whole class '' apostles and prophets '' is even together in the speaker's mind, as one for the purpose of which he is speaking, as an unity or as a whole", JND on the Greek Article, p. 35.

      To use an illustration, I believe that Smeaton used several kinds of stone, different in themselves, to form the foundation of the Eddystone Lighthouse; they became cemented together and could be looked at as a whole.

      There is an analogous expression as to "pastors and teachers" in chapter 4; but here '' chapter 2 '' it is a work of foundation, and the gift of prophet '' that of bringing out a fresh revelation of God's mind in connection with His counsels in Christ '' is so connected with the apostolic gift, that the two '' different in themselves '' are blocked together as forming the fundamental work of the assembly, in the carrying out of God's plans upon earth.

      This gift has evidently ceased to exist, for there is now no new revelation now that the word of God has been completed '' Colossians 1: 25; and if any one should pretend to have any further revelation, he would deservedly be looked upon as an imposter.

      As we noticed in speaking of apostles, there was a certain work at the beginning of the foundation of the assembly upon earth, that has no place now.

      That there might be an analogous action of the Holy Ghost, in recovering revealed truth with power, and bringing consciences into God's presence through it, I should think no one would deny; but one who would have so blessed a ministry confided to him would be the very last to claim to have the gift of a prophet in the literal true sense of the word.

      We have again Ephesians 3: 5, where the two '' apostles and prophets '' are grouped together as above; and I think that the context will bear out that which I have tried to say on the connection of the two.

      To sum up: a New Testament prophet is one who has a revelation of God's mind made to him in such a way that souls are brought into God's very presence by His own inspired truth, and His counsels in Christ made known with all authority over the heart.

      Whilst an apostle was going forth in the active forming of assemblies, the prophet declared God's mind in such a way that all spiritual could at once bow to its authority, as any true-hearted soul will bow at the present time to the completed scriptures.

      PASTORS

      A pastor and a shepherd are the same thing; and the gift is mentioned in Ephesians 4: 11.

      In the New Testament it is a gift in the church, and given by the exalted Head with other gifts, for the perfecting of the saints.

      Bearing this in mind, I think we shall find several passages, in the Old Testament that will greatly help us to understand what the true force of a pastor's gift is.

      I think it will be found that it accompanies the perception of what is God's mind for His people at any given time.

      David was a man after God's own heart, and had the heart of a shepherd. "These sheep, what have they done?" said he, when he saw the destroying angel stretch out his hand upon Jerusalem.

      Then again, to use another illustration, in that beautiful part of Zechariah where the Spirit of Christ foretells the awful appearing of the idol shepherd, the pastoral heart of Messiah himself is unfolded in a striking way.

      Who can read the story of Beauty and Bands, and the value of thirty shekels of silver set upon the great Shepherd of Israel, and not be touched?

      And again we remember His heart who had compassion on the multitudes, because they were like sheep with no shepherd. Mark 6: 34.

      It has been said that a true pastoral gift is rare, and that there is a great apparent need of such;

      Christ alone, the exalted head of the church, gives the gifts, and we depend upon Him, and wherever His gifts appear and make themselves felt in active ministry of the word, we should praise Him.

      I believe that many would lower a pastoral gift to the mere fact of visiting and reading to the sick and lonely; I do not deny that this forms part of it, but I would call attention to the fact that the true care of and feeding the flock of God is a far higher thing.

      It consists in applying to souls with divine power the truths that are actually in God's mind for them.

      To refer one instance to the prophets as a kind of illustration, surely the pastoral work in Israel was confided to those who had Jehovah's thoughts, and the reverse was the development of false shepherds who should culminate in the very Antichrist himself, "the idol shepherd". Compare too, John 10.

      The zealous care, and patient visiting and exhorting the saints, as in Paul's night and day work, in following up and looking after souls, would form rather the outward action and mode of the pastor's gift.

      Admitting freely all this, and the diligent work of feeding, the question must always arise as to what kind of food is administered;

      Note: It is a gift no doubt to make souls receive spiritual food. It is not easy even in material things to make it acceptable. ELB and the fact before us is that the heart of a pastor is first concerned for the glory of God and His thoughts before using his gift towards the saints.

      The exercise of this wonderful gift will no doubt tend to gather and to keep together the sheep, and though in its working it may often be employed towards individuals,

      I fully believe it will have the "one flock" in view, and a strong desire for the flock's welfare.

      Moses had this feeling when Jehovah told him that he must die. Numbers 27: 7.

      To sum up: a pastor and a shepherd is the same thing, he has God's mind as to His people, and the faculty of taking care of and feeding them according to that mind.

      It may be said, "What then is the difference between a pastor and a teacher?" I will leave this interesting question for another short paper.

      TEACHERS

      The gift of a teacher is a peculiar one: he will not only propound truth, but will communicate it in such a way that it will remain in the souls of his hearers.

      It is like a man engraving on copper-plate with a steel cutter; it is strictly incisive.

      This is stating in the simplest way the effect of the gift; and now let us look a little more at its nature, comparing it with that of a pastor.

      I believe that the latter involves solicitude and care '' as a shepherd would look after his sheep, giving them that food which is needful in season; whereas a teacher will lay down in clear lines the meaning of God's word, cutting it straight in such a way that he can say, 'This is the truth, no matter what any received opinion may be'.

      It is evident that there must be a direct appeal to scripture in order to be able to assert anything in this way.

      No book written by man, no theological treatise of any kind can ever serve as a basis of appeal; but the scriptures alone form a certain standard, an infallible oracle inspired by the Spirit who never makes mistakes.

      A teacher '' I mean of course a real bona fide gift of Christ to the assembly '' will appeal always to scripture, nor will he go by any other rule.

      The gift is rare; and we are told not to be many teachers, which I apprehend to mean not to be bringing out our own opinions and interpretations '' as the Babel of voices of conflicting schools of doctrine in Christendom '' for what is not of God will certainly be condemned.

      There is an order in God's assembly that is divine, and one teacher's gift will never clash with another.

      I believe that the great characteristic of this gift is that it will leave indelible marks on souls prepared to receive God's revealed mind; as the incisions in my illustration of the engraved copper-plate.

      I suppose that we shall all admit that if the gift exist there will be something to communicate; it may not be instantly apprehended '' indeed I think that a certain resistance is good, that is, to follow my illustration, that the copper be not too soft '' for God's great truths are received through exercise and real work in the soul.

      What I assert is, that the marks be left indelibly graven, when the teacher's work be properly done, and God's word is communicated, that certitude is the result, the full assurance of understanding.

      A heart and mind subject to God will receive His truth even though it may not understand all at once.

      Thus Peter, speaking of the great teacher of the Gentiles, said that the "beloved brother" had written some things "hard to be understood" in the very epistles where he had brought out the truth "according to the wisdom given unto him".

      The apostle to the scattered sheep of Israel did not refuse the doctrine on this account.

      As in every other gift, this one will be known by its effects; and its first and great effect will certainly be a deep incisive work in the soul.

      EVANGELISTS

      It will not be denied that the work of an evangelist is to proclaim the gospel, that is, the good news from God.

      The Person of Him who has accomplished the work is to be presented, and so we read that Philip "evangelised unto him Jesus", Acts 8: 35.

      A good instance of the work of an evangelist is the well known history of the Philippian jailor, to whom, terrified and with a drawn sword actually in his hand in despair, the apostles announced the Person and work of Christ.

      I would not for one moment deny that there is a diversity in different cases of this gift; but if we look at the New Testament and keep to that which it teaches as to the good news, we shall find that an evangelist, properly speaking, is one who makes known "tidings of great joy" to those who stand in need of it.

      Again, I shall venture to say that the evangelist '' I am speaking of the gift '' will proclaim God's estimate of the Person and work of Christ, and this is good news indeed to any who have not received it.

      If it be asked if this excludes the work in a conscience, and deep sense of guilt and need produced in souls, I should say '' Certainly not; but the announcing of the good news is that which meets the guilt and need, which may very likely have existed some time before the evangelist brought the happy message.

      In Acts 8 the need and desire had been created in the poor man's heart before Philip was guided to him and proclaimed Jesus to him.

      In Acts 16 the terror and guilt had been produced in the jailor before Paul and Silas drove them from his heart with the gospel.

      The great power of an evangelist is the light; and in the most blessed statements as to God's activity in grace, we find the woman lighting a candle and finding the drachma by it.

      I shall never forget the effect of light in an old underground vault, from which the sun's rays had been excluded for years; the more the illumination proceeded, the more clearly did the state of things appear, and the more conspicuous did those reptiles become which shun the light.

      Now it is God that converts the soul, and not the evangelist; but he brings that which is joyful news to the lost.

      The greatest importance then will be attached to the terms in which the gospel is presented; and the true gift of the evangelist consists in giving the divine message rightly.

      It is of greatest moment, for it will give a determinate character to the evangelised soul: "As ye have received the Christ, Jesus the Lord", etc.

      Of this it may be well to say one word. The great point, I believe, will be: 'What is God's estimate of Him [Jesus Christ] who is announced?'

      The good news of God would not be adequately presented if they were lowered to meeting man's need and guilt, and nothing more.

      The guilt and need are met, but in God's own way, so that the good news is the power of God unto salvation to the believer, and the divine character of the message will be at once seen in him.

      I believe that in all cases where the feelings have been worked upon so as to produce an impulsive acceptation of Christ, that such work falls short of an evangelist's.

      I suppose that there can be no doubt that what is always proved in the long run to be the work of God is that which remains and answers to His thoughts, to His mind, as to Christ; and surely this is the very essence of the glad tidings of the grace and glory of God.

      Perhaps the pure gift of an evangelist is far less common than we suppose, though we all may evangelise according to our measure; an evangelist of Ephesians 4 is not merely synonymous with 'one who holds evangelical services'.

      It is a very high and blessed gift, and we may look to our Lord to raise up and sustain such.

      UNTIL WE ALL ARRIVE

      The grand object in view in Ephesians 4: 12 is the "perfecting of the saints"; and it is to this end that the gifts have been given to the church by its glorified Head.

      This verse has very often been considered. There are two dependent clauses attached to the first one already alluded to, referring to the work of the ministry and the edification of the body of Christ.

      It is of the first that I should like to say a few words: it denotes a point to be reached, and anything that stops short of it would be a wrong view of the true exercise of gifts.

      Note: See the admirable note in the 'New Translation' as to the preposition in this case. ELB

      Nothing could be ampler than this passage: all the saints are in view, and each saint to be fully developed.

      Again, there is the full knowledge of the Son of God, and the measure of the fulness of the stature of Christ.

      So wide and glorious a view of ministry, in which the whole company of saints from Pentecost till the completion of the assembly comes fully into sight, must at once deliver a faithful soul from narrow ideas as to the exercise of gifts.

      A stupendous work is being accomplished, all is proceeding toward one end that is to be reached '' the perfecting of the saints.

      There is nothing of the first man here: the gifts are given from Him who has led captivity captive and ascended up on high, the source of all is in heaven, and all the gifts have been bestowed for the one end '' the full development of the saints.

      It will be said that this work takes place on earth, whatever the source maybe.

      Exactly; and that is what makes the subject so important for us all '' none the less so, that it has been so disregarded.

      In waking up to it, the blessed Lord's heart of love to the assembly comes before us together with the unfailing resources which are in Him, the Head, and His own gifts to the assembly.

      Any such thought as private ministry, or anything short of the whole blessed end, is precluded; and I believe that there will be a strenuous desire to find out what one's gift is, and to use it for the whole church of God.

      There can be no jealousy here, not merely because jealousy is a poor thing, but because the heart has Christ's end in view and becomes enlarged in the wonderful vista of the ascended Head bestowing the gifts '' which no enemy can intercept '' to His beloved assembly, in view of the perfecting of the saints.

      There is ample room for all, and the Head has not bestowed less than the spiritual treasure alluded to in Acts 2: 33; the end and object then of all ministry will be this perfect growing up of the saints.

      I shall never forget the effect produced upon my mind years ago on being shown, in Italy, a wonderful carving, giving the full articulation of a perfect human frame: there was a sense of satisfaction in seeing a perfectly developed man.

      It is not physical development here, but the reaching to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, and let us notice that whilst the passage takes in all the saints, it presents to us, at the same time, the perfection of each.

      In a short article like this, the fact can be presented, and no more; but I will say that the first practical effect will be immense.

      The heart will be aroused to Christ's glory and to His present work, there will be exercise as to His beloved assembly; prayer and awakening of conscience as to one's place, and a deep desire to answer to the mind of the glorious Head in using whatever He shall have confided to one for the whole assembly of God.

      Exercise too in receiving, from the gifts He has given, that which comes from Himself for the good of His beloved assembly.

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