The Epistle To The Ephesians
Christ’s Ministry In Ascension
“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 led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now He that ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 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 fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:7-16).
Christ to Fill All Things. From the ascended Christ a measure of grace is given unto every one of us, that measure to contribute its quota of edification to the body of Christ; Christ deciding what measure will be given to each for spiritual increase in the body. We may believe, however, that with its exercise there will be growth in grace and therefore in the gift. The subject of “gifts,” however, is still further treated, for we are told that when Christ “ascended up on high,” after annulling the evil one, and in triumph leading “captivity captive,” and having emancipated those in bondage also, He “gave gifts unto men.” We are shown in Psalm 68:18, that as Man He received gifts in connection with their use among mankind. The “gifts,” then, whom Christ sends among mankind are men who carry out their commission. But now “that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth;” but is now ascended “that He might fill all things.” He is going to fill a universe of bliss with images of Himself reproduced in a redeemed people.
His Work Among Mankind. We are told that “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” Seeing, however, that we are said to be built upon “the foundation” of the apostles and prophets (2:20), and as the foundation is already laid, that work being done, we will confine our attention to what is said as to “evangelists; pastors and teachers.” All of these gifts are expressive of the power of a triumphant Christ, power that is irresistible. No power can hold for one moment anyone in captivity who submits to Jesus as Lord. The most determined, the most hostile, the most vile, the most cruel, the most humane, the most ignorant, the most learned, will be instantly emancipated from sin and Satan the moment he confesses Jesus as Lord, believing in his heart that God has raised Him from the dead.
Examples of His Work. They are manifold and sometimes astonish us by the far-seeing vision that serves its purpose in so many unexpected ways. A Saul of Tarsus “breathing out threatenings and slaughter” is brought down from his arrogant eminence, and becomes the obedient and suffering minister of the faith he sought to destroy. The libertine Augustine, over whom a mother wept and prayed, receives a Bible message that drives out the evil that enslaved him, by attaching him eternally to Christ in glory, and that so effectually that he cannot refrain from writing his immortal “Confessions.” Martin Luther, a German priest, having crossed the Alps, salutes Rome as “sanctified by the blood of martyrs.” But in that very city, while ascending what was called “Pilate’s Staircase,” on his knees, is effectually searched and enlightened by one Bible text: “The just shall live by faith!” and is thenceforth a messenger of truth.
An elderly minister was told there had been only one person added to the church in a year, and this a boy. Discouraged, he wanted to be taken home to the Lord. When in this condition, the boy visited him. He had come to ask if some day he might be a “missionary.” Evenutally, the minister passed on to his rest. Long afterward a veteran missionary from Africa held with rapt interest audiences in London and elsewhere as he pleaded for the unevangelized. Who was he? He was Robert Moffat, once the single convert of a year, and “only a boy.”
Who could do things like these? It was a triumphant Christ. And let us be assured of this: Whatever apparent weakness may attend some of the religious movements of the day, at this very moment on this sin-stained earth, in the very throes of helplessness, there is only one thing that works deliverance, and that is the gospel. Let anyone who questions this, put it to the test personally.
Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. The first of these is included in the same plan as the two latter, so that they may work toward the same end, even although their work differs. The former obtains converts and thus furnishes material upon which the two latter are put to work by the Lord. That is why the phrase “and some pastors and teachers” links both together. For the converts need “pastors and teachers.” The pastor is a “gift” from Christ as definitely as the evangelist or teacher. He may preach a good gospel, and now and again a precious soul may be gained for Christ. He may minister very acceptably among the saints, but that does not make him an evangelist or teacher. His shepherd work consists of his wise application of truth to particular cases as they come before him. On the other hand, the teacher unfolds in an orderly way the great body of divine teaching in the Scriptures, thereby greatly helping the Lord’s people by the wisdom of God set forth in the Holy Scriptures that are of perpetual application in every age and circumstance, and thus always with a view to testimony.
The work of these gifts is for “the perfecting of the saints,” so that all function together for “the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Christian Maturity. The ministry we have been considering will continue “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 fulness of Christ” (4:13). The word “come” (or arrive) indicates movement of heart that apprehends the truth in power and is swayed by it; it is the realization in this case of what is involved in Christ’s formation in Himself of “one new man” (2:15). This is what the Apostle means by the use of the word “perfect,” full-grown. When “we all” arrive at this, such an one is what is termed full-stature, it will be completion, it will be the full stature of the Church, which is “the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.”
The present apprehension of this will prevent immaturity in Christians. Otherwise they will be like “children (babes), tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” They will often be perplexed about things, but ought not to be blown off their feet by any “wind of doctrine” brought to their attention. But as safeguarded, they will be “speaking (holding) the truth in love,” and growing up “into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ, from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” For from the Head comes grace to the members as fitted together. In their affections they grow up to the Head, always having Him in view; so that there is increase tending to the self-edification of the body in love. This is in an organism, not an organization, hence, as has been well said, there can be no “loose screw” to jar the harmony the Head intended.