Ephesians 4 is the transition chapter:
In the first three chapters, Paul taught us about the wealth that we have positionally because we are "in Christ." The last three chapters teach us about how to walk experientially because of that wealth.
The oneness of the Body of Christ is in full focus in Ephesians 4. We have learned from the previous chapter that we are one Body positionally because of Christ. The way we achieve that oneness experientially is by relating to one another in humility (having infinite and inherent value but no more value than anyone else), gentleness (power under control), patience (believing God's timetable is good), and tolerance (willing to put up with someone or something in a spirit of selfless love). We will talk more about these characteristics when we discuss the parallel passage in Colossians 3 (he wrote Ephesians and Colossians at about the same time).
Our Wealth Our Walk Called by grace to belong to His body (chap. 1) Walk worthy of your calling—the unity of the Body (4:1–16) Raised from the dead (2:1–10) Put off the grave clothes (4:17–5:17); walk in purity Reconciled (2:11–22) Walk in harmony (5:18–6:9) Christ’s victory over Satan is the mystery (chap. 3) Walk in victory (6:10–24)
(The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, Ephesians 4:1-16, p. 35)
Paul talked about the unity of the Body in 4:1-6. In 4:7-11, he talks about the diversity of the Body through the individual spiritual gifts. We have already talked about spiritual gifts in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.
If you are studying this book by itself and have not already done this in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, here is a link to one of my handouts on the subject of spiritual gifts:
This sheet is the result of 60 hours of study based on the four primary chapters on the gifts: 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4.
Here is an online version of the test that I use in my workshops:
After you take the test, take the "Spiritual Gifts at a Glance" sheet to some of your closest friends and ministry partners to confirm your gifts.
I call these people a "clearness committee" because sometimes we do not always see clearly the gifts God has given us but others do!
Now that we have gone through all of these chapters, let's look at the pattern of epistles written by Paul:
The alternatives to this are:
(Concept: ©Warren Wiersbe. Diagrams: ©Carol Weaver)
God has given each of us spiritual gifts (most of us have a "gift mix") so that we might minister to others and let them minister to us. This way, we all grow spiritually.
I want to clarify what is meant by Christ ascending to the "lower parts of the earth" (4:9-10). I have heard that this means that Jesus descended into hell, but most commentators believe that it means He descended from heaven to earth. They believe it is referring either to His Incarnation (when Jesus came to earth as a man but also God) and/or His eventual death, burial, and resurrection where He attained victory over sin and eventually gave gifts to men (4:8). Ephesians 4:7 means that gifted believers were given to the church.
Five kinds of gifted people are listed in this chapter. Apostles and prophets form the foundation of the church (2:20; 3:5). Some theological persuasions believe that as the apostles died out, so did these two gifts. The rationale is that apostle is not mentioned after Acts 16:4. They believe once the foundation of the church was laid, there was no more need for these gifts. Other persuasions believe that these gifts are still relevant for today. See the "Spiritual Gifts at a Glance" worksheet for further study of these gifts.
The last three gifts are really two gifts, evangelist and pastor/teacher. Pastors and teachers are listed together because the article "the" occurs before pastor and not before teacher in the original Greek. In addition, the Greek word for "and" (kai) between pastor and teacher is different from the "and" (de) that separates the other gifts. It probably refers to two characteristics of the same person. It is called the gift of "Shepherding" in the handout that I linked above. (If you have been reading the Bible Book Club for a while, you know that I have this gift!)
The gifts are for the purpose of preparing God's people for works of service in order to build up the Body of Christ so that we achieve experiential unity and maturity (see above) and are more like Christ in all of His fullness (1:23; 3:19). The biggest evidence of this will be our love for one another.
We are not only to walk in unity but also in holiness. We are to lay aside the "old self" that we learned about in Ephesians 2 and put on the "new self" because of our positional relationship in Christ Jesus. He concludes the chapter by talking about specific actions that we need to "put off" and "put on." Paul exhorts us all to live experientially like the people we have become positionally.
If you have not done it yet, click on the links to the test and "Spiritual Gifts at a Glance" handout. Get some people together and explore your gifts. It is very FUN!
The best way to discover your gifts is to go out and serve and then reevaluate how it went. Some people do not score high on certain gifts because they have never been in a position to use it. Read my handout about this subject: "How Can I Discover My Spiritual Gift."
I am sorry this was so long, but I have this shepherding gift that loves to help people understand and apply their gifts! :) I cannot tell you how exciting it has been for me to function in my gifting, especially since 2006 when we made the radical decision to be under leadership that nurtured and encouraged us to exercise those gifts!
Lord, teach us to love as one. Teach us to use our gifts to build up the Body of Christ and bring glory to Your name in the world. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.