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Ephesians 4:1-16 – Growing up into Christ

Summary

Just as God has offered the gracious gift of salvation to the Gentiles, so God also offers gifts to the Christian community aimed at helping those saved by grace to mature in the faith and attain "the full stature of Christ."

Analysis

The author borrows a text from Psalm 68:18 to speak of Christ as one who "gave gifts to his people." The gifts enumerated are functions within the church: "that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ." Similar discussions of the body of Christ and its members' different functions are in Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

This text may include an early list of offices of the church; if so, it is noteworthy that neither bishops nor deacons are on the list. It is also noteworthy that the offices are all aimed at "equipping the saints for ministry" (ministry is diakonia in Greek). The goal of all this work is that all should come to maturity or to the full stature of Christ. Throughout this passage, the author repeats the theme of growing or growing up into Christ.

Ephesians 4:1-16

Unity in the Body of Christ

4I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
   he gave gifts to his people.’
9(When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended* into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

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10 February 2011

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