Ephesians 4:8 – Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” NKJV
At this time of the year, there are several holidays being celebrated: Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanza. Within each of these celebrations is the practice of giving gifts. The giving and exchanging of gifts make the holidays even more special as we share tokens of our love and appreciation to friends, co-workers, and family members. It can become a little overwhelming at times, for some, but the point that I want to make is that the holiday season is a time of giving gifts.
When Jesus was visited by the wise men, they brought him gifts!
Matthew 2:11 – And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. NKJV
It is believed that each of these gifts held spiritual significance for Jesus. The gold represented His kingship, the frankincense represented His priestly role, and the myrrh was used for embalming, to signify that He had come to die. Now, I read this in several articles, and have no real evidence of such, but it sounds legit! For surely He is King of kings, He is our High Priest, and He did die for our sins. How would the Magi know this? They were led to choose these particular gifts by the Holy Spirit, and presented them with great reverence and faith to little King Jesus.
That same Jesus, who is no longer in a manger, and didn’t stay there for very long, is now giving gifts to mankind. As I continue to look at the Christmas season, in light of our risen Savior, and not the babe wrapped in swaddling clothing, I feel a need to briefly discuss these gifts.
In Ephesians 4:8, the word for gift, in the Greek, is “doma” and literally means “to build”. The interesting thing about this word, is that the focus is more on the character of the gift, then it’s beneficial nature. This is easily understood when you read what these gifts are called, and their purpose.
Typically, in the Church, we call these gifts the ministry gifts, because they are the names of the titles of those who do ministry in the church. In verse 11, Paul informs us of these “gifts” given to men: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Most denominations agree with having evangelists, pastors, and teachers, but only a few acknowledge the gifts of the apostles and prophets. Today’s blog is not to validate, or persuade you in either direction, just to point out the fact that He gave them as gifts to the Body.
Why did Jesus give us these gifts? Paul tells us in this same chapter:
Ephesians 4:12-13 – “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; NKJV
The ministry gifts were given to equip the saints for ministry. Isn’t that something? The job of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. I thought they were given for ministry? They were! But in giving us these gifts, these individuals, they exist to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
This word for perfecting of the saints is used only once in the Greek Bible. What it denotes is “to render, to fit, sound, complete. In others words, their job is to help make us sound in the word of God, and to help us to be complete in our life as believers.
We come into the “Church” from every walk of life. We know how to do some things well, and others things are a puzzle for us. We may be CEOs in a corporation, doctors, waitresses, nurses, or a person off the streets when we come to Christ. As we enter into this new relationship with Him, this new life, we need someone to help us to navigate through the kingdom of God. This is where the gifts come in. Jesus gave gifts to certain members of the Body to assist us in our journey.
The apostle starts churches and ministries. As he goes about his work, he leads the way in what it looks like to build a ministry from the ground up, in other areas, just as Paul did during his missionary journey. He looks amongst the people of God and recognize leadership and gifts in others and help to place them in the place where God wants to use them. He walks in a lot of foresight and is often a person a great vision. Starting churches and new ministries take skill and faith. An apostle has the ability to “not to despise small beginnings” and to see the great possibilities of planting ministries and churches. We need them to teach us how to do these things, and to sometimes pull us along in the building of new churches and ministries.
We have the prophets. We don’t understand everything God is doing and saying to us as a church and as individuals. The prophet is in the body to exhort, encourage, and comfort us. Again, we can come into the church, emotionally broken, and struggling to make it in this life. God’s prophetic voice is there to encourage us, to help us to understand that we’ve made the right choice in choosing Jesus, and we will make it. She may even be used to give a word of exhortation to push us to become our true self. Or God can use her to bring comfort after a trying and difficult time in our lives. The way may seem clearer after the prophet has done his/her job to equip us, build us, so that now God can use us for His glory!
We all understand the roles of the evangelist, pastors, and teachers. The evangelist stirs us up for evangelism, often leading us in the call to win the lost at any cost. The teacher expounds on the word, explaining it, breaking it down, or pulling it up, to meet our spiritual hunger for the understanding of the word. And the pastor may have the hardest job of all, watching over the sheep!
The point is, as we come into the family of God, gifts are waiting to open our eyes and our hearts to the King. As we grow in the family of God, the gifts are still there to train us, build us, and steer us in the kingdom. These gifts are available to us until we all come to the unity of the faith. He hasn’t removed them, He isn’t withholding them, because He has given them to us for our perfecting and for our equipping.
As gifts, these individuals are not our lords. We have only one, Jesus! Although, I believe they are to be honored and respected as we would anyone who is placed in our lives to make them better. They are there to be a blessing, and when they are functioning according to the will of God, they are a tremendous blessing. This holiday season, remember, He gave you gifts! We call them our spiritual leadership, to help us in this walk of life. This holiday season, encourage them by letting them know they have been a real gift to your walk of faith! Wonderful Jesus!