So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
When Christians talk about “spiritual gifts,” we usually think of special abilities given by God so that we might serve God and others in the power of his Spirit. Ephesians 4:7 seems to move in this direction: “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Yet, in 4:11, Paul changes course unexpectedly. Rather than listing some of the different spiritual gifts that Christ gives (as we find in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12), Paul writes: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (4:11). What? Christ gives gifts of people in certain roles? That’s a surprise. How are we to make sense of this?
Some interpreters of this passage try to make it fit with what Paul has said elsewhere. They read it as saying, “Christ gave to some the gift of apostleship, to some the gift of prophecy, to some the gift of evangelism, and to some the gift of pastoring and teaching.” But this is not what the text actually says. Rather, it states that Christ gave, as gifts, people who minister in certain ways in the church. So, though it’s surely true that these people received spiritual gifts to help them function in their roles, this is not Paul’s point here. Rather, he says clearly that Christ gave people as gifts.
To whom did Christ give these people as gifts? The answer—not surprisingly, given what we have already seen in Ephesians—is the church. Christ gave to the church the gifts of people who serve as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers.
As we continue our exploration of this passage, we’ll discover why Christ gave such personal gifts to his church. For now, I’d like to ask you a simple question: Do you consider the leaders of your church as gifts from Christ? You may not have identified apostles, prophets, and evangelists, but you surely have pastors and teachers. Do you think of these people as gifts from Christ to you and your congregation? Or, if you are a leader in your church, do you think of yourself in this way?
Something to Think About:
Begin by answering the questions I have just asked: Do you consider the leaders of your church as gifts from Christ? Or, if you are a leader in your church, do you think of yourself in this way?
Do you act toward the leaders of your church as if they were gifts from Christ? Why or why not?
Sometimes church leaders are ineffective, self-promoting, dishonest, or even worse. What sense does it make to think of them as gifts from Christ?
Something to Do:
If you are a member of a church, think of your pastor (or an associate pastor or other staff member). Can you consider this person as a gift from Christ to you? How might you act toward this person if you were able to think of him or her in this way?
[Let me encourage you to thank the Lord for the preachers and teachers who have made a difference to you. Here is my own prayer.]
Gracious God, today, I want to begin by thanking you for the gifts of pastors and teachers who have made such a difference in my life. I thank you for Ray, Bill, Darrell, and Don. Thank you for Lloyd, Ralph, and Jack. Thank you for Doug, Cal, and Jeanette. Thank you for Dan, Joel, and Jourdan. Thank you for their faithfulness in service to you.
Help me, Lord, to see those who lead in my church as gifts from you. This doesn’t mean I must always agree with them in everything. But it does mean that, even in times of disagreement, I should always regard them as gifts and treat them with appropriate respect.
Today, I pray for my church leaders and for church leaders everywhere, that they might see themselves as gifts from you, not so as to become puffed up with pride, but so that they might serve freely, confidently, humbly, faithfully, and joyfully. Amen.