Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 4:6a “. . .one God and Father of all, who is above all,. . .”
The Church is one because its life and leadership can be traced to One who is paramount. Our text refers to God’s spiritual government over His own people. The phrase intermingles majesty and affection. It begins with splendor (“God”), softens into tenderness (“Father”), and then hastens to absolute authority (“above all”).
Here is the remedy of all worry–our “one God” who is “Father” is also “above all.” Often, the one who controls does not care, or the one who cares does not control. However, in the leadership of the Church, grandeur is tempered with paternity and crowned with power. God who loves us most and wants to help us is fully able to carry out His desires in our behalf.
Eph. 4:6b “. . .and through all,. . .”
The preposition suggests movement and instrumentality. God is working through us, guiding our footsteps, directing our circumstances, sustaining our hearts, and upholding our lives. He operates through us all. His providence is active and energetic. He is not a remote, disinterested deity, nor an isolated recluse in outer space. He is active in our affairs.
In 1653 Bulstrod Whitlock was appointed ambassador to Sweden. On the stormy night before his departure, he was suffering insomnia from concentrating on the strife within his own country. A nearby servant, detecting his master’s inability to sleep and knowing the burden on his mind, asked, “Sir, don’t you think God governed the world very well before you came into it?” “Undoubtedly.” “Sir, don’t you think God will govern it quite well when you are gone out of it?” “Certainly.” “Then, sir, don’t you think you may trust Him to govern it properly as long as you live?” To this last question Whitlock made no reply, and soon fell fast asleep.
Eph. 4:6c “. . .and in you all.”
Here is the most amazing thing of all. God who is transcendent, is also immanent. He does not come and go to accomplish His providence in our lives. He abides. He indwells us. He works through us, and His base of operations, His home, remains within us.
This is not pantheism. God remains a distinct Personality. He is not a principle, or a force, but a Person who resides within us. No longer do men need to visit a distant shrine in order to find God. Each Christian is a temple. In days of yore, men journeyed great distances to be near God. Christ reversed this process. God travelled far to be with and in us.
Based on verse 6, my former Sunday School teacher, Chad Colley, gave some excellent advice, “Since our God is Father of all, above all, through all, and in us all, let Him be all.” Rest in God, love God, serve God, trust God. Let Him be our all in all.
Eph. 4:7a “But. . .”
Paul uses this conjunction in the sense of “on the other hand,” contrasting what he has said with what he will say. The Apostle will now turn his attention from the universal to the individual. He has spoken of “all,” will now talk about “every one,” and in verse 11 will speak of “some.”
Paul’s emphasis now shifts from similarity to diversity. The Church’s seven-fold unity is not uniformity. Christian unity exists in the midst of infinite variety. Believers are not identical, mass-produced, assembly-line look-alikes. We are united, unique ones. God never quenches individuality, and does not want us to be boring replicas of each other. God loves variety–a fact verified by even the most casual glance at His creation.
The Church is a perfect mix of collectivism and individualism. We share unity of purpose, loyalty, and affection, yet show variety of function, position, and personality. By being ourselves we blend our various skills to make the Church more successful. Radiant, white light is produced when all other colors blend together, not when each tries to be the other.
Eph. 4:7b “. . .unto every one of us. . .”
Many Bible scholars deem this and the following verses as the heart of Ephesians. These passages tell us how the Church, the most important society in the world, is to function. The Church is primarily an organism, a unity permeated by one life, which is required to accomplish certain God-given tasks. To do this most efficiently, the organism requires organization.
Tasks required of the body must be assigned to, and performed by, individual members. To make sure everything which ought to be done can be done, God dispenses “unto every one of us” gifts, special abilities. Herein lies the key to having an effective local church. The organism must operate as an organization based on gifts given by God “unto every one of us.”
Every Christian has a three-pronged responsibility: to commune with God, to win the lost, and to use a God-given gift to benefit the church. Our foremost task is ever to maintain close and intimate fellowship with God. To please Him is ever the essence of our existence.
Each believer is to witness constantly to the lost. “Christians should be channels connecting eternal reservoirs with the desert-like conditions of a dying world” (Powell). Many err at this point. Occasionally someone will say, “I do not have the gift of evangelism.” This shows lack of understanding. Evangelism is not a gift given to some, but an assignment given to all. Also, evangelism is for the lost, but spiritual gifts are for the Church.
Each believer is given a gift which is to be used for the benefit of the Church. This is the theme emphasized here in verse 7. The four principal portions of Scripture which deal with spiritual gifts are Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4:7-16, and 1 Peter 4:7-11. All four of these sections emphasize the fact that every believer has a grace-gift (the words “every man” occur in RM 12:3, 1 C 12:11, and 1 P 4:10; “every one of us” is used here in EP 4:7).
The purpose of these grace-gifts is for believers to help each other. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another” (1 P 4:10). “To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 C 12:7). However feeble or unknown, each believer has received something from Jesus for the help of all other believers.
We need one another. No believer is an island. An important part of body-life is the principle of mutual dependence among its members. In His infinite wisdom, God encourages unity in the church by making each of us dependent on the others. He has given all of us not only gifts, but also various needs. God allows no member to be self-sufficient, above needing help from others in the body. By giving all of us needs and gifts, God has made us all mutually dependent on each other. Each member needs the others, each member can help the others. All depend, all contribute.
No Christian ever has the right to be merely a spectator. We are all called to be on the firing line, team-players on the field, each using unique skills and abilities to help a church do its very best for the honor of Jesus.
The exercise of every one’s gift is essential for a church to have maximum efficiency. No gift should be unused. Statisticians say, in the average local church 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. This means we cripple along with a 20% efficiency rating, and often the 20% we do is done by very tired people. Too often, a local church is like a football game–22 players on the field desperately in need of rest, 2200 fans in the stands desperately in need of exercise. For the sake of Christ’s Church, let us find our place of service, our gift. Research Scripture to learn what the gifts are, pray for wisdom, and accept jobs in the church till we find our niche.
Eph. 4:7c “. . .is given grace according to the measure of the gift
No boasting is allowed. Our assigned tasks are a “gift” from Christ. Elsewhere they are called “graces.” The specific empowerment for their use is “given” and even called “grace.” Whatever our gifts, be not proud. We neither earn them, nor beg for them in prayer. We merely seek out which one is ours, and then yield our bodies as lowly vessels for its fruition. We only give what we are given. The disciples were able to feed the multitude only with bread received from Jesus’ hand. All is traced to grace.
The emphasis on grace is heightened by the word “measure,” which implies concern for details. God “who is above all” relates to “every one.” He who works “through all” takes time to determine a gift for each one. In the distribution of gifts, Jesus oversees all and overlooks none.
Jesus takes time to “measure,” to mete out the gifts, singling out each of us for unique usefulness. Each allocation is administered by Christ Himself, who takes time to examine our situation, and to dispense to each of us the gift He deems essential. No one ever receives too much to do, or too little power to perform. We are precisely enabled for an assigned task.
To be saved is to be gifted–this statement in and of itself is nothing less than a declaration of Christ’s great love and His minute watchful care. Our only adequate response to this love is to give what we have been given. Since Christ took time to give us a gift, we must take time to exercise it. Anything less dishonors Christ and harms His beloved bride, the Church.