January 7th 2019 – Ephesians 4:8-16

Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
    and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."

Ephesians 4:8-16

The 'list' of gifts given here is a specialised and particular one related to the ministry of the Word, but it is important to realise that gifts of ministry are not the only kind of gifts. Furthermore, it is also important for us not to become too preoccupied with some of the more dramatic gifts, such as 'tongues', or prophecy, or healing, for there are gifts of other sorts also, just as important, and some more important, such as gifts of administration (or government), and what Paul calls 'helps'. One may think for example of the gifts that Barnabas had, that earned him the 'nickname' of 'son of consolation'. He was par excellence a great encourager. And what a gift that is.

We must understand that these gifts are not necessarily mutually exclusive, in the sense that a man might only have one of the gifts. It is, of course, true that some men seem to have the gift of evangelism, for example, in a preeminent way, or a prophetic gift in the sense of being able to speak what we regard as a truly prophetic word to the people. But this does not mean that their work has to be exclusively that: nor was it so in the New Testament itself, for on different occasions Paul claimed to be not only an apostle, but also a preacher, and a teacher (2 Timothy 1:11; 1 Timothy 2:7), and he also claimed to have the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 13:2). And who would dare to say he was not also an evangelist, when his labours were so signally blessed among the Gentiles? It is salutary for us to remember that Paul the evangelist was the pastor who taught his converts the deep things of the Faith. So also Timothy and Titus were pastors and teachers to their flocks, yet Paul can say to Timothy, 'Preach the Word ... do the work of an evangelist'. It would be fair to say that most men are called to an all-round ministry of prophetic utterance, evangelism, teaching and pastoral work, although some seem to have a preeminence in one rather than in the others.