“(What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was he who gave some to be Apostles, some to be Prophets, some to be Evangelists, and some to be Pastors and Teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4: 9-13 New International Version
If there is one thing that frightens me, it is heights. I have learned to control the fear to some degree. Although if I see someone getting too close to an edge, I will begin to panic. I can’t even watch it on any form of media, my adrenalin kicks in and I become physically ill. So, I remain as far from the edge of a cliff, roof, rock, whatever it might be that has my feet higher than is comfortable. When Paul points to the reality of Jesus ascending to heights far above the Heavens it makes me just a little uncomfortable. Accompanying Jesus to the depths fits me much better than any ascending. Fortunately, there will be a change before I will have to face that ride through the air to meet Jesus in the Heavens.
I really don’t even like flying because of my fear of heights. All that turbulence causes the plane to bounce up and down, mimicking the feeling that I’m falling. I have discovered flying in something like a Boeing 747 doesn’t bother me as much. I think it’s because when I’ve flown in a large plane I can’t feel the sensation of flying. If I am unable to feel any form of turbulence I’m fine with flying, but throw in any type of ups and downs and everything changes. Isn’t it interesting how just a little disturbance can alter our comfort zones? Those subtle gremlins infiltrate our lives causing us anxiety and fear where there wasn’t any before. All it takes is a little turbulence to turn our world upside down!
Let’s face it, life is going along just fine, all the needs being met, everything is going just fine. Then comes the turbulence, finances go wrong, illness attacks, relationships fall apart, and our world begins to look the Poseidon Adventure. Remember that movie? A luxury liner is hit by a tidal wave which turns it completely upside down. The keel is now at the surface and the wheel house is where the keel should be! That was a world turned upside down in which nothing made sense anymore. Spiritually we also face those times when we are hammered by tidal waves, turning our spirituality into what appears to be a disaster with no salvation from it in sight! Even though we have numerous promises from God that He has us completely wrapped up in His faithfulness, we still struggle with His reality.
Whether we understand all that is happening or are just beginning to realize how much God has invested in us, we have His promise of faithfulness. His faithfulness is the answer to all that threatens to destroy our relationship with Him! When we stop to consider how much He has invested in us we begin to get a taste of Him. Then God also provides us spiritual gifts to continue building up the body of Christ for our mutual benefit.
It has been determined in the past that the gifts listed here and elsewhere in the bible are for the world as it needs the presence of God. Yet, Paul gives a different reason why we are given the gifts of the Spirit. He points out it is for the disciples of Jesus to be united in faith, in the knowledge of the Son of God, that we all become mature, and reach the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. It paints a very uncommon interpretation defining the purpose of the gifts.
What are the spiritual gifts? And how do we get over our fear of flying in connection with those gifts? Because, we have been intimidated by all the varying teachings considering the spiritual gifts. I believe it is time for a new approach to their purpose and why they are what they are! So let’s begin at the very beginning, the place where Paul mentions the type of gifts supplied to the body of Christ.
First Apostles: An apostle is a representative, messenger, envoy, one who speaks to the church words of encouragement. They are viewed as those who bring from God what the church needs to know. The term is also used in a technical sense for the divinely appointed founders of the church.
Second Prophets: A prophet is one who speaks divine utterances. The role of the Prophet in the Body of Christ contrasts with what we have been led to understand. Prophets are less about predicting the future and more about bringing the Word of God to the body of Christ.
Thirdly Evangelists: Evangelists are preachers of the gospel. Once more, the role of the evangelist is more about bringing the gospel to the body, reminding the disciples of what has been accomplished by Jesus! In this broken world we need reminding often, the more we are reminded of what was done for us the more we will be available for the working of the Holy Spirit.
Fourthly Pastors: The pastor is a shepherd, one who protects the flock. Whether it’s through providing comfort, encouragement, accountability, or feeding the congregation on the word as it is provided by God, pastors offer a much needed connection to the realities of God as our Creator!
Fifth Teachers: A teacher is an instructor, one who provides instruction, implying authority over the students or followers. The responsibility to teach may be the most important of the gifts. According to the description in Strong’s Concordance, teaching is the only gift listed with the word authority attached to its meaning.
There they are, each with its stated purpose according to the defining insights of God through Paul. And we see the reason they have been supplied to us, quite a very different one than we have been told before. In His provision for our every need God leads us to the reality that the gifts are to build us up into servants.
The gifts also lead disciples of Jesus to recognize we need to be united in our faith in Christ. We are to be led into the knowledge of Jesus, recognizing what He has accomplished for all of humanity. In this knowledge we have the responsibility of sharing this message with the world. And God in His Grace provides all that is needed for the unity we need to bring the gospel to the world.
It is the wonder of life in the body of Christ we become whole. We begin the process of growing, of measuring up into the fullness that is ours in Jesus Christ! Many claim they don’t need the fellowship of other believers, they don’t need to be in or part of church to be in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That’s true, however, if God has supplied the body of Christ for our benefit, it seems rather short sighted to refuse all that is ours in the fellowship!
There is an even deeper blessing most never consider when they think of church fellowship. It’s what the body is deprived of when anyone chooses to absent themselves from being involved! Just as the human body can continue to function without certain organs so can the body of Christ function without those who choose to be absent. But the truth is that both bodies function much better when the original equipment remains intact!
We have much to contemplate from these verses in seeking God’s Grace. We have the opportunity to be available for the spiritual gift God desires to execute through those who are His disciples. Grace changes everything, even our understanding of the gifts that are from the Spirit! It even brings us to the place where we recognize all we are in the body together.
“Use whatever gift you’ve received for the good of one another so that you can show yourselves to be good stewards of God’s grace in all its varieties. If you’re called upon to talk, speak as though God put the words in your mouth; if you’re called upon to serve others, serve as though you had the strength of God behind you. In these ways, God may be glorified in all you do through Jesus the Anointed, to whom belongs glory and power, now and forever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-12 The Voice
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