Ephesians 4:7-16 (NIV)
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”
(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.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
First I think we need to understand what each of the gifts listed here mean. Unfortunately 'teachers' is the only term that gets translated into plain English for us:
- apostles - those who are a messengers, envoys, delegates, commissioned by another to represent him in some way
- prophets - those who declare the mind (message) of God, which sometimes predicts the future and more commonly, speaks forth His message for a particular situation.
- evangelists - those who bring good news, who announce the gospel
- shepherds/pastors - those who care for other believers
- teachers - those who teach
This isn't an exhaustive list of gifts of the Spirit. Romans 12:6-8 lists prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and showing mercy. 1 Corinthians 12:8 - 10 lists a message of wisdom, a message of knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, miracles, discernment, speaking in tongues, and interpreting tongues. There are likely more gifts given to the church than those listed here.
My question is why do you think the church has been given these gifts?
And why does it seem they are given to many different people?
First I'd like to suggest Jesus had all of these qualities. He traveled around (apostle) preaching the good news of the kingdom of God (evangelist). He spoke the message of God (prophet). He is considered our shepherd. He was a teacher, served others, gave to others, lead, showed mercy, healed, had discernment, and did many miracles. I'm not sure if we have any records of Him speaking in tongues, but I don't doubt He could.
Now take a look at the Ephesians 4:7-16 passage again.
It looks like the purpose of these gifts is to build each other up to become more like Jesus.
Is it possible that each of us are to become more like Christ? Shouldn't we all be messengers of the good news? Shouldn't we all listen for God's voice and speak it into other people's lives? Shouldn't we all care for other believers, teach others, serve others, give to others....
Yes, some will be more gifted in each of these areas than others. But could a purpose of having these gifts be to live as an example to the others on how to exercise that gift?
If you are gifted as a teacher, how can you use that gifting to encourage others to teach?
If you are gifted at giving, how can you use that gifting to teach others to give?
If you are gifted at serving, how can you be an example of service so others grow in this way?
If you are gifted at shepherding, how can you be an example of caring for the needs of others so others will shepherd as well?
If you are gifted at proclaiming the good news, how can you encourage others to proclaim the good news with you?
Obviously there are other reasons to use these gifts. As a result of using these gifts people get cared for, get taught, hear God's good news message, etc. But is it possible that everyone should be encouraged to grow in each of these areas to become more like Christ? If you are gifted, how can you use your gift to build others up so they can exercise their gifting as well?
Do you think you are exempt from exercising any of the gifts of the Spirit?
Do you think it is best if a few people get the most exercise?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.