Gifts of Grace and the Fullness of Christ
We worship Jesus, and follow him, and name ourselves after him, not because he walked on this earth (he did) nor because he died, but because he is the everlasting God. And therefore what he did on this earth and the way he died finds eternally more significance than had he just been a man.
We believe by faith that “all things were created through him, and apart from him was nothing made that was made” (John 1). We believe by faith that the universe—every atom—is held together and functioning by the word of his power (Colossians 1). We believe as he said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10). We believe, as he told the Pharisees, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8). I AM—the name by which the Almighty God introduced himself to Moses from the burning bush.
That’s why we serve him; that’s why we worship him; that’s why we obey him! That’s why we care so deeply to know the message he has revealed for us in this holy book.
What did we learn last week is the ultimate objective of King Jesus? He ascended to the right hand of God in order that he might fill all things—in order that he, Jesus, might be the substance which pervades everything in existence. So as to make that point firm, let’s briefly survey a couple of passages from Ephesians.
Of course, the most explicit reference to that idea is in 4:10, where Paul says Jesus ascended to the throne of God “in order that he might fill all things.” The express purpose for his ascension to God’s right hand was that he might fill all things with himself.
In 1:23, the church is “the fullness of him who fills all in all.” And in 3:19 Paul prayed, “that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.” His prayer was directly in line with Christ’s greatest will. Lastly, in 5:18 Paul commands Christians to “be filled with the Spirit.”
Now, all I wanna do in today’s message is two things: (1) I want to paint an even clearer image of what a church totally filled up with Jesus looks like, and (2) I want to convey one measure by which Jesus ensures that vision is fruitful.
A Vision of Christ’s Fulness
“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 4:11-16).
Now, you’ll notice four emphatic declarations concerning Christ filling all things. Verse 12 talks of “building up the body of Christ;” verse 13 envisions “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;” verse 15 calls us “to grow up in every way into him who is the head;” and verse 16 speaks of a church body “that builds itself up in love.”
So this passage is totally shot through with a context concerning the fulness of Christ! As King, he wants to fill everything, especially his church. Now, to describe what it looks like in the church, Paul uses phrases like this in verse 13, “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood.” So just there, there’s a will for total unity—everyone being a unit. Which makes total sense because Paul calls us a “body” in verse 12 and twice in verse 16.
If we are a body, and Christ is the head, then every part will go and do and be what Christ says it’s to be. When Christ wills for this hand to tend to a wound on the foot, the hand doesn’t say, “But I don’t like one of those toes down there! So no! I’ll stay right here.”
In 1 Corinthians 12:21 Paul says, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” Jesus’ vision for a Christ-filled church is that every member be as unified as your very own body.
Further, he speaks of a church in whom every member has “attained to the…knowledge of the Son of God.” So not only are the members a fluid unit, but every part of the unit is deeply aware of the spiritual realities around them. They know at all times that Jesus is Lord and this life is his, and therefore everything they think and speak is of a Christ-like nature.
And lastly (for now), he envisions a church in whom every member is mature. Verse 13—to mature manhood; verse 14—that we may no longer be children; verse 15—to grow up. As he envisions it, there will be no petty squabbles. There will be no selfish motives. There will be no nitpicking. There will be no gossip. There will be no hurt feelings because this brother said this or did that. It will be a mature, composed, spiritually minded unit.
Just pause and imagine a totally harmonious unit of deeply knowledgeable and mature saints, among whom Christ has moved to the degree that their every thoughts and deeds are, as it were, the thoughts and deeds of Christ. Is that not a glorious vision? This is the vision of a church filled to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. That can happen. It is going to happen.
Gifts Given to Fill
The question is, how?! It will be accomplished in two ways, both of which involve the power of Christ. So let’s start with the first. Next week we will look at the second.
“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (v. 7).
There’s a whole context before verse 7, which explains the “But.” Why does he say, “But?” He’d only just said, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God” (vv. 4-6a). What’s the key word there? One! And therefore, if there’s only one Spirit, only one Lord, only one church, the temptation would be to conclude, “There’s only one gift!” So Paul says, “There’s one, one, one of all these things, BUT grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
Christ gave a singular gift, namely grace, but each man and woman receives what Paul calls a different measure of that gift.
[Now, for just a moment, consider how the idea of “filling all things” pertains to each man and woman receiving a different “measure.” Just envision an empty glass. The vision is to fill it to the brim. And as various measures are added, the glass begins to get fuller and fuller. This is why verse 6 says Christ wants to bring us “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”]
So, as Christ is aiming to fill everything, which looks a lot like maturity, unity, and a deep knowledge of Christ, he has given various measures of grace to each person. Paul specifically mentions five of these gifts in verse 11—“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of service.”
Now, those five offices are gifts from Christ meant especially to equip. The work of the apostles and prophets, as it is recorded in our Bibles, is meant to equip. Likewise, the work of evangelists (like myself), shepherds (like Barry and Jeff), and teachers (like many of you) are gifts given to the church of an equipping sort. Myself, Barry, and Jeff exist to equip you all, the church. That’s our primary duty. But shepherds and evangelists are only a tiny fraction of the gifts given to fill up the body of Christ.
Paul makes very clear that a special gift of grace was given to “each one of us” (v. 7). This means that everyone in this room—if in Christ—has been given by Christ a measure of grace—a gift—which Jesus intends to use for filling all things.
Pay very close attention here, church. Look with me at what Paul says in Romans 12:4ff: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Besides the gift of prophecy, how many of those gifts do we still see? Service, teaching, exhortations, contributions, leading, acts of mercy! Paul says these are gifts according to the grace given to us!
Peter says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies” (1 Peter 4:10-11).
So there again, Peter affirms what Paul says—each has received a gift! Now, Peter elaborates and says, “use it!” “Use it to serve one another!”
When Paul says grace was given to each one of us, he’s saying, Christ has given something of spiritual purpose to everyone in this room who’s decided to make Jesus the Lord of their life. That’s amazing.
I think we sometimes think of spiritual gifts as merely being nebulous and intangible, but Paul says generosity with monetary contributions is a spiritual gift. There are a host of people in this church who have that gift and are using it gloriously. Miranda and I, in just three weeks, have really been overwhelmed by the members endowed with that gift—members who have means and have a heart to use them for the glory of Christ.
Gifts given to the church from God are not nebulous. What if you’re an excellent craftsman or handyman? Could that be a gift given by God, through his Spirit, to help fill up the church?
In Exodus 31:1-5 it reads, “The Lord said to Moses, 2 ‘See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.’”
Whatever it is that you’re especially good at doing—odds are, Christ means it as a gift for his church.
I wonder how many know the gift Christ gave them? I wonder how many are using the gift Christ gave them? In Matthew 25, Jesus told a parable about servants who were given talents from their master. And after the master went away for a long time, he came back and found that some had used what he gave them and were very successful. Others, however, hid his gift in the ground and squandered it.
God doesn’t patronize us. He doesn’t falsely build us up. If he says, “I have given you, as a unique member of the body, a gift,” he’s not just trying to make us feel good. He’s saying, “My will is for the church to be totally filled, and therefore every member is of supreme value in accomplishing that.”
If anyone takes a passive role, then the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ will only go as high as the person who chooses not to use their gift.
Let’s suppose there’s a lady who’s been endowed by the Spirit of God to have a special ability to show mercy. That’s her primary duty in the body of Christ. Well, let’s say a church member develops an eye problem and now has major challenges grocery shopping and accomplishing every day tasks. Here’s where the Spirit of the Lord is kicking in—“Go, show her my mercy.”
So the sister in Christ, full of mercy and good fruits, makes it her special ministry to help the sister with an eye disease. How glorious is that? Don’t ever think a thing like that is minimal.
Because, odds are, when the ill sister sees the merciful sister tending to her needs, she will be strengthened and encouraged and will remain in the fold and will have eternal salvation, because somebody with a special gift of mercy chose to use it rather than squander it.
This week, my challenge to you is this: Spend time in prayer, asking that God help you know your place in the Kingfisher church. He has a role for everyone here. Take up that call today.
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