Ephesians Study, Part 29: Spiritual Gifts, Our Spiritual
Last week, Paul stressed that we should be living in unity:
...and since all of these are common to all believers, then all
believers should be walking in unity.
- that there is only
- there is only one spirit;
- there is only one hope which we are
looking forward to,
Then we looked at the analogy of the human body as a symbol of the Christian
body and the fact that there are many different members of the human body,
but they are all required in order to have a fully functional body. So when
Paul uses the analogy of all believers as the body of Christ, I think he's
depending on this teaching by Jesus that we are all necessary for the body
to be fully functional. Then we talked about why it's critical that every
member of the body of Christ carry out the assignment that is given to each of us.
And we focused on the fact that as a Christian our hope is for the return of
Jesus to take us back with him. And we talked about the fact that many modern
churches don't believe that he'll really return, so how valid is that hope for them?
As we wrapped up last week, we set the stage for what we're going to look
at this week by looking at the concept of spiritual gifts and where those
are listed in the New Testament.
This Week: The Spiritual Gifts:
Now just before Paul describes some of our gifts, our spiritual assignments,
he goes back to an Old Testament quote and uses it to set the stage for the
gifts of the Holy Spirit:
Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men." --Ephesians 4:8
This is very strange quote. He is quoting from Psalm 68:18, and he is
applying Jesus to this victory Psalm written by David.
You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives;
You have received gifts among men, … --Psalm 68:18
Led captive a host of captives. That is a strange phrase. It is not
obvious what it might mean. It is sort of a phrase of art of the
Hebrew language and of the Jews, what you might call a "Hebrew-ism". Its
real meaning is to capture the person who captured you.
So Paul is saying that Jesus overcame his captors, took captive his
captors and he gave gifts to man. We will deal with the gifts in a few minutes.
- We find it in Judges 5:12 which reads in the KJV:
Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise,
Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, … --Judges 5:12 (KJV)
- It is also in Isaiah 14:2:
… and they will take their captors captive and will rule
over their oppressors. --Isaiah 14:2
Back to the text of Ephesians:
Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men." (Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except
that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He
who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens,
so that He might fill all things.) --Ephesians 4:8-10
There is a lot of confusion about this passage. We have discussed this in
the past, here in this class, and have talked about one of the interpretations
which is somewhat radical.
There are a lot of teachings about Ephesians 4:9-10. There are some
who would teach that Jesus went down to Hades to get tortured more. I do
not think that makes sense or is supported by other Scripture. I think
that Jesus went to Hades to declare the victory that was his over death
and Hades and to make that obvious to those that were lost.
In Luke Chapter 16 we have a story about Sheol or Hades, sometimes
translated "hell". But that's really a mistranslation. Hades is the Greek
and Sheol is the Hebrew for the abode of the dead.
The Greek word translated as "lower" in the lower parts of the earth in
verse nine is katoteros which means "inferior" and is used to imply Hades.
In Luke 16, Hades is betrayed as having two sections, two regions, two
areas, two parts. In effect, those two parts are of those who are saved
and those who are unsaved, with a great chasm between the two. Let's
take a look at that.
Hades, the Greek word, means "unseen", or the place (state) of departed souls.
- Sheol, the Hebrew word, means "Hades", or the world of the dead (as if a
Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine
linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus
was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the
crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs
were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried
away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was
buried. --Luke 16:19-22
By the way, don't presume that this is a parable.   In parables, characters
do not have names. Parables are little stories that are examples, not with
named individuals.   So this is not a parable.   There really was a certain rich
man.   There really was a certain poor man named Lazarus.   These are real
people that Jesus is recounting a history of.   And of course the rich man
was in great shape and Lazarus was in bad shape.
In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw
Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. --Luke 16:23
"Abraham's Bosom" is a term which means the good part of Hades, the good
part of the abode of the dead.
"In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw
Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.  And he cried out and
said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may
dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in
agony in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that
during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus
bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in
agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a
great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to
you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to
us.' And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him
to my father's house - for I have five brothers - in order that
he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of
torment.' But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets;
let them hear them.' But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if
someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!' But he
said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they
will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'" --Luke 13:23-31
This is really an interesting passage. How interesting it is that
in Jesus' ministry he did raise a man from the dead, another man whose
name happens to be Lazarus. And what was the people's response to
Lazarus, after he was raised from the dead? They plotted to
kill him. Remember we looked at that a few lessons ago. They really
didn't want him running around as evidence of the power of Jesus. In
John 12 they plotted to get him out of way.
But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death
also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going
away and were believing in Jesus. --John 12:10,11
There is no reason or "tie" to support that the Lazarus of this story
is the same Lazarus. But the common name causes the question to pop up.
But again, from this story about the rich man and Lazarus, which I
don't think is a parable, we have this strange description of the
place of the dead. From a number of biblical perceptions you can make
a strong case that after his death on the cross, Jesus went to Hades
to declare victory and to gather those that had accepted him and to
take them with him. And those that he gathered are with him
now. They don't have their resurrection bodies yet, that is yet
So that may very well be what Paul is referring to here in Ephesians.
(Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean
except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the
earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far
above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) --Ephesians 4:9-10
Remember that in verse eight Paul, talking of Jesus, said:
...and he gave gifts to men.
In verse 11 Paul completes that thought and lists some gifted jobs,
some special assignments or roles for Christians to carry out:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and
some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers... --Ephesians 4:11
Although this is one of the lists in the New Testament which is
often called a list of spiritual gifts, for me it is clearly not
a list of spiritual gifts but of spiritual assignments in which
the spiritual gifts would be put to use. So when I start listing
New Testament spiritual gifts, I do not believe that this list
should be included. Remember, though, that the listing of spiritual
gifts, I believe, is not exhaustive, but rather examples of gifts
of the Holy Spirit.
How many assignments does Paul list here?
Since there is no "some" before "teachers", some people find that
there are four assignments, not five. They feel that pastors and
teachers are really one category. Whether you consider this four
or five spiritual assignments is really a matter of linguistics
and probably is not very material.
Let's start with apostles. Remember we have discussed apostles
before and concluded that there are
In a broader sense all Christians have an
apostolic mission. Aren't you and I building on Paul's foundation
by studying the book of Ephesians? Isn't our job to be an ambassador
for Jesus? Are we to be his representatives?
- Apostles: Capital "A" Apostles, meaning
those individuals individually selected, in person, by Jesus
while he was here on earth to be his ambassadors. Of course
the "A" Apostles laid the foundation and were no longer needed
after the foundation had been laid. Then others could build on
- apostles: And then we decided there are small "a" apostles
meaning representatives, ones sent with a commission. In the
case of New Testament apostles it is someone who has a divinely
The next group assigned are called "prophets". A prophet, as the
Bible uses the word, is not necessarily a term that includes someone
being predictive. The prophet was one that brought forth the
word of God. One who "forth told" the word of God, not foretold
the word of God. So it is a broader term than the way he we
normally use it. We generally think of a prophet as one who
prophesies the future, which is being predictive. But the
purpose of the prophet was to expound, edify, encourage and console.
Now "evangelist" is pretty straightforward. What the word really
means is the bearer of good news, whose specific calling, in a
biblical sense, is to spread the Word and to win the lost. One
could say that these are the obstetricians, where the pastors
are the pediatricians.
Pastors are the shepherds. They feed and they lead.
Some people, for linguistic reasons, link
these with the pastors, assuming that this calling is a pastor/teacher. But
candidly if you look around you'll notice that there are many pastors
who are outstanding shepherds, but who are not necessarily outstanding
teachers. There are others who are great teachers but who are not
necessarily great shepherds. So I lean to the concept that pastors
and teachers are two different callings, two different assignments.
So I read this list of callings as five different callings instead of four. The
argument, as we said, hinges on the fact that the word "some" is not
repeated for teachers. In any case it is clear to me that some are
called to be teachers, some are called the pastors, the shepherds of
the flock, and some are called to be both. Teachers are also listed
separately in Romans 12:7:
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given
to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according
to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who
teaches, in his teaching... --Romans 12:6-7
It is also used separately in First Corinthians 12:28-29:
And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second
prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps,
administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are
they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All
are not workers of miracles, are they?
So teachers are designated separately in other places in the New Testament,
again supporting that it is a fifth calling, separate from pastors.
...we will continue with verse 12 of chapter 4 and find out how
Paul says we are to use these assignments, and he will continue by a
telling us how to lead our lives worthy of the calling that Jesus has