Spiritual Gifts are given to upbuild the church 

Eph. 4:11-16My theme today: Spiritual gifts are given to build up the church.

My main application: Use your gifts for the maturity of the church.

Okay, so we are continuing in Ephesians and we are continuing in the practical section of Ephesians. This is practical but it is very deep. What can we do when we take our gifts and we unite as Christians?

Watch this:

Little House on the prairie “A Harvest of Friends.”

So, when we help each other out and work together we can accomplish much. That is why God gives us spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts for the upbuilding of the church.

My theme today: Spiritual gifts are given to build up the church.

My main application: Use your gifts for the maturity of the church.

Let’s read Ephesians 4:11-16:

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of 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 a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

I. Notice the gifts in verse 11:

a. Notice first that He gave these gifts. These gifts are exactly that, they are gifts from King Jesus. We talked about that a few weeks ago, the idea that Jesus conquered the devil and ascended to Heaven and gave us gifts.

b. So we have the gift of Apostleship (4:11a). Some would say this gift does not exist anymore and it is really hard to be definitive about that. We can talk more about that at the Wednesday night Bible study, but what is clear is that we no longer have Apostles such as Paul was. The time of the writing of Scripture is closed. Now, in the New Testament time period there were two types of Apostles. One type would be the disciples of Jesus. They were sent with an authority over the church. There were 13 of them, which included the twelve disciples, plus Paul and Matthias (Acts 1:26), but Judas hung himself (Matt. 27:3-10; Acts 1:18). Paul was apostle chosen later on (Acts 9; Gal. 1). The second type of Apostle listed in the New Testament would be such as Barnabas (Acts 14:14). Romans 16:7 mentions apostles in a more generic sense. These are people sent with the message.

c. Prophets (4:11b): (Gr. prophetes, one who speaks forth) provided edification, exhortation, and comfort to the church (1 Cor. 14:3). Some of them conveyed new authoritative revelation to the church (2:20; 3:5; Acts 11:28; 21:10-11). Much of this is the revelation that we have in our New Testament books. Most of the prophets, however, simply “spoke forth” truth that God had previously revealed (cf. Acts 13:1; 1 Cor. 11:5; 14:26-33).264 Prophets also led in worship of God, including leading in public prayer (cf. 1 Chron. 25:1; 1 Cor. 11:5). This aspect of prophesying was regarded as a less authoritative function in the church than teaching, since a teacher interpreted the written Word of God (cf. 1 Cor. 11:5; 1 Tim. 2:12).

d. Evangelists (4:11c): these are people who share the Gospel. Now, I also think these are people are specially gifted in declaring the Gospel and training the church to declare the Gospel.

e. Pastors and teachers (4:11d): It is interesting about Pastors and teachers. The Greek has a different word for “and” here than in the rest of the list. Just take my word for it and I can show you later if you wish. It seems that Paul was saying that Pastors and teachers go together. Or, that all pastors are teachers, though all teachers are not pastors.

f. This is NOT an exhaustive list. Spiritual gift lists appear in Rm 12:6-8; 1 Co 12:8-10, 28-30; and 1 Pt 4:10-11. Each list is representative, not exhaustive.

II. Notice His goal for believers (4:12–16)

a. The gifts are given for unity (verse 13). Do you see that? We keep seeing that word come up. Paul cared about unity. God cares about unity. Paul writes: “Until we all come to the unity of the faith…” We see unity in the other letters of the New Testament. In 1 Cor. 1:11-13: Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? Then in 1 Cor. 3 Paul comes back to this theme: 1 Cor. 3:5-9: For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. Then, Actually, Eph. 4:3-6 are about the idea of unity: one Lord, one faith, one baptism, etc.

b. The gifts are given for maturity (verse 13). Do you see that idea. We see this idea in 1 Cor. 3 as well. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 3:1-3 says: And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

c. Paul was likely frustrated with spiritual immaturity and we are called to grow up in the Lord. We are called to be mature.

d. The gifts are given for equipping the saints for building up the body of Christ (verse 12).

e. We are a body. In Romans 12 Paul compares the church to a human body. Get this, all these spiritual gifts come together to form one body. And get this, all these spiritual gifts are from the same Holy Spirit.

f. The gifts are given for the body of Christ (verse 16). I like what J. Vernon McGee said: “Many folks say, ‘Dr. McGee, we do not speak in tongues in the church. We do it for our private devotions.’ I can say to them categorically from the Word of God that they are wrong. Gifts are given to profit the church. No gift is to be used selfishly for personal profit. In fact, it is not a gift if it is being used that way. A gift is given to every member of the body to enable him to function for a very definite reason in his position in the body.”

g. The gifts are given for us to grow up every way (verse 15).

h. Notice also how verse 15 says we are to speak the truth “in love” growing up in every way. This phrase “in love” is a common phrase in Ephesians. “In love” is in verse 15 and 16 and all throughout this letter

i. 7 times “in love” is in Eph.

ii. Ephesians 1:4: just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love

iii. Ephesians 3:17: so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

iv. Ephesians 4:2: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,

v. Ephesians 4:15: but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,

vi. Ephesians 4:16: from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

III. We are a church, let’s apply:

1. We must use our spiritual gifts to help with the unity of the church (verse 13).

2. We must use our spiritual gifts to help with the maturity of the church (verse 13).

3. We must use God’s gifts in us to equip the church (verse 12).

4. We must use God’s gifts in us to help that we, and the church, will not be like children tossed to and fro and deceived by the craftiness and deceitful scheming (verse 14).

5. We must preach and teach proper doctrine and use of the gifts.

6. We must understand that these gifts are exactly that, they are gifts. They are given by the grace of Christ (verse 11).

7. We must speak in love (verse 15).

8. We must let Jesus be the head (verse 15). Verse 15 shows that Jesus is in charge.


Do you know your spiritual gifts? I would love to help you discover them, but I cannot do that in this context. Contact me this week and I can send you a free website method of discovering your gifts. Another possibility is that I can give you something for close friends to help you discover your gifts.

But, are you being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s lead? Listen to this story from John Ortburg: 

I was leaving for work after a tense morning at home. I had snapped at the kids, I was feeling pushed for time, and I was preoccupied. As I was going out the door, my son Johnny asked whether I was coming to visit his class that day for the hour when parents were invited. I started to snap “no” and then felt a discernible tug. Something— Someone— invited me to think things over. I felt a stab of pain at my impatience that morning, at the needless hurt I had impetuously caused those I love. That pain, I believe, was part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. So I apologized as best I could and told Johnny I would be at his school.

When I arrived at Johnny’s class, I observed that all but two or three children had parents there. Johnny’s face lit up. For the next half-hour he sat in my lap as we joined in the activities. We were each to draw a picture— not a task I enjoy, being unable to draw a straight line. What made it worse is that the dad next to me drew like Michelangelo. He sketched a hearthside scene, incorporating perspective, shading, and chiaroscuro.

“Use some blue, Daddy,” his son said. “No,” said Michelangelo. “That would throw off my color scheme.” The teacher came by, looked at the man’s drawing, then called the other parents just to observe it. She pointed out mine as a kind of study in contrast. Now I felt another kind of guilt— the guilt of an inadequate artist. But that was the pain of creatureliness, not something that calls for repentance. I had to find another way to deal with my inadequacy. So I waited until the dad next to me wasn’t looking, then marked on his picture with a blue crayon. Then I had something to confess. I looked at Johnny’s picture: clouds, snow, one tree, and what looked like Barney the dinosaur with a human face. Underneath my son had a caption: “I’m thankful for God, my dad, and snow.” I felt pretty good about the sequence. When it was time for the parents to leave, Johnny grabbed me and said, “I just can’t let you go.” I left, but for a few moments I just stood in the doorway and looked at my son. It seemed like only a few years ago that I was a little boy in first grade. Now here he was. Now it was my son’s day. That is his little world— his little turkey up on the chalkboard, his little desk, his slender little fingers determinedly gripping the pencil, his learning how to make letters. And in what will seem like only another few days, he will be the one standing in the doorway and it will be his little boy sitting at the desk. “What if I hadn’t come?” I mused. “What if he had sat here all alone while other kids were surrounded by their parents? How long will I carry in my heart that little picture that says, ‘I’m thankful for God, my dad, and snow’?”

That little stab of pain that called me to think again, to decide differently, is spoken of in the church as the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. We can all experience that. It is the still small voice that nudges us and says, “You have spoken bitter words that have hurt someone. You need to go back and make things right.” “You cheated on your taxes. You need to make restitution.” (One financial expert who works with an evangelical clientele estimates that 50 percent of his clients cheat on their tax returns.) “You spoke deceit. You need to go back and tell the truth.”

This is hopeful pain, the sorrow of wounds that heal.

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