Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday, April 16th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Joshua 23-24, Psalm 76, John 8
Today's scripture focus is Ephesians 4:7-10

Ephesians 4:7-10

English Standard Version (ESV)
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
    and he gave gifts to men.”
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: The Gifts of Christ to His Church
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: I am Gifted
Accompanying David Legge sermon: The Bounties of our Conquering Christ

God has given the church gifts and each individual believer a gift in order to edify, unite, and build up the church of Christ.

Paul begins by describing a victory scene that would have been familiar to his readers.  After battle, the conquerorwould return with the spoils of war, including both captives and emancipated captives, citizens throwing rose petals in his path.  To those who had been taken prisoner, the smell of the those roses would be like death, but to those who had been freed from slavery the smell would be one of life.

Legge: the whole point of what Paul is saying in verses 7 to 10 is this: Christ Jesus our Lord, our great Captain, our great General, the Captain of the Lord of hosts, has died, has risen from the dead, has ascended on high - and after His victorious work and battle of salvation, He now is in a position at the right hand of God to dispense and present gifts to His church....What Paul is trying to get to us tonight, is that the unity that he has been speaking about in verses 1 to 6, that unity is the prerequisite for usefulness within the church. There is no use having unity without gifts, for it will bring nothing. There is no use - like the Corinthians - having gifts without unity, because it will bring chaos and turmoil. The two must come together: unity and usefulness.

'Despite what I have said before about the unity of the church, yes we are one body, but we are one body made up of individuals with individual gifts and works to do'. So there is unity, but there is also diversity.

If you were to look up the word 'grace' within the encyclopaedic dictionary you would find ten definitions. I want to give you four of them this evening. Within the word of God the statement and the term 'grace' means, first of all, 'unmerited, but freely given, love and favour' - isn't that lovely? Unmerited, unearned, free gift of salvation to all who will believe! We have believed and, praise God, we have received. The second definition is 'the grace, the work of the Holy Spirit', the divine influence that works within our hearts when we're convicted of our sins, and He regenerates us by the Spirit of God. Then, when we're saved, He begins to sanctify us day by day in the image of Christ - and when we go through trials He strengthens us. That is the grace of God, the work of the Spirit within the soul of the believer.

Thirdly, we read that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, Enoch found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Grace can also describe a state of God being pleased with you - not because of anything you do, but because you believe Him. The fourth definition of grace is the definition of the word 'grace' within our passage.... That grace that Paul is speaking of there is a grace, not a saving grace of salvation, but it is an equipping grace whereby God gives us things that we need to live the Christian life. Someone has defined it like this: 'This grace is an outflow from the heart of God'. Isn't that beautiful?

Spiritual gifts are not the same as natural abilities.  God gifts us with those too, of course, but spiritual gifts are measured out by God individually.

MacArthur points out that we are like spiritual snowflakes.  No two people have been given the exact same combination of gifts.  God has given us each something that only we can fulfill, and if don't, the body is missing that gift.

There are a few different interpretations of the descending spoken of in v8-10.
The first is that Christ descended from heaven in the incarnation.

The second is that, between His death and resurrection, Christ descended into hades.  Hades was the place of the dead before Christ came.  There were two parts to it - one for the righteous and one for the unrighteous.   See 1 Peter 3:18-20 for more on this interpretation.  Now it's not the falsehood that the cults preach, that the Lord Jesus had to be punished and tortured in hell for an atonement for our sins. The work of Calvary, the work of salvation, and the work of the atonement, is finished, is utterly done! Yet many of the ancient church fathers and early writers believed that, between His death and His resurrection, that He descended into Hades, He preached deliverance to the captives - those who trusted in God in the Old Testament, He opened the gates and brought them to heaven - and those demons that defied God in the Old Testament, those who were lost, He preached triumph to them.
This is the interpretation held by MacArthur.

The third interpretation is that He descended by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Legge suggest there may be a fourth interpretation ....
It is speaking, I believe, of every condescension that the Son of God had to make right from His incarnation, coming from glory, coming to earth, through His humiliation of living a life of poverty, living a life of blasphemy, going to the cross, bearing our humiliation, our chastisement - dying and being buried, all that! Surely that is the lower parts of the earth, the great poverty of His battle.
Thankfully, He also ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God.

But what a cost!

MacArthur:  It was Jesus Christ act on the cross that allowed him to be the one who could give us the gift he gave us. And what I'm saying is this. You cannot treat the spiritual gift that you have lightly when you contemplate what price it cost for Christ to grant you that privilege. You see it was by his victory there that he gained the right to rule his own church. To be the one who fills all in all from the bottom of Sheol to the top of heaven. He fills it all and the right he gained at the cross and it was there when he gained that right at the cross that he had the right to also give you the gift....

Jesus Christ died on the cross for you to save you. Secondly he died on the cross to enable you to serve him. And he gives you a gift of love that was purchased at the same price that your redemption was purchased at for it's a corollary.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ephesians 4:11-16
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Judges 1-2, Psalm 77, John 9

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