When we accept Christ as our Savior, we enter into a covenant relationship with God and the body of Christ.
The thing about a covenant is this: Covenants require two parties and a covenant assumes that both parties will assume and carry out the responsibilities that make that covenant valid.
If one party ceases to carry out their part of the covenant, it makes the covenant unstable.
When things go wrong in our life, we are often tempted to remind God of His promises; but we fail to remember that each promise of Scripture comes with an accompanying responsibility for which we are responsible in conjunction with that promise.
Salvation is free, but the Christian journey comes with responsibilities if we want to live a life full of the Spirit.
In Ephesians 3, Paul reveals to us that we are not just individual Christians, but part of a global body of Christ, and now in Ephesians 4 he tells us what our responsibilities are to that body so that the body of Christ can function healthily.
In the first 3 verses, he encourages us to check our personal behavior, so that our behavior aligns with our position in Christ.
Then he gives us a panoramic view of the Church, over which Jesus Christ is Lord.
There is one body. There is one body of Christ. We are not all individual bodies, and even our local churches are not independent to themselves. Each person and each local church make up the one body of Christ.
It is vital that we remember this, because this truth helps to keep us accountable to the rest of the body.
There is one Holy Spirit, one “hope of your calling” – or salvation. There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all of this. He is:
- Above all
- Through all
- In us all
We are all part of this global Church, the body of Christ, the building that God has built with us as living stones. God is the head of this body and Jesus is Lord over this body.
This one body is made up of many local churches and individual members, and each has its role.
I do not believe that any individual member of the body can claim to be a member of “the global body of Christ”. Scripture clearly teaches the importance of the local church and that we are to gather in local churches and allow God to use our giftings in that local church.
As a matter of fact, in Ephesians 4:7, we see Paul begin to move down this chain of command (God is the head of the body, the global body is made up of all believers and local bodies around the world, local bodies are made up of believers who are in covenant with Christ, and as individuals we are the temple of the Lord in whom God has chosen to reside).
Each local body has its own individual function and each church will function differently according to the purpose God created it for as a member of the global body.
Therefore, each member in that body has a responsibility to that body; and we see that responsibility outlined in verse 2: we are to walk in lowliness, gentleness, with longsuffering, and bearing each other in love.
Then in verse 7, Paul says, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
What is Christ’s gift? Salvation.
Measure can also be defined as quantity. What is the quantity of salvation you received? Is there an end to your salvation? No!
So, God has given us an endless supply of grace, because the measure of Christ’s gift is endless!
Grace, however, was never intended to be hoarded and used on ourselves. Grace is only useful when it is shared with others. Since we have an endless supply, we will never run out.
Because this verse is written in the context of our role in the church, we can only assume that Paul is reminding us that we have been given an endless supply of grace to be shared and used in our local bodies to bless and encourage those with whom we meed week after week.
One would almost assume that as we move on to verses 8-10 that Paul somehow drifted away for a second. But actually he is reminding us of the position Christ won for us through His victory so that we understand the context of the following verses as he lays out for us the function of the local church.
Our position is total victory
Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
“He led captivity captive” means that Jesus took captive the one who was holding you captive!
Jesus first descended into hell as a victorious warrior, wrenched the keys of death, hell, and the grave from the slimy fingers of Satan then in a roar of victory ascended into heaven.
We live our lives from a position of total victory!
I love how Colossians describes this:
Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. Colossians 2:15
Jesus Christ completely disarmed the demonic forces, but He didn’t just stop there. Then He took them captive and drug them all around and made a public spectacle of them, reveling in His own triumph!
This is the same Jesus Christ that lives in you!
How, then, could you not live in a position of total victory?!
Our responsibility is grace
Our responsibility to the body is love and grace. Our behavior, our responses, our reactions, our speech, and everything we do in relation to our brothers and sisters in Christ should be permeated with love and grace.
We see this in both verses 2 and 7.
When each member of the body allows love and grace to color everything they say and do, unity is allowed to grow and thrive as God intended.
Our function is edification of the body
Paul then moves on to talk about the 5 ministry gifts of the church: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher.
These 5 roles were not meant to do all of the work of the church, in fact we immediately see that these five roles have one function:
for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
The apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher have this function: to teach you to do the work of ministry so that you can edify the body of Christ!
Each member of the body should be a minister and each member of the body should be working to edify the body.
Our goal is spiritual maturity
The purpose of ministering and edifying the body is to help us to grow in greater and greater spiritual maturity.
till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:13-16
As we minister and edify the body, we will grow these areas:
- Unity of the faith
- The knowledge of the Son of God
- Perfection through the sanctifying blood of Jesus
- The fullness of Christ
- Speaking truth in love, instead of being tossed around by fringe-doctrine
- All things in Christ, who is the head of the body
This is why it is so important that each new believer in Christ understand that they are now in a covenant relationship with the body, they have a role and responsibility to the body, but it is something that they will grow into with time.
It is also extremely important that members of each local body understand that they are there to give, not just receive. They are there to minister, not just be ministered to. They are there to be equipped and enabled to minister – not watch the professionals do all the work.
God designed the leaders of the church to enable the members of the body to go be ministers!
This is your role in the body, it is your responsibility as His temple, so that the body of Christ can functional healthily and be a proper physical representation of Jesus Christ here on earth!
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- Rosilind, a Pacific Northwest native, is a missionary living in Croatia and married to her hero. Together they live in the country with their 2 active boys where she enjoys fruity candles and a hot cup of herbal tea on a blustery fall evening. She holds an Associates of Practical Theology and is passionate about discipling and encouraging women. Her passion for writing led her to author a number of books. She is the author of A Little R & R where she encourages women to find contentment in what God created them to be. She can also be found at these other places on a regular basis. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google +.