"The Diversity of Spiritual Gifts" Page 1 of 4 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians

By: Tom Lowe Date: 8/13/17

Lesson 17: The Diversity of Spiritual Gifts in Contributing Toward Unity (Ephesians 4:7-16)

Ephesians 4:7-16 (KJV)

7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.


Paul moves now from what all Christians have in common to how Christians differ from each other. He is discussing variety and individuality within the unity of the Spirit. God has given each believer at least one spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:1-12), and this gift is to be used for the unifying and edifying (building up) of the body of Christ. We must make a distinction between “spiritual gifts” and natural abilities. When you were born into this world God gave you certain natural abilities, perhaps in mechanics, art, athletics, or music. In this regard, all men are not created equal, because some are smarter, or stronger, or more talented than others. But in the spiritual realm, each believer has at least one spiritual gift no matter what natural abilities he may or may not possess. A spiritual gift is a God-given ability to serve God and other Christians in such a way that Christ is glorified and believers are edified.

There are three lists of spiritual gifts given in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 27-31; Romans 12:3-8; and Ephesians 4:11. Since these lists are not identical, it may be that Paul has not named all the gifts that are available. Paul wrote that some gifts are more important than others, but that all believers are needed if the body is to function normally (1 Corinthians 14:5, 39{2]). Paul named, not so much “gifts,” but the gifted men God has placed in the Church, and there are four of them; apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers and preachers. We will study these when we come to verse 11.


7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

All believers are to diligently maintain the unity of the Spirit; this does not mean that each is a carbon copy of the other. Each believer is given a “gift” so that he may function within the body of believers in a particular way. Paul writes, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (1 Corinthians 12:7). This means that a gift is the Spirit of God doing something through the believer for the purpose of building up the body of believers. It is for the profit of the whole body of believers. No gift is given to you to develop you spiritually. A gift is given to you in order that you might function in the body of believers to benefit and bless the Church. (In this first sentence, can you hear a word of encouragement for the Christian who may imagine there is nothing he can do?)

I have heard it said, “We do not speak in tongues in our 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.

Suppose my eyes would tell me that they are sleepy and will not get up with me. Suppose my legs say they won’t carry me downstairs to my breakfast. I need both my eyes and my legs, and I hope my brain cooperates too. In fact, all the members of my body need to work together, each member doing the job that it’s supposed to do.

Each believer is given a gift so that he may function in the body of believers in a particular way. When he does this, the body functions. That is where we find the unity of the Spirit. Along with the gift it says every one of us is given “grace” to exercise that gift in the power and fullness of the Spirit of God. When each believer functions in his peculiar gift, it produces a harmony, as does each member of the human body. However, when one member of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. This means, my friend, that if you do not exercise your gift in the body, you throw us all out of tune.

But someone may say, “That’s all good, but how does the believer discover and develop his gifts? By fellowshipping with other Christians in the local assembly. Gifts are not toys to play with. They are tools to build with. And if they are not used in love, they become weapons to fight with, which is what happened in the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 12-14). Christians are not to live in isolation for after all, they are members of the same body.

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

You already may have noticed that this is a quotation from Psalm 68:18― “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” Someone may point out that apparently there is a discrepancy here. Ephesians says “He gave gifts unto men” and the psalm says, “He received gifts for men.” Is this a misquote from the Old Testament?

In the verse before us the Holy Spirit changes the words and He does it for a purpose. Back in the Book of Psalms we are told that the Lord Jesus had received gifts for men. He had all the gifts ready. Then He came to earth. Now that He has been here and has gone back to the Father, He is distributing the gifts among men. He is giving them to us through the Holy Spirit. Actually this passage shows again how very accurate the Bible is and that this is not a misquote.

“When he ascended up on high” refers to the ascension of Christ. At that time He did two things: (1) “He led captivity captive,” which refers, I believe, to the redeemed of the Old Testament who went to paradise when they died. Christ took these believers with Him out of paradise into the very presence of God when He ascended. Today when a believer dies, we are not told that he goes to paradise, but rather he is absent from the body and present with the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 5:8{3]; Philippians 1:23). (2) When Christ ascended He also gave gifts to men. This means that He conferred gifts upon living believers in the Church so that they might witness to the world. In His ascension, Christ not only brought the Old Testament saints into God’s presence, but He also, through the Holy Spirit, bestowed His gifts. At the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit baptized believers into the body of Christ and then endowed them with certain gifts, enabling them to function as members of the body. The Holy Spirit put each of them in a certain place in the body, and He has been doing the same with each new believer ever since.

The picture presented here is of a military conqueror leading his captives and sharing the spoil with his followers. Only in this case, the “captives” are not his enemies, but His own people. Sinners who once were held captive by Satan have now been taken captive by Christ. Even death itself is a defeated foe! When He came to earth, Christ experienced the depth of humiliation (Philippians 2:5-11{4]). But when He ascended to heaven, He experienced the very highest exaltation possible.

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