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Heavenly Gifts


Gifts from God!

Text: Ephesians 4:7-12  But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 19, Q51 How does the glory of Christ, our Head, benefit us? First, by his Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly gifts upon us, his members.

Let’s think about the gifts that God has given to us, as a result of Christ’s ascension into heaven and his exaltation at the Father’s right hand. Paul connects Christ’s completed work with the impartation ofphbenefits, for those who believe.  

1 The Gift of GRACE, But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Now, what do we mean by ‘Grace?’ In the NT context grace means ‘unmerited favour’ – it is God’s gift to us.READ Ephesians 2:8-9,  The very first gift that accrues to our benefit because of the risen ascended Jesus, is that we are saved by grace, delivered from judgement! Now this gift is freely given, – grace, God’s unmerited favour toward helpless sinners, cannot be earned or it would not be grace – but because it is free, that does not mean that it is cheap.

Now the gift of salvation is free, to me and to you, but it was purchased for me at a very great price, for it was purchased at the cross, by God’s own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul tells us that we were bought with a price,  READ 1 Corinthians 6:20, 1 Corinthians 7:23, John 3:16  Jesus paid the price, at the cross, for you – so that you could be freely pardoned for all your sins.  That’s why some people make ‘grace’ into an acrostic, so that it becomes easier to understand. Grace is “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” 

But how much grace? Paul adds according to the measure of Christ’s gift. How great is the gift of Christ? READ: Titus 2:11 No matter how good a person you may think you are, or how evil – how wicked, how deep your sin, God’s grace can reach you, and save you and bring you new, eternal life.  God’s grace is sufficient for you.

2 The Gift of the Fellowship of Saints. 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

When God’s free grace finds you and reaches you, and brings you out of darkness into light, you are not left alone, to struggle to understand what Christ has done in your life.  The second of these great gifts mentioned here, given to us by our glorified Lord, is the church! Look at how Paul puts this – it is Christ himself, who establishes the church, ordains its ministries and outlines its purposes! Let’s think about that:-

  • Jesus established the church! Of course God always had a people for himself, – In the New Testament, all the promises that were foreshadowed in the OT find their fulfilment in the Messiah of Israel, the Son of God, the Saviour of the World, the Lord Jesus Christ. To his disciples, called to follow him,  READ Matthew 16:18 Jesus has been building his church ever since, one by one, as he rescues sinners from their captivity, and brings them into a living relationship with him.
  • Jesus equips the Church! He does that by calling Christians into service. Different kinds of service, so that the church is properly being served. He calls elders and deacons and preachers and missionaries and carers and teachers. Not just those public ministries either. He calls others to ministries of prayer, of administrations, of music and singing, of helping, of making tea, for after the meeting… In fact being a good parent, a good husband or wife, a good worker in your profession, – all of these things are ways that God can and does equip the church. Colossians 3:23  
  • Jesus edifies the church. He builds up the church, by working in the lives of each and every one of its members. He does this through the service that we render to each other. Look how Paul describes this process of edification. It is firstly a preparation for more service! We are served, so that we may serve, we mutually bless one another, and it is for our edification. We are not alone! We are being built up, prepared for service, perfected for heaven, by the acts of serving one another in Christ.

And all of this is a gift – given to us believers by Jesus, our risen, ascended, glorified Lord, whose power and dominion are over all.

3 The Gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:33 (ESV) Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

One question remains. How do we appropriate these gifts? It’s one thing knowing that a gift is available to you, but it is quite another to know how to actually obtain it.  For example, when Paul told the Ephesians, ‘By grace are you saved through faith…’ – I can imagine that some of his readers may have started thinking – “so, where do I get this faith, then?’ Does it come naturally, or do I have to work it up some way, or do I have to repeat some mantra or slogan, or do I have to sing and dance and mutilate my body, like the pagan worshippers of Baal do?  Thankfully, before they could go any further in their imaginations, Paul puts the matter to rest once and for all. He adds “… and that (the faith) not of yourselves, – it is the gift of God!” It is God who grants us the faith to understand, believe the gospel and accept the saviour, and he places that faith within us through the work of God the Holy Spirit – the third person of the Trinity. 

  1. The Holy Spirit reproves “the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” John 16:7-8 
  2. The Holy Spirit gives new life to God’s people, – sinners who are by nature and practice “dead in trespasses and sins” Ephesians. 2:1, , – by regenerating them – we speak about him giving them the new birth John 3:8   
  3. The Holy Spirit produces righteous fruit in the people of God  – we read about the ‘fruit of the spirit in Gal. 5:22-23. And He comforts us John 14:16 helps us Romans 8:26 He sanctifies us, makes us daily more fit for heaven… I Pet. 1:2.

So the Holy Spirit is the agency by which God applies the redemptive work of Christ at the cross, to individual sinners, like us.  

So, let’s recap what we have learned.  Our Lord Jesus Christ died for sinners, and rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and has sat down at the right hand of the Father, – and he did that for us, – for his people, his church, – and now, being exalted above everything else in this universe, every power, might, dominion, nation, every name, – he is using that great power and authority to bestow wonderful gifts upon his people, – grace, and relationship with God and all other believers, and he imparts these wonderful gifts through the agency and work of God the Holy Spirit!

© Bob McEvoy 2022

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