“7 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.”
(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.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,”
— (Ephesians 4:7-11) [NKJV]
There is built within our systems a desire, a strong desire, that we are needed, that we are a vital part of the world that surrounds our daily lives.
- The teacher needs to think that he/she is making an impact on his/her students
- The ball player needs to think he is helping the team win
- The parent needs to think his children are really listening and will grow to maturity.
BUT sometimes our world can be so shallow that we fail to see the BIG PICTURE!
Let me illustrate from the point of view of different views of the same thing:
First is the view from your tree house. Everything looks clear, right? * Next, there is the same view, but from the top of the Empire State Building * How about the same view, but from an airplane! * One more: how about the same view, but from the space shuttle. Get the view?
But there really is only ONE view that matters, and that is the view from God Himself! Everything then gains INDIVIDUAL significance!
You then become a BIG PART of the BIG PICTURE called “God’s Purposes in Eternity.” Our text today looks at the BIG PICTURE, and our BIG PART in it, from 3 perspectives. Are you ready?
- FIRST IS THE BIG PICTURE OF THE INDIVIDUAL (verse 7).
As some of you may remember, I had the privilege while serving as pastor over 3 decades to be “bi-vocational”. During that time I served with our local police department in a number of capacities. One of the highlights of one’s career is the retirement party! You’ve worked your shift. You’ve finished your days. It is time for your fellow officers to recognize you for your worth. Such was the case for my good friend Paul, a sergeant who, when he retired, got a job as a salesman for a local well-known car dealership. What gifts would be appropriate for us fellow officers to give to Paul? We gave him 3 very personal items. First, we gave him a water pistol, in case he missed his service revolver. Then we gave him an auto organizer, so that HIS vehicle looks sharp. Finally, we gave him magnifying glasses, so that his buyers can read the fine print of the contract! (All these were in good spirits – he really did get some NICE gifts as well!).
These were individual gifts with Paul in mind. They suited his personality and we ALL benefitted from them.
What’s the point? God in turn gives each believer gifts that are uniquely suited for the INDIVIDUAL in light of God’s perspective and purposes of the BIG PICTURE!!!
God PERSONALLY gives His gift PERSONALLY to me PERSONALLY! Did you catch the verse? “To each one of us…”. Whether we are in the forefront as the Pastor or behind the scenes as a prayer warrior, God has uniquely given to me His gift.
1 Corinthians 12:11 describes it this way: “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”
And all of that which He does for me individually is for His glory personally through ME! (Do I hear a “Wow!” – or at least an “Amen”?)
But can’t you hear yourself say, “But what if I can’t do it?”. The operation of the gifts of God which He has individually chosen for me is dependent upon two things: my OBEDIENCE and my FAITH!
And we have help! “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully…Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, SUPPLY and MULTIPLY the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:6, 10-11
God enables! And we need to be willing for His enablement!
So the operation of the gift is a CHOICE? YES!!! What happens if we say NO! In the BIG PICTURE, a cog is wasted and will need to be replaced by a willing vessel. And as for us? We will miss the blessing of having been used and having served in ways which only He could have done through us.
2. SECOND IS THE BIG PICTURE OF VICTORY (verses 8-10)
The simple truth of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Savior includes the fact that He is now at God’s right hand praying, working, and waiting…FOR US!
Now we know and are confident with the truth from 2 Corinthians 5:8 that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
So the picture here is one of VICTORY! Psalm 68:18 in the Hebrew reads, “You have led away a train of vanquished foes.”
What does that mean for us? The Romans – as well as other people groups – were known after a big battle to have a PARADE! The soldiers would march down the center of town while the people of the village cheered the victors on! And the parade included more than just the survivors of battle. It also included many of the captives of war. AND there were the spoils on display. Quite the sight!
As a result of our Savior’s ascension, He shows off the foes as vanquished. We see the victory. He gives the gifts. We see the victory already won.
Seeing the victory, we are encouraged to press on in our service for Him – knowing that we are ALREADY on the victory side!
3. THIRD AND FINALLY, THERE IS THE BIG PICTURE OF ETERNITY (verse 11)
Verse 11 shares in the gifts which the Lord gives to the local church. He gave “apostles and prophets”. We must be careful – very careful – here. This is not an isolated verse. Ephesians 2:20 says that the Lord “BUILT ON the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” And Ephesians 3:5 adds that the church, a mystery to the Jews, “in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets.” Scripture shows that once the Bible was complete, there was no need for a new foundation, a new group like the “apostles and prophets” to build upon that foundation. We need to beware today of the cult of those who call themselves “apostles” or “prophets”. The foundation and revelation do not need to be built again.
Verse 11 also tells us that God gave to the early church “evangelists”. OK, when you hear the word “evangelist”, what first comes to mind? Sure – someone who comes to your church or to an area in town, ministers to the whole community while at the same time pumps up/encourages the local church(es) and its members. But the original use of “evangelist” was one who was an herald of the good news, was the bearer of the good news. In today’s church the “evangelist” properly would be what we call “missionaries”. (And yes, it is possible that who we call an “evangelist” is in reality also a “missionary”, even if his mission is going from town to town).
Finally verse 11 says that God gifts the church “pastors and teachers”. Verses 11 and 12 are probably two of the most improperly used verses in the New Testament. Lord willing, we will discuss this even further the next time we’re together. But for now, suffice it to say that the Greek does NOT call these TWO distinct offices but…ONE. A pastor is one who teaches! He is a “teaching pastor”. You cannot be a pastor without teaching. He is equipped by God – and perhaps by extended education and regular study of the Word – as a professional NOT to be replaced by the professionals of today’s society. He is called out from local churches – THAT’S where pastors come from. Thus YOU are a part of this BIG PICTURE. Maybe in your church right now is a young man who needs to be encouraged to pursue by faith the calling that God has upon his life, which calling is apparent to many. Be that encourager today!
So there is the story of Lucy and Snoopy. With apologies to Mr. Schultz, Lucy looks at Snoopy and says, “You’re useless! All you do is eat and sleep. You can’t talk. You are good for nothing!”. To all of that Snoopy thinks, “well then, I might as well go back to sleep!”
But what about US? What are WE to do?
When caught up by today, see the BIG PICTURE!
When feeling useless, remember GOD EMPOWERS!
When feeling used, remember it is GOD Who is using you in the BIG PICTURE!
BECAUSE…YOU ARE A BIG PART OF THE BIG PICTURE!