Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Gifts of Grace (Ephesians 4:7-8)

“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.”” (Ephesians 4:7–8, NASB95)

We started reading our Advent verses on the 1st. Last week we put up our Christmas tree last week, and today I finally got around to putting lights on the house. Christmas is coning quickly and anticipation is high. In less than 10 days the gifts will be received as the presents are opened. With that I am hopeful that the recipients are filled with joy and not disappointed in what they receive.

After writing about the unity of the body as we are one under God according to the will of the Father through the shed blood and life of Christ and being sealed, bound and empowered by the Spirit, Paul turns here to the individuals who comprise the church—the body of Christ. Realizing that we are one, Paul adds that in this oneness we all are uniquely saved and gifted. It’s is by God’s grace that we are all saved. There is not a single person who deserved anything from God. We have all sinned and fallen short of His perfect glory and we are all separated from Him in judgment except for His grace. Ephesians 2:8 says that it is “by grace that we are saved….” And this grace was shown to us because God sent His Son, Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit to be born of a virgin and then eventually go to a cross as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Jesus Christ graced us by taking the penalty for our sins so that we might receive the forgiveness of God and be given eternal life. The amazing thing in all of this is that God calls all of us as different people with different issues to Himself and He does not lose a single one. His grace is perfect for our salvation and it is given to us because Jesus died, was buried, and rose again just as God said. There was no group salvation, but individuals believing and being saved according to Christ’s gift to us.

While people are focused on Christmas and the gifts, at the heart of Christmas is that the Christ came as a baby to be the greatest gift ever given to man—a relationship forever with God. So, as I think about the lights being turned on today and I think about these verses I am mindful that Jesus is truly the light of the world through whom we are saved.

This is grace. It is the what we refer to as the gospel message, the good news that God has sent His Son to save man who is not worthy. God is the one who freely gave this gift to us, and it as absolutely nothing to do with anything we have done or might ever do. It is unearned and undeserved!

Continuing with the uniqueness of Christ’s gift to us, just as we are saved by grace so are we graced to be specially gifted for His service. The Spirit of God works in us to open our eyes so that we can believe and be saved, and the Spirit gifts us so that we can serve after our salvation. In Romans 12:6 we read, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly….” (Romans 12:6, NASB95) Again grace is at the center. We were graced to be saved and we are graced to be able to walk and serve afterward. And in this gifting we are uniquely enabled is such a way that we work together in our uniqueness to build up the singular body of Christ—the church.

Verse 8 is most likely an application of Psalm 68:18, “You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men, even among the rebellious also, that the Lord God may dwell there.” (Psalm 68:18, NASB95) This psalm begins with the words, “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, and let those who hate Him flee before Him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish before God. But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; Yes, let them rejoice with gladness.” (Psalm 68:1–3, NASB95)

Jesus conquered death and He reigns as the victor. He brings those who are His with Him and He gives them freely of all that He has. He also sits as judge over those who do not believe. This is His right given to Him by the Father and evidenced by His death, burial, and resurrection. Sin and death and the evil one are conquered. Satan may still seem to be having a hay day among men, but his days are numbered and his defeat is already settled. Jesus reigns at the right hand of the Father and He is active through the power of the Spirit to save and to gift—bought and paid for!! 

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