A Commentary by John Stott
Ephesians 4:7-12. 3). Christian unity is enriched by the diversity of our gifts.
The contrast between verses 6 and 7 is striking. Verse 6 speaks of God as Father of us *all*, who is above *all*, through *all* and in *all*. Verse 7, however, begins: *But grace was given to each of us…* Thus Paul turns from ‘all of us’ to ‘each of us’, and so from unity to the diversity of the church.
He is, in fact, deliberately qualifying what he has just written about the church’s unity. Although there is only one body, one faith and one family, this unity is not to be misconstrued as a lifeless or colourless uniformity. We are not to imagine that every Christian is an exact replica of every other, as if we had all been mass-produced in some celestial factory. On the contrary, the unity of the church, far from being boringly monotonous, is exciting in its diversity. This is not just because of our different cultures, temperaments and personalities (which, though true, is not Paul’s point here), but because of the different gifts which Christ distributes for the enrichment of our common life.
Verse 7 refers to Christ’s *grace* in bestowing different gifts. Although Paul does not here employ the term *charismata* for ‘gifts’ (as he does in Rom. 12:6 and 1 Cor. 12:4), yet clearly it is to these that he is referring. For ‘grace’ is *charis*, and ‘gifts’ are *charismata*. Moreover, it is very important to understand the difference between them. ‘Saving grace’, the grace which saves sinners, is given to all who believe (See 2:5, 8: ‘By grace you are saved’); but what might be termed ‘service grace’, the grace which equips God’s people to serve, is given in different degrees *according to the measure of Christ’s gift* (verse 7). The unity of the church is due to *charis*, God’s grace having reconciled us to himself; but the diversity of the church is due to *charismata*, God’s gifts distributed to church members.
It is, of course, from this word *charismata* that the adjective ‘charismatic’ is derived. The so-called ‘charismatic movement’, although controversial in a number of its distinctive emphases, has without doubt been used by God to bring spiritual renewal to many churches and individual Christians. Nevertheless, we should register a biblical protest against the designation ‘charismatic movement’, whether its adherents themselves chose it or were given it. ‘Charismatic’ is not a term which can be accurately applied to any group or movement within the church, since according to the New Testament the whole church is a charismatic community. It is the body of Christ, every single member of which has a gift (*charisma*) to exercise or function to perform.
What, then, does this paragraph teach us about *charismata* or spiritual gifts? It tells us about their giver, their character and their purpose.
Tomorrow: Ephesians 4:7-10. a). The giver of spiritual gifts is the ascended Christ.
|The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Ephesians. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.|