Wholly Thine 5Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.’ (Exodus 19:5,6. NRSV) 9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. (1 Peter 2:9.NRSV) Welcome To The New World! Week Two: This Is A Gift Based Society June 7th, 2009 Ephesians 4:7-16 Rev. Paul Carter Introduction: Open your Bibles to Ephesians 4. We started this Community series the week before Pentecost and we are picking it up again this morning. Without a lot of preamble let’s just jump into the text at verse 7 and we’ll read down to verse 16. 7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it is said, ‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.’ 9(When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. (NRSV) A lot of people are fond of noting how the Letter to the Ephesians is similar in its structure to the Letter Paul wrote to the Romans. Both letters have the same hinge. In Romans Paul talks for 11 chapters about theology then in Romans 12:1 we have this hinge: 1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. (NIV) Given what we have just learned about God’s mercy and ALL that he has done for us in Christ – give up control of yourselves and submit to his will. This is the first and primary act of worship. Here in Ephesians 4 we have the same hinge. Paul has been teaching theology for 3 chapters and then he says: I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called (Ephesians 4:1. NRSV) Again Paul says, in essence, in view of what we have just learned about the mercy of God in Christ, this is how you should LIVE. And he goes on to talk about submitting to community for four chapters. The movement from ‘what we believe’ to how we should live is at the heart of all NT teaching. That’s why we preached on the fact of belonging being NON-NEGOTIABLE two weeks ago – we BELONG because of what we BELIEVE. You see in the Scriptures, unlike in our modern practice, belief results in certain proving actions. For example, if your child was dying of a strange disease and I said to you that the cure for that disease, the antidote, is in a vial on the bottom of my pool. All you have to do is dive in, swim down and grab it and your daughter will be healed. Now if you stood on the side of the pool and said: ‘I believe that. I receive that, thank you’; but didn’t dive into the pool to get it, what would we conclude? We would conclude that either you did not believe me or you did not love your daughter. Likewise, Jesus says that the cure for this broken world is a restored alternate community, cleansed by his blood, filled with his Spirit and you said: ‘I believe that’; but stood on the sidelines without diving in, what would we conclude? Either you don’t believe it or you don’t love the world. If Jesus tried to convince you saying: ‘You can become cleansed, child, my blood can remake you and then you can become sanctified – progressively improved – through the experience of community as people with the Spirit speak into you, teach you, encourage you, correct you and lead you’ and you said: ‘I believe that’; and remained immobile – what does that mean? Eventually it means what it means: it means you do not believe or you do not love and the Scriptures say plainly: 23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. (1 John 3:23-24. NRSV) Pretty clear isn’t it? Paul makes the same argument in Ephesians 4:1-6. Because of what we believe, we enter into this new form of community – its non-negotiable because it is the whole plan and point of God. Then starting in verse 7 he begins to provide an orientation on this new community so we have subtitled this series: Welcome To The New World. The Apostle Paul is about to give us a guided tour of this new thing we are to be apart of. The first thing he wants us to understand is this: This Is A Gift Based Society That’s our topic for today. Verse 7 says: 7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (NRSV) Paul then goes on to quote from Psalm 68:18 which was a VERY important text in the early church. The first sermon ever preached in the church was preached on this passage in Acts 2 – we talked about it last week. Peter’s Pentecost sermon was an exegesis – an explanation – of Psalms 68:18 which in the LXX reads like this: Thou art gone up on high, thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast received gifts for man, yea, for they were rebellious, that thou mightest dwell among them. (Psalm 68:18. LXX) Now Paul quotes that free-hand: 8Therefore it is said, ‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.’ (Ephesians 4:8. NRSV) The foundation of the church was this idea that Jesus came down, who is it that ascended except he that descended. You can’t go up into heaven, unless you first came down to earth from heaven. Jesus came down to earth, died on the cross to pay for our sins and then rose again, defeating death and then ascended – went back up – into heaven SO THAT… now everyone stop and let’s all say together the words ‘SO THAT’ because these are the words we Evangelicals miss. We argue over the history and the theology and then we forget the implications. So let’s say together: SO THAT. So that he could receive gifts FROM God FOR men and women. The church is now the collection and distribution point for the good gifts of God. Wow! Paul says, if you believe that God is good, and if you believe that he wants to send grace and good gifts to this world – the world that God so loved that he GAVE his only begotten son, than you better get on board because God is not finished giving. Amen? So let’s understand this gift based society. 1. Gifts come wrapped in human skin Check it out; Paul wants us to get excited to receive gifts and to marvel over our gifts and then this is how he describes those gifts: 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, (NRSV) The gifts he gave WERE PEOPLE. Isn’t that incredible? Now this shouldn’t surprise us really because we all learned in Sunday School that: 16"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, (John 3:16. NKJV) The BEST gift God ever gave came wrapped in human skin and so maybe this is just a God-thing? You think? It is a God- thing, this is how God does it – when he wants to bless a church and grow a church he sends PEOPLE and when he wants to bless a world and reach a city he sends a CHURCH full of PEOPLE. This is how God rolls my friends and we just need to get on board with that. Now let’s take a look at these gifts wrapped in human skin. The first gift he mentions is the gift of an apostle. Now right away some of us Evangelicals have our shorts in a knot. Some Evangelicals do not like the idea of talking about anyone as an apostle except the 12 and maybe Paul - when we’re feeling dangerous. But that is absolutely ridiculous. No where in the Bible does it say that there are only 12 or 13 Apostles. Yes the 12 were special and yes we can refer to THE Apostles meaning the original 12 plus Paul as being a special group but that doesn’t mean that there cannot be many small ‘a’ apostles – in fact some of those are even mentioned as such in the Bible. Barnabas is referred to as an apostle – though he was not one of the 12. In the early part of Acts he is referred to as simply Barnabas, but after he was commissioned by his church in Antioch and sent out to be the preaching companion of Paul he is referred to as an Apostle in Acts 14. James, the brother of the Lord was not one of the 12 yet he is also called an Apostle. So there is no Biblical ground whatsoever for the notion that there were only 12-13 Apostles and that there can be no more. In fact it would be kind of mean for Paul to send a letter to a bunch of churches that had never met one of the 12 and that Paul had never met with and tell them that the greatest gift a church could receive was ‘an apostle’ – but P.S. you don’t have one. The gift of ‘Apostle’ seems to be a composite gift – a gift made up of other gifts. It is a person who has the gift of leadership, the gift of prophesy and the gift of preaching all wrapped together. The original Apostles, the capital-A Apostles, laid the foundation of the church’s beliefs. Christ was the keystone and the Apostles built around that the foundation of God’s House. Modern day Apostles do not preach or prophesy or lead the church to anything NEW. They usually restore something from the original foundation that has been lost. For example, Martin Luther is widely recognised as a true apostle of the church. He added NOTHING new – he restored something that had been lost – the primacy of the Word of God. The church had become too dependent on the traditions of men, Luther demanded that the Word of God become the true foundation for Christian teaching. Let me ask you: is that a NEW idea? No, all of the Apostles taught the same thing. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is widely regarded as an apostle of the church. He brought back to a weak, rich and fearful church the expectation of suffering. His famous line is that ‘when Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.’ Bonhoeffer brought back the expectation of cost and suffering to the church. Was that a NEW idea? No. The Apostle Peter said: Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin (1 Peter 4:1. NKJV) John Wimber is widely recognised as an apostle of the modern day church. He brought back the idea that the church should be dependent upon the Holy Spirit. Is that a NEW idea? No. All of the Apostles understood that it is the Holy Spirit that gives life and power and GIFTS to the church. Wimber brought that belief back and it is still working its way through the modern day church. None of these apostles did anything NEW – they returned the church to its true foundation and that is what apostles do. They are a gift to the church and there are more of them than you think. The next gift was the gift of prophets. Evangelicals also don’t like this one. There is something a little bit strange about sending the Great Gift Giver a note saying: ‘Hey we’re excited that you are coming and bringing gifts, however here is a list of gifts we are not willing to receive…’ But that is what we have done over the last 100 years or so. Evangelicals have FEARED the gift of prophesy because they worry that it will replace the Word of God. Why would anyone read the Bible if they can just hear directly from God through a prophet? They also fear that prophesy will be held up as equal in authority to the Bible. But this is as silly with regards to prophets as it is with regards to apostles. If someone says to you: ‘I am the Apostle Peter. I am the rock of the church and my word is eternally binding’ you have my permission to think that person is crazy. But modern day apostles don’t do that and they don’t invent new doctrine – they restore the church to old doctrines. Likewise, modern day prophets do not speak new doctrine, they apply old doctrine. That is why John advised his church members to: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1. NRSV) John says: ‘In a few years I am going to be dead and gone and God will raise up new prophets, that’s fine, just test them against the Scriptures to see if they are false or real. And then he gives a whole list of tests. There was the EXPECTATION in the early church that prophesy would be on-going. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:1: Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy. (NRSV) Now again, why would he tell them to eagerly desire gifts he didn’t think they would receive? That would be mean. He tells them to desire the gift of prophesy and prophets because he knows that God is eager to give that gift. God speaks my friends – get over it. We have several people in our congregation moving in the prophetic – maybe as many as a dozen and none of them are inventing new doctrines or claiming to be as authoritative as the Bible. But they are a gift to this church and I pray we receive even more. He goes on to list several other gifts that we tend to like better and understand more so we need to say less about them. The only note I think may be useful is to just mention how ‘teachers’ are different than prophets. As I mentioned, an apostle is a person who has the mixture of three powerful gifts, leadership, prophesy and teaching. A teacher has only one and a prophet has only one. A teacher often takes the insights of a prophet and proclaims them in a powerful and transformative way – though they may not be his own insights. Most pulpit preachers function this way. Teaching or preaching has to do with delivery, prophesy has to do with discovery. For example, there are several female prophets in the Bible – in the Old and New Testaments. We would expect that because Peter in his Pentecost sermon said: 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:18. NRSV) So prophesy is for men and women. However, there are no women preachers in the Bible – Old Testament or New. The public proclamation gift is given more narrowly in the Bible than the gift of discovery. Whether you like that or don’t, whether I like that or don’t is not really relevant and doesn’t seem to interest God a great deal. The Scriptures remind us that: 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. (1 Corinthians 12:11. NRSV) 2. Gifts are given TO individuals FOR the larger tribe Look at verse 12, these great gifts of apostles and prophets and teachers etc. are given: 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. (NRSV) God doesn’t send us prophets and apostles and teachers and evangelists just so that we can cheer them on and clap at their work, he sends them to affect and change us. Let me show you how this works. I’m going to invite up my 6 volunteers that have been prepped a little bit on this part of the service. Come on in. Each of them has been painted and gifted by God. They have a Divine Touch on them represented by these various colours. Now I need five more volunteers from the congregation. You don’t need to do anything or say anything you just need to stand here and there is a possibility you may get some paint on your face – but its face paint and we have wet wipes. Now watch how this works. Go! (Of the 6 pre-painted individuals, one sits down and begins to pray. The others circulate and put their mark on every face – including that of the other pre-paints until everyone have five coloured marks on their faces). Alright – great work! You can take a wet wipe and have a seat. Now let’s talk about what we just saw. First of all, did you notice this person over here who came out and just sat down without joining into the group. Their mark died with them because they did not commit to community. This group lacks whatever it was that God intended them to have because this person refused to connect. They stayed at home and prayed by themselves. But these five began to circulate in the group and they left their mark on everyone until: 13until (all of us come) the whole group of us came to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. You see an apostle CHANGES the church. After Martin Luther brought his apostleship gift to the church, the church as a whole began to practice a much elevated respect for the word of God. It didn’t die with Martin. Martin didn’t live his whole life reading the Bible in his cloister and then have his fellow monks write on his tombstone: ‘Here lies Martin – ridiculously committed to the Word of God.’ No – Martin’s gift spread to the whole church and now we have the Protestant wing among whom are many churches that lift high the authority of Holy Scripture. John Wimber did not prophesy in his closet he circulated in the church and reignited a passion and a seeking for the Holy Spirit that launched the charismatic renewal of the church – a movement that is still seeping and spreading and changing the way we do church. That’s how these gifts function. They come in a package but they are to be opened by everyone. 3. What comes around goes around – Gifts travel in a circular fashion Paul started this section by quoting from Psalm 68: Thou art gone up on high, thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast received gifts for man, yea, for they were rebellious, that thou mightest dwell among them. (Psalm 68:18. LXX) The gifts are on the move in this passage. They pass from the Father to the Son and then the Son passes them on to us. Now do you expect that they stop there? No. They pass to us for the world. Look at verse 10 of Ephesians 4: 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) (NRSV) So Paul says, Jesus descended to earth from heaven, did his work and then ascended back to heaven to pour down gifts into the church, the point of which was to FILL ALL THINGS. Now if you just rip this passage out of its context you are going to struggle to understand what in the world Paul is saying. But all of this is just the application of the theology he taught in the first 3 chapters. And if we go back there we discover this: 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:20-23. NRSV) Paul says it like this: Imagine a triangle divided into three sections. The top third, the pointy part is Christ. He is the HEAD. God has put his power to work in the HEAD and he did that FOR THE CHURCH. Because underneath that top pointy part is the second third of the triangle that is the church. Power flows down from the head into the church but we’re not done there. Power and grace and gifts flow from the HEAD into the CHURCH FOR the WORLD! For all. Why does this surprise us? For God so loved THE WORLD! Right? Romans 8 says: 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God (Romans 8:19. NRSV) Why does the creation long for our revealing? Because it cannot receive good things from God but that they pass through us. The world longs for a church that lives to pour blessings into them. The gifts are on the move. They originate in the Father, who is the giver of every good thing, they are given to the Son who sits at the Father’s right hand and he pours them down into the church over which he is head and they pass through the church into the world until Christ fills ALL THINGS with his goodness. But let me ask you – do you think it stops there? No – there is one more movement, one last turn in this circulation of the gifts and that turn is back to Jesus. Read verse 13 very carefully: 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. (NRSV) See all of this is happening so that God can raise up a companion for himself – measuring to the full stature of Christ. We use this symbolic language we just refuse to deal with what it means. We call the church the BRIDE of Christ don’t we? A bride stands beside her husband doesn’t she? The Scriptures say that we will be LIKE Christ don’t they? when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. (1 John 3:2. NRSV) In the Old Testament God tells a story about meeting an orphaned infant girl on the side of the road – abandoned and covered in the blood of the womb. He takes charge of this girl and provides her with a home and an upbringing and comes to check on her from time to time. When she reaches maturity he comes back and he betroths himself to her stating his intention to marry her and take her as his wife and life companion. Do you remember this story? It’s found in Ezekiel 16; the climax of expectation is in verse 13: You grew exceedingly beautiful, fit to be a queen. (Ezekiel 16:13. NRSV) We’ve read this story in church before. Obviously this story is a parable – God does not actually go prowling for a wife in the desert around Israel. What is the MEANING of this story? It means that God is preparing a beautiful companion for himself. Ultimately the gifts are given unto God. Ultimately, we are the gift for God. The gift originates with the Father, it is passed to the Son who sends it down onto the church. It passes through us into the world and a bride emerges out of all the people of the earth. And on that final day the gift returns to its giver as the Bride is presented to her husband. That is the story my friends! The gift returning to the giver. Conclusion: Welcome to a whole new world. You are part of a story now about gifts. Don’t sit on the sidelines – get in the box. These gifts are like nothing you’ve ever seen. They bless and change everyone they touch. We are not the end of their journey – not by a long shot. We have begun to receive in new measure not JUST because God loves us – but also because he loves our world and because he loves this city. We must therefore position ourselves to overflow and pour out gifts and grace and power into this town – but ultimately it isn’t really FOR Orillia that we do this thing is it? They are not the end either. The end of all things is Christ. We will raise up, by the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit a BRIDE for our master from among the people of this City and she will make our master smile – she will be the gift of his choosing and he will take her unto himself as he intended from the first, when man and woman walked with God in the cool of the garden breeze. That is the end. And all God’s people said: Amen. So shall it be.