1. Jesus provides His church with gifts for protection (4:7-12)
a. Protecting gifts for all believers (4:7-10)
b. Protecting gifts of called believers (4:11-12)
2. Jesus provides His church with growth for protection (4:13-16)
a. Protecting growth in the fullness of Christ (4:13)
b. Protecting growth in the truth of Christ (4:14)
c. Protecting growth in the body of Christ (4:15-16)
In the late 1800’s Ira Sankey was very famous for being D.L. Moody’s song leader. On Christmas Eve of 1875, he was traveling up the Delaware River on a steamboat. Some of the passengers recognized him and asked him to sing for them. So, he sang the old hymn, “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us.” One of the lines in that hymn says, “We are thine, do thou befriend us. Be the Guardian of our way.” As Sankey finished the hymn, a man stepped out from the shadows. He asked Sankey if he had ever served in the Union Army. He said he had. Then the man asked, “Can you remember if you were doing picket duty on a bright, moonlit night in 1862?” Sankey was very surprised and said, “yes.” The man looked up at him and said, “I was there too. But I was in the Confederate Army. It was my job to shoot you that night. As you stood there, completely exposed in the bright moonlight, I drew my aim. Then you lifted your head and began to sing the same song you just sang. When you finished, it was impossible for me to take aim again. I thought, ‘The Lord who is able to save that man from certain death must surely be great and mighty.’” Well, the Lord Jesus Christ is great and mighty. In every war Christians have ever participated in, stories are told of God’s hand of protection. Many times we are amazed at how God has protected us from car wrecks or accidents. Those are very dramatic, powerful stories. But that’s not the only way God protects us. As a matter of fact, it’s not the primary way He protects us. As we have been working our way through Ephesians, we have seen Paul reminding these believers of their calling. Reminding them of their calling in Christ. Their calling as His body—the church. And then he tells them to walk worthy of their call. To walk in the way Christ would have them to walk. To walk in unity, love, and humility. That’s the journey Christ has called them to. And that’s the journey He’s called us to. In our passage this morning, Paul is assuring these Ephesian believers of Jesus’ provision of protection as they head out on their journey of growing in Him. This morning, I want each of us to see the provisions Jesus has given us to protect us. And as we see His provision, I want us to determine to walk with Him together as one. In order to do that, we’re going to look at two provisions Jesus makes for our protection in the church. First, Jesus provides His church with gifts for protection.
Jesus provides His church with gifts for protection. This past Wednesday night, we talked about grace and how that grace is solely and completely a gift from God. We are incapable of doing anything to earn His grace. A lot of times we think of grace simply in terms of salvation. But our salvation is just the beginning of it. God pours out His grace on us continually. One of the most visible ways God pours out His grace on us is in the context of church. A lot of times we treat church like it’s just a place we’re supposed to go. Like it’s a meeting hall or a social club. Or it’s some type of work that we have to do to be good people. God uses church as a way to pour out His grace and protect us. He does that in two ways. First, He gives protecting gifts for all believers. Verse 7 says that every one of us is given grace. If you are here this morning and Jesus has saved you, He has gifted you according to His grace. He has the right to give gifts, because He earned it. He earned it by coming here in flesh, as a man. He was tempted in every way that you and I are, except He didn’t sin like we do. He willingly gave Himself as a sacrifice for your sins and mine. And He descended into the grave for three days. But on the third day, He did what verse 10 says: “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens that He might fill all things.” That is what qualifies Him to give you gifts. And our gifts are all different. He gave you gifts that are different than mine. Remember back in 2:21? All of us with our different gifts combine to make a building fitly framed together that grows into a holy temple in the Lord. Now, if God knows what He’s doing—and He does. And He gifts each of us differently so that we all have to work together to accomplish His will—and that’s how He designed it. What happens if you decide not to play? What if you decide not to use the gifts He has given you in this church? When you go back to the picture of the wall that is fitly framed together. What if one of the building blocks decided it didn’t want to be there? What if it wanted to be a decoration instead of a building block? How do you think that wall would stand up? It wouldn’t. By God’s grace, when Jesus saves us, He gives us gifts. My gifts work with your gifts. And each of your gifts should be working with everybody else’s to serve and protect this church. All believers have gifts. And all believers’ gifts working together is what it takes to protect this church. So, Jesus gives protecting gifts to all believers. He also gives protecting gifts of called believers. Jesus blesses all believers with gifts. He also blesses all believers by providing some believers with a special calling. Can you imagine being part of a church that had no specially called out people? No pastor. No teachers. It wouldn’t be much of a church, would it? Paul lists five special callings here in verse 11. The first two were given specifically to the first generation churches that Paul was writing to. The apostles and prophets were the ones who wrote the New Testament. So, the need for apostles and prophets went away once the New Testament was complete. But the need for the next three is as great as it ever was. Every one of us is called to spread the gospel. But in addition to that, God calls out certain people to be evangelists. Now, I’m not talking just about people like Billy Graham. I’m talking about people right here this morning who God has called to be evangelists. He has given you a unique burden for the lost in this community. And He either has or He will give you the ability to reach them and share with them and talk to them about Jesus. Now, here’s the interesting part. Most of the time, God places the burden there before He places the ability there. That’s the call. He will give you the burden and call you to step out in faith. Faith believing that if He calls, He will equip. And He will—if you’re willing to answer His call. He calls evangelists, pastors and teachers. Pastor-teacher is a unique office in the church. But just because you have one standing in front of you doesn’t mean that God doesn’t call others. Preachers and pastors are not made in seminary. They’re made in the local church. They’re made right here. And it’s God that does the calling. He places the burden. Just like He does with teachers. If God has given you a burden to teach, don’t sit back and say, “Well, there aren’t any openings in Sunday School, so I guess I can’t teach.” If God has given you a burden to teach, we’ll find you a place to teach. We’ll find you a place to teach, because if God has given you that gift, He expects you to use it. Just like He expects you to use the gift of evangelism. Or the gift of pastor-teacher. Just like He expects you to use any and all of the gifts He gives. But it’s not about you. He doesn’t expect you to exercise your gifts so you’ll feel better. So you’ll be personally fulfilled. So you’ll feel like you have a purpose. That’s not it at all. You have to exercise your gifts for the benefit of the whole body. It’s not about you—it’s about us. Like verse 12 says, it’s for perfecting or equipping the saints and edifying the body. By you exercising your gifts, you’re giving somebody else the tools they need to walk the way they’re supposed to walk. By exercising your gifts, you’re giving us the stuff we need to fitly frame together for the protection we need. Jesus provides His church with gifts for protection. Gifts for all believers and gifts of called believers. But He not only provides His church with gifts for protection, Jesus provides His church with growth for protection.
Jesus provides His church with growth for protection. Back in October, the world’s most premature baby was born in Miami after only being in the womb for 21 weeks. She was only 9 ½ inches long and weighed less that 10 ounces. She was able to go home a couple of weeks ago. But they had to keep her in the hospital all these months for her protection. They had to protect her until she was able to grow enough to handle the outside world. Just like that baby’s physical growth has given her a measure of physical protection, our growth as a church gives us spiritual protection. Jesus gives us that growth in three ways. First, He gives us protecting growth in the fullness of Christ. Verse 13 tells us that we are to be growing to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. As your children were growing, did you ever measure their height on a door facing? I remember when my son was little; we had season passes to DollyWood. It seemed like one whole summer, all he talked about was being tall enough to ride Tennessee Tornado. When we would go, he would stretch up to the marker to see if he was tall enough. Finally, the day came when he was. That is the picture Paul paints of our growth as the body of Christ. Jesus is our standard. He is the measuring stick on the door frame. It’s not each other. We don’t compare ourselves to each other. If we do, what a poor standard. Our measuring standard is a perfect Man—the fullness of Jesus Christ. That’s the standard we’re growing toward. And when we focus on that standard, look what comes along with it. Unity, faith, and knowledge of Him. He gives us protecting growth in the fullness of Christ. And He also gives us protecting growth in the truth of Christ. Verse 14 says that we should no longer be children. We should grow up in Scriptural truths so we’re not susceptible to all the lies that are out there. While we still enjoy the milk of the Word, we should be partaking of the meat of the Word as well. We need to know the elementary truths of Scripture, but we need to go beyond that as well. Satan finds new ways to attack Scripture every day. We need to grow in truth so we can defend our faith and be a witness in the world. Growth in the fullness of Christ and in the truth of Christ. He also gives protecting growth in the body of Christ. Our quest for doctrinal truth and purity can’t come at the expense of love. Because that’s what it’s all about. Us, as a whole, complete body. A body where every person has a role. And where each of us fulfills our role. I blew out my knee several years ago. I didn’t get it treated properly, so it still bothers me. That joint doesn’t “supplyeth” very well. And when it acts up, it affects my whole body. Isn’t that what happens in the church? But the worst thing that can happen is if I look at you and say, “Hey ankle bone, you’re not doing your job.” We need to look at ourselves first. Are you using your gifts the way you’re supposed to? Have you answered God’s call on your life? Are you growing to be more and more like Christ every day? Are you growing in His truth by studying and living His Word? Are you growing together with the other parts of the body?
All morning, we’ve been talking about protection. Jesus protects His church with gifts. Gifts for all believers and gifts of called believers. He also protects His church with growth. Growth in the fullness of Christ, growth in the truth of Christ, and growth in the body of Christ. He had provided a lot of protection. But what is He protecting us from? The answer is back up in verse 14.
Satan wants nothing more than to trip us up and make us ineffective. He wants nothing more than to confuse us. He wants nothing more than to ruin our witness. He wants nothing more than to make our church an ineffective social club. He wants us to give up our protection. So, how can he do that? How can he toss us around and get us to fall for cunning craftiness? First, he can get us to ignore our gifts. When you start thinking, there’s nothing that I can do in this church—guess what? He’s won. When you allow a personal stumble or an unkind word to keep you from the work you know you’re supposed to be doing, he’s won. You’ve given up your God-given protection and let the enemy in. When you don’t respond to God’s call in your life by being willing to learn and grow and work, Satan’s won. If Jesus has called you to teach and you’re not teaching, the devil’s winning. If Jesus has called you to preach and you’re not willing to preach, the devil’s winning. And when I say that he’s winning, it’s not just in your life. It’s in the life of this church. You see, Jesus has provided us with all these protections. But when one of us knocks that protection down by allowing the enemy in, it affects the whole body. The whole body can be tossed to and fro when even one of us insists on what verse 14 calls being childish. So, what about you? Are you using the gifts Jesus has given you? Do you even know what they are? Has He placed a call on your life that you’ve been trying to ignore or run from? Jesus descended to the grave and ascended far above the heavens to secure your protection. Take hold of that protection today.