Summary: This sermon takes a look at the shape of the church (particularly the Southern Baptist denomination) and encourages Christians to be about our Fathers business.
The Shape We’re In
Text: Ephesians 4:7-13
By: Ken McKinley
Every year the President of the United States stands before Congress to deliver his state of the Union Address. From one year to the next, what is said is often forgettable – it’s mostly talking points and the laying out of an agenda. Now I do think it is important to take a review of our past; to take a look at what we’ve done over the last year and see if we’ve managed to achieve any of our goals. I also think it’s important to plan for the year ahead, and that’s sort of what I want to do this morning, but I’m not going to do this by my ideas of what I think are important. Instead I want to do it through the lens of God’s Word.
Now last time we talked about unity in the Church, how God unites different people into one Body of believers – e pluribus unum – out of many, one. Today our text is taking this unity into the application stage. So Paul begins by taking us out of the unity mindset and he makes it personal by saying “But to EACH ONE OF US, grace was given…” We talked about grace in chapter two, how it was grace that saved us, but it was also grace that makes us God’s workmanship. The God who saves us by His grace, also molds us as instruments of grace unto good works. If you think that the meaning of being a Christian is only about going to heaven, then you’ve missed the meaning of what grace is all about. Yes it gets you to heaven, but it’s also for today, right here, right now. So Paul makes it clear that grace is given to each and every believer. If we belong to God, and it was God who has chosen us, and it was the Son who died to redeem us, and it was the Holy Spirit who sealed us, then Paul is saying grace has been poured out on you.
Now notice that Paul says that this grace was given “in accordance to the measure of Christ’s gift.” In other words, the grace that is given to you and I is in proportion to Christ’s gift. It’s never ending… Think about it; how far did God go in making you His own? To the point of death, that’s how far… to the Cross, and that’s also how far God goes in equipping you to live today. If you’re a Christian, you’re not only forgiven of your sins, and clothed with Christ’s righteousness, but you are also equipped to honor Him with your life today. That’s why we sing amazing grace, and when we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise then when we first began.
Now Paul uses Psalm 68:18 to try and explain this grace that has been given to us in accordance to Christ’s gift. Psalm 68 is a picture of God’s triumph over His enemies through the conquest of Egypt up to David bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. But Paul changes it somewhat to get his point across… instead of saying, “He received gifts from men,” Paul says, “He gave gifts to men.”
This is an amazing picture of how merciful and gracious God is. Normally when a king conquered his enemies he would enslave them, but Paul is talking about a conqueror who doesn’t enslave men, but instead gives them gifts for service.
Paul ties this in with Jesus and he goes on to say that Jesus first descended into the lower parts of the earth, and then ascended high above the heavens.
Now this is one of those passages of Scripture that has been taken out of context by certain TV preachers and used to further their wrong theology and agendas. They say that Jesus went to Hell in order to pay for our sins, but this is one of the most un-biblical teachings being preached today. Jesus paid for our sins on the Cross. He said His work was finished from the Cross. He told the thief that today He would be with Him in paradise (not Hell). Just before verses 9 & 10 Paul is comparing Jesus to a conquering king, so we have to ask ourselves, “What did Jesus conquer?” He conquered sin and He conquered death. The captivity Jesus led captive were us. Slaves to sin. Nowhere does the Bible teach that the sinless, spotless, Lamb of God had to go to Hell in order to pay for our sins. He did that on the Cross, and descended into the grave, not into Hell.
So what Paul is showing us here is that God’s ordained ways of going “up” is always “down.” The Bible tells us that God resists the proud, but He exalts the humble. “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and in due time He will exalt you.”