Making Christ known, not the Christ I think I know – Saturday, 29th week in ordinary time – Ephesians 4:7-16

Making Christ known, not the Christ I think I know – Saturday, 29th week in ordinary time – Ephesians 4:7-16

Chapter 4 signalled the half way mark of the book but also the cause for the effect that was brought about in the life of Jews but especially in the life of the Gentiles (as seen in Chapters 1-3.) God drew all to unity in Jesus Christ. That unity finds its highest expression in the fact that we are children of one God, the Father of all who is above all, through all and in all. (4:6)

In verses 4:4-6, Paul emphasizes our unity. Now he acknowledges our diversity, the grace given to each of us. This grace is distinctive, tailor made, bespoke and a perfect fit. Christian unity is not to be confused with uniformity, for the members of Christ’s body have been endowed with a variety of gifts. Don’t confuse the gifts of the Spirt in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 with this text. Ephesians is speaking of the gifts of Christ (see verse7)

Before we go ahead, we need to understand what grace is. It is true that we have been given a share in God’s grace. The problem is that we tend to ‘thingify’ (no such word but created for you get the meaning) grace or ‘charis’. Grace is not something but somebody; Jesus. Christ offers himself to us in the measure that we are open to him. Christ does not make a ‘deal with us’ in return for his grace. He is the free and unmerited gift that the father gives to each of us.

Ephesians says that this gift giving, this grace giving happened (as described prophetically in Psalm 68:18) when Jesus ascended to heaven. By the giving of himself he bound all that which binds us. Verse 7-9 is an allusion to Psalm 68:18 which the author to the Ephesians draws from. These words were also used in Rabbinical Judaism to Moses who ‘ascended’ Mt Sinai, received the law from God and then gave it as a gift to Israel. The author to the Ephesians did not quote the passage exactly as it appears in Psalm 68. Either he altered it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit or under similar inspiration he quoted from an ancient translation (called a Targum) that quotes the Psalm in this manner.

In its original context, this psalm celebrated victory over God’s enemies and a triumphal procession bringing the spoils of victory, including prisoners, up Mount Zion to the temple, the dwelling place of God. Paul relates this verse to Christ, who “ascended on high, who then led “captivity captive”, and gave gifts to men.” Influenced by this rabbinical interpretation, the author of Ephesians changes the original verb from ‘receive’ to ‘give’ and then applies the Psalm to Christ who is sent from the father and who returned to him

The author of Ephesians indicated that Christ descended into Hades to preach to the dead ( I Peter 3:18-22). 1 Peter 3:18-22, says that Jesus, “went and preached to the spirits in prison, who before were disobedient.” So, Jesus descended into Hades in the time between his death and the time of his resurrection. This understanding is incorporated into the Apostles’ Creed, which says that Jesus “was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” Now that he has ascended, Christ shares specific gifts among the member of his body,

Jesus shared these gifts so that the mission that was entrusted to him by the father would be shared with us all. Hence some were chosen as apostles (sent out as special ambassadors of God’s work) some were prophets who spoke forth words from God in complete consistency with the foundation of the Old and New Testaments. Some were given the gift of being evangelists (spreading the good news) and some pastors and teachers, shepherds the flock of God primarily

The purpose of the gift is not for the propagation or the personal elevation of the receiver but as an aid to help the Church in their ministry so that the body of Christ would be built. By this Christ will be known and not the Christ ‘ I want to know.’ Paul speaks of the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God

It is in this context that the author also brings up an old topic that had plagued much of the early Church as it does today. A child like attitude is what Christ called us to have and not childish behaviour when it comes to the faith. While children are charming, adults who have never outgrown their childish ways are less so. The author cautions the Ephesians that a childish attitude leads one to be fickle. With every fancy thought or ‘pretty preacher’ we get tossed ‘to and fro’ and are blown about by every wind doctrine that they propagate.’

The gifts of Christ were given to unite us in one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one baptism and one God. Yet, as the writer to the Ephesians had hoped against, we have “fallen for peoples trickery, their craftiness and their deceitful scheming” and have been tossed in ‘university of WhatsApp’ that preaches the doctrine we want to hear rather than the doctrine of Christ that was meant to be preached.

This task of fidelity is not easy and so the author to the Ephesians presents a path to unity. Previously, in 4:2 the author begged the Ephesians to live a life worthy of their calling with humility, gentleness, patience and bearing with one another in love. Now he reiterates that the approach to unity in doctrine must also be with love and when we have to speak it, we “speak the truth with love” (4:15) This speaks to not only how we are to relate to one another in God’s family, but also to how leaders and saints are to deal with deceivers. We should deal with them in love, but never budging from the truth.

It is a great challenge to speak the truth in agape love, the kind of love that puts the welfare of the other person first. One temptation is to speak the truth so sharply that it wounds rather than heals. The opposite temptation is to avoid conflict by avoiding difficult conversations.

But speaking the truth with love will help us grow spiritually to become a body of unity with Christ “as its head.” This is something we have to remind ourselves constantly. This is not the Pope’s Church, the pastor’s Church, the minister’s Church the Parish council’s Church or the lay persons Church; this is Christs’ Church. He is the head and we are members of the body with specific roles. He has invited us to be in this Church; this was his grace, his calling, his invitation and we remind ourselves of this less we lose the plot.

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