Ephesians 4: 7-10
The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is expected to influence the world.
How are we expected to accomplish that task.
By what power are we to operate?
Upon what resource can we rely?
Is it to be by some wonder, working, dramatic display of miracles?
Is it to be by the power of numbers?
Which is to say, that we get large numbers of people together to vote the same way
and exert pressure upon legislatures to change society by new and more just laws.
Is this the real power of the church?
Or is it by agitating for change by joining the picket lines, sit-ins, walkouts or whatever?
Or does the power of the church come from the holding of conventions
devoted to discussions of various issues and then issuing pronouncements and resolutions?
We should notice that in writing to the Ephesians
that Paul does not suggest any of these activities.
Rather, Paul reminds us that the fundamental secret of the operation of the church is
that each true Christian has a gift and is expected to operate that gift or many gifts
in the power provided by Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 4: 7-10: "But Grace was given to each of us according to the measure
of Christ's gift. Therefore it is said, 'When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men."
There are two kinds of gifts mentioned in verse 7.
One, Paul calls the measure of the other.
But grace (that is the first gift) was given to each of us, according to
the measure of Christ's gift (or more literally, the gift of Christ -- the second gift).
This gift is Christ Himself.
As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:15, "Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift."
Paul is talking about a gift that God has given us, which is Christ.
Because Christ is made known to us by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives,
it is equally proper to call this the gift of the Holy Spirit,
as the apostle Peter does in Acts 2:38:
"And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and as a result of your repentance, be baptized...
and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
So, the basic gift is the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ within each believer.
That is what causes anyone to be a Christian.
Paul says in Romans 8:9:
"Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him."
A person may be religious and even be a member of the church,
and may faithfully attend all meetings and fulfill all obligations,
but if that person does not have the Spirit of God living within
them that person does not belong to Christ -- that person is not a Christian.
That is essential!
There is also the special, "grace," mentioned here,
which is the gift of the Spirit to each Christian as a special capacity to serve God.
It is this gift (or many gifts) which must be exercised according to the measure of Christ's gift.
Why does Paul tie this immediately to Christ's ascension, and to His previous descent to earth?
Why does Paul in this passage quote from Psalm 68:18:
"When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men."
Paul seems to put great emphasis on Christ's triumphant march,
leading a host of captives in his train.
What is the reason for it?
It is obvious that these verses from the Psalm are intended to amplify
and explain the phrase according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
A gift is one thing.
The power to use it is quite another.
Now Paul is bringing these together.
These gifts of grace ( he is saying) are given to us to use
according to the measure of power available to us.
And that power is the life of a risen and enthroned Lord living within us by means of His Spirit.
What kind of power is needed to operate the gift, or gifts, which God has given us?
Do we need the power of a strong personality?
It seems there are many who think so.
Many Christians are not using the gift, or gifts, which God has given them
because they think it requires a strong, aggressive personality to do so.
If they have an outgoing, extroverted personality,
then they expect to be used to God, but not otherwise.
If that is the power that is required, it is obvious that there are many
who never stand a chance, since they simply are not extroverts.
And even those who are extroverts and are aggressive often find occasions
when they do not particularly feel outgoing.
Or do we need the power of positive thinking?
We hear so much about this.
We are led to believe that we just need to read certain books,
and develop our inner attitudes in such a way that we are always thinking positively,
and never negatively, and then, the we can be useful to Christ.
If that is the kind of power that is needed, it is obvious
that it is never available if we happen to be in a depressed or negative mood.
While, in general, it is good to be optimistic, but that optimism must have
some basis in fact to be any help at all.
Or is it the power of a keen intellect that which is needed?
Must we all seek to have a well-trained, educated mind, sharpened and honed
to the highest degree by the resources of modern knowledge?
But there are those who are born with low IQs,
and no amount of knowledge will increase it.
Others do not have, and never will have, the advantage of training and education.
Are they to be shut away from being of use to the Spirit of God by these disadvantages?
It is evident that we need a power that is different from any of the ones which we have mentioned.
That is precisely the kind of power that we need.
- We need a power superior to all circumstances.
- We need a power that is not affected by education, either the presence of it or the lack of it.
- We need a power that is independent of moods or feelings.
- We need the power of a risen Lord.
- We need the power of resurrection!
That is what Paul is referring to when he speaks of the ascension and triumphal appearance of Christ
before the throne of God that He might give gifts to men.
Paul coveted this highly for himself, for he cries out in his Philippian letter,
"That I may know him and the power of his resurrection." (Philippians 3:10)
Because of the descent of Christ to earth (His incarnation)
and His ascent again to the throne of power after His resurrection,
that remarkable power is now available to every Christian.
It took His descent from glory down to this earth, and all the pain, anguish, heartache,
and sorrow of the cross, and finally, a resurrection from the dead
and an ascension in triumph into the heavens to receive gifts from the Father
before it was possible for Him to give those gifts to you and to me.
A spiritual gift is not a common thing.
As we have seen, it is not merely a natural talent as many others in the world would have.
It is a divinely-given ability requiring resurrection power to exercise it.
So, the gifts, which Christ has given to you, are the most precious you could ever have.
Someone has said that the spiritual gifts are like so many electrical appliances.
And there are many electrical appliances today.
There are electric toasters, toothbrushes, mixers, irons, razors, dishwashers, etc.
Look carefully at these electrical appliances, and you will see that though they are vastly different
in their functions, there is one thing they all have in common.
They utilize the power of electricity from batteries or a plug into an electrical socket.
No matter how different the appliances may be, they all require the same power.
But that power is not utilized to the same extent.
Each appliance has its own specific amount of power.
For instance, some some require 450 watts, some require 100 watts,
and some require only 20 watts or less.
The early Christians knew the secret of living by resurrection power,
and nothing else will account for the amazing effect they had upon the world of their day.
They did not try to borrow power from the world.
In resurrection power they had all they possibly needed available continuously
from a risen, triumphant Lord.
Paul writes in Ephesians 3: 20, 21:
"Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly
that all that we ask or think... be glory in the church."
Paul claims this for himself as well:
"Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace
(the grace, or spiritual gift given to him) which was given me by the working of his power."
Paul did not always see the results himself,
but he knew they were always there, for resurrection power can never fail.
We must understand that resurrection power is like no other power on earth.
It is unique, and has no possible rival.
For one thing, it is the kind of power that operates in the midst of death.
It works when everything around it is dull, dead, and barren.
It works best in the midst of a cemetery for that is where it was first demonstrated.
When Jesus Christ was resurrected, He came out from among the dead.
Therefore, if we learn to live by resurrection power we can be alive and vital
when everything and everyone around us is dead and lifeless.
Furthermore, resurrection power makes no noise.
Other kinds of power that we know usually may some kind of sound.
They pound, pulsate, throb, hum, buzz, explode, or roar.
But resurrection power is quite silent.
Without any display or show it quietly accomplishes its purpose
though there is nothing audible or visible to mark it.
When a Christian is living by resurrection power,
he does not need to advertise it or seek to dazzle others by its display.
The Christian's effect upon others is quiet and unobserved at first,
but soon there are evident changes that mark the inedible effect of resurrection power at work:
the return of life, vitality, excitement and joy to an individual and to a situation.
In a marvelous way God illustrates that spiritual truth in nature.
There is a picture of this kind of power at work in every returning springtime.
Out of the cold, barren, death of winter, God brings new life, color, warmth, beauty, and glory.
By means of a quiet, invisible force which gradually transforms the whole landscape
into the fairyland of beauty, God illustrates the spiritual truth in nature.
Resurrection power is also irresistible.
It cannot be thwarted or turned aside.
It takes no account of any obstacles thrown into its path, except to use them
for further opportunities to advance its cause.
When Jesus came forth from the grave, He paid not the slightest attention
to the obstacles, which men had placed in His way.
There was a huge stone in front of His tomb -- He passed through it.
He was wrapped in yard after yard, round and round of linen cloth,
but He left the graveclothes undisturbed behind Him -- He passed through them.
There were Roman guards in front of his tomb -- He passed by them, unnoticed.
When Paul wrote to the Philippians from his in prisonment in Rome, he said:
"I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me
has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known
throughout the whole praetorian guard and to all the rest
that my imprisonment is for Christ." (Philippians 1: 12-13)
Every effort being made to stop the gospel was really advancing it.
Because Paul had learned to depend on the power of Christ's resurrection,
he was not in the least disturbed by apparent setbacks.
He did not rely upon his own clevernesses or upon the influence and intervention of others,
but relied solely upon the ability of a risen Lord to bring about His will
in spite of men's deliberate attempts to hinder or stop it.
Resurrection power needs no props or support.
It does not borrow from any other source,
though it uses other forms of powers as its instrument.
There is absolutely nothing else like it in the universe.
And it is available to every Christian by faith.
The Christian who believes that a risen Jesus Christ now lives in him,
confidently expects Christ to be at work in whatever he does to add the divine "plus"
that marks the presence of resurrection power.
Christ might not necessarily be felt, but He will be present.
He will make ordinary words produce extraordinary results.
He will take common relationships and transform them into uncommon accomplishments.
He will do exactly as He promised:
"Exceedingly abundantly above all that is asked or thought,"
not according to man's time schedule, but according to God's.
This resurrection power is the great need of the church today!
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org