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The Church of the Resurrection Eph4.8-

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The Church of the Resurrection

It was Sunday morning.  The agony of what had transpired over the last three days made sleep nearly impossible.  Mary Magdalene and possibly others went out in the cool morning long before sunrise.  They carried spices to complete the burial ritual for their friend and teacher, the Lord Jesus, whom they expected to find, still dead, inside the tomb, where they had left Him.  Instead they found the stone that formed the door of the tomb missing and the body as well was nowhere to be found. 

Imagine how bewildered Mary must have felt as she made her way through the tears and the darkness to find Peter and John. 

Peter and John ran to the tomb and confirmed what Mary had told them.  They also saw the empty grave clothes lying in the tomb which made them believe that this was not a grave robbery but a miracle.  Still they went home, leaving Mary still weeping at the tomb.

Then something unimaginable happened.  Mary saw two angels and then Jesus who called her by name and she fell at his feet to worship him.  Jesus told her not to cling to Him because He had to ascend to the Father.  He told her instead to go and tell the other disciples that He is alive.

John 20:17 (NIV)
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”

It was the dawning of a new day.  Jesus was returning to His rightful place, far above all the heavens.  He would no longer live with them in a human body instead His presence would fill the universe. 

We can’t begin to comprehend what a wonder this truth really is.

Jesus can be with and in all believers everywhere all the time.  He is meeting with us right now.  We know because we brought Him with us.  He lives in us.  Amen, Halleluiah!! 

Where ever we call on Him, He is there.  Where ever we look for Jesus with willing eyes we can see the evidence of his work.

Paul wrote to the churches about the effect of the risen ascended Lord in the context of the Body of Christ in the fourth chapter of Ephesians starting with verse 8.

Ephesians 4:8-12 (NIV)
8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?
10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

As we considered earlier, Jesus told Mary Magdalene that He had to ascend to the Father.  Paul picks up this concept in verse 8.  He uses a quote that seems to be influenced by Psalm 68:18.

Psalm 68:18 (NIV)
18 When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious— that you, O Lord God, might dwell there.

Psalm 68 is a Psalm that was sung when the king, probably David, victoriously returned to Jerusalem from war.  He would have had with him the spoils of the conflict as well as prisoners.  It was a song of celebration.  We can easily see how this understanding can be applied to Jesus and His mission on earth, His death on the cross, His resurrection and ascention back to heaven. 

Jesus is our conquering King.   He became a man and conquered sin, death, hell and the grave. He did this all for us.  We can allow Him to reign in our hearts today and one day he will rule the world.

Let’s consider for a moment who the captives could be.  One thing that may help us as we think about the captives would be to understand who a prisoner of war was thought to be.  All prisoners of war were believed to be those who were in need of divine help.  To subdue an enemy and take him prisoner was to bring him under the influence of your God. 

If we look for a minute at the pivotal verse of this whole letter together with this deffinition of captives, we can better understand the focus of this verse.

Ephesians 1:10 says:

Ephesians 1:10 (NIV)
10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

This verse sums up God’s plan for the whole universe.  We also know that there are enemies who are not interested in helping God fulfill His plan.  We also understand from scripture that their skeems will fail! 

Now I suppose we are ready to ask the question; What enemies did Jesus have? 

They can all come under the heading of the powers of darkness.  We have all been under the influence of those powers at one time.  In the final outcome no enemy can stand against Jesus.

Colossians 2:15 (NIV)
15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Who were the captives?  It is hard to determine specifically from the information in this verse, but we know that they needed divine influence.  We also know that Jesus is victorious and we can surrender to join his army. 

We will talk about the gifts that Paul mentions here when we get to verse 11.  For now let’s think for a little while about where Jesus went and his victorious return.

Ephesians 4:9-10 (NIV)
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?
10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

Again it is difficult to determine exactly where Jesus decended from the small amount of information that Paul gives us, but we can be sure of this; He didn’t stop short.  He went everywhere He needed to go in order to win the victory, in order to redeem us. 

After He had descended, He ascended far above even the heavens.

Ephesians 1:21 (NIV)
21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

God has a purpose in all of this.  Let’s think about it for a minute.

First of all there is no higher authority that we can go to.  Jesus is at the very top and we can go straight to him.  Also we need not be ruled by any lower authority than Jesus.  How often do we take our marching orders from some influence other than Jesus?  How often does that influence come from within us?  Do we ever use our influence to deter others from hearing Jesus?  I’ll let you think about that for a while.

Another truth that these verses bring out is that we can always call on Jesus.  Paul says that He ascended in order to fill the whole universe.  That tells me that He is available.

Of course we know that He is always with us if we believe in Him because He lives inside of us by His Spirit.

Another way that Jesus is available to us is by sending people to us.  Verse 11 shows us that.

Ephesians 4:11 (NIV)
11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,

Here are the gifts that were mentioned in verse 8.  Isn’t it interesting?  The gifts are people.

Have you ever been asking God to do something and He sent you someone? 

I wonder how often we miss what He is trying to say to us because we are looking for something and He sends someone our way.  God may even send someone who infuriates us to teach us something. 

That is what Jesus did for the Ephesians.  He gave them people.

He gave them apostles.  Apostles were messengers sent by God.  This title was often associated with the original twelve whom Jesus called apostles.  There were other men in the New Testament who were also called apostles.  They traveled, started churches and declared the truth about Jesus, usually from firsthand experience.  They were instrumental in establishing the early church.  Paul said their work was foundational.

Ephesians 2:20 (NIV)
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

Jesus gave them prophets.  The prophets were responsible for revealing the will of God as well as the mysteries of God.  Predicting the future was not the major role of the prophet.  They did warn the people of the consequences if they disobeyed the will of God.  They interpreted the times in which they were living and urged people to believe Christ for salvation.

They were given evangelists.  The evangelists were like our missionaries. They traveled from place to place preaching the Gospel and establishing churches.  Philip was the only evangelist described in the New Testament.  He went out from Jerusalem to Samaria then to the road to Gaza where he shared the gospel with the Ethiopian and so on.

The ascended Lord gave them pastors.  The word for pastor means shepherd.  As the shepherd had the responsibility for the care of the sheep so the pastor had the responsibility for the care of a group of people.  He feeds them with the truth of God’s word, he bears them on his heart and he goes after those who stray and defends them against things that would harm their faith.  In short, the pastor takes care of his flock.

Jesus gave them teachers also.  The teachers told the stories of Jesus and help the people to understand the Old Testament. 

It would help us to consider how much these people were needed in the 1st century church.  The people didn’t have Bibles.  There was no established New Testament and even if there was a book that size would have cost a whole year’s wages. So you can see how important the transmission of the truth about Jesus would have been.

We also need to remember that these people were gifts of the risen ascended Lord. They were to be an extension of who Jesus was to the church.  The church is to function as His body in the world.  Jesus no longer has a flesh and blood body. We are it!

Something else we need to be reminded of here is that these people were given by Jesus for their particular ministries.  They were not elected based on their popularity or appearance.  They were not chosen because of their intellectual skills, they were gifts.

They were given what they had by Jesus to be a gift to others.  It is so easy to focus on the gifts that we often forget about the Giver.

Now we can consider the reason these gifts were given to the church.  Verse 12 spells out three effects that the work of the people that Jesus had given to the church was to have.

Ephesians 4:12 (KJV)
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

The first effect they were supposed to have was in the preparation of the saints.  A definition of this that I thought was interesting was this: a process of adjustment that results in complete preparedness.

This word is also used in the New Testament for mending the nets.  What could happen to your fishing trip if you went out with a hole in your net?

Are you willing to let the Holy Spirit make the adjustments that he needs to, through the people he has given you, so that your section of the net will be in good repair when it comes time to go fishing for men.

Jesus gave the church people for the work of the ministry.  I struggle with the words that suggest doing something in scripture, like work, because we are apt to think that we can accomplish something on our own.  The truth is without Jesus we can’t.  So any work that gets done is His work not ours.  With that said, let’s consider the work of the ministry.   

Ministry is service.  The word used here is the same one used for waiting tables and other service oriented tasks.  The work of the ministry is more about serving the needs of others than it is about anything else.  It is not just preaching.  The work of the ministry is not a spectater event.  It requires participation.  We know that we cannot just pay the Pastor and stand back and watch while he does all the work of the ministry.  If we are going to have real ministry, we need to support and serve him as well as serving each other.

Words are inadequate to describe the marvelous privaledge it is the be a part of the body of  Christ.  The words of Paul here have opened up the eyes of my understanding a little more and I have been trying to pass on to you what I have seen.

Our risen ascended Lord has chosen to incorperate us into a unit that is intended to serve as His body here on earth.  He no longer has a human body just like ours so he chooses to use ours if we will let Him.  Jesus is willing to inhabbit us and live His life through us.  Think how much bigger his body is when we work together to accomplish His pupposes.

Jesus provides everything we need to live up to His full potential just as He did for the Ephesians.  He gives us all the gifts and grace that we need to really be His body and accomplish His purposes here.      

I suppose I really question how commited we are to this concept in our daily lives.  When we go about our life on Monday do we go with the realization that we are part of His life here on earth?  Or do we just kind of go with the flow? 

Let me see if I can illustrate this.  I have known for some time that my colesteral level was slowly creeping up.  I knew that I needed to eat better but I never took the discipline to do anything about it.  One day I went to the doctor and found that my colesteral had reached 220.  The doctor told me to try changing my diet and come back in for a retest.

Well I don’t like medecine so I changed my diet.  My colesteral dropped 30 points in three months.

Do you see what I mean?  Do you conduct your life as though Jesus is living through you or not?  He has given us everything we need to make this happen so let’s pay attention to what He wants to do in us.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV)
20 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,
21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.




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