It’s easy to get caught up in the fascinating background of Ephesians 4:7–10 and forget the primary purpose of the passage, which will lead into the next section of the letter. Paul’s point about Jesus’ victory is that God has supernaturally endowed every believer with gifts of grace (v. 7). These gifts are empowered by His Spirit to help other believers in the process of transformation. The moment we receive Christ, we also receive a supernatural ability that allows us to share the grace of God with others. We participate with God in our own transformation, but we also participate with Him and others in their transformation. We give and receive grace through the gifts God has given to each of us.
The term used for God’s gift of grace in verse 7 is not the same as the one used elsewhere for spiritual gifts, which have to do with our specific area of service. This gift is about our capacity for service. It’s a sacred trust. Everyone has it “as Christ apportioned it,” measured to fit who we are so our life and purpose will achieve God’s highest glory and bring about the greatest joy in our lives. In other words, God’s grace and gifts are tailor-made for each of us.
Grace is God’s unmerited favor. That means there is nothing we can do to deserve it or earn it. He gives grace not only through His Spirit and His Word but also through the lives of other people. That’s why our transformation is not only a gift but also a responsibility. Only God can bring about change, but He never chooses to do it alone. He works through Christians loving one another in community and operating in each of our areas of giftedness in a way that allows transformation to occur. When we live in authentic community, we act as catalysts for change in each other’s lives.
I can think of at least two reasons for this relational dynamic. One is that living in community with other believers reminds us that life-change comes through grace, not self-effort. We are not on our own. The church is like the soil and climate in which saplings grow into strong oaks. Spiritual gifts of grace mutually applied remind us constantly that our process is not about trying hard and earning God’s favor. It’s about grace.
The other reason for community is to empower us as others-centered agents of grace who supply what others need to become Christlike. God uses each believer’s spiritual gifts as tools and resources as we live in humility, love, and genuine relationship together. We are transformed by the gifts others bring into the fellowship, and we are also transformed in using our gifts to minister to others. God uses the truth of His Word, the faith of believers, and the grace apportioned to each of His people to bring about supernatural transformation.
Perhaps that’s one of the reasons so many people are not experiencing the change they long for. They are going about it on their own. Even if they see their new selves accurately and are grounding themselves in God’s Word, they are not benefiting from the grace given to them through others. God has arranged His body so that no one person has every spiritual gift, which means that you can’t experience everything you need from God on your own. Other members of the body have what you need, and you each have what other members of the body need. Grace is multifaceted, and no one person can receive its many facets in isolation from the diverse believers who are called to reflect Him. When you understand that your gifts and the gifts of others are designed to work together and connect in authentic community with the fellowship of believers, God uses that environment to carry out His transforming work.
Ingram, Chip. 2021. Yes! You Really Can Change: What to Do When You’re Spiritually Stuck. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
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