“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
…And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
- Ephesians 4:7-14
You need the Church.
Why?, you ask.
You need the Church because Paul quotes a psalm.
In these 7 verses, Paul starts off by doing something special. He quotes a psalm. Psalm 68:18 to be exact. Now, a lot of people know a lot of psalms. It’s consistently topping the charts as people's favorite book of the Bible. But what Paul does with this psalm is breathtakingly beautiful: he splits its chest open and lays in it the Sovereign heart of Christ! And what follows is the key to the incredible, life-changing growth we all desire as Christians.
First, let’s get some context so we can rejoice over this together. Psalm 68 is a victory psalm. It was used for God’s people to rejoice over His continued protection of them, especially in physical battle. This would have been a well-known psalm for God’s people because He was always seeing to their victory. And verse 18 is essentially commenting on the historical practice in which a victorious leader would disperse the conquered spoil of his enemy back to his own people.
God gives victory to his people. His leaders take the conquered goods and give them as gifts to His people. Pretty cool.
But here’s where Paul supercharges this psalm with the Kingly current of Christ. He quotes Psalm 68:18, situated in the context of his address to the Ephesians on the importance of the body of Christ. Paul understands that, more ultimately than all the victories of God’s people in the past, Christ is the One who ascends victoriously over his enemy. Jesus Christ went toe to toe with Death - real, painful, imminently effective Death - and he triumphed. He ascended. He conquered sin and death. Death, with its universal sentence on every living being, could not hold him. This is a real King who owns all earthly and heavenly spoil!
So what does this Ascended Savior do with his enemy’s spoil? Paul goes on in verse 11 of Ephesians 4 to lay out Christ’s gifts to his Church: “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,”
Really, Jesus? You conquered the cosmos and you give us… church officers? Bummer.
But Jesus is more concerned with your growth in holiness than your acquiring of flashy, new gifts. Verses 12-14 promise that we will be...
- Built up
- United in our faith
- United in our knowledge of Christ (both intimate and intellectual)
- Mature in Christ
- Unwavering in conviction
This is what’s at stake: to miss out on growing up in Christ. And the answer isn’t a quiet time plan (though that’s a good practice); it’s not a number of successful bible studies (also good); it’s not even winning friends and family to Christ.
The key to all these blessings is going to church and being blessed by the gifts Christ thought it so important to give: the pensive prophet who applies the Word to your life, the verbose evangelist who brings every conversation back to the gospel; and those pastors and teachers who walk with you through the realness of life and feed you from God’s word.
Christ the King conquered the entire world, and he gave unbelievably beautiful gifts.
And you’ll only find them in the Church.