Ephesians 4:7-12

Fullness of Christ (7-10): Unity does not mean uniformity.[1] We all share the one same foundation, but each one[2] is given a particular role to play[3] in God’s church. Before detailing this any further, Paul first gives the background and purpose for the giving of this grace. From an Old Testament prophecy[4] Paul demonstrates that Christ is God the Son who descended into the earth[5] and then ascended into heaven and that He is the Giver to His people. And He had a purpose in His incarnation, ascension and in His gifts: that He would fill all things. Each one is given a unique favor (“the grace”) from Christ. He gives grace as though He measures out His gift to each one. He does this so that the church can attain to His fullness (4:13; cf. also 3:19). We together are to exude Christ in His fullness, and the grace given is simply the means to this end.

Preparation (11-12): There is more to Christ’s provision than the gifts alone. Each member must be prepared[6] through the ministry of the Word so that he is fit to contribute to the church’s maturity. Unholy and godless members do not make the community more Christ-like. Hence, Christ gave His spokesmen to His church, both the one-time foundation (apostles and prophets) and the ongoing ministers (evangelists and pastor-teachers). Spirit-filled people who heed God’s Word build up the church unto Christ’s fullness (4:15-16; 5:17-19).

[1] “But” points to diversity in the midst of unity. Christ gave to each one a particular way to serve His people.

[2] 4:7 and 16 are two bookends that form an inclusio for the longer section with repeated terms in the Greek.

[3] What is given is “grace,” which covers a wide array of roles/abilities/ministries (1 Cor. 12:4-7). Every single member is to leverage the grace uniquely given to them to help the church attain to the full likeness to Christ.

[4] Paul points out the overall sense of Psalm 68 (not exactly a quote): God who ascended on high gave to His people good things (Psalm 68:5-6, 10, 35). Christ fulfilled this by giving gifts to his people after His ascension.

[5] Incarnation is often depicted as descending (John 3:13; 6:38, 50-51), hence, ESV, “lower regions, the earth.”

[6] “Equip” means to mend/repair/”prepare” (NIV). Given our aim, character/godliness is mainly in view.