Unexpected Gifts

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

Ephesians 4:11

When Christians talk about "spiritual gifts," we usually think of special abilities given by God to each of us so that we might serve God and others in the power of his spirit. Ephesians 4:7 seems to set the stage for an explanation of gifting that moves in this direction: "But to each of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it."

Yet, after using a paraphrase of Psalm 68:18 to underscore Christ's giving of gifts to his people, Paul changes course unexpectedly. Rather than listing some of the different kinds of spiritual gifts that Christ gives (as we find in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, for example), Paul writes: "So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (4:11).

Some interpreters of this passage try to make it fit with what Paul has said elsewhere. They read it as saying, "Christ gave to some the gift of apostleship, to some the gift of prophecy, to some the gift of evangelism, and to some the gift of pastoring and teaching." But this is not what the text actually says. Rather, it states that Christ gave gifts of people. He gave gifts of people who serve in certain key roles in the church. So, though it's surely true that these people received spiritual gifts to help them function in their roles, this is not Paul's point here. Rather, he says clearly that Christ gave people as gifts.

At this point we might wonder: To whom did Christ give these people as gifts? The answer, not surprisingly, given what we have already seen in Ephesians, is: To the church. Christ gave to the church the gifts of people who serve as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers.

As we continue our devotional exploration of this passage, we'll discover why Christ gave such personal gifts to his church. For now, I'd like to ask you a simple question: Do you consider the leaders of your church as gifts from Christ? You may not have identified apostles, prophets, and evangelists, but you surely have pastors and teachers. Do you think of these people as gifts from Christ to you and your congregation? Do you thank God regularly for these gifts? Do you treat your pastors and teachers (no matter their specific title) as if they were gifts from God? Do you?

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you think about your church leaders? How do you act toward them? Do you think of them and respond to them as if they were gifts from Christ?

PRAYER: Gracious God, today I want to begin by thanking you for the gifts of pastors and teachers who have made such a difference in my life. I thank you for Ray, Bill, Darrell, and John. Thank you for Lloyd, Ralph, and Jack. Thank you for Steve, Doug, and Cal. Thank you for John and Michael. Thank you for their faithfulness in service to you.

Help me, Lord, to see those who lead in my church as gifts from you. This doesn't mean I should always agree with them in everything. But it does mean that, even in times of disagreement, I should always regard them as gifts and treat them with appropriate respect.

Today, I pray for my church leaders and for church leaders everywhere, that they might see themselves as gifts from you, not so as to become puffed up with pride, but so that they might serve freely, confidently, and joyfully. Amen.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Family Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.