Ephesians 4: 4-13
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
‘When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.’
(What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 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 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
SUMMARY OF SUNDAY'S MESSAGE
God's intention was always more than to have a glorious church. His desire is that everything, everywhere would be filled with the glory, supremacy, beauty and majesty of Christ. He empowers His church to transform the city.
Elections in our society are about 'who has the right to rule?' The winner says: 'we now have a mandate.' Mandate is a 'governing authority' word. When we declare that Jesus Christ is ascended, what we are saying is that He is the rightful ruler of all things and He has a mandate over all creation and over all cultures. Out of the reality of who He is, He is going to fill all things, everywhere. He is the only person in all of history and from the whole of humanity who has a mandate to fill everything.
The gifts in Ephesians 4 are given not just so that churches can come alive, but so that all things, everywhere can be filled with Christ. The exaltation of Christ affects the whole world. It has implications for the entire universe.
"Fill" doesn't mean 'control' everything. Nor does it mean 'own' everything. God already owns it all. It means He wants to redeem, release and restore everything back to its original design. This is possible because of the exaltation of Jesus. Satan, sin and sickness have been defeated and dethroned. Everything that was held against humanity is a defeated foe. His exaltation releases His empowering to fill everything around us. We are here to minister the deliverance that Christ has already purchased for us.
How is He going to fill everything?
It's not going to be through Jesus coming back again. Jesus is presently seated at the Father's right hand where He will remain until His enemies become His footstool. Rather He will fill everything through His church.
Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection and said:
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt 28: 18-20)
This is our mandate. Everything is available to us. Paul picks this up elsewhere in Ephesians:
"...he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ." (1:9-10)
"...he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (vv 20- 23)
God is going to fill all things through the church. We are not just a group of kindhearted people trying to make a difference in the world - that's a charity. We are a people redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, restored into fellowship with the Father, commissioned by the Son, empowered by the Spirit, to make it known that Jesus Christ is Lord and to proclaim and demonstrate His rightful rule and reign over all things, including Satan, sin and sickness.
Christ has set everything, everywhere free and we have the joyous proclamation of announcing that captives, both individuals and institutions, are released in the name of Jesus. He's going to stay seated while we are sent as His subjects.
Our ministry and mandate is not to fill the church but to fill the city. Therefore we don't make decisions around filling the venue but to get God's people moving into the city. Jesus said: "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." (John 20: 21)
The enemy knows he's a defeated foe, there's nothing he can do about the exaltation of Jesus. All he can do is create an illusion of power by trying to get us to exalt things in our hearts and minds so that we forget that Christ reigns and we focus elsewhere. He elevates debt, disease and disorder and seeks to take our thoughts captive. Therefore, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Cor 10: 5) God has exalted His Son and He sends us to announce His rule.
Acts 2:33 says: "Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear." Any time you see the Holy Spirit resting on someone, it's a sign of Christ's exaltation. Any other power within a church is illegitimate power. The gifts come from Him.
Jesus is already Lord over the city and culture. He's the owner, He is already at work and we are simply announcing His supremacy so that people can see it. We don't pursue signs and wonders, rather, because of Christ's position, we expect them.
Because of His exaltation, Christ gave gifts to His people and His gifts are His people. Apostles essentially do 4 things:
- They announce Christ.
- They bring back life.
- As life is restored, it creates a change in culture.
- They create a climate of being sent people.
He gave apostles to the church, to the city and to the culture at large. 'Apostle' was a term meaning 'sent one' which was first used by the Roman authorities to describe ambassadors who were sent to different parts of the Empire where they were to establish the culture of Rome. So Pontius Pilate was a Roman apostle in Jerusalem.
Kingdom apostles take the culture of heaven and release it into the community around them. It is designed to bring back life where there is death and brokenness. The church was always supposed to be an apostolic community, a sent people. It is not about us and meeting our needs, but about unlocking the destiny of a city. The impulse and ethos is therefore outward not inward.
Every spiritual gift was designed to function in an apostolic climate. You'll never discover your gift staying in church because it was designed for the city, that all things would be filled with Christ. We don't focus on our gifts or we may end up worshiping our cause and forgetting our Christ.
Apostolic authority is given to unlock a region, to reveal Christ and release His freedom and design in the city. God isn't looking for trendy churches that can gather people but a transformed, apostolic community who are scattered, proclaiming and demonstrating the reign and rule of Christ. We care less about our seating capacity than about our sending capacity. As we tell His story and our story, it rewrites everything.