1 & 2 Thess.
1 & 2 Timothy
1 & 2 Peter
Gifts of the Spirit
Exposition of The Spirit in Ephesians
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, was less encumbered with pastoral cares than, for example, in his first letter to Corinth. This enabled him to explain the Ministry of the Spirit in sublime detail to the contemporary generation and for those who would experience the result of it in later generations.
One key word in Ephesians related to the subject of the Spirit is the Greek verb pleroo (translated "to fill, to be filled"). Paul does not use the phrase "baptism in Spirit" in Ephesians but he uses pleroo, which is linked with the meaning of bapto1 in its secondary sense as employed in Acts. It should be noted that pleroo is a cognate of pletho, the word used in Acts 2:4 to describe the baptism in Spirit of the Disciples.
The Father’s Gifts to His Children (4:1-16).
There was a real danger that the Spirit gifts which they had received would detract from the unity which was necessary in the Truth. This was the experience of the Corinthian ecclesia (1 Cor. 12) and Paul hastened to prevent a repeat performance. In the fourth chapter we have a detailed explanation of the gifts so that the reason why they had been given would not be lost sight of.
The following points are covered:
Ephesians is very logically presented and on a very high spiritual level. The latter seems to be the reason why the Spirit is mentioned so much. The logical progression may be summarized as follows:
The progression is from childhood, to maturity, to being a soldier for Christ.
There may seem to be a contradiction between Paul’s prayer in 1:17 and chapter 4. On the one hand Paul prayed that they would receive more gifts, yet on the other hand it seems they already had an abundance of the gifts. The solution lies in the fact that chapter 4 does not describe gifts that they already had. These were inter-ecclesial offices, but not necessarily offices that existed at Ephesus before the time of the writing of Ephesians.
1 See Section B - "Baptism of the Spirit".
1 "The word ‘sealed’ in the Greek is a mercantile term that referred to the distinctive mark used for identification of ownership. Thus, when Christians exercised their Spirit gifts in public they showed to the world that they bore the stamp of God", TEST, V. 43, P. 228.
2 NTFE, Part 2, side 2.
3 (Y) and NASB. It was a guarantee (2 Cor. 5:5. RSV), cf. 2 Cor. 1:22.
5 NASB margin
1 This is a parenthetical expression (ROTH, NEST, MARS, DIAG).
"of him" i.e. Christ.
The fulness of Spirit in Christ was in turn "poured out" on believers, so that they were "filled with Holy Spirit".
"that filleth" = Grk. pleroo (cf. 3:19; 4:10; 5:18; Acts 2:2; 13:52) where this word clearly is associated with the Spirit gifts.
"all in all"
This phrase occurs in 1 Cor. 12:6 RV, NASB "There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God, which worketh all things in all". J. Thomas translates this verse "the fulness of him who filleth all things - all Spirit gifts - in all the spirituals"†
Christ had "filled" his ecclesia, baptizing it in Spirit, as the miraculous sign that it was his "body". Here is no vague, mystical charisma. Paul affirms instead that the "filling" was an extension of Christ’s own resurrection and glory, a pouring out of the same miraculous Spirit power by which Christ had been raised from the dead and lifted into heaven. (v.20-23).
† TCM, Vol. 13, P. 99.
1 Quoted from Wrested Scriptures, 2011, page 325-326, addition by John Allfree.
3 SEME, P. 40 (cf. Eph. 3:12).
4 MARS, P. 763.
Paul points out in this context that the mystery (of the Gentiles being included as fellow heirs with the people of Israel) was communicated to him and the other apostles "by the Spirit". Paul shows that he had been particularly commissioned for this work, and had been specially endowed with the "gift of the grace of God" (Holy Spirit) for this purpose (v.2-8).
Paul’s prayer in Eph. 3 on behalf of the Gentiles is along these lines. He wanted the Father, who had brought them into His Family (v.15) by His word, to strengthen this "inner man" by His Spirit.
Peter says that the newborn babe is strengthened by the Word; Paul prays that they might be strengthened by the Spirit. Do they contradict each other; or are there two sources of strength, or is there a third alternative?
They do not contradict each other nor are they saying that there are two sources of revelation for us. The Holy Spirit gifts were given to the brethren of the first century in order that they might be guided into all truth (among other things). Paul in 3:5 spoke of a new revelation being given by the Spirit to the apostles and prophets. Peter, likewise speaking of the word which brings about the new birth says:
"This is the word by which the Gospel is preached unto you."
Of this gospel, in the same chapter he says that it was
"preached ... with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven" (1 Pet. 1:12,15).
Paul is not praying that God would grant the believers some mystical inner power of righteousness. He is praying that the "inner man" which had been conceived by the Word, developed by the Word, quickened by the Word and brought into existence by the Word, might now be further strengthened by the Word as new revelation and instruction fell from the lips of the Spirit-gifted apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers - that the Spirit of God working among the ecclesias of those days might so minister to their needs, supplying them with milk and then with the meat of the Word, that they might be truly strong and in the Apostles words, "Christ ... dwell in (their) hearts by FAITH" (v.17).
The notes on Eph. 4:7-14 demonstrate that this working of the Spirit in the Ecclesia was only for a limited period of time. For believers today to expect God to strengthen them in some mysterious way by His Spirit is to expect what God never promised at any time and to misunderstand the workings of the Spirit in the first century. It was not the Spirit that saved men even then, but the Word of God which fell from the lips of those who spoke as they were moved by God’s Spirit. Much of what these N.T. apostles and prophets spoke had been written down and classed with the O.T. as Scripture (2 Pet. 3:16).
The Word of God, in its written form, is no less powerful than when it fell from the lips of the Spirit-gifted apostles and prophets. Only in the pages of God’s Word can we hope to increase our appreciation of divine things to the extent where we become rooted and grounded in love and "able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth all knowledge" (v. 18, 19).
To seek such direct from heaven is to take the first major steps down the road to that brand of apostasy which we see in the Evangelical churches7.
1 TBSM, Vol. 1, P. 69.
2 cf. 1 Cor. 2:5 "that your faith might rest in the power of God." RSV.
† AMAX, P. 3.
* where the cause is put for the effect.
3 for them probably spoken but for us written.
4 SEME, P. 53.
5 a) "loins girded with truth" d) "shield of faith"
b) "breastplate of righteousness" e) "helmet of salvation"
c) "gospel of peace" covering the feet. f) "sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
The definite article "through the faith" is present. This is an idiomatic expression for "the gospel understood and obeyed". Today we use "the Truth". "The Faith", understood and obeyed, causes us to be born again into a state termed "in Christ". This is a new way of life in which obedience and fellowship go together. The closest we could come to a definition of "Christ" in this verse is "a Christ-like attitude".
The Ephesian believers formed an ecclesia in which the Spirit was miraculously alive, not only with "signs and wonders", but also as the source of revelation and knowledge of Christ’s redeeming works in atonement as well as in coming kingly glory. As yet, Scriptures from the Christian prophets1 were few because their work was at first largely oral within the Ecclesial assembly.
Against such a background, it is not difficult to understand what Paul’s message was intended to mean when he wrote v. 16 - 19.
Paul’s prayer for the Gentiles is that ultimately they might be "filled with all the fulness of God". The key word is "all". The contextual location of the above phrase demonstrates that this is the end result, not something which achieves the result.
Although the Apostles could say at the time of the writing of John’s gospel
"And of His fulness we have all received, even grace upon grace"2
they could not claim that which was said of Christ:
"For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells" (Col. 2:9) (cf. also Col. 1:19).
The full realization of this prayer must wait, for not until mortality is swallowed by life will we be free from "sin that dwelleth in (us)." But there must be progress now. Christ must dwell in our hearts by faith. The inner man must be built up so that he can demonstrate his existence by works of love. Characters must be developed in all dimensions that resemble God Himself as revealed through His Son.
1 see Section E.
2 John 1:16, NASB.
In the next chapter, Paul proceeds to consider this power - the Holy Spirit gifts, as they operated in the first century Ecclesias. He shows clearly that those special gifts were given for a specific purpose and only for a limited time.
To claim the power described in the problem is to claim the Spirit gifts of prophecy by which revelation was given.
The result of that power - the written word - still works. This "word of God is alive and powerful" and can perform the same function as the spoken word did in the first century.
3 Although the Greek preposition "en" is translated "in" well over 1,000 times, it is rendered "among" on 114 occasions (Y) and this seems to be the most appropriate rendering here.
4 F. B. "The answer to Prayer" TBSM, p. 69 (A letter to the editor).
Eph. 4:3: "Endeavouring to keep the unity of1 the Spirit in the bond of peace".
This was an appeal by Paul to maintain that bond which bound Jew and Gentile together, even the peace of Christ (2:16-17).
The diversified gifts, distributed among ecclesial members (4:7-12) were Christ’s appointed means to enable them to attain this unity; "be no more children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, but speaking the truth in love . . . may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (4:13-15).
However the gifts could be misused in such a way as to bring discord rather than unity, so Paul first labours the unity that should abound in the family of God.
Eph. 4:4: "There is one body and one Spirit ..."
This reminds us of Paul’s word picture in 1 Cor. 12:12-27 about the body (especially v. 12):
"for as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ."
In that chapter also we have Paul emphasizing that the various gifts come from "one and the selfsame Spirit" (v. 11) (cf. also v. 13, 4).
"But unto every one of us", "each" (RV)
This demonstrates the widespread nature of the spirit gifts at Ephesus.
"is given grace"
The word grace2 here refers to the Spirit gifts mentioned in this context.
"according to the measure of the gift (doreas) of Christ"28
This ties the acceptance by God of the completed work of Christ on earth with the outpoural of the gifts.
Paraphrased v. 7 reads
"But while we have all these in common, to each of us severally a special grace has been given, in the measure with which Christ has bestowed his gift on each4."
It is claimed that perhaps some of the manifestations of the Spirit at Ephesus were not miraculous; thereby inferring that the claimant to present possession of the Spirit need not demonstrate his claim.
Eph. 4:8: "... he (Christ) gave gifts to men." (NASB)
It is apparent that there is a difference in the wording of Psalm 68:18 ("hast received5 gifts") and its quotation in Ephesians ("gave gifts"). The Levites were a gift from God to the nation of Israel, (Num. 8:19; 18:6) but they were also a gift to God (Num. 8:16).
It is possible that the Levites were the "gifts", alluded to in Psa. 68:18
"that the LORD God might dwell among them".
The thought here in Ephesians is exactly parallel to that in Exod. 31:1-6. In both instances the Lord "gave" special men, recipients of special gifts, for the work of building the habitation of God, that the Lord might dwell among them.
There are five stages mentioned by Paul in v.8-10 and the thoughts expressed by him have their origin in the Exodus deliverance. The following stages are noted by Paul:
We may briefly trace these stages in the Exodus deliverance:-
(1) God DESCENDED first (manifest in the Angel of the Presence).
"Yahweh said, lam come down to deliver them "(Exod. 3:7-8).
The people were delivered, and their Deliverer descended into the depths of the Red Sea leading in procession those who had been subject to Egyptian bondage.
(2) HE ASCENDED ON HIGH - the deliverance for which He came down having been accomplished and the people led to Sinai, we read that "Moses went UP unto God, and Yahweh called unto him out of the mountain . . ." (Exod. 19:3).
God had ascended up on high.
(3) HE LED CAPTIVITY CAPTIVE - "Thou hast led in procession a body of captives" (ROTH). Concerning Israel in Egypt it is written, "The children of Israel sighed by reason of BONDAGE, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the BONDAGE" (Exod. 2:23).
From this bondage God, having descended into the lower parts of the earth, delivered them and ascended up on high.
(4) He received (GAVE) GIFTS FOR (TO) MEN - see (5).
(5) THAT YAHWEH MIGHT DWELL AMONG THEM. Concerning the tabernacle we read - "Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (Exod. 25: 8).
The way in which this tabernacle was built is very relevant - "See, I have called by name Bezaleel… I have filled him with the SPIRIT OF GOD, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship" - i.e. so that they could make the tabernacle (Exod. 31:2-3. See also verse 6 and ch. 35:30-35).
Thus at the time of the Exodus, Spirit gifts were given to men so that they might prepare a dwelling place for God.
We must note that:
The work of God through the Lord Jesus and the ecclesia was typified by the events of the Exodus and the tabernacle in the wilderness. This is the basis of Paul’s remarks in Ephesians 4. We may trace out the same process in the work of God through His Son:-
(1) HE DESCENDED FIRST (manifest in the Son).
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath VISITED and redeemed his people" (Luke 1:68).
"God with us" (Matt. 1:23).
"I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world" (John 16:28).
(2) HE ASCENDED ON HIGH
"Again, I leave the world, and go to the Father" (John 16:28).
"No man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven, even the Son of Man, which is in heaven" (John 3:13 RV).
(3) HE LED CAPTIVITY CAPTIVE - (He led in procession a multitude of captives). "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death (the "deep" of Rom. 10:7 cf. Red Sea in Exodus) he might… deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to BONDAGE" (Heb. 2:14-15).
(4) HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.
"Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear… the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:33-38).
(5) THAT GOD MIGHT DWELL AMONG THEM.
The purpose of the gifts.
"He that ... ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things."
This "fill (pleroo) all things" refers to the pouring out of the Spirit gifts at Pentecost in fulfillment of John 14:16. Paul’s use of this verse in this context is conclusive of that. Christ ascended, and shortly afterwards the Spirit gifts descended to compensate for his physical separation from his disciples. It should be noted that Paul’s reference to Christ’s "filling all things" after his ascension is immediately followed by a catalogue of the Spirit-gifted offices of the first century.
The all things of this verse are therefore to be identified with those first century believers who were privileged to be "filled with the Holy Spirit" and who constituted the body of Christ, their head (Eph. 1:22-23). This filling of the ecclesia was to serve not only within their own lifetime, but also afterwards because they left on record the revelations and teachings that they wrote. This was and still is an all-sufficient provision for bringing the body of Christ to maturity.
1 "that comes from"?
2 See Section B - "Grace".
3 The CEV is a better translation "Christ has generously divided out his gifts to us." This is in keeping with the plural gifts in the next verse.
4 F.F. Bruce, Expanded Paraphrase of the Epistles of Paul, (Paternoster Press), 1965.
5 The Hebrew ‘LAQACH’ can carry the meaning of receiving or giving. (Y).
c) The Nature of the Gifts v.11
See Footnote 4 of Grace in Section B which relates this list of inter-ecclesial offices5 to other New Testament occurrences.
The table below shows how every major work that Jesus promised the "Comforter" would perform was fulfilled in the giving of the Spirit gifts.
5 See also Section E - "Inter- ecclesial Offices."
Eph. 4:12: "for the perfecting of the saints"
The gifts were not given to personally benefit a saint, but were given so that he may assist other saints to be perfected. This is an important point6. The NASB has:
"for the equipping of the saints for the work of service".
"for the work of the ministry" The Acts and Epistles record the accomplishment of this work by the Apostles, Prophets and teachers.
6 See Section B - "Did Not Cause Righteousness."
"for the edifying of the body of Christ"
This was a major aspect of the inter-ecclesial offices of 1 Cor. 12:28.
"until we all attain to the unity of the faith" (NASB)
The ecclesia was then in its infancy. The gifts were given so that it might attain the maturity of full grown manhood. When this was achieved the purpose of the gifts would cease. As a result of the labours of the Spirit-gifted brethren, this was accomplished.
Ecclesias were established throughout the "world", elders were appointed, early problems were solved and the New Testament written. The work having been accomplished, there was no further need for the gifts. The ecclesial tabernacle having been built, the gifts were no longer required and therefore ceased.
"unto a perfect man" Perfect is the Greek "teleios" meaning mature. It is translated "men" in 1 Cor. 14:20 and "full age" in Heb. 5:14. It is parallel to Paul’s expression in 1 Cor. 13:10.
Note that it says "perfect man" not "perfect men". Jesus is the head of this perfect man and the ecclesia is his body. The whole forms "the fulness of Christ". However v.17 demonstrates that their cooperation was required for this to materialize. The mere possession of the Spirit gifts did not guarantee it. In order for the gifts as manifested in the offices of v.11 to produce this unity, the faithfulness of the ecclesia was required. This is an important point and leads to our next thought.
The application today
Although we have no Spirit gifts today, we have in the Word of God the distilled essence of those gracious words which fell, under Spirit guidance, from apostolic lips. This written word is just as powerful in the form we have it as it was when the apostles spoke it or wrote it with their pen. This Word is "living and powerful". It can make us "no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine." By the Truth which the risen Lord has communicated to us through the Spirit filled apostles of the first century, the ecclesia today can be "joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth" (4:16).
2 cf. 1 Cor. 12:28.
"fruit of the light" (NASB, DIAG, RV). (See also ASV, WEY, PHI, NEB).
The contextual and textual evidence is that the word should be "light" not Spirit. Contextually, Paul is contrasting light and darkness, v.8, 11, 13.
1 NASB has "one another" with a marginal note "or yourselves". The NASB makes more sense.
3 cf. notes on the Parakletos (John 14-16 Additional notes).
† Although every member did not receive Spirit gifts, all received the benefits which flowed to the ecclesia from the gifts (cf. v.7). * v.13 "Till we come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man."
Some very weird ways of looking at this verse have been aired recently.
e.g. "let it be noted it is the armour of God, not something which we ourselves can provide. For any one of us to claim that we can use that sword by our own intellectual skill... is worldly presumption."
"The reference is not to the Bible as such, but to the individual scripture which the Spirit brings to our remembrance for use in time of need, a prerequisite being the regular storing of the mind with Scripture".
3 "The contrast is not between the instruments but between the states - between two elevated states, one due to the excitement of wine, the other to… enlightenment." EXPO P. 363.
4 "When one noun is used instead of another, to which it stands in a certain relation". Bullinger "Biblical Figures of Speech" (London: Eyre and Spottiswoods, 1898).
5 Carter agrees with this. "The Spirit is the filler, and through the Spirit they become full" CLTE, Carter, P. 140, cf. Psa. 119:11: "I have laid up thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee".
6 cf. Section B - "Enlightenment", and ch. 4:11-16.
7 Paraphrased: "Seek the fullness which the Spirit gives." NBCR, P. 1120.
1 Christendom Astray, R. R., TCM. 1940, P. 100.
2 See Section B -‘BASF’.
3 See Section B -‘Prayer, Divine Assistance’, etc