God, rather than by fate or chance, lives on purpose. His love drives all that He does. For example, Jesus came to earth to defeat Satan’s power over us through death. When He conquered, He returned to heaven. However, He did not go without giving to His followers, gifts that would enable His work to continue here on earth. He gave gifts to believers to equip the saints, enable growth and promote a body of love.
Equip the Saints
Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 but rather than “received gifts” he puts “gave gifts”. When Jesus returned to heaven as the victor, unlike human victors, He gives rather than receives. His loving purpose identifies what is necessary for His ongoing work to thrive. As a result, He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. Believers with certain endowments are the gift. You and me, equipped with what God has given to us, are the gifts to His body, the church for its success.
These gifts are essential. How could this body grow without those who would lay the foundations of truth? What if there were not any to spread the truth as a seed to take root and grow? Where would the sheep be without a shepherd to lead and guide, to instruct and strengthen as they find pasture?
When Jesus ascended to heaven, His Holy Spirit descended to empower His people for the nurturing of the church; His body. In this manner, He could equip the saints for the work of ministry.
Paul uses the example of childhood. Children without tender care are at the mercy of lies, fads, and deceptive instruction. The same happens in the body of Christ. With those who will speak the truth in love, people endowed with gifts from Christ, babes in Christ can grow up into all things, and experience the fullness of God through Him who is the head, which is Christ.
A Body of Love
Within the human body, all systems work as one unit for growth. Even mechanisms for healing are part of it. Paul uses this example for the body of Christ.
I can imagine an ear or a little toe growing abnormally. Perhaps there are underdeveloped fingers or poor eyesight. How sad it is when the body malfunctions. So it is in the body of Christ. We each need to fulfill God’s call and purpose. The gifts He has given need expression and encouragement. By the power of His Holy Spirit, as we each do our part, we grow together just as the body does. We must build one another up, do it all in love, and then see what marvels God will do through His body!