Eph. iv. presents the Spirit's unity with great fulness before treating of the gifts : "one body and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, Who is over all, and through all, and in you [or, us] all" (4-6). Diversity follows in the gifts, which are not simply powers here as in 1 Cor. xii., but persons endowed for special ends in Christ's love to His own. His ascension is the declared starting-point after His wondrous humiliation and its fruit. "But to each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, unto ministerial work, unto edifying of the body of Christ, until we all attain," &c. This is unmistakeable if we are simple, deriving both the one body and the several gifts from Christ on high after His victory over Satan to our deliverance, and that work of redemption which has perfectly glorified God even as to sin and our sins, so that His love can flow to the uttermost. Thus and therefore is Christ set as Head over all things to the church His body. What a glorious place this gives to not only the church but those gifts, the exercise of which constitutes ministry of the word!
Beyond controversy the foundation gifts are the apostles and prophets. The basis of N.T. truth they so well laid that there was no room for their continuance, still less for the delusion of their revival. The others, evangelists as well as pastors and teachers, are given " till we all attain," &c. Do we wish better security than the written word? Does unbelief tempt us to think that the one body admits of change without sin, or that the gifts of Christ fail, so that we need human imitations to supply their place? Do we believe that Christ's body abides on earth from the first, as that only to which we belong wherever we dwell, according to which we are called to walk and in nothing else? Do we believe that He has given evangelists to win the unconverted, or pastors and teachers to tend and feed His sheep as truly now as on the day of Pentecost?
The Epistle to the Colossians teaches no other doctrine, though its design is to assert the glory of Christ the Head rather than to develop the nature and privileges of the body. Indeed the special aspect of the mystery made known to the Gentile saints is Christ in them the hope of glory i.e. on high; the converse of what the O.T. prophets teach, Christ the glory of His people Israel with all the nations blessed but subordinate. A marked warning is against not holding the Head from Whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God (chap. ii. 19). Heathen philosophy and judaising ordinances were the dangers; and so they are to this day. Christ, not merely as Lord, nor yet as Saviour of sinners, but as Head of the body, is the object of faith, Christ ever working for the best good of all the body, not only through such a gift as Paul, but through the less considerable and marked, " the joints and bands " (cf. Eph. iv. 16). Thus was " all the body" to increase with the increase of God.
What a contrast with the increase of man when the spread of profession became multitudinous! " In the distress of the battle of Tolbiac Clovis [still a Pagan] loudly invoked the God of Clotilda and the Christians; and victory disposed him to hear with respectful gratitude the eloquent Remigius, bishop of Rheims, who forcibly displayed the temporal and spiritual advantages of his conversion. The king declared himself satisfied of the truth of the catholic faith; and the political reasons which might have suspended his public profession were removed by the devout or loyal acclamations of the Franks, who showed themselves alike prepared to follow their heroic leader to the field of battle or to the baptismal font . . . The new Constantine was immediately baptised with three thousand of his warlike subjects; and their example was imitated by the remainder of the gentle barbarians, who in obedience to the victorious prelate adored the cross which they had burnt, and burnt the idols which they had formerly adored" (Gibbon's D. & F. chap. xxxviii. A.D. 496).
The departure of the ancient systems into sanctioned error and evil is no doubt true. The Reformed Protestant systems began without any intelligence of the church of God; the Dissenters split off with less sense of it if possible. If we feel for the Lord's injured honour, and if we love the church, are we not bound to purge ourselves from the vessels to dishonour, as in a great house? What can we do but humble ourselves before God fur that ruin in Christendom which we have all shared, and fall back on all that is open to us to obey in this evil day? We are sanctified by the Spirit to obedience: the divine word is the rule, and He is the yet abiding power. We are here and always to follow the Lord, not men. Are we to slight the organisation of Christ's body and His gifts for either the old devices or the new inventions around us? I trove not.
The Bible Treasury, New Series 1 vol 1 page 358