It says that grace was given to each of us according to measure of Christ's gift. This is not the grace God extended to us that led to salvation, but the grace that God extends to his people for ministry. It is the same type of grace Paul speaks of in Ephesians 3:8, where he declares, "To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ..." It is the grace Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 4:10 where he writes, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's grace in its various forms." This reminds me that grace moves from salvation to service in the name of Christ.
What I missed for a long time in Ephesian 4 was the nature of the gifts God gave to the church. After declaring that Jesus "gave gifts to men," the text goes on to say in verse 11 that, "He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints..." God's gifts to the church are people who equip the church for her calling! I had to ask myself if I give thanks for God's gifts, or do I, like Israel in the wilderness, complain about God's gifts?
I have been focusing on the gift of apostleship because this may refer to more than the twelve. After all, the Ephesian church was likely never equipped by the twelve. Apostolos is an untranslated Greek word, which might lead to confusion on its meaning. Greeks used this word to refer to an envoy sent by an authoritative figure. It was not an inherently religious word. In Luke 6, Jesus chose 12 of his disciples and designated them his "Apostles." As his apostles, he conferred authority on them, which is why they were able to do many of the same miracles he did, and why their teaching carried the authority of the master. Paul became an apostle of Christ directly from him. This is why Paul introduces himself in Galatians 1 as, "Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father..." Paul differentiates himself from others who are also designated as "apostles," such as Barnabas in Acts 14:14; Epaphroditus in Phil 2:25, or the brothers who traveled with him in 2 Corinthians 8:23. In the latter two references, "apostle" is usually translated as "messengers," which obscures the fact that the text uses the word, "apostle." Epaphroditus is not an apostle of Christ such as The Twelve or Paul. Like Barnabas who was sent by the church in Antioch, Epaphroditus was an apostle of the Philippian church. "Apostle of whom?" is a significant question. The twelve and Paul are in a different class of apostleship and authority because they are apostles of Christ. Everyone else is an apostle of the church. Our word today for this is usually something like "missionary." Tent-maker and Church-Planter fall in the same category. I used to think that "missionary" is not a biblical word, but perhaps "apostle" in the generic sense could translate legitimately to "missionary." Therefore, "apostle" in Ephesians 4:11 could refer to more than The Twelve and Paul.
How does a "missionary" equip the church? It involves equipping the church for fulfillment of Jesus' commission in Mark 16:15 to "proclaim the Gospel to all creation." In this sense, the entire church has received apostleship. Romans 1:5 says that "we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith..." The church is not just the called-out, but the sent-to. Hebrews 3:1 says that Jesus is the apostle and high priest of our confession. Jesus was sent by God into the world. Jesus then sent the Spirit to the church when he left. The church in turn, is sent by our Lord and empowered by the Spirit to continue his mission in the world.