CONTEXT SUMMARY: Eph. 4:11-16 discusses both the gift of spiritual leaders and the importance of mature, loving, unified Christianity. Some people are endowed with gifts of teaching, preaching, and so forth. It is crucial to the health of Christian congregations that these members use their God-given talents appropriately. At the same time, different members of a church have different abilities. The community of believers functions best when all of those individual pieces are working together, through their unique roles. A healthy church is far more powerful than a ''big'' church
EPHESIANS 4:11-14. VARIOUS GIFTS FOR THE PERFECTING OF SAINTS
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
"He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers" (v. 11). This is one of five lists of this sort in the New Testament (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30; 1 Peter 4:10-11). None of these lists are the same. There is substantial overlap, but there are also a number of gifts that are found only in one or two of the lists.
• Apostle means "one who is sent." The apostles served as God's ambassadors.
• Prophets act as messengers-telling people what God wants them to know.
• Evangelists proclaim the Gospel.
• Shepherd-pastors take care of sheep. The word shepherd was used metaphorically in both Old and New Testaments to speak of caring leadership (Psalm 23; John 10).
• Teachers instruct people in sound doctrine (1Timothy 1:8-11; 2 Timothy 3:16; Titus 1:9)
"for the perfecting (katartismos) of the saints" (v. 12a). The word katartismos means to complete or to perfect or to make ready. The work of the apostles, prophets, etc. (v. 11) is for the purpose of preparing the saints for the lives they/we are to live and the work they/we are to do.
"to the work of serving" (diakonia)" (v. 12b). Our culture prizes taking, but Christ prizes serving. He said, "Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 20:26; see also Matthew 23:11). Paul called Christ a servant (Romans 15:8) and himself a servant (1 Corinthians 3:5, 9; 2 Corinthians 6:4; Ephesians 1:23). This call to service is one of scripture's many Great Reversals. The Beatitudes are a series of reversals (Matthew 5:1-12). Jesus says, "So the last will be first, and the first last" (Matthew 20:16).
"to the building (oikodome) up of the body of Christ" (v. 12c). The Greek word used here, oikodome, is usually associated with the building trades-with the construction of a house or a tower or a barn. The work of the apostles, prophets, etc. (v. 11) is for the purpose of providing Christians a sturdy foundation and strong walls and a solid roof so that they might survive the storms that will buffet them-and the temptations that will threaten them.
"until we all attain to the unity of the faith" (pistis) (v. 13a). In this context, pistis (faith) has to do with doctrine-the body of Christian doctrine. The purpose of Christian nurture is to school believers in the revealed truths so that they might be united in their beliefs.
"and of the knowledge (epignosis) of the Son of God" (v. 13b). There are two Greek words for knowledge-gnosis (general knowledge) and epignosis (a knowledge of moral values). It is the stronger of the two words that is used in this verse.
"to a full grown (teleios) man" (v. 13c). The word teleios is sometimes translated perfect, but the idea here is maturity-being a full-grown adult. While children are charming, adults who have never outgrown their childish ways are less so. "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11). The goal of Christian nurture is that believers might grow into mature spiritual people.
"to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (v. 13d). This is the goal of Christian nurture-that we become like Christ.
"that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error" (v. 14). We begin life with limited ability to assess possible trickery. As we grow, we attain experience (often the hard way) that makes us wiser and better able to resist temptation. The goal of Christian nurture is to ground us doctrinally so that we can stand our ground when others seek to derail us.
EPHESIANS 4:15-16. MAKES THE BODY INCREAS
15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
"but speaking truth in love" (agape) (v. 15a). It is a great challenge to speak the truth in agape love-the kind of love that puts the welfare of the other person first. One temptation is to speak the truth so sharply that it wounds rather than heals. The opposite temptation is to avoid conflict by avoiding difficult conversations. Speaking the truth in love is a Godly thing. Truth spoken in love stands a chance of being heard, whereas truth spoken without love is almost certain to be rejected. One of the goals of Christian nurture (vv. 11-13) is that we come to a point where we can speak the truth in love.
"we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ" (v. 15b). What are the "all things" in mind here? The virtues mentioned in verse 2 would certainly apply: Lowliness, humility, patience, love, unity, and peace. Unity, faith, and knowledge of the Son of God (v. 13) would also apply. None of these things is likely to come to us easily. At best, we will spend our lives growing into spiritual maturity.
We are Christ's body (1 Corinthians 12:27), and Christ is the head of the body. We need to grow until the body of Christ is in keeping with the head.
"from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies (dia pas ho epichoregia haphe-by every supporting joint), according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love" (agape) (v. 16). The body mentioned here is the church-the body of Christ, who is the head of the church.
The individual parts are connected by joints or ligaments that make it possible for them to work together. In verse 11, Paul mentioned apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers-some of the members of the body. In 1 Corinthians 12:14-17, he talked about our human bodies having many members-feet, hands, ears, eyes, noses-each of those members being vital to the welfare of the body at large. So also, each member of the church is important to the church-Christ's spiritual body.
Therefore, it is important for us to respect each individual member of the body of Christ. We need to insure that each believer is enabled to contribute according to the gifts given them-and that the multiplicity of gifts are "fitted and knit together" to serve the whole.
As we know from our physical bodies, we cannot grow strong if our body parts are in rebellion-if they are fighting one another. Perhaps the best examples of this are autoimmune diseases, where the body loses its ability to distinguish between foreign substances (which the immune system needs to attack) and one's own body (which the immune system needs to leave intact).
In like manner, the church cannot grow strong if the individual members are not working in harmony. As anyone who has been involved in the leadership of a congregation knows, working harmoniously is harder than it sounds. The only way we can do it is by acting in agape love-love that focuses on the well-being of the other person. That kind of love makes it possible for us to hold our tempers when things don't go our way-and to maintain harmonious relationships even with our opponents. It makes it possible for us to avoid selfish, self-destructive behaviors.
Ephesians 4:11-16 - Biblical Commentary
Summary of passage:
· The purpose of pastors and leaders: to develop ministry
· The purpose of ministry: to develop maturity
· The purpose of maturity: unity with Christ and his church
Q: What are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers?
Defining an Apostle (4:11a): Apostle (Greek apostolos) is compounded from two words, apo, "off, away" + stello, "to send." It designates one who has been sent with a commission and can mean a "delegate, envoy, messenger."1 In the NT it is used as a technical term to refer to Christ-designated messengers given authority to speak for him and to establish his church.
The first apostles were the Twelve. "When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles" (Luke 6:13). Notice the first thing he did after appointing them: "These twelve Jesus sent out (apostellō) with the following instructions...." They were to go to the Jews only, to preach the Kingdom is at hand, to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to cleanse the lepers, and to exorcise demons (Matthew 10:5-8). These first apostles were eyewitnesses of the resurrection, as was Matthias, selected to take Judas' place (Acts 1:22-26).
The apostles were the first teachers (Acts 2:42) and administrators (Acts 6:1-6) of the church, but these responsibilities were soon spread among others. The apostles performed miraculous signs (Acts 2:43; 2 Corinthians 12:12), conveyed the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17-18), and generally established the church both in Jerusalem and as far as Corinth, Macedonia, and Rome. Thomas is said to have gone to Parthia and as far as India establishing churches. The Didache seems to recognize the ministry of apostles and prophets in the late first century.2
Do apostles exist today? If so, how does one define modern-day apostles? This is hotly debated. If they do exist, they differ some from the original apostles. For example, they are not eyewitnesses to the resurrection (Acts 1:22). I find C. Peter Wagner's working definition helpful:
"The gift of apostle is the special ability ... which enables them to assume and exercise general leadership over a number of churches with an extraordinary authority in spiritual matters that is spontaneously recognized and appreciated by those churches."3
Examples of apostles might be John Wesley, founder of Methodism, in the past, and perhaps Paul (David) Yonggi Cho, pastor of the largest church in the world in Seoul, Korea, and John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship. I would guess that Pope John Paul II probably fits this category, too, since his ministry extended far beyond administering the Vatican, He exerted an influential teaching ministry throughout the world. (Note: Apostleship is a gift endowed by the Spirit, not bestowed by churches. I do not expect all present-day apostles to see eye-to-eye with each other on doctrine. Nevertheless, they can still be gifted and empowered by the Spirit to build His Church.)
Defining Prophets (4:11b): Prophets in the Old Testament seemed to be lone spokesmen for God such as Elijah, Moses, Samuel, and Malachi, often very unpopular for speaking God's word. Jesus and John the Baptist both functioned as prophets. In the early church, however, the prophets seemed be spread among some of the other leadership roles. We read about prophets who came from Jerusalem to Antioch, among them Agabus who prophesied of future events (Acts 11:27-28; 21:10-11). Prophets and teachers gathered in Antioch to worship and fast and seek God's guidance, and out of that gathering came the prophecy: "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them" -- i.e. their missionary journeys (Acts 13:1-3).
There is little other mention of those who held the office of prophet beyond Philip the Evangelist's four unmarried daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:8-9) and Agabus, a prophet in Antioch. An early Christian document, The Didache, instructs congregations how to relate to itinerant and resident prophets in the last years of the first century.4
Paul encouraged all to prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:5), that is, to speak under the anointing of the Holy Spirit the immediate and upbuilding Word of God. I believe this goes beyond anointed preaching to something else entirely.5 It is one thing to win someone to Christ, it is another to be an Evangelist. It is one thing to teach a lesson, it is another to be a Teacher. In the same way, while many Christians may prophesy occasionally, few of these will have the ministry of being a Prophet.
Defining Evangelists (4:11c): Next Paul speaks of evangelists. This role isn't spelled out very well in the New Testament, though clearly it has to do with proclaiming the Good News and comes from the Greek word euangelizo, to proclaim good news. The noun is used twice, in a technical ministry sense referring to Philip (Acts 21:8), and in a functional sense referring to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:5).
Philip's ministry involved preaching to the Samaritans and winning them to Christ (mass evangelism, Acts 8:4-13) as well as witnessing to and winning the treasurer of Ethiopia, whom he saw riding in a chariot (one-to-one evangelism, Acts 8:26-40).
In the early church evangelists were probably itinerant preachers of the Gospel, perhaps similar to tent-evangelists of our day. In areas of India, Africa, and elsewhere today, evangelists and evangelistic teams will travel to non-Christian villages to share the Gospel with them. While all Christians have an obligation to share Christ where they are, Pete Wagner once estimated that 10% of the people in churches have the gift of evangelism. Oh, that the gift of evangelism would be stirred up in our churches (2 Timothy 1:6; 4:5)! Instead, in some congregations it is shamefully denigrated as proselytism.
Defining Pastors (4:11d): Because of the Greek syntax of vs. 11, some scholars see pastors and teachers to be combined into one ministry of pastor-teacher.6 More likely they are overlapping roles.7
Our word "pastor" (with the related word "pasture") means, literally, "shepherd." In fact, in Spanish, El Pastor can refer to either a herder of sheep or a religious leader. A pastor/shepherd (poimēn) led the flock, protected it, guided it to places where there was grass to eat and water to drink. He healed the sheep that were hurt, assisted in birth, and with tenderness cared for the flock. This describes pretty well what a resident spiritual leader does for a group or congregation, which is sometimes referred to as a "flock" (Acts 20:28-29; 1 Peter 5:2-3). The larger the church is, the more pastors are needed. In fact, in the largest churches, the so-called "senior pastor" may well not have actual gift of pastor so much as of faith, leadership, teaching, or administration.
Often the functional pastors in a Christian community are not the official leaders, but adult Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, house church leaders, etc. You can have a pastoral gift of caring for the spiritual needs of a group of people without having received any official title. Recognition is nice, but not necessary to carrying out this important role. God knows, and it is to him that you serve in this gift.
In the New Testament church, the words "elder" (presbyteros), pastor (poimēn), and bishop or overseer (episcopos) are used synonymously. Compare 1 Pet. 5:1-4; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; and Titus 1:5-9.
Defining Teachers (4:11e): The teacher (didaskalos) has a role closely related to the pastoral function, but somewhat specialized. The pastor is more a leader of and carer for people, while the teacher grounds people in truth and helps them to understand the implications of truth as it pertains to their everyday lives.
Of course, none of these lines can be drawn with heavy black markers; they often fade into one another. Timothy was a pastor and teacher, told to do the work of an evangelist. Paul was an apostle, but clearly he functioned as a pastor during part of his ministry, as well as a teacher by his letters when there were no people close by he could pastor. He was an evangelist, and you might argue that he was also a prophet. Jesus, too, took on all these roles in his ministry. Let's recognize people's ministries from God, but let's not prevent them from combining roles in order to fit our doctrines. God's giftings often don't follow our rules and man-made position descriptions. Moreover, we may transition from one core ministry to another over our lifetimes.
Purpose of the Ministry (4:12): "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up...." (4:11-12)
One problem that afflicts modern churches is a strong clergy-laity distinction. Clergy are to do the work of ministry and the laity are to pay their salaries, benefit from the worship they conduct and the sermons which they give, and generally go away encouraged. Wrong! Look carefully at v. 12 which tells what apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are to do: "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (KJV)
Good. Just what we suspected. Pastors are to perfect, work, and edify. But look again. Is that what it is saying? What if you removed the commas from the sentence? Then it reads:
"to prepare God's people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up" (NIV)
This is entirely different. It makes the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to be equippers and trainers, rather than the bottom-line ministers.
The word translated "perfecting" (KJV), "prepare" (NIV), "equipment" (RSV), and "equipping" (NASB) is Greek katartismos, from kata, "towards" + artios, "fit, sound, complete." In classical Greek the verb meant "to put in order, restore, furnish, prepare, equip."8
The reason we know that the commas in the KJV convey the wrong meaning is that the Greek does not have three parallel clauses each beginning with the word "for." Rather, the phrase "to prepare God's people for (eis) works of service" uses the preposition eis which indicates the goal9 of this equipping, that is, carrying out works of ministry. The next clause also uses the preposition eis, indicating a second goal, "so that the body of Christ may be built up."
Just to clarify the structure here: Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers In order to (pros) prepare and equip God's people (12a), For (eis) works of service (diakonia), (12b), and for (eis) building up the body of Christ (12c). So that we may reach unity in the faith (13a) and grow into the full maturity of Christ (13b - 16). In other words, the job of pastors, teachers, and other ministers is to equip, prepare, and train the believers so they can learn to function in their own ministries. This is the way that the church will be built up; not by the leaders doing everything themselves, but by the leaders equipping the rest of the people to function in their own ministries. A church in which only the leaders are working to build the church is weak, it is sick. A healthy congregation is one in which the leaders succeed in motivating, training, and deploying the people in a variety of ministries according to the gifts of each member, all of whom bring strength and depth to the ministry of the Body as a whole, and which bring about the maturity of the Body. We've spent quite a bit of time on this point because this is one of the chief failings of the organized Church. If we can get this right, we'll be well on our way to effectiveness of ministry and maturity.
The Nature of a Mature Church (4:13-16): "... 13Until 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. 14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (4:13-16)
Look at the description of the healthy, mature church:
When this begins to take shape, we and our churches won't be "infants" which are tossed and blown and manipulated (4:14). People won't be deceiving each other with surface level niceties or "tell it like it is" bluntness which blows the other person away. Instead, we'll be "speaking the truth," but also speaking it "with love." Honesty with tenderness and compassion will build Christ's church in a way that won't require it to be dismantled and rebuilt properly.
I'm impressed by the last phrase of this passage: "as each part does its work" (vs. 16d). This brings us back to where we started. The job of the leaders is to equip each part to do its work. But ultimately each member must commit himself or herself to giving time and energy to the gifts and ministries God has given.
The purpose of all this is found in two places: vs. 13b "attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." And vs. 15b "we shall in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." This sounds very much like the overarching theme of the whole letter found in 1:10 "to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ."
What does this mean in practice?
Prayer: Jesus, your Church on earth sometimes seems like it has a long way to go. Help us not to give up on it, but to equip your saints for the work of their ministry and see the mission completed through the help of many gifted, consecrated hands. In your holy name, we pray. Amen.
2. (Eph 4:11-12) The offices of spiritual leadership in the church and their purpose.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
a. He Himself: This means that Jesus established these offices. They are the work and appointment of Jesus, not men. Though pretenders may lay claim to them, the offices themselves are a Divine institution and not a human invention.
b. Gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers: Paul described four offices (not five, as in the commonly yet erroneously termed "five-fold ministry").
iv. Pastors and teachers (or, pastor-teachers; the ancient Greek clearly describes one office with two descriptive titles), who shepherds the flock of God primarily (though not exclusively) through teaching the Word of God. "Teaching is an essential part of the pastoral ministry; it is appropriate, therefore, that the two terms, pastors and teachers, should be joined together to denote one order of ministry." (Bruce)
v. These gifts are given at the discretion of Jesus, working through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:11). The importance of having "all four in operation" in any church body is up to Jesus who appoints the offices. The job of responsible church leadership is to not hinder or prevent such ministry, but never to "promote it into existence."
c. For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry: The purpose of these gifts of leadership is also clear. It is that saints (God's people) might be equipped for the work of ministry (service), so that the body of Christ would be built up (expanded and strengthened).
3. (Eph 4:13-16) The desired goal of God's work through church leadership and equipped saints.
Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ; from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
a. Till we all come to the unity of the faith: This is the first goal of God's work through the gifted offices and equipped saints. This is consistent with both the ultimate purpose of God (Ephesians 1:10) and the mystery of God revealed through Paul (Ephesians 3:6). Again, by clearly stating that this is a unity of the faith, Paul did not command a structural or organizational unity, but a spiritual unity around a common faith.
b. And of the knowledge of the Son of God: When the gifted offices work right and the saints are properly equipped, Christian maturity increases and there is greater intimacy in the experience of God.
c. To a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: The gifted offices and equipped saints bring the saints to maturity, according to the measure of Jesus Himself. As years pass by, we should not only grow old in Jesus, but more mature in Him as well, as both individuals and as a corporate body.
d. We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine: The gifted offices and equipped saints result in stability, being firmly planted on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20).
i. Those who do not mature in this way are targets of deceivers, who are effective precisely because they operate with trickery and cunning craftiness - and they lie in wait to deceive. They are out there like land minds that the mature can avoid.
ii. The ancient Greek word for tossed to and fro is from the same words used to describe the stormy Sea of Galilee in Luke 8:24 (raging of the water). We can wrongly value movement over growth; mere movement is being tossed to and fro, but God wants us to grow up in all things.
iii. By the trickery of men: "The words... refer to the arts used by gamesters, who employ false dice that will always throw up one kind of number, which is that by which those who play with them cannot win." (Clarke) Running after spiritual fads always leaves one a loser.
e. Speaking the truth in love: This speaks to not only how we are to relate to one another in God's family, but also to how leaders and saints are to deal with deceivers. We should deal with them in love, but never budging from the truth.
f. May grow up in all things into Him who is the head: Another way maturity is described is as the growing up into Jesus, who is the head. Again, this defines the direction of maturity. We never grow "independent" of Jesus, we grow up into Him.
i. "A church that is only united in itself, but not united to Christ, is no living church at all. You may attain to the unity of the frost-bound earth in which men and women are frozen together with the cold proprieties of aristocracy, but it is not the unity of life." (Spurgeon)
ii. Adam Clarke on grow up... into Him: "This is a continuance of a metaphor taken from the members of a human body receiving nourishment equally and growing up, each in its due proportion to other parts, and to the body in general."
g. According to the effective working by which every part does its share: The evidence of maturity - that the leaders and the saints are all doing their job - is this effective working. This means every part and joint provides what it can supply in a coordinated effort. When this happens, it naturally causes the growth of the body (both in size and strength), but especially growth for building itself up in love. Some people think of the church as a pyramid, with the pastor at the top. Others think of the church as a bus driven by the pastor, who takes his passive passengers where they should go. God wants us to see the church as a body, where every part does its share.