WELL EQUIPPED SAINTS
An Exposition of Ephesians 4:11-16
Since their beginnings, the Catholics and the Protestants (and some among the Restoration religious groups) have all had their clergy as opposed to what they term the laity. Usually they require education in one of their approved seminaries in order for men to qualify to teach and lead their congregations. The majority of Baptists throughout their long history have valued education, but have realized that God's education does not require formal schooling. To require a specially trained ministry would be to act contrary to New Testament examples and principles, but some are always ready to throw aside both New Testament principles and patterns. Thus they render the Word of God of no effect in their lives and practice. Of all the first century God-called men, we know that Paul and the physician Luke had what we might call higher education. Probably Apollos also. But the modern trend among most Baptists is for their pastors to be seminary trained. Along with this has come the idea of a professionalism in the ministry. Far too often the average church member says to himself: “Well, now we have hired a seminary trained preacher. We can sit back and let him do the work of the ministry.” Far too often this idea has saturated Baptist ranks of all sorts. This idea may not be spoken aloud, but it has seeped throughout the thinking of church members. We contend that “the work of the ministry” in our text does not mean the preacher doing his job! Please read on!
A clear understanding of our text absolutely contradicts the notion that pastors are to do the work of the ministry! As God gives grace, we hope that the reader will come to understand just what the primary work of the pastor is – and what the work of the members of each body of Christ is to be. Here is our text: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love,” (Ephesians 4:11-16).
First of all notice that certain men were given to the churches. They are listed as apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers. While some would insist that there are five gifts listed both the English construction as well as the Greek (the scholars say) lists only four. We have “And he gave some apostles,” “and some, prophets,” “and some evangelists,” “and some, pastors and teachers.” We do not have the phrase 'and some pastors and some teachers.' In the phrase, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;” we have the little word “and” five times. The first word “and” and the last “and” are the same Greek word “kai.” The other three times “and” is used it is the Greek word “de.” The word “kai” which is used in the phrase “pastors and teachers” can be and one-hundred-eight times is translated “even.” So we agree with old John Gill who wrote of the phrase “pastors and teachers,” “though I rather think they intend one and the same office, and that the word "teachers" is only explanative of the figurative word "pastors" or shepherds.” Yea and amen!
Regardless of whether there are four or five gifts (men) who have been given to the churches, these are all teaching gifts. They all have to do with teaching the Word of God. The first two, apostles and prophets, in the strict sense, were temporary gifts. God-called apostles and prophets do not exist today. The need for their kind of work was finished when the New Testament revelation was completed. But the kind of work done by “evangelists,” (better “missionaries”) and “pastor-teachers” is still greatly needed today. Truth, it has been said, is only one generation from being lost. It must be continually taught to others. Paul instructed his co-worker Timothy to teach with this goal in mind: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also,” (2 Timothy 2:2). Those who teach the Word of God are to multiply and continue their work through other men who learn from them.
But back to our text: upon first consideration of the next phrase it seems that Paul lists three things that the teaching men are to do. Many people understand this work as being, (1) “the perfecting of the saints,” (2) “the work of the ministry,” (3) “the edifying of the body of Christ:” three things. This misunderstanding has contributed to the present situation: a professional ministry in which the pastor-teacher is to perform all the work while the church members for the most part merely warm the pews. While the Greek bears out the same thing, let us leave the Greek alone since most of us are not educated in that ancient language. Rather let us stay with the English. The first or primary definition of the little word “for” according to the Online Merriam Webster dictionary are as follows: “used as a function word to indicate purpose.” The example, “a grant for studying medicine,” is given. The second definition is, “used as a function word to indicate an intended goal.” The examples, “left for home,” and “acted for the best” are given. So the meaning of “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” can be more clearly understood if we understand it this way: God gave teaching-gifts to the churches for the purpose of equipping the church members for the purpose of the work of serving for the purpose or for the goal of building up the local congregations. We say this because the word “perfecting” means complete furnishing or equipping: the word “ministry” (“diakonia” from whence our word “deacon”) means simply and primarily service: and of course the word “edifying” is “okodome” which is akin the word used by the Lord Jesus when He said, “I will build my church,” (Matthew 16:18). Both of these words carry with them the idea to build or to build up or to finish building, i.e., to complete. So then, the primary job of the pastor-teacher here is to equip the saints. It is the job of the saints to serve with the goal of building up the congregation. Revolutionary thoughts? We contend they are biblical and thus involve every member in serving the Lord – in building on that foundation which is Christ in the congregation as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:12, etc.
Young's Literal Translation renders verses 11 and 12 this way: “and He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as proclaimers of good news, and some as shepherds and teachers, unto the perfecting of the saints, for a work of ministration, for a building up of the body of the Christ.” Weymouth has them, “And He Himself appointed some to be Apostles, some to be Prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be pastors and teachers, in order fully to equip His people for the work of serving — for the building up of Christ’s body.” The Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament translates these two verses thus: “And it was he who gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry to build up the body of Christ.” Old John Wycliffe saw these truths and translated these two verse in these words, - modern English spelling - “And he gave some apostles, some prophets, others evangelists, others shepherds and teachers, to the full ending of saints, into the work of ministry, into [the] edification of Christ's body.” We cite these several translations, new and old, as evidence supporting the meaning of our exposition of these two verses. In no way are these quotations meant to endorse these translations in their entirety nor the texts these translators may have used.
In summary we say, do not dump the work of serving or the building up of the congregation on the pastor! It is not his primary job, though as a well-equipped saint he will have a part in this work. His primary job is to equip the members of the congregation so that they are able to properly serve and by their service build up the congregation. Dear reader, if you are content to do nothing – if you will not serve by being instant and constant in prayer, by supporting your congregation, by holding up the hands of your pastor-teacher, by witnessing to your family and friends, by living a consistent and holy life before the world, by using whatever gift you have been given, then you are not doing the work of serving and are not contributing to the building up of the congregation of which you are a member. Perhaps you have not been properly equipped. That is another matter, but the pastor-teacher's job is to equip you, not to do all the work involved in the congregation.
The next portion of our text deals with the duration of this working of God through His teaching men. We read, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” Spiritual maturity, conformity to Christ, doctrinal stability, speaking the truth in love – this kind of growing up in Christ – this is the proper fruit of pastor-teachers equipping the saints so they are able to serve and through their service build up the congregation. These things are clear. And so we pass on.
Finally we come to the end of our text: “From whom [Christ] the whole body fitly [closely] joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” [Brackets added]. The “whole body” or as we say the membership of each church is closely joined together not around some popular or great teacher of the truth, but rather “by that which every joint supplieth.” It is as each part or member works or serves together according to each one's ability and gift that the congregation is built up by itself – i.e. by its own members working together, loving one another and serving one another. Down with the idea of professionalism in the office of pastor-teachers. Away with the idea that “the work of the ministry” is the job of the pastor-teacher! The work of the ministry or of serving is the job of the saints. The primary job of the pastor-teacher is to equip the members so they can serve so that the congregation will be built up.To the carnal mind these ideas are not popular. Carnal or unsaved church members often do not want to be bothered with real service although they may want the starring roles in performance oriented congregations. To those who have assumed that the work of the Lord is to be carried on by the pastor and a few special folk, we urge you to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider what we have written – and more importantly what the Scripture teaches. Every member – every saved member – of the Lord's congregations has a job to do and a gift to use in doing that job. The Bible says of spiritual gifts, “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally [individually] as he will. 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,” (1 Corinthians 12:11-12 – brackets added). If God has added you to one of His churches, you are a member of that one body. You are one of those included in the statement, “by that which every joint supplieth.” Which “joint” are you? Whether hand, foot, ear, eye, or the most insignificant member, God has put you in the body – the congregation – where He wants you. It is the job of the pastor-teacher to equip you, but it is your job to serve God in your place – in your congregation – for her up-building. The will of God is pastor-teachers laboring together with well-equipped saints building up each of Christ's congregations.
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726