God's Servants In the Church
God's Servants In the Church
2) The Gifts Assigned (4:11–13)
(a) The Nature of Them (4:11)
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”
The gifts listed here are different from most of those mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. There, for the most part, the gifts are bestowed on believers. Here, gifted believers are bestowed on the church. In 1 Corinthians the gifts are viewed primarily from the standpoint of the local church. In Ephesians they are viewed from the standpoint of the universal church, the whole body. The five gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11 can be summarized in this way:
1. Those gifted to deal with situations
1. Those equipped to guide the infant church in ways it ought to go (apostles)
2. Those equipped to guard the infant church in what it ought to know (prophets)
2. Those gifted to deal with sinners (evangelists)
3. Those gifted to deal with saints
1. Those called to tend the flock of God (pastors)
2. Those called to teach the flock of God (teachers)
The gifts of apostles and prophets were foundational (Ephesians 2:20) and unique to the early church. We have missionaries (sent ones) and preachers today, but we do not have apostles and prophets. Those gifts were temporary and transitional, intended to help the church become established according to the Holy Spirit’s plans.
There were primary apostles and secondary apostles. The primary apostles were called and commissioned by the Lord Jesus as His sent ones. Paul was such an apostle, although he had been “born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:8). Primary apostles were men who had seen the Lord, who had been with Him from the beginning, and who were eyewitnesses of His resurrection. They were given the task of imparting New Testament truth to the church by direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Secondary apostles—men like Barnabas, Timothy, and Silvanus—were intimately linked with the primary apostles.
The prophets spoke by direct illumination of the Holy Spirit. Their work was essential too. Their task was to disseminate New Testament truth before the completion and distribution of the New Testament. The Spirit of God empowered the prophets to impart truths (already revealed to the apostles) to local congregations. Occasionally the prophets foretold things to come. Usually, like their Old Testament counterparts, they were “forthtellers” rather than foretellers. They “forthtold” truth already revealed by the Holy Spirit but not yet in general circulation.
The gifts of apostles and prophets died out with the end of the first century and the completion of the New Testament canon of Scripture.
Evangelists are always needed. The evangelist, a man especially gifted by the Spirit of God to win souls, is the church’s salesman, so to speak. All believers can be soul-winners, but not all believers can be evangelists. When the evangelist comes to town, sinners turn to Christ in significant numbers. A person either has or does not have the gift of the evangelist. If the person has the gift of the evangelist, something happens when he preaches: people come to Christ. If he does not have the gift, the response to his message is likely to be sparse. Nobody can produce fruit like the evangelist. His message and methods may be shallower than those of the pastors and teachers, but he gets the souls because God has given him the gift. A person who does not have this gift should not fret, but thank God some people do have it.
The pastor is simply a shepherd, as the name of the gift implies. He loves the Lord’s people and has a heart for the flock. He cares for the weak, the sick, and those who are going astray. He counsels the young, cares for the needy, and comforts the bereaved. He does these tasks supremely well because he has the shepherd’s heart and the pastoral gift.
The teacher expounds the Bible’s great truths: its sublime doctrines; its underlying principles; and the broad scope of its history, theology, purpose, and impact. He compares spiritual things with spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:13), shows God’s ways with men down through the ages, and communicates God’s stirring plans for the future. The teacher develops consistent hermeneutics and discerns a unifying principle broad enough to explain all of God’s revealed ways. He teaches others how to divide the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) and opens their eyes to the wonders of Scripture.
(b) The Need for Them (4:12–13)
i. The Purpose Involved (4:12)
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
If we delete the comma after the word saints, we receive the full force of this statement: “For the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry. “The word translated “perfecting” (katartismos) only occurs here. Its verb form, however, occurs in many places in Scripture and is translated in a variety of ways in the New Testament. For instance, it is used of mending nets in Matthew 4:21. In Matthew 21:16 Jesus used the word in His response to the chief priests and scribes who objected when people hailed Him with their hosannas: “Have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? “The word is used in Hebrews 10:5 to describe the incarnation of the Word: “A body hast thou prepared me” (italics added). This is a reference to the unique creative act involved in the virgin birth; God brought into being a perfect vehicle through which the incarnate Word of God could fully express God’s thoughts, likeness, and ways to men. The thought, then, behind the word katartismos is that of making something fully ready, of perfectly equipping someone, of fully preparing something. The proper use of the gifts is to bring the body of Christ to its full potential.
The universal gifts that God has given to the church are intended to build up the local church and the universal church. The Holy Spirit does not intend that those with these gifts should monopolize the ministry. Gifted people should help equip others to carry out the work of winning people to Christ, shepherding the flock, and teaching God’s Word.
ii. The Period Involved (4:13)
“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.”
The Holy Spirit wants us to achieve the stature of Christ. What a goal! The same Greek word translated “stature” here is used to describe Zacchaeus, who was “little of stature” (Luke 19:3). It can also be translated “age,” as in the account of the man born blind whom Jesus healed and whose parents were interrogated by the authorities. His parents answered, “He is of age; ask him” (John 9:21). In effect they said, “He has grown up.” The Holy Spirit wants us to grow up until we display, here on earth, something of Christ’s stature and maturity.
This ultimate goal will not be realized until the rapture when all the individual members of the body of Christ will be glorified together with the head. In the meantime, we should not expect the church universal to display this glorious unity and maturity. Denominational differences, doctrinal conflicts, dispositional clashes, and other issues constantly divide the church. However, the goal is certainly achievable within the fellowship of any local church.
If an individual believer is to mature fully, he needs the fellowship of other believers. The idea of an arm or a leg developing in isolation from other members of the body is ludicrous. No one can attain full spiritual maturity apart from the give-and-take of a local church fellowship. The New Testament does not mention freelance evangelists, independent missionaries, itinerant Bible teachers, or other Christians who have no local fellowship and are responsible to no one but themselves.
3. The Growth of the Mystical Body (4:14–16)
a. Growth Diabolically Inhibited (4:14)
“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.”
This verse is full of interesting words. The word translated “children,” for instance, is derived from a word that literally means “one not old enough to speak”—in other words, a small infant. A child who is not yet old enough to speak is helpless. He is picked up and put down at the will and whim of others. He has no vocabulary with which to express his wishes. The gifts to the church are designed to get us past the highly vulnerable stage of infancy in our Christian lives.
A new convert soon manifests evidence of spiritual life, but his opinions and ideas are unformed and largely inarticulate. His theology embraces little beyond the bare fact of his salvation. Most likely his views on the Holy Spirit, prophecy, or the church are what he has picked up uncritically from others. He is vulnerable and needs the ministry of gifted men to protect him.
The spiritual infant has no doctrinal stability. He is “tossed to and fro.” (The Greek word translated “tossed to and fro” literally means “surging like the sea.”) His opinions are constantly changing. He has not yet mastered principles of hermeneutics and applied them to the Scriptures. He has not yet, through exegesis of the Bible, formed convictions of his own regarding bedrock truths. Thus a spiritual babe will often enthusiastically espouse one viewpoint for a while, then discard it and adopt another. His viewpoints are fluctuating and might even be out of harmony with the Scriptures.
The expression translated “carried about” means “borne hither and thither.” In Mark 6:55 the sick were “carried about.” In other words, Paul was painting a picture in Ephesians 4:14 of a person who is helpless in the hands of others.
So in verse 14 Paul gave us three vivid illustrations of the vulnerability and doctrinal peril of those who have not yet matured in the faith. He took us into the nursery, out to sea, and into the hospital.
But Paul was not finished. He used some more word pictures to illustrate how some people take advantage of the spiritual immaturity of some believers. People who are not well established in the Word are easily swayed. They are carried about from one teacher to another “with every wind of doctrine.” This weakness is bad enough when the teachers are all saved people, but it can be deadly when false teachers come. They were coming to Colossae, which was not too far from Ephesus. In Acts 20:29 Paul warned the Ephesian elders to watch out for “grievous wolves” who would come in, “not sparing the flock.”
Paul had a gambling scene in mind as he continued to illustrate how some people take advantage of the spiritually immature. The word translated “sleight” in Ephesians 4:14 literally means “a cube” and refers to dice. The word metaphorically signifies slyness or trickery. Satan and his teachers play tricks with the truth. For example, cultists are adept at supporting their heretical teaching with a verse of Scripture that is taken out of context or slightly twisted. Someone even quoted John 3:7—“Ye must be born again”—to support his belief in reincarnation!
Paul spoke of the “cunning craftiness” of false teachers. The word translated “craftiness” in Ephesians 4:14 could also be translated “subtlety.” Paul used the same word in 2 Corinthians 11:3: “The serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty.” Eve was no match for the devil. But she had God’s Word and all she needed to say when Satan tempted her was, “Thus saith the Lord!” Her failure to adhere faithfully to God’s Word led to her downfall. God did not expect her to argue with the enemy or dialogue with him. God did expect her to adhere faithfully to the plain, literal sense of His Word.
The same word is used to describe the Lord’s enemies when they tried to trip Him up by questioning the lawfulness of paying tribute to Caesar. Luke said, “He perceived their craftiness” (Luke 20:23).
Those who take advantage of the spiritually immature “lie in wait to deceive.” The clause, “Whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14), is a translation of a group of Greek words including pros (“with a view to”), planē (“deceive”), and methodeia (which refers to Satan’s strategies, wiles, schemes, methods, and cunning devices). Plane signifies “wandering” and is the root of our word “planet.” At Colossae false teachers were lying in wait to lead people astray. The Companion Bible points out that the association of methodeia with Satan in 6:11 shows that the deceitful schemes in 4:14 are of the devil, and not merely error. What was craftily and methodically being taught in Colossae—and what is being taught in the cults today—is not just error. It is calculated deception that emanates from the father of lies.
The growth of the body of Christ, then, was being diabolically inhibited in Paul’s day. Satan was attacking the church with all his craft and power. No wonder the church needed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers!
Satan threw everything he had at the early church. In the providence of God, he used every trick of his trade during the first century. Satan has no new tricks for us—only variations of tricks already played. He is bankrupt of ideas. In the apostolic age every wile of Satan was met and answered by the apostles and prophets, and the New Testament furnishes us with all we need to combat Satanic error and delusion. We can thank God for that. Satan overplayed his hand in his desperate attempt to stop the infant church. He shot his bolt. He has been fully unmasked and can only trade now on people’s ignorance of God’s Word.
b. Growth Divinely Inherent (4:15–16)
(1) The Law of Love (4:15a)
“Speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things.”
We can go to two extremes. We can speak the truth but not in love, in which case we are being ungracious. Truth spoken in that spirit often offends and does little good because it alienates the people we are seeking to win. Or we can speak in love and suppress the truth, in which case we are being unfaithful. People who do not want to hurt someone’s feelings may say nothing and allow a sinful situation to continue. They suffer in silence. True love, however, will always speak at the right time, with the right words, in the right spirit, and using the right approach.
Paul spoke the truth in love to the Ephesians. He got down to very practical issues later in chapter 4. He talked about lying, anger, stealing, unclean conversation, and marital relationships, but no one took offense because earlier he made so many warm and positive comments. None of the Ephesian Christians thought that Paul was being harsh or unkind. They all knew that he loved them. We can accept the truth from someone with whom we share mutual love. As Solomon said, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6).
(2) The Law of Life (4:15b–16)
(a) The Head Controls (4:15b–16a)
We “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.”
Paul returned to one of his favorite illustrations: the church is compared to a body, of which Christ is the head. In other passages Paul developed the theme of the interdependence of the members of the body and our mutual suffering and joy. Here the theme is our mutual development. We are to grow up as individuals and as a body.
Nothing is more wonderful than the way a body grows. Light, warmth, nourishment, exercise, and protection contribute to the fascinating process of growth to maturity. Likewise Christ gave various gifts to His church to stimulate growth. The growth of His body may not be continuous (time-lapse photography developed by Moody Institute of Science shows that in plants there is a period of growth followed by a period of rest), but the process continues until maturity is reached.
Not all parts of a body grow at the same speed or to the same size. The measure of our individual spiritual growth is Christ. How much like Him have we become? To what extent is His glorious life being reproduced in us, the members of His body?
Paul was anxious that the church at Ephesus and all who would ultimately read this circular letter might grow spiritually. He did not want contentment with mere fundamentalism to stunt growth at Ephesus. He did not want intellectualism to stunt it at Colossae. He did not want materialism to stunt it at Laodicea. “Look at Christ,” Paul was saying. “Look at Him; live like Him; be like Him.”
(b) The Heart Consoles (4:16b)
“Unto the edifying of itself in love.”
For the second time in two verses Paul mentioned love. Why? Love is the most important ingredient in spiritual life and growth.
Love never faileth.
Love is pure gold.
Love is what Jesus
Came to unfold.
Paul’s emphasis on love in this letter was inspired. By the time the apostle John wrote to the church at Ephesus, the Lord had to write “Ichabod” over its door (1 Samuel 4:21). Revelation 2:2–4 says in effect: “I know all about you—how you are standing up for the truth and how you are standing up in the task. I know how busy you are and how doctrinally sound you are, but I have something against you. You don’t love Me anymore.” Poor insolvent Ephesus! Love for the Lord was lacking and without that, everything else was spurious. The Lord took such a serious view of this lack of love that He threatened to remove the church altogether unless the believers there repented.