gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as
evangelists, and some as pastors and
teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the
building up of the body of Christ; 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. 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; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 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.
(Ephesians 4:11-16 NASB)
Division of Labor
Apostles and Prophets
It is an unfortunate fact that the modern church contains
many who consider themselves to be apostles. We should therefore review the
qualifications for being an apostle:
First, you must
be an eyewitness to the risen Christ. This should eliminate most, if not all,
Next, you must be
appointed by Christ to the position.
The importance of these qualifications comes from the fact
that an apostle is considered an authority concerning Scripture. All of the
accepted New Testament Scripture was either written by an apostle, or written
under his supervision. If you claim to be an apostle, you claim to have the
authority to change Scripture. This can be exceedingly dangerous.
In some sense we still have prophets with us. If you will
recall, there are two functions of the prophet. The first is to foretell the
future; the second is to forth-tell the Christian what he needs to know. A
prophet is given to rebuke. The danger in being a prophet, or claiming that you
are a prophet, is that you may rebuke where it is not necessary. You may also
rebuke in a way which is harmful to the church. Caution is required. The
problem of fraud is ever with us.
The word evangelist actually means "bringer of good
news." This office of the church is still with us, in two forms:
The first is the
evangelist in the style of Billy Graham. This style is a relatively recent
development, beginning in the 19th century. It was invented by one F. E. B.
Meyer, and was largely the product of the invention of the railroad. That
invention allowed large numbers of people to gather in one place, and thus such
preaching could be done.
The other style
is that of the missionary. This is a much slower process, but it reaches those
who are not part of your own people group.
Pastors and Teachers
The word for pastor in this passage means a shepherd. The
phrasing in the Greek here implies that these two offices are either very
similar or the same. It is not at all uncommon for a pastor to be a teacher; I
would argue that it teacher is almost always a pastor as well, in the sense
given here. The issue is not one of authority over the church, but
responsibility for those within the church. As a teacher, I have responsibility
for those students in my class. Our pastor has responsibility for the entire
church. It is a practical matter of fact that it is impossible for him to be a
face-to-face pastor for all of the people in this church; therefore, his
responsibilities are different in that regard.
The word for teacher implies someone who stands up and
lectures, teaching in the Socratic method. This would be typical of the time,
but modern techniques would make this somewhat different. The key point for us
is that the teacher is intended to convey doctrine in action. It is an
interesting point to think what Paul might have made of PowerPoint
Purpose: Equipping the Saints
Before we get into the details, we need to understand the meaning
of the word equip in this context. It means one of two things: either to
furnish, in the way that you would furnish a house, or to mend, as you would
mend a bone. So this is either making sure you are capable of doing what you
need to, or fixing something that is wrong.
Works of Service
Please note that the works of service mentioned here have to
do with building up the church. This does not specifically refer to those
actions we might take to show compassion to those outside the church, but
rather the actions we take to build up the church. The word "works"
is particularly important here. In the Greek, it means to expend energy. The
concept here is physical work; therefore, Paul is not talking about prayer and
We might take an example from physics here. In physics, work
is defined as a force acting through a distance. Force is defined as a mass
having its velocity changed. So think of it this way: the works of service you
do will be done over a distance (not instantly). They will change something
which has mass (in other words, something which is not trivial). They will
change either its speed, its direction, or both. So we are talking about the
things the church does on a regular basis. We need to keep them going in the
right direction at the right speed. Fixing these things takes time and effort.
It is not specific here whether these works regard evangelism
or discipleship. As we have seen, these functions are separated in the church,
but the principle of work in the church applies to both.
Unity of the Faith
The word "unity" means a oneness. Paul is talking
about the doctrine of the church and its effect on our actions. There is no
sense of tolerance in this; doctrine is singular. But it should follow
logically that if our doctrine is singular, then our actions will be united.
The immediate question which usually occurs in the church is: does this imply
central control? The answer varies over the centuries. The Roman Catholic
Church insists upon it; the difficulty being, of course, that they add much to
the Scripture. Protestant churches began with central control, and many still
have governing bodies. Later, evangelical movements usually insisted upon local
control, with difficulties in doctrine worked out either by schism or by para-church
organizations, such as Bible colleges. Lately, however, evangelical churches
associated with the "emerging church" movement have returned to
central control, within the local church, of course. This is a reflection of
the fact that most mega-churches are the product of one charismatic speaker —
who insists on complete control. Most of us have had the difficulty of working
for a boss who said, "be sure you check everything with me first."
The Scripture provides for a result, but not a method.
Knowledge of the Son of God
Paul speaks here of the measure of maturity – and the word
measure is literally that. So how does one measure of Christian's maturity? The
answer is simple: it is the knowledge of Christ. Please note that this does not
mean simply an academic knowledge of who Jesus is and what he said. The word in
the Greek here is "epignosis,” which means a full knowledge. A complete
knowledge of Christ is required if you are to be mature. As far as I know,
there is no instance in the Scripture in which we are commanded to have an
academic knowledge only; knowledge is always coupled with action in Christ.
This is so clear as a principal that it has been put down in a simple phrase:
the imitation of Christ.
This has rather fallen out of favor lately. We have as of
late preferred a "do your own thing" method, sometimes known as
"seeking God." This is a confusion. The principle in the Scripture is
still the same: we are to grow up and be like Jesus Christ.
As a Result
Not Carried about
We need to realize that doctrine is not something that is the
province of the elite. The Scripture is not something which is so obscure that
the average man just couldn't possibly understand it. It is the case, however,
that doctrine is not obvious and does need instruction. Therefore, there are
teachers. You should know what it is you believe. You should think it through
yourself, making it your own. If you see doctrine being perverted —
accidentally or otherwise — you should challenge it. (My students do.) We must
remember that Christ warned us about wolves in sheep's clothing. It is
important that we are not deceived; it is also important that we are not kicked
around from one doctrinal point to the other in a continuous debate. Doctrine
should be a steady, settled thing. This implies, of course, that there's going
to be some debate about it.
Speak the Truth in Love
Here is the rule for the debate. Remember that what we are
trying to do is to arrive at the truth, not necessarily to convince the other
guy that we had it right all along. "Winning" is not at all important
compared to arriving at the truth. Once we have arrived at the truth, we are to
pass it on. But we are to do so gently and with love, as our object is the
maturity of our fellow Christians. Winning the debate may often mean losing the
soul. Remember the parable of the wheat and tares.
Grow up in Christ
The sad fact is that in this day and age we must ask the
question: is maturity good? So much of the modern church emphasis is on the
youth that it is easy to conclude that maturity is undesirable. Certainly, many
seniors feel that their opinions on how worship should be conducted, for
example, are being completely ignored. We need not get into that debate. The
word maturity, as used here really means "complete." Remember, in
this day and age a man of 30 years was considered old. This is a reasonable
position; by the age of 30, if you have grown up in the church, you should be
well grounded in doctrine — and know what you should be doing. You should be
The secret to this is the knowledge of Christ. Remember that
this is a full knowledge; to borrow another phrase, knowledge with your heart,
soul, mind and strength. It is a continuing process with a goal: to be like
Christ. Next week, we shall explore further what this means.