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Ephesians (2010)

Building the Body

Ephesians 4:11-16

Lesson audio

And He 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, contemporary apostles.

·         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 presentations.

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 devotion here.

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.[1]

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 complete.

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.

[1] Matthew 13:24-30

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