Summary: 1) Progression (Ephesians 4:12), 2) Purpose (Ephesians 4:13–15), and the 3) Power (Ephesians 4:16) of God’s divine pattern for the building and function of His church.
A free-lance missionary visited a pastor asking for financial support. “What groupare you associated with?” the pastor asked. The man replied, “I belong to the invisible church.” The pastor then asked, “Well, what church are you a member of!” Again he got the answer, “I belong to the invisible church!” Getting a bit suspicious, the pastor asked, “When does this invisible church meet? Who pastors it?” The missionary then became incensed and said, “Well, your church here isn’t the true church. I belong to the invisible church!” The pastor replied, “Well, here’s some invisible money to help you minister to the invisible church!”. (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 38). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)
Western culture puts its emphasis on personal autonomy, as does much of western Christianity with its almost exclusive emphasis on a personal relationship with Christ. As important as is a personal relationship with Jesus, biblical Christianity never teaches that faith is just about Jesus and me. We are part of the body of Christ. We are his presence now on earth as his Spirit lives within us and among us (Eph. 2:22). I am the expression of Christ’s love to others, and they to me (Chapell, B. (2009). Ephesians. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 198–199). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.).
As discussed in the previous chapter, God’s spiritual gifts to His church include both the individual gifting of every believer as well as the gifted men called apostles and prophets, who were given strictly for New Testament times and were followed by the gifted men called evangelists and pastor–teachers, who are given for continuing ministry to the church (Eph. 4:11). It is God’s plan for the last two groups of gifted men—the evangelists and pastor–teachers—to equip, build up, and develop His church by the general operational procedure set forth in verses 12–16. In this passage we are shown the 1) Progression (Ephesians 4:12), the 2) Purpose (Ephesians 4:13–15), and the 3) Power (Ephesians 4:16)of God’s divine pattern for the building and function of His church.
1) The Progression of God’s Pattern(Ephesians 4:12)
Ephesians 4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (ESV)
Three phrases are now used in this verse to describe the purpose of the spiritual gifts just named(Foulkes, F. (1989). Ephesians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 10, p. 126). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.)
The first task within God’s design is for the evangelists and pastor–teachers to be properly equipping the saints (a title used for all those set apart to God by salvation; cf. 1 Cor. 1:2). The evangelist’s work is to bring men and women to understanding of the gospel of salvation, to lead them to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and thereby become children in His spiritual family and citizens of His divine kingdom. In the early years the objective was to establish a local church. This begins the equipping. The pastor–teacher’s subsequent work, then, is to provide the leadership and spiritual resources to cause believers to be taking on the likeness of their Lord and Savior through continual obedience to His Word and to provide a pattern, or example, of godliness (1 Thess. 1:2–7; 1 Pet. 5:3).
To equip the saints (Katartismos) basically refers to that which is fit, is restored to its original condition, or is made complete. The word was often used as a medical term for the setting of bones. The noun “equipping” (καταρτισμός, katartismos) occurs only here in the N.T. The verb from which it is derived, however, occurs thirteen times. A survey of these uses will show quite clearly what the leaders are to do for “the saints”:1. To teach (Luke 6:40) 2. To equip with everything good (Heb 13:21) 3. To supply what is lacking (1 Thess 3:10) 4. To prepare for use (Heb 10:5) 5. To form, mold, and shape (Heb 11:3) 6. To mend and repair (Matt 4:21) 7. To correct faults (2 Cor 13:11) 8. To restore a fallen brother (Gal 6:1) and 9. To bring into functioning harmony (1 Cor 1:10) (Boles, K. L. (1993). Galatians & Ephesians (Eph 4:12). Joplin, MO: College Press.)
God has given four basic tools, as it were, to spiritual equip the saints. These are spiritual means, because the flesh cannot make anyone perfect (Gal. 3:3). The first and most important is His Word, the Bible. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). The first purpose of the pastor–teacher, therefore, is to feed himself, to feed his people, and to lead them to feed themselves on the Word of God.