Equipping - The Key to a Multiplying Body
God's model for his Church is clearly declared in Ephesians 4:7-14. The general subject of the passage is spiritual gifts, but the gifts dealt with here are not the normal variety of gifts presented in The New Testament. The lists of gifts in Romans 12, I Corinthians 12 and 14, and I Peter 4 are generally quite different. Those gifts are empowering tools and passing touches of the Holy Spirit, given to, or made available to all believers. The gifts in Ephesians 4:11 are actually gifted leaders which the Holy Spirit gives to his Church for special, at-large purposes in the church, and for the accomplishment of special goals in respect to building up His Church.
I. The Sovereign Dispenser of Grace
A. Christ’s Administration – Ephesians 4:7 - “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.”
Grace, here, is not speaking of the grace that saves us (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace in this context is God's impartation of ability to do His will, specifically as it relates to ministry.
B. Christ’s Accomplishments – Ephesians 4: 8-10
Three Great Facts are Given about Jesus’ Accomplishments:
- He Came Down in Grace - Eph. 4:9-10 - One incredible night, almost two thousand years ago, God the Son, descended into our human dilemma. Jesus had to descend from Heaven's glory, down to Bethlehem's stable, down to Gethsemane's agony, down to Calvary's horror, down to the grave's incarceration. Jesus uncrowned himself to crowns us; he put off his robes to put on our rags; he came down from Heaven to keep us out of Hell; he came down from Heaven to earth that he might take us from earth to Heaven when we die! And Jesus did what he did without our deserving it or even desiring it!
- He Went Up in Glory - Eph. 4:8-10 - When Paul writes about taking captivity captive, ascending on high, etc. he is referencing Psalm 68:18. John MacArthur comments on Paul's use of Psalm 68 noting that this psalm... “is a victory hymn composed by David to celebrate God’s conquest of the Jebusite city and the triumphant ascent of God (represented by the Ark of the Covenant) up Mount Zion (cf. 2 Sa. 6-7; 1Chr 13). After a king won such a victory, he would bring home the spoils and enemy prisoners to parade before his people. An Israelite king would take his retinue through the holy city of Jerusalem and up Mount Zion.
The captives in his train," his victory parade, can be either believers (2 Cor. 2:14) or principalities and powers (Col. 2: 15). In light of Ephesians 1:20-23 on the Lord's exaltation over spiritual forces, evil powers are probably in view. The word "gifts" may have a double referent. They are given to people in 4:7, but in 4:11 people are also given as gifts to the church. That people are recipients of grace makes them gifts to the church.
- He Gives Out Gifts - Eph. 4:10b - Upon arriving in heaven, He gave gifts to men. Paul here uses yet another term for gifts (domata) to express the comprehensiveness of this gracious provision. Like a triumphant conqueror distributing the spoils to his subjects, so Christ takes the trophies He has won and distributes them in His kingdom. After His ascension came all the gifts empowered by the Holy Spirit (John 7:39; 14:12; Acts 2:33). When the Savior was exalted on high, He sent the Spirit (Acts 1:8), and with the coming of the Spirit also came His gifts to the church.
Summary reflection on Ephesians 4:11-13 by J. Rodman Williams:
First, these ministries are sovereign grants from the ascended and reigning Christ for the equipping of His Church. They are not the result of individual choices but come about through divine action.
Second, the gifts are persons– apostles, prophets, etc. (and not activities such as prophesying, evangelizing, teaching) – who are given by Christ to the church for the equipping of the body of believers. The personal, exalted Christ provides persons for this critical task.
Third, these gifts are limited in number: not every Christian will share in them. Unlike charismata [manifestational] gifts, in which all believers participate, these domata gifts are of the few, (note the recurring word “some.”)
Fourth, these equipping ministries are necessary to the continuing life of the church. The fact that Christ “gave” cannot refer only to the past, because the gifts are for the ongoing work of equipping the saints of all times and places for their work of ministry.
Fifth, pastors and teachers are more closely linked than the other gifts.
C. Christ’s Authorizations – Eph. 4:11 - King Jesus has authorized, empowered, graced, and delegated us to represent Him. The manpower gifts of men are given to the Body of Christ with the authorization to use them as His representatives.
The ascension gifts, in the first century, probably functioned somewhat as follows:
- APOSTLES - The word "apostle" means "one sent away from," so he intends His entire church to be a going and sending fellowship. Someone likened the five-fold manpower gifts to a HAND. First, we let the apostles be represented by the thumb. The thumb is not in opposition to or over the fingers, but it is designed to complete the full function and power of the hand. The apostle's ministry touches every other part of the HAND that comprises the equipping five-fold ministry.
Apostles are those people who are uniquely burdened to lead the Church across boundaries and into new places to plant the gospel. They love to start new ventures and reproduce groups. They're perfect for getting things moving and getting people committed to a mission. They focus on extending the kingdom into places where it does not currently exist.
Apostles extend the gospel. As the “sent ones,” they ensure that the faith is transmitted from one context to another and from one generation to the next. They are always thinking about the future, bridging barriers, establishing the church in new contexts, developing leaders, networking trans-locally.
The fundamental burden of the apostle is for kingdom extension and expansion across borders, people groups, and cultures, to the ends of the earth.
The apostles were pre-eminently a church founder, giving clear identity to the new communities of believers that began to multiply around the Mediterranean as described in the book of Acts. Perhaps Paul’s most succinct description of himself as an apostle is found in 1 Corinthians 3:10 where he claimed to be ‘a wise master builder’ who had laid the foundation of the Corinthian church."
Jesus wants His Church to be a Going, Sending DMD people with a TWI vision!
- PROPHETS – The second finger on the HAND is the forefinger. It represents the prophet. A prophet is one feared in the Old Testament, knowing he was a man of God who brought a word from God and usually it was correction, and such, showing tremendous miracles.
In the OT prophets who gave prophecies were to be stoned if the prophecies were false or didn’t come true. In the NT prophets are judged based on the veracity of their prophecies and then, not stoned, but confronted with the truth in love for the purpose of change.
The word "prophet" means a "forth-teller" (not primarily a "fore-teller" of truth). A prophet is a truth-sayer not a soothsayer. A prophet was a "herald," a "proclaimer," a "testifier. " So when Jesus gave gifted prophets to His Church, He is showing that He intended His Church to be a non-stop, always faithful, always bold, always speaking, fellowship of people.
Jesus wants His Church to be Hear from God and Proclaim what He said to others.
- EVANGELISTS – The third finger, the middle finger represent evangelist. If you hold your hand out flat with your fingers together you can obviously see that the middle finger is the longest finger on your hand. The evangelist reaches out into the community, the country and to the ends of the earth bringing in souls into the kingdom of God. It is an anointing that is within the evangelist that reaches for souls.
The word "evangelist" means a "good newser," one who "good newses" Jesus to people, and people to Jesus. God intends His Church to be glorious and victorious in its presentation of good news.
Evangelists recruit. These infectious communicators of the gospel message recruit others to the cause. They call for a personal response to God's redemption in Christ, and also draw believers to engage the wider mission, growing the church. Evangelists can be so focused on reaching those outside the church that maturing and strengthening those inside is neglected.
Jesus wants His church to Go and Announce the Good News and Disciple Men to Him.
- PASTOR – The fourth finger on the hand is the ring finger... the covenant finger, represents the pastor or the local shepherd of the church. Shepherds care deeply about people, and specifically the community of faith. They value transformative relationships and love to create spaces of hospitality for others.
The Greek word for pastor is “poimenas”. It is translated elsewhere in the New Testament (mainly in the gospels), as shepherd. Jesus is called our Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20; I Peter 2:5). The imagery behind this terminology is the great care that a shepherd takes for his sheep. Pastors are to treat the saints of God as does a shepherd his sheep. The word tells us that He intends His people to lead. In order to lead, the Christian must clearly and confidently know who he is, what he has, where he is going, how to get there, what his purpose is today and every day, and how to accomplish his assignment. Any person who knows these things clearly and confidently can lead anyone.
The verb form of this word “poimeno”, is used elsewhere to refer to the work of pastoral care (John 21:16; Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:2). The office of pastor seems to be equivalent to those otherwise called elders and bishops.
In his book, The Disciple Making Pastor, author Bill Hull says, "Not much will change...until pastors start reproducing themselves through others...until congregations allow pastors to spend most of their time on training the spiritually well minority, rather than servicing...the unmotivated and disobedient majority."'
Jesus intends for His People to be able to Lead and Feed, to Reach and Teach, to Care for and Protect His Sheep!
- TEACHER - The fifth finger on the hand, the pinkie finger, is the smallest finger and most time with the hardest job. It's the finger most readily capable of penetrating our ear. The little finger, the teacher is anointed to bring the word in a way that one with a hearing ear can sit down and listen to the teaching until well fed. A dedicated teacher is always studying to be prepared and his light never turns out. It's the anointing in the office of teacher that makes the Word blessed. We must have many great anointed teachers of the word along with the pastor who should also have this gift.
The word "teacher" indicates that Jesus intends His Church to be a Truth-telling, Educational, Word-disseminating, Feeding Fellowship.
And this is the assignment of every believer. "By all means" (I Corinthians 9:22) - spontaneous word, prepared testimony, formal teaching and preaching, the dissemination of tracts, books, magazines, letters (God is high on letters), DVD’s, blogs, radio and television, face-to-face and at a distance - the Christian's goal should be to influence, to bend, to sway, "to win some."
In conclusion, let it be noted that the five offices cannot be clearly distinguished one from another as far as their roles are concerned. Ephesians 4:11-12 does not explain the distinctive work of each role, only what they have in common, namely their source and their purpose. The source being from the resurrected, ascended Messiah and the purpose to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
The various roles mentioned in 4:11 overlap considerably. Take Paul, for example. He was an apostle (Eph 1:1). Yet he also evangelized (1 Cor 1:17), taught (Col 1:28), and exercised pastoral oversight of his churches (1 Thess 1–5), and prophesied (1 Cor 13: 2: 14: 3–6, 37).
II. The Specific Design of the Manpower Gift
A. To Equip the Saints to do the Work of the Ministry – 4:12a
Ephesians 4:11-12 in the King James Version reads: "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:"
Verse 4:12 is made up of three prepositional phrases, which, rendered literally, reads: "toward the equipping of God's people unto a work of service unto building up the body of Christ." Do all three phrases describe the leader’s job assignment as doing all three tasks or do they equip the people to do the work and building up? An understanding of the relation of clergy and laity is at stake.
The purpose of the five-fold leadership and ministry is not to do the work of the ministry but to see to it that every member is "equipped" for his individual "work of ministering" (4:12a). This sentence contains one of the most expansive and definitive words of the New Testament. It is translated "perfecting" in the KJV, but (as usual) no single translation can possibly convey the full meaning of this word to us. One translation says that the gifted men are given to the church to "equip" its members; another says, "to fully furnish"; another, to "outfit" the members. One thing is certain: all Christians—without exemption, exception, or exclusion—are to be so equipped, or outfitted, or furnished.
The word "equipped" is a cosmopolitan word. A study of the use of the word in the New Testament would both exhaust and shock us. In Greek, the basic word is "katartismon." Our English word, "artisan" is the root of this Greek word, and it means a "skilled craftsman."
Thus, the business of the five-fold gifted persons is to turn every available believer into an absolute skilled craftsman in handling, understanding, living by, being dominated by, ministering with, etc., the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God for the making of disciples of God that will extend the glory of God, until the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of God. This assignment consumed Jesus as a strategy for Twelve Men in hands-on, close-up, round-the-clock, on-the job training for approximately three years. His equipping them made them a multiplying Body that grew from 12 to 20 million in a little over three centuries.
We must recover Jesus’s standard for Body of Christ health, happiness, holiness, and growth. Remember, living things grow and growing things must multiply or they die!
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