“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11–12).
God has, Paul told us, given each believer enabling grace. If the blood of Christ covers us, we are part of the larger body of believers. From His exalted seat in heaven, Christ pours out His grace and Spirit to aid us in the church's work. He is our head. We are His body.
The Identity Of These Gifts
But what grace does he give to His body? Other New Testament passages point to the spiritual gifts and enabling power of His Spirit, but here Paul looks to a different kind of gift from Christ: Word-focused messengers.
When the church is connected to the word of God, knowing it and loving it and learning it, its most significant impact unfolds. To this end, Jesus poured out various gifted messengers upon the church. The Apostles, whom, through study and obedience to their written words, the church still connects, came first. Their work, along with the New Testament era prophets, was foundational. Christ has built His church on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). Evangelists took that truth and spread it throughout the world, and still do. Also, pastor-teachers settle down in various communities and continually feed the local church with God’s Word.
The Process Of These Gifts
The strategy is clear. Christ had the truth and gave it to the apostles. They wrote it and spoke it, so prophets like Mark and Jude and Luke took it to the world. Evangelists and missionaries then spread that truth to every tribe, nation, and tongue. Then various pastor-teachers settle into those communities and continue to communicate God’s word to Christ’s church.
The Purpose Of These Gifts
Why, though, did Christ give the word-based offices to His church? “To equip the saints for the work of ministry,” Paul writes. Christ has given the word-based gifts to help the entire church, all the saints, become equipped for ministry work.
To understand this process, we must understand the terms. “Saints” is a New Testament description of every true believer; it is not a title reserved for the uber-holy. “Equip” is a New Testament word used to describe the mending of nets, the setting of a bone, or a whole number; it means to be made complete and whole for something. “The work of ministry” is a New Testament way to describe the everyday life every Christian ought to pursue, serving others; it is not meant only to describe formal ministry roles, but also personal ministry as we interact with our community and keep our day jobs.
Application Of These Gifts
So the word of God is to make each believer whole so each might serve God here on earth. Every human has opportunities to give counsel, encouragement, or perspective to others. When the word of God is not your foundation, all you have to share at that moment is your feeling, your opinion, your experiences. However, when you’re equipped with God’s word you know — more fully at least — what to say.
So the church must set its heart on enjoyment, learning, and growth in the Word of God. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The entire Bible, specifically as it is found within the hands and mouths of the word-based officers of the church, can build up the body of Christ for effective work and service here on earth.
During Fall 2017, I taught Calvary Monterey the book of Ephesians. During the series, I also wrote about Ephesians in sixty-plus short, devotionally styled posts. Each Thursday, through 2018, I will release a post. I hope you enjoy. For the entire series, please visit nateholdridge.com/united-for-unity-posts.