Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Ephesians 4:11 - 4:16

Online Resource Library

Commentary Index | Return to | Download

Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Ephesians 4:11 - 4:16

(Show All Books | Show All Chapters)

This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

The organization and work of the ministry of the Church:

v. 11. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers,

v. 12. for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ;

v. 13. till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

v. 14. that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

v. 15. but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ,

v. 16. from whom the whole body, fitly joined and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

The thought here expressed is connected with that of v. 7. but Paul now speaks in detail of the gifts of God to the Church: He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers. The ministers of the Church at all times are gifts of the exalted Christ. "The apostles were and are the infallible teachers of all Christendom, their doctrine is authoritative for the doctrine of the Christian teachers of all times. Prophets and evangelists were special gifts of the primitive Church. The prophets, in this connection the New Testament prophets, received special revelations for special purposes, which they then in inspired speech declaimed to the Christian assembly. See Rom_12:6. The evangelists, to whom, for example, Philip, Act_21:8, belonged, proclaimed the Gospel in missionary activity,... spread the apostolic word in places where the apostles themselves had not come; to their calling corresponds probably the service of our present missionaries. With 'pastors and teachers' the apostle describes the regular ministry of the Word, which in all periods of the Church has been and remained the same, the public office of preaching. The expression 'teachers' probably refers chiefly to the public activity as preachers, the other, 'pastors,' to the pastoral activity which applies the Word to the individual members of the congregation. " In speaking of all these ministers as gifts of Christ, the apostle does not exclude specific preparation for the ministerial office. But it is the exalted Christ that makes these persons willing, that works in their hearts the resolution to serve the Church, that blesses their study, that adds spiritual enlightenment to intellectual gifts, that distributes gifts for individual stations and special circumstances.

Of the immediate aim of the ministerial activity St. Paul writes: With a view to the perfecting of the saints for the work of ministration, for the edification of the body of Christ. All the servants of the Church in their various offices have been given by Christ to be active in ministering to the spiritual needs of the congregation; through their work the Church is to be built up, edified. The apostle uses the figure of the growth of a healthy body, which must be supplied with proper food in sufficient quantity. In this way the ultimate object of Christ is gained, the full equipment, the final perfection of the saints. Whatever is still incomplete in their spiritual condition and makeup, due to the attacks of the enemy and their own natural weakness, is to be supplied by the ministers of the Gospel through the preaching of sin and grace.

This goal of all ministerial work must be held before our eyes as the ideal: Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the understanding of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The apostle here has in mind the congregation of the elect in heaven, and he refers to the time at which the great end in view is to be realized. At the present time many of these chosen children of Christ are still without the knowledge of their Savior. But when these all, through the preaching of the Gospel, have become one with the present believers, one in faith and in the knowledge of their Savior, the Son of God, then the object of the ministry of the Word will have been realized, then the assembly of the believers will stand there as a mature, full-grown man. Then the Church will have entered upon its majority, will have reached the age and the maturity of Christ, the First-born of the Father; the perfection of His graces and virtues will rest upon the believers. This aim will indeed never be realized fully in the present temporal life, but only in that to come. For all that, however, the teachers of the Church will ever be mindful of the external and internal growth of the Church and, in particular, of their own congregations; they will not cease to add new members to the flock entrusted to them, and to strengthen their people in faith and in all Christian virtues.

The results of such faithful labor cannot fail to materialize, first of all in overcoming defects: To the end that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of teaching, in the sleight of men, in craftiness tending toward the system of error. The work of perfecting the saints, carried on through the Word of the Gospel, should effect so much that the believers are no longer infants, minors, immature, and untaught in the knowledge of sin and grace, of the holy will of God. As children in spiritual knowledge they enter the Church; but the Lord wants spiritual growth and progress, He wants them to reach the maturity and stature of Christ. So long as a person is weak in Christian knowledge, having no thorough understanding of Christian doctrine, so long he is apt to be tossed to and fro, driven back and forth, like a rudderless ship in a storm. Every new temptation from within, every new attack from without, makes some new inroad upon such a person's firmness. Every new wind of false doctrine takes such a person along, because the ship of his faith is not anchored firmly enough in the knowledge of Christ. The false teachers that attack the weak Christians deal with the Scriptures and with the truth and with the men whom they try to beguile with their oily voice, just as gamblers play with dice. One never knows what new trick is coming next, what new doctrine will be invented to deceive the souls of men. Their entire behavior tends to treacherous tricks, they practice carefully planned deceitful devices. The Christian, therefore, that is not yet firmly grounded in all the doctrines of the Bible as they pertain to man's salvation, is apt to stray from the way, to wander hither and yonder, and thus to be lost forever. Thus the deceitful schemes of the false teachers and seducers lead to the false way of life that strays fatally from the truth. Note: It belongs to the business of the pastors and teachers whom Christ has given to His Church that they point out the dangers threatening on the part of false teachers, that they refute their arguments, that they expose the tricks and the jugglery which false prophets practice upon the Word of Grace, that they continue the instruction of all the church-members by means of doctrinal sermons and discussions, so that all the Christians in their care are furthered in the knowledge of truth and learn to distinguish between falsehood and truth and to try the spirits.

This point is brought out by the apostle in the next verse: But (that we) holding fast the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, Christ. For that purpose Christ has given teachers to His Church, that they might enable the believers themselves to confess and defend the truth of the Scriptures, and not only for the purpose of upholding the truth, but in love, that their testimony of the truth may be of service to others; for that is always the sphere of the true Christian's activity. The result will be that we Christians will grow up into Christ, the Head of the Church, in all things. It is not intellectual growth, but spiritual growth that is of the greatest value in the Church. By growing in the knowledge of Christ, by understanding the truth more perfectly day by day, by gaining in Christian faith and life, we enter into ever more intimate fellowship with Christ. Our spiritual growth is always directed to Him, to the perfection of His stature. In all things that belong to our growth this will be true, all the circumstances of our growth will be controlled by it.

The apostle now concludes his sentence: From whom the whole body, being firmly connected and compactly joined together by means or' every joint of the supply, in keeping with the efficiency in the measure of each individual part, effects the growth of the body to its building up in love. The entire body, of which St. Paul here speaks, brings about, causes, the growth of the body itself. The directing and effecting power for this growth goes forth from Christ, the Head. The growth is expressed by the fact that the joints and ligaments are connected ever more firmly, framed together more fitly, put together more compactly. This is clone by means of the cords of the ligaments and the sinews of the muscles. The whole body, when it acts and moves, is served by the muscles and sinews, as they are contracted; every individual cord thus performing its duty, the members of the body are enabled to act and operate conjointly. Each individual member and part supplies its measure of energy and working force, and the better they all act together, the better will be the opportunity for even development and steady growth. The application of the figure does not offer unusual difficulties. If every Christian uses the special gift of grace which he has received of the Lord in the right way, the entire congregation and Church will thereby be benefited, since there will be a closer connection between the various organs. Just as soon as every Christian performs the service for which the grace of Christ has fitted him, the consciousness of union in the Christians will be strengthened, all the members will be joined in a closer union and will further the work of the Lord with their combined strength. The growth of the entire body of the Church takes place in proportion to the energy and willingness with which each member exercises Christ's gift of grace. Thus the Church, internally and externally, grows toward perfection. Note that the apostle makes the growth of the Church dependent upon the willing cooperation of each individual member of the Church, that He ascribes to everyone some gift of grace. But mark also that the determining and directing power is that of Christ alone.