By Scott Ardavanis
The DNA of my early years of ministry was Ephesians 4:11–16. It became part of me.
The goals for turning men into ministers
• To promote a biblical theology of equipping the saints for the glory of God.
• To encourage others to have an equipping ministry in their local church.
• To demonstrate how to unleash the church body for service.
• To inspire pastors to equip leaders in their church.
• To provide an example (not the example) of what this type of ministry looks like.
Our Fundamental Purpose
Throughout Scripture, the fundamental purpose of the church is the glory of God. In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul cites three times that our glorious salvation is designed “to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:6, 12, 14). Again, in Ephesians 3:21 Paul writes, “To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.”
But what is the glory of God? Robert Saucy, in his excellent article, “What is the Mission of the Church,” writes, “The Glory of God is nothing less than the nature of God revealed in His creation and actions. To speak of God’s will for the Church, then, as His Glory, is simply to say that God intends to display Himself in and through His church.” Paul then shows how this glory can be displayed in the church! If God is to be glorified, the church must be unified (Eph. 3:21)! The thrust of Ephesians 4:1–16 is unity. Jesus Christ has given gifts to his Church so that it might be united, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4:7). Gifted men are given to the church by Christ for the purpose of unity, maturity, and growth. The foundation laid was by the apostles and prophets. It has now passed
to “evangelists” and “pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11).
What is it that pastors/elders do? And what is it that you are to do so that the body is unified and God gloried? There are two directives that describe the reason for and the purpose of the gifts that are given.
Strategy for Spiritual Growth in the Church
Ephesians 4:12 “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”
Three stages move us toward this concept of spiritual growth in the church. These stages are successively dependent on one another and express the progressive growth taking place in the church.
First Stage for Spiritual Growth: Equipping the Saints.
The men in verse 11 are provided from our ascended Lord with the purpose of “equipping the saints” (perfecting the saints). The thought in verse 11 and 12 is that Christ has given gifts of proclamation to the church for unity. The purpose of these gifts is to equip the saints for ministry. The word for equipping is kartartismos which means to making complete, fit, adjust, restore, and to equip fully. It is used for setting a dislocated joint or to set a broken bone. Also, it is used to describe the mending or restoring of nets in Mark 1:19. This word conveys a process of completion or restoration. The purpose of teaching shepherds is to equip the saints for service.
We see examples of this in the New Testament:
I Thessalonians 3:10 “as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply [or adjust] what is lacking in your faith?”
Luke 6:40 “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
Galatians 6:1 “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
1 Corinthians 1:10 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
2 Corinthians 13:9 “For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.”
2 Corinthians 13:11 “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with
1 Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
The purpose of teaching shepherds is to equip and prepare the saints for the work of service. How are the saints equipped? If you look back to verse 11, you find the answer. It is the role of the pastors/teachers to teach the Word of God and prepare God’s people for ministry. That is one church office, the same office, that attends to teaching the Word and shepherding the flock.
2 Timothy 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 4:1-2 “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
As pastors/elders preach the Word, it restores or adjusts the believer to a picture of beauty, health, and order.
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Pastoring is shepherding. It is the idea of a shepherd. It emphasizes care, protection, and leadership. What happens when the saints are equipped?Equippers
Second Stage for Spiritual Growth: Work of Service.
The reason the saints are equipped is for the purpose of them carrying on the work of service. Some say this is the three-fold strategy of the elders in verse 11. But not so! “Work of service” is to be carried on by the “saints.” This “work of service” is the divine privilege of those in the family of God. That’s you!
1 Peter 4:10 “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
This “work of service” is multi-faceted, including counseling, leadership, showing mercy, hospitality, sharing meals, teaching, evangelism, service—you name it (1 Cor. 12:5 “And there are varieties of service, but the same Lord”). John Stott says, “The New Testament concept of a pastor is not a person who jealously guards all ministry in his own hands, and successively squashes all lay initiatives, but of one who helps and encourages all of God’s people to discover, develop and exercise their gifts. His teaching and training is directed to this end, to enable the people of God to be a servant people, ministering actively…. Instead of monopolizing ministry, he is multiplying ministry.”
The pastor/elder is freeing people, not disabling them. The pastor/elder is unleashing people, not crippling them. Proclaimers teach the Word, and as a result the saints are equipped. As they are equipped, the saints do the work of service. What happens when the saints “do the work of service?”
Third Stage of Spiritual Growth: Building Up the Body.
Here is the climatic result of the previous two stages. Pastor/teachers teach the Word of God, which then equips the saints, which results in the saints doing the work of service. What happens next? Body is built up! Building refers to the construction of a building. As the saints do the work of service, the body is built up.
Rather than the church structure being seen as a pyramid—the pastor at the top—it is pictured as a body! It is a growing organism! Everyone is mutually dependent on one another and connected to the head, Jesus Christ! This concept of building up the body takes place when the whole body is using all of its members to achieve this purpose. The priesthood of all believers!
Spiritual gifts are to build up the entire body (Eph. 4:7). 1 Corinthians 12:7 says “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” This is how the body grows! It is not through marketing, but the work of service! This is the strategy for spiritual growth of the church. Equip the saints for the work of service to build up the body of Christ. Look at the second directive describing the purpose of why the gifts were given.
The Spiritual Goal of the Church
Ephesians 4:13 says “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Attain means to come to, arrive at, or reach (in the sense of reaching a goal).
There are three key results when the body is built up:
Unity of Faith.
“Until” means that there is a goal in mind. The verb is used nine times in Acts, meaning to arrive at a destination. Here is the goal of the church. “We all [the whole church] attain to the unity of faith.” Verse 5 tells us that there is one faith. But Paul is desirous that we fully appropriate the faith we believe. The spiritual goal of the church is that it should ever be moving toward a full understanding of all that is contained in the faith. The emphasis is on the content of faith. “Unity of faith” as opposed to the description of the children being tossed about by tricky men in verse 14.
The content is not just doctrine, but “the knowledge of the Son of God.” It is not just salvation knowledge, but a deep, full experiential knowledge of Christ himself!
Ephesians 1:17 “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”
Ephesians 3:16–19 “He may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” The first result is unity of faith in the knowledge of God’s Son.
“Mature man” or “perfect man” (telion) speaks of one who is an adult or is full grown. It emphasizes maturity, contrasting children (vs.14). God’s goal in the church is adulthood or maturity as opposed to being children.
Colossians 1:28 says “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
Here is God’s goal: deep, abiding knowledge in God’s Son and spiritual maturity. We are not to be spiritual babies. You ask, “How do I measure this maturity? What does it look like?” This maturity or perfection is modeled perfectly in the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:13 “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Our goal is conformity to the person of Christ. We will never fully “attain” to this “until” we see him. The purpose of a local church is not to entertain you, but to mature you in Christ-likeness. As the body is built, it results in unity of faith, spiritual maturity, and thirdly…
Ephesians 4:14 “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” There is stability and discernment. We know truth from error.