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PROVISIONS FOR THE WORK – Ephesians 4:7-10

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on May 17, 2017 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; May 17, 2017 from Ephesians 4:11-12

Theme: Jesus has the authority to give His church whatever ‘gifts’ it needs to serve Him.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

Very early in my ministry, my wise father-in-law gave me some sage advice: “Delegate! Delegate everything you can delegate! Delegate until you don’t have anything left to do but find new things to delegate to others; and then your church will grow.” I will admit; as a pastor, I haven’t been very good at keeping that advice. But I should—and I hope to grow in doing so—because it is truly biblical. It is not the pastor’s job to do everything there is to do in ministry. Rather, the ministry is the privilege of all of God’s people; and they need to be equipped and deployed to their work. And that’s what this morning’s passage is about.

We have been studying from Ephesians 4; where the practical aspects of Paul’s letter begin. In verses 7-10, the apostle Paul stressed the fact that the Lord Jesus is authorized to give ‘gifts’ to His church; and that He has, indeed, gifted each one of His redeemed believers with the unique ability to do their part to serve one another. In verses 11-16, Paul talks about the nature of that work. And specifically, in verses 11-12, he writes about the gifts He “Himself” gave that equip the whole body to do the work of edifying itself in Christ.

It would be a very good idea to take a close look at these gifts—and at the work itself!


A. Foundational Equippers:

The first two gifts that are mentioned are what we might call the “foundations” that the church has been built on. In fact, Paul himself speaks of these two gifts that way in Ephesians 2:20. They are not just gifts; but are perhaps better described as ‘gifted individuals’ who were given just once to the church; and their work abides and remains forever. Just as you only need to build a foundation once, these specific ‘foundational’ gifts are no longer being given today.

First, we find ‘apostles’: those men sent by the Lord Jesus, having seen Him in His resurrection, to testify of Him and provide the foundational and authoritative witness of the church. The word “apostle” comes from the Greek word that means “sent one”. In some churches and denominations today, there are those who take this as a gift that is still given in our time; and some church leaders in these denominations even call themselves ‘apostles’. But the gift that the Scripture is speaking of refers to those whom the Lord Jesus specifically chose (John 6:70), to bear witness of Him because they had been with Him “from the beginning” (John 15:27) as “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:2); and who uniquely shared a witness together of His resurrection (Acts 1:22). They were provided with a special grace of the Holy Spirit to be taught all things that Jesus taught after He ascended, and to have all things that Jesus said to them brought to their remembrance (John 14:26), in order to accurately provide this foundational teaching to the church (see 1 Corinthians 2:11-12). Later, Paul himself was called into the role of apostleship (1 Corinthians 15:8-10; Galatians 1:1ff).

Second, we find ‘prophets’: those individuals used by the Lord to serve as the instruments of special divine revelation prior to the completion of the New Testament—although this may also include the writing prophets of the Old Testament, who also testified of our salvation in Christ and of His work on our behalf (see 1 Peter 1:10-12).. This should be distinguished from the gift of “prophecy” that we find in 1 Corinthians 12:10; because the gift of prophets being spoken of in Ephesians 4:11 is referring to a “foundational” person in the church (see 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11). An example of this might be the man Agabus. In Acts 11:28, during the activities of the early church, we read, “Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.” He is found again in Acts 21:10-11; “And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, “So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”’” The clear testimony of the New Testament now having been completed, this foundational ‘revelatory’ gift is no longer being given (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).

B. Maintenance Equippers:

The last two gifts are given to provide for the ongoing support of that which was to be built upon the foundation (Ephesians 4:11). They are continually being given to the church and are best considered as ongoing “maintenance” gifts.

The first of these ‘maintenance’ equippers are ‘evangelists’: those who were sent out authoritatively as traveling missionaries who introduced the gospel to unreached people and helped establish a church in an unreached area. This gift very much parallels the idea of a missionary. A wonderful example of this gifted person would be Philip. In Acts 8:26-40, we’re given a marvelous story of his work in the fulfillment of this ministry. Several years later, in Acts 21:8, we find that this man became known as “Philip the evangelist”. (Note that we’re told that he also had “four virgin daughters who prophesied”; see Acts 21:9).

The next of the ‘maintenance’ gifts that are mentioned is ‘pastors and teachers’: two words that describe one role (“pastor” emphasizing the shepherding work, and “teacher” emphasizing the instructional and exhortational work); those men who serve as the ruling elders and teaching elders of a local congregation. It’s a serious work. Paul told the elders that had gathered to him from Ephesus; “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:28-30). The apostle Peter wrote; “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:1-4). They are to proclaim the foundational teaching and witness given by the apostles and prophets. As Paul taught Timothy, “Preach the word!” (2 Timothy 4:2).


It’s very important that we not see these ‘gifted individuals’—particularly, in our case, the evangelists and pastor/teachers—as being given to then themselves go on to do all the work of the ministry. Their role is ‘secondary’ to and ‘supportive’ of the role that the redeemed members of the congregation play. Paul tells us in verse 12 that those foundational and maintenance gifts were given, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ …”

If we were to read verse 12 in the old King James Version, it might give us the wrong impression. The King James translation puts a lot of unnecessary ‘commas’ in the verse that aren’t in the original text—making it sound almost like a ‘shopping list’ of duties that the uniquely appointed individuals in verse 11 are supposed to perform; as if the evangelists and pastor/teachers are themselves to do three things: (1) equip the saints, (2) do the work of the ministry, and (3) build up the body of Christ. But actually, the correct way to understand this is that the apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers are to equip the saints—that is, all the redeemed followers of Jesus in the church who are ‘set apart’ for Himself. And it is those redeemed believers who are then to go out and do the work of the ministry and build up the body of Christ—with the evangelists and pastor/teachers doing the work along with them. That makes every redeemed man and woman in Christ the true ‘ministers’ of the church—with each one having a sacred duty to perform (see Romans 12:3-8).

* * * * * * * * * *

Paul goes on to describe what that work looks like in verses 13-16. And it’s truly marvelous and exciting. We, therefore, ought to be praying for one another; so that, by God’s grace, we will all—each one of us—be enabled to take up that provision that God has give us and do our work well together for the building up of the body of Christ.

Then, the church will truly grow!

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