Καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους τοὺς δὲ προφήτας τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καἰ διδασκάλους πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων εἰς ἔργον διακονίας εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ μέχρι καταντήσωμεν οἱ πάντες εἰς τὴν ἑνότητα τῆς πίστεως καὶ τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τοῦ υἱοῦ θεοῦ εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον εἰς μέτρον ἡλικίας τοῦ πληρώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἵνα μηκέτι ὦμεν νήπιοι κλυδωνισζόμενοι καὶ περιφερόμενοι παντὶ ἀνέμῳ τῆς διδασκαλίας ἐν τῇ κυβείᾳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐν πανουργίᾳ πρὸς τὴν μεθοδείαν τῆς πλάνης ἀληθεύοντες δὲ ἐν ἀγάπῃ αὐξήσωμεν εἰς αὐτὸν τὰ πάντα ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλή Χριστός ἐξ οὗ πᾶν τὸ σῶμα συναρμολογούμενον καὶ συμβιβαζόμενον διὰ πάσης ἁφῆς τῆς ἐπιχορηγίας κατ᾽ ἐνέργειαν ἐν μέτρῳ ἑνὸς ἑκάστου μέρους τὴν αὔξησιν τοῦ σώματος ποιεῖται εἰς οἰκοδομὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ. And he gave them apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers for the complete furnishing of the saints for a work of service for the building up of the body of Christ until we all arrive at unity of the faith and and the knowledge of the Son of God, at a complete man, at a mature measure of the fullness of Christ, in order that we might no longer be infants being tossed like waves and carried around by every wind of the teaching in the dicing of men, in villainy towards the travesty of error, but speaking the truth in love we might grow into him the all, who is the head, Christ, from whom all the body is being fitted together and being brought together through every ligament of the contribution according to working in measurement of one last part the growth of the body to do for building up itself in love.
This run-on sentence is packed with important ideas and ramifications. Paul is continuing on from his understanding of Psalm 68:19. He states that Christ ascended on high, infers that he first descended from on high, and he concludes his reflection with this sentence, Ephesians 4:11-16. After ascending on high, Christ gave gifts. This verse does not say that Christ gave gifts; but the act of giving is tied to Paul’s use of Psalm 68:19, “he gave gifts to men.” In 4:11-16, Paul is explaining what gifts Christ gave. It is important to note that it is Christ that Paul is referring to as the gift-giver. In fact, Paul emphasizes Christ as the giver. He uses the relative pronoun with a verb, a construction that emphasizes the subject of the verb; we should translate it this way: “And Christ himself gave . . .”
Christ gave several gifts. Note the use of the τοὺς μὲν . . . τοὺς δὲ . . . construction. This construction lists the gifts that Christ gave. Christ gave to some apostles. Christ gave to others prophets. Christ gave to others evangelists. And Christ gave to others shepherds and teachers. Now note the use of καἰ between ποιμένας and διδασκάλους. Could it be that καἰ is functioning in a different way than the τοὺς δὲ construction? The difference being, Paul is not listing two separate gifts here, “(first) shepherds, and (second) teachers.” Instead, Paul is listing one gift made up of two parts that go hand-in-hand, “and shepherding teachers” or “and shepherd-teachers.” This word for “shepherd,” ποιμένας, is the word that we use commonly to refer to professional church leaders–pastors. Pastors are shepherds of God’s flock. Paul ties the role of the shepherd to teaching. Teaching is a part of guiding and taking care of God’s flock. Apostles, which are people who are sent out as messengers or delegates, are a gift because they serve as God’s messengers. Prophets, which are people who proclaim God’s will (most often they are not understood to be future-tellers, but rather, they communicate God’s word to His people; think of prophets as the carriers of letters much like USPS in that they did not create the message but merely delivered it), are a gift because they communicate God’s word to the people. Evangelists, which are people who proclaim the good message, the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people, are a gift because the message of Jesus Christ is spread through them. Together, apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers are all different gifts that are designed to work for the complete furnishing of the saints in a work of service. Note that the word for “service,” διακονίας, is the word we use for “deacon.” Here it seems appropriate to leave it as “service,” for those who are apostles or pastor-teachers are serving God, Christ, the Church, and the world, but their work together specifically builds up the body of Christ. Apostles work to spread the body of Christ. They are on a mission to represent God and Christ. Prophets work to build up the body of Christ (sometimes, perhaps, painfully so). They deliver God’s messages. Evangelists work to add more people to the body of Christ. They proclaim Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to the world. And pastor-teachers work to tend to the body of Christ. They provide counsel, encouragement, and direction to Jesus’ body. All are needed to fully equip the Church.
But how long will this process of building up the body of Christ through service last? It will last until everyone in the body arrives at the unity of faith and the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God. The purpose of building up the Church with these gifts is to bring the people in the Church to unity. It will also last until everyone arrives at a complete man and at a measure of maturity of the fullness of Christ. The purpose is not only to bring the people to unity, but also to maturity. Unity and maturity are important characteristics for the Church. The Church should be like one in faith and knowledge, but it should also be mature, complete, like an adult, having an appropriate measure of the fullness of Christ. Why? The people in the body are no longer to be infants who are tossed around like waves and carried away by every wind. Paul uses the wind metaphor to alert his readers and listeners to the teaching in the gambling of men. He is warning them to be careful of frauds. Frauds, or false teachers, teach in the gambling of men in trickery for the travesty of error. False teachers lead people down an erroneous path. Their teaching carries people away like wind carries away leaves. But being unified in faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and being mature like an adult, being mature in the fullness of Christ, not like infants, the body can be alert against these frauds.
Instead of being like infants, Paul has in mind for the body to speak the truth in love with the hope that it will grow in him, Christ. Christ is the all–he is everything. He is the head of the body. From Christ the whole body is fitted and brought together through every contributing ligament in measure of one last part according to working the growth of the body. The purpose or intention of this fitting and bringing together is marked by κατ᾽. It is for the purpose of working the growth of the body. The infinitive marks the purpose of the growth of the body: Christ works to grow the body in order that the body will work in love on the building itself. In other words, Christ, the head, equips the body with the gifts or tools necessary for building itself up in love.
And Christ himself gave some apostles, others prophets, others preachers, and others pastor-teachers for the complete furnishing of the saints for a work of service, for the building up of the body of Christ until we all arrive at unity of faith and of knowledge of the Son of God, at a mature man, at a measure of stature of the fullness of Christ, in order that we might no longer be infants, being blown and tossed by every wind of teaching in the deception of men with villainy unto the travesty of error, and in order that we might grow into him, the all, which Christ is the head out of whom all the body is being fitted and brought together through every contributing ligament for working the growth of the body in measure of the one last part in order to work on the building itself in love.
Paul has challenged his original readers with this sentence, but it is still applicable for us today. Christ is still in the business of building up his body. He equips us, the Church, with apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers, although we may not use the same terms to refer to them. It seems, for example, a modern-day apostle would be what we call a missionary. Missionaries are God’s delegates that go out to the world and spread the love of God and bring people the message of God. Preachers are evangelists–they proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Prophets commonly find themselves in the roles of modern-day preachers, perhaps more often than we realize, and, dare I say, other outspoken Christians who proclaim God’s mercy and justice are also prophets. Pastor-teachers are likely to be the most easily understood. Pastors generally fit this idea.
But we need all of these gifted people for the building up of the body of Christ. We need people who will do the work of a missionary, who will preach good news to people, who will speak out on behalf of the oppressed in the name of God, and who tend to God’s flock through teaching the truth in love. Without these people and the essential work of service, the body will fail to build itself up. Christ has given us what we need to build ourselves up and to grow, but we must take action and serve with our gifts. Is this list comprehensive of all the gifts Christ gives? No. These gifts are highlighted at this point in Scripture in order to show how leadership has a direct effect on the growth of the whole body. But the body is instructed to work in love on building itself up, and it is not only the leaders who are charged to build. Everyone in the body must serve and work in an effort to build up the Church.
In addition to working and serving, the Church needs to work towards attaining unity and maturity. It is important that believers grow up. Not staying as infants who do not know much and have no thought things through, being vulnerable to deception, people in the body need to grow in faith and knowledge. People in the Church need to take responsibility to grow in their faith, to build up their knowledge, so that when frauds come along, they will not be easily swept away, but instead they will stand firm, together, as one body. This means that the Church should be providing classes and book material for the people to learn and build up their knowledge. It also means providing avenues for growing in one’s faith. Seminars designed for encouraging the souls of the people would be helpful in this regard, but so also would be weekly times of testimony.
We need to follow through with whatever gifts Christ has equipped us with for the service of the Church, so that we can invest in the work, the building up of the Church. But we also need to grow in our faith and in our knowledge, so that we may become mature and steadfast. But all of this needs to be done in unison. We need to find our way to unity. Is it okay to have a wide range of thoughts and ideas about theological issues and practices? Of course. But we cannot stray from unity in our understanding, knowledge, and belief in the Son of God. We must be loyal to Christ, and Christ must be the center of our unity. Let’s focus together on Christ as we serve in his body.