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Ephesians Chapter 4, Part 2

by Karl Kemp  
7/02/2012 / Bible Studies

Part 2 of this 4-part article on Ephesians chapter 4 continues where Part 1 ended.

(11) [[The sentence that begins here goes through verse 16 in the Greek. It builds on Eph. 4:7, 8. One point that Paul makes in this sentence is the key importance of the five-fold ministry in the body of Christ, according to the plan of God. He didn't set them in the church to cause strife and divisions, or to make some Christians (those in the ministry) better than (superior to) others.

A proper functioning five-fold ministry (including their being properly received by the body of Christ) is a powerful force to promote unity and the proper functioning of the body of Christ. Every five-fold minister who is functioning as he should, in the will of God, will work for the good of the body of Christ. One major problem that frequently surfaced in Paul's day was that many rejected his ministry (and that of his companions) for one reason, or another, none of them being valid reasons. This rejection caused great damage to the body of Christ. There also was a serious problem with false apostles (and other false ministers) and with ministers walking to a significant extent in the flesh.

It's true, of course, that to the extent those in the ministry haven't been called by God into the ministry they are functioning in, or to the extent they aren't being faithful in their Christian lives/ministries, they have the potential to cause great damage to the body of Christ, including serious problems with disunity. Another key point that the apostle makes in this sentence is the need for those not in the five-fold ministry to make their necessary, important contributions to the proper functioning of the body of Christ. All must contribute according to their measure assigned by God (see Eph. 4:7, 16).]] And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers [Each five-fold minister (speaking of those who truly were called by God into that ministry) has been equipped by the grace/gifts of God to fulfill that ministry. God must receive all the glory for everything good that is accomplished. Every minister (every Christian) must be found faithful. This is a very serious matter. We (and especially ministers) are affecting the lives of God's people. We will all answer to God.], (12) for [Greek "pros"] the equipping of the saints [[The KJV has "for the perfecting of the saints." The Amplified Bible has, "His intention was the PERFECTING AND FULL EQUIPPING [my emphasis] of the saints." The NIV has "to prepare God's people."

The Greek noun ("katartismos") used here wasn't used anywhere else in the New Testament, but the Greek verb this noun was derived from ("katartizo") was used thirteen times. The verb includes the ideas of perfecting, completing, putting things in proper order, mending, restoring, training, and equipping. The Greek noun "katartisis" was also derived from this verb. It was used one time in the New Testament, 2 Cor. 13:9, "this we also pray for, that you may BE MADE COMPLETE [my emphasis] (NASB)"; "our prayer is for your PERFECTION (NIV)"; the KJV has "perfection," and the NKJV has "made complete." I believe Paul's primary idea here in Eph. 4:12 is the perfecting/making complete of the saints (cf. Eph. 4:13-16), which includes equipping the saints. The perfecting/making complete brings things into divine order.]] for [Greek "eis"] the work of service [[The KJV has, "for the work of the ministry" instead of "for the work of service." I believe the KJV better communicates the meaning intended by the apostle. (I would put a comma after saints, with the KJV. We don't have the apostle's original punctuation.) Paul was speaking here, I believe, of the work of ministering by those in the five-fold ministry (Eph. 4:11). (The most common view in our day is that the saints do "the work of service.") The Greek noun used here ("diakonia") was frequently translated "ministry" by the NASB, referring to those called into the ministry (e.g., Acts 1:25; 6:4; 20:24; Rom. 11:13; 2 Cor. 4:1; 6:3; Col. 4:17; and 2 Tim. 4:5). It's also true, as I have mentioned, that it is important and necessary for each Christian to make their contribution to the unity and proper functioning of the body of Christ, each according to their measure of grace (see under Eph. 4:7, 16).]], to [or "for" with the KJV and NKJV; Greek "eis"] the building up of the body of Christ [[All of the ministering by those in the five-fold ministry (assuming they are functioning in the will of God and by the Spirit of God) works for the building up (edification), unity, and proper functioning of the body of Christ. In Eph. 4:16 Paul includes the idea that the service (ministry) of each Christian, as they fulfill their measure assigned by God, works toward "the building up of itself [the body] in love."

I'll quote part of what Max Turner says under Eph. 4:12 ("New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition" [Inter-Varsity Press, 1994], page 1238). "These leaders are said to have been given for three co-ordinate purposes. Christ gave them to equip or complete the saints; to serve the church's needs, and to build up the body of Christ. Traditional Protestant interpretation (now reflected in all the modern translations including the NJB [New Jerusalem Bible]) has limited the function of the leaders to the first of these, arguing it is the equipped saints who then minister to the church and build it up, not the leaders. To propose that the latter are the subject of all three phrases is taken to be 'Catholic' and 'clericalist' interpretation. But while any 'clericalist' interpretation is clearly excluded by vs 7 and 16 (where the saints definitely have a part in the building up of the church), it is more probably the leaders' functions which are still in view throughout v 12."]]; (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith [[The body of Christ cannot function as it should, in divine order, apart from all true Christians attaining the unity of the faith. Ephesians 4:5 mentioned that there is only "one faith," but when Paul wrote the epistle to the Ephesians, he knew that there were many current manifestations of Christians not having unity of the faith, for a variety of reasons. All Christians are required to hold and be committed to (which includes walking in line with) the basic truths that define Christianity, but it doesn't always work out this way, as Eph. 4:14, for example, demonstrates. A primary function of the five-fold ministry is to bring about this unity of the faith (to bring things into divine order and keep things in divine order), but we have a major problem in our day in that many of those in the five-fold ministry aren't solid in the foundational truths of Christianity themselves. We (and especially those in the five-fold ministry) must make it a top priority to learn, to teach, and to live in line with the balanced truths of Christianity, and especially the essential truths.

All ministers need to stop and seriously consider whether what they (and their group) are teaching and doing lines up with the truth (the balanced truth) of the Word of God. Just because we have been holding views for a long time doesn't necessarily mean that they're right. It seems to me that most ministers are not open to the idea that they might have serious defects in what they believe. I believe that many ministers are doing some building with "wood, hay, [and] straw" (1 Cor. 3:12), but I'm not the Judge. To not build with wood, hay, and straw requires building with the balanced truth of Christianity, and it requires conducting our lives and ministries by/after/in the Spirit, not the flesh.

This is a very serious matter! We must make it a top priority to check out our building materials now; let's not wait until judgment day to find out. It would be very embarrassing (or worse) to find out then that we haven't been fully faithful to God and that we have hindered the saints and done damage to the body of Christ.]], and of the knowledge of the Son of God [To the extent that we don't know and/or aren't committed to the essential truths of Christianity, or to the extent that we are living in fleshiness and worldliness and aren't walking after the Spirit in righteousness and holiness, we haven't attained an adequate knowledge of the Son of God. Some other verses that speak of knowing Christ/God to consider are Gal. 4:8, 9; Eph. 1:17; Phil. 3:8, 10; Heb. 8:11; 2 Pet. 1:2, 3, 8; 2:20; and 1 John 2:3, 4, 13, 14; 4:6, 7.], to a mature [[I somewhat prefer the translation "perfect" of the KJV and NKJV. All Christians, including young Christians, can and should be (relatively) perfect, which is the equivalent of living in an abiding state of holiness. See 1 Cor. 2:6 ((I had a footnote: Many of the Corinthian Christians were more fleshly than spiritual (by the Spirit), but it wasn't acceptable (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1-4) or safe for them to remain in that state. Those who are led by the Spirit (and all Christians are required to follow after the Spirit, which includes walking in the truth by faith) will be relatively perfect.)); Matt. 5:48; Col. 1:28; 4:12; Phil. 3:15; and Heb. 5:14; all these verses, including Eph. 4:13, use the same Greek adjective ("teleios"); all of them could be translated "perfect," speaking of a relative perfection.

Compare Heb. 10:14; 11:40. (These two verses use the Greek verb "teleioo," which was derived from "teleios." These super-important verses from Hebrews are discussed in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin," pages 158, 159 and 166, 167.) Christians who are walking in the truth by faith and by the Spirit are righteous and holy, and they can be called relatively perfect. This doesn't mean that they have arrived (cf. Phil. 3:8-16), or that they couldn't sin, or that they don't need to keep on growing/being transformed (e.g., 2 Cor. 3:18) and to keep pressing on (e.g., Phil. 3:12, 14). See the discussion of Phil. 3:8-16 in my verse-by-verse study of Philippians chapter 3 on this Christian article site.]] man [[In this context the "man" is the body of Christ. The body of Christ can't be perfect/mature until every true Christian is perfect/mature. I'm quite sure that there never has been a time in the history of the Christian church that the church, in its entirety (even if we limit the church to those who are born-again Christians), has ever arrived at the state spoken of in this verse, and it probably never will this side of glory. Nevertheless, this is what we are called to, and it's mandatory for each of us to do everything we can do toward this end. For a start, we're responsible to do everything we can do to get our own lives in divine order. We must not be satisfied with existing at a level lower than the one intended by God; we don't have any excuse for not doing the will of God.]], to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. [[Compare John 1:16; Eph. 1:23; 3:19; 4:15; Col. 1:19; and 2:9. The apostle is speaking of the church being filled with the fullness of Christ ((I had a lengthy footnote: In Eph. 3:14-19 the apostle prayed a very significant prayer. (These verses are discussed in some detail in my "Paper on Faith," pages 53-56 of the internet version.) The prayer emphasizes, for one thing, our need for the empowering work of the Holy Spirit, "that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man...." The prayer ends with the words, "that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God," which is comparable in meaning with the words at the end of Eph. 4:13, "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." In Eph. 3:19 and here in 4:13 the apostle is speaking of the ideal state that should characterize all true Christians. The gospel has been proclaimed; the Spirit has been given; we must cooperate with God's grace through faith in accordance with His Word and walk in/by/after the Spirit.)), but for that to fully come to pass, each Christian must be filled with the fullness of Christ appropriate for that person. Even as young Christians we can, and should be filled with Christ, not self, fleshiness, and worldliness. To the extent we're not filled with Christ, we're not holy, spiritual (by the Spirit), (relatively) perfect, or living in the center of God's will. As Paul continues with verses 14, 15, we can see that one primary concern he had as he wrote these words contained in verse 13 was with those Christians who were not adequately holding to, and living in, the truth of God. They weren't solid on the basic Christian doctrines. Also, significantly, Eph. 4:24 shows that "the truth" includes righteousness and holiness.

I'll quote a few sentences from what R. C. H. Lenski says under Eph. 4:13 ("St Paul's Epistles to the Galatians to the Ephesians and to the Philippians" [Augsburg, 1937], page 537). "[to arrive at the measure of the fullness of Christ] is the goal for all of us. Some attain it quickly by maturing spiritually by leaps and bounds. Alas, many lag, love to stay in the infant age. [This can be very dangerous!] They have only a little of the fulness of Christ but could and should have all its wealth."]] (14) As a result [The margin of the NASB gives a literal translation, "that we no longer be." The NKJV has, "that we should no longer be." We must quickly (with a top priority, by God's sufficient grace) leave all such manifestations of babyhood and immaturity behind.], we are no longer to be children [[The NIV has "infants" for the Greek noun used here ("nepios"). This Greek noun was also used in 1 Cor. 3:1; 13:11; Gal. 4:1, 3, etc. Paul certainly wasn't saying that all Christians go through a stage comparable to the one pictured here in 4:14. (The problems that Paul speaks of as he continues with this verse are quite serious.) It's a dangerous place to be, and Paul wasn't making excuses for those doing it. He sharply rebuked the Corinthian Christians (that is, he sharply rebuked some of them, where the rebuke was needed) for still being babes in Christ, for being fleshly (speaking of things like jealousy and strife) instead of walking by the Spirit (1 Cor. 3:1). The church at Corinth had been founded a few years before Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. If I understand Paul he typically expected to see a reasonable level of holiness, spirituality, (relative) perfection, maturity within a few months (IF NOT SOONER), not a few years, or a lifetime. We should encourage all Christians, including new converts, with the sufficiency of God's grace to enable them to think and live in the center of God's will. I'm not saying, however, that we should be quick to jump on Christians, especially new converts, if they should miss it in some area. See the section titled "A Discussion on the Overall Teaching of the Book of Ephesians Regarding How Long It Should Take for Christians to Become Holy/Spiritual (by the Spirit)/(Relatively) Perfect" that comes after Eph. 4:16 and before 4:17.]], tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming [The Greek noun ("methodeia") translated "scheming" here was only used here and in Eph. 6:11 in the New Testament. There are many working against us, including some "Christians," but God is much greater than those working against us.]; (15) but speaking the truth [[I believe the translation "holding the truth" is better. If we hold the truth (unlike those pictured in Eph. 4:14) and begin to cooperate with God's sufficient grace (which includes all the work of His Spirit, including His work through the five-fold ministry and all Christians [I had a footnote: This shows one of the primary reasons it's so difficult to live for God in holiness in most generations, very much including our own generation. When much of the body of Christ is not living in holiness and walking in the Spirit, it makes it more difficult for us to be holy, since we are not receiving all the grace that we should receive from/through the body of Christ. Anyway, if we put God first and His truth, righteousness, and holiness, He will enable us to live in a state of holiness.]), we can very quickly grow out of (be transformed out of) the state of immaturity, leaving it behind, and becoming what Christians are supposed to be.

God is the one who causes growth (e.g., 1 Cor. 3:6, 7; Col. 2:19), but growth won't take place if we don't do our part of submitting to God's Word and cooperating with His grace. Walking in/after/by the Holy Spirit by faith is not automatic, and it isn't always easy. In this context Paul would want to emphasize making sure we listen to those in the five-fold ministry who are faithful to God and who know, teach, and live the truth (like Paul and his companions).]] in love [For all Christians to walk in love is obviously very important to the unity and proper functioning of the body of Christ. Paul mentions love again at the end of Eph. 4:16, emphasizing the importance of love. We discussed the fruit of the Spirit under Eph. 4:7. Love is the first fruit of the Spirit listed by Paul in Gal. 5:22, 23.], we are to grow up [[The form of the Greek verb used here shows the close relationship between this verb, which could be translated "that we grow up," and the verb used in Eph. 4:14, which could be translated "that we no longer be children [babies/infants]." Both verbs are in the subjunctive mode in the Greek (which helps confirm that these two verbs are related in this discourse). (I had a footnote: Many commentators understand these verbs to be closely related to one another in the Greek, including the Greek scholar A. T. Robertson in his "Word Pictures in the New Testament.") By growing up we leave the immaturity of babyhood behind. The form of immaturity pictured in Eph. 4:14 is totally unacceptable. To use the apostle's words of Eph. 4:22-24 (cf. 4:25-32), we need to once-for-all and completely put off everything that belongs to the old man and to once-for-all and completely put on the new man in Christ.

I have made this point already, but it needs to be emphasized: We cannot grow up to the holiness/(relative) perfection/maturity that we so desperately need without holding to the basic truths of Christianity and walking in/by/after the Spirit, cooperating with God's grace (all the grace that is available to us) through faith.]] in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ [[In Eph. 4:13 Paul spoke of "the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." In Eph. 3:16-19 he prayed that God would grant his readers "to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may [fully] dwell in [their] hearts through faith [This is comparable in meaning with having the stature that belongs to the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13), and with growing up into Christ in all aspects (Eph. 4:15)]...that [they] may be filled up to all the fullness of God [which is comparable in meaning with being filled up with all the fullness of Christ]." We (as individuals and corporately, as the church) must grow up from (grow beyond) all wrong doctrine, fleshiness, worldliness, and everything else that detracts from God's will being accomplished in our lives and in the church.]], (16) [[Colossians 2:19, which is an important cross-reference for this verse, starts out, "and not holding fast to the head." It should be obvious that all Christians, even those young in the faith, are required to hold fast to Christ. If we don't, we're going to have serious problems. We shouldn't tell converts that God expects them to be irresponsible, unfaithful babies for a period of time. On the other hand, I'm not saying that converts are automatically transformed and given a mature walk in truth, righteousness, and holiness by the Spirit. We must all do our part. And I'm certainly not suggesting that we should panic and rebuke young Christians if they exhibit some fleshiness for a period. God is merciful and generous, but let's not presume upon His mercy and generosity. Let's not say that we cannot live as God wants us to live - His grace is sufficient, IF we appropriate it by faith. We certainly don't need excuses for sin. If it really is sin, God hates sin!]] from whom [Christ] the whole body, being fitted and held together [The members of the body being fitted together and being held together is part of what enables the body of Christ to have unity and to function properly. The Greek participle translated "held together" was formed from the Greek verb "sumbibazo." The BAGD Greek Lexicon lists the use of this Greek verb here in Eph. 4:16 under the heading "bring together, unite." The NKJV translated this participle "knit together."] by what every joint supplies [[Literally, "through every joint of the supply." In this word picture the "joint[s]" apparently represent the five-fold ministry. (Several commentators make this point.) This picture (along with Eph. 4:11-14; cf. Eph. 3:1-13) rather strongly emphasizes the importance of the five-fold ministry for the growth, proper functioning, and unity of the body of Christ. Much of the supply that comes from God for the growth, proper functioning, and unity of the church comes through the five-fold ministry. This is not to deny, of course, the important fact that each true Christian is indwelled by the Spirit of God and is in direct union with Christ Jesus (and God the Father).]], according to the proper working of each individual part [[It's important to have a more literal translation of the Greek here, "according to the working in the measure of each individual part." For one thing, it's important to include the word "measure" in the translation because of the use of this word in Eph. 4:7 (and Rom. 12:3). As we discussed, Eph. 4:7 emphasized the important point that each Christian has been allotted the grace (whether it has been appropriated, or not) to make their important contribution to the proper functioning and unity of the body of Christ - very much including their contribution to the all-important growth of the body into (relative) perfection/maturity/holiness.]], causes the growth of the body for the building up [On building up/edification, cf. Acts 20:32; Rom. 14:19; 15:2; 1 Cor. 14:3-5, 12, 17, 26; 2 Cor. 10:8; 12:19; Eph. 4:29; and 1 Thess. 5:11. In Eph. 4:12 Paul spoke of the five-fold ministry building up/edifying the body of Christ. It's clear that every single Christian is important and has important roles to fulfill.] of itself in love [There's a strong emphasis on love here, with the word also being used in Eph. 4:15. This emphasis on love goes with the emphasis on unity]." We can also speak of the growth (transformation) of those who are already mature/relatively perfect/holy (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Cor. 2:6; and 2 Pet. 3:17, 18), but it doesn't seem that such growth (though it is important) is included in the picture of Eph. 4:12-16 (which, with 4:11, is all one sentence in the Greek). At least it seems that any such growth is subordinated in this sentence to the idea of quickly growing into a solid state of (relative) perfection/maturity/holiness (which the church at Corinth desperately needed/needs). In the ideal case the growth of Christians won't involve putting off sin, because we will already be living in an abiding state of holiness.

There always is room for the growth of Christians, even Christians who are holy/sanctified, in areas like knowledge, wisdom, godliness, and conformity with Christ, for the growth that comes through trials, and for the growth that comes from just being in communion with God (we are constantly being bombarded with glory rays when we live in His presence; such rays are very good for our health and well-being). Then too, we are headed for a gigantic spurt in growth (a glorious transformation) when Christ returns and we are glorified. Then we will be conformed to the image of Christ in a much fuller sense than we ever could be while living on this side of glory (e.g., Rom. 8:29), and then we will be able to know Him on a much deeper level than we can now (e.g., 1 Cor. 13:11, 12). Furthermore, I suggest we will continue to grow (be transformed) after we are glorified, and throughout eternity. God has ways to always be able to make things better. From glory to a greater glory to a greater glory! From perfection to a greater perfection to a greater perfection! He can always do more than what we could anticipate. We'll never be able to fully plumb the depths of God and what He is capable of.

We will continue the discussion under Eph. 4:16 in Part 3.

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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