Commentary on Ephesians, 4:11,12

Ephesians 4:11,12

“11 And he himself gave some [as] apostles and some [as] prophets and some [as] evangelists and some [as] pastors and teachers”  LEB

Jesus has given to the Church gifted individuals for the purpose of carrying out God’s work within the local assembly, and in the world. He has gifted some to be apostles and some to be prophets. The purpose of Apostles  and prophets was to establish the Church (Eph 2:20; Eph 3:5; 2 Pet 3:2). They were the foundation of the Church.

While there may have been others who had the gift of apostleship, it has in view primarily the twelve Apostles, along with Paul. If there were others who were regarded as true apostles, they had to have been few, for one of the requirements for being an apostle was that they must have seen the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 9:1; Acts 1:21,22). Furthermore, the focus in the New Testament is clearly on Paul and the twelve.

The Apostles were the leaders and authority of the early Church. It was through them and the prophets that the message of Christ was sent out and proclaimed, being confirmed by “signs and wonders” (2 Cor 12:12; He 2:4; Ro 15:19). All of the apostles had the gift of miracles.

Prophets were those who received direct revelation from God. While there were apparently some who prophesied about future events that occurred in their time (Acts 11:28; Acts 21:,10,11), the primary purpose of the Christian prophet was to receive and proclaim the Word of God as a means of writing the New Testament. Therefore, as a New Testament prophet, he received and delivered God’s Word in the form of doctrine, instruction about living the Christian life, and end time prophecy. It seems likely that all of the apostles had the gift of prophecy, considering their role.

Evangelists were apparently gifted for the primary purpose of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 21:8; Acts 8:4-13; Acts 8:26-40). We are all called to share our faith in Christ, but there are some who have a special gift for it. Evangelists in the early church likely did a lot of traveling in order to spread the gospel and plant new churches. Philip the evangelist is an example of that (Acts 8:40; Acts Acts 8:5,6,14).

While the early church evangelist may serve as a model for how this gift is to be used today, I don’t believe that everyone who has this gift will be called to use it in a full time ministry, such as a traveling evangelist or as a missionary who plants churches. However, I do believe that those who are unusually gifted with this gift, should consider carefully before the Lord whether He would have them use it some unusual way.

Pastors are the shepherds or overseers of the local church. They are the elders. Their primary gift and responsibility is to teach the Word of God in order to develop Christians in their faith and walk with Christ. They also lead, and provide wise counsel and direction for those they serve.

Pastors are to lead by example. Their lives are to be “above reproach’ (1 Tim 3:2). They are to be committed to living pure lives. We live in a day when there are so many pastors that are falling due to adultery. Pastors are falling like dominos. They have the highest calling in the world. They’ve been given the most wonderful opportunity to serve God and those they lead. Yet, they throw it all away for pleasure.

I get the idea that many pastors today are not fully aware of the magnitude of their calling, the the awesome responsibility that God has entrusted them with. They have a very public ministry where there are a lot of eyes on them. So many people are looking to them to lead them in the ways of the Lord. Furthermore, there is a watching world to see if what we claim to have is real. 

When Christians fall into sin, it’s a shameful testimony that effect the few around them. However, when a church pastor falls into sin, it’s a public disgrace. For those who are nationally known, or where they become nationally known because of their fall, it’s a dishonor to the name of Christ in the eyes of millions. Only the Lord knows the damage that is done for the cause of Christ in such cases.

I once heard a visiting preacher say, “I can count all the fingers of my hands and all the toes of my feet, the number of pastors (he may have said Christian leaders) I have known, who fell into sin, and are now dead.” The point was clear. So serious is this matter of a pastor falling into sin in the eyes of the public (and in the eyes of his flock), that God may very well take them home. God does forgive when one truly repents, but I believe the damage of a shameful testimony before a public that needs Christ, is far-reaching.

Every pastor needs to realize the wonderful honor that God has bestowed upon them, and  to guard it with everything they have. When they have served faithfully, and have gone on into the presence of the Lord, they will one day receive the “unfading crown of glory” (1 Pet 5:4). Nobody knows exactly what this pastoral crown is, but I do know that when God gives out rewards for faithful service, it will be something to be cherished forever.

Teachers are those who are gifted to teach the Word of God. Teaching God’s Word is such a high honor and such a wonderful opportunity to speak for the Lord, that I’m amazed at all the shallow teaching that I see in churches today. While this is not in the same category as a pastor who falls into adultery, the damage caused by shallow teaching can also be very extensive.

The Word of God is meant to be taught verse by verse, book by book. Expository bible teaching is what produces strong, mature Christians. Shallow teaching by its very nature can only produce shallow Christians. We reap what we sow (Gal 6:7). The only way to really grow in a setting like that, is to do our own studying, which is something we should all be doing anyway. But my point is, if the pastor just picks and chooses what he’s going to teach each week, what kind of example does that provide those who sit under his teaching? “As the pastor goes, so goes the people.”

A steady diet of topical messages, where only certain subjects (“relevant/felt-needs”) are taught, can only take you so far. But don’t misunderstand; there is, of course, a place for topical messages. I just don’t believe that it should be the primary method of teaching. One of the benefits of teaching verse by verse, is that topical messages will present themselves along the way.

A true shepherd will provide his flock with the proper nourishment. A healthy Christian is one who feeds on the meat of God’s Word.

“12 for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ,”  LEB

The gifts that Paul mentioned in this passage, are designed to equip and edify God’s people. If pastors and bible teachers aren’t faithfully teaching the Word of God, how are Christians going to be equipped to live the Christian life or serve Christ? Pastors and bible teaches need to follow Paul’s example who said, ” I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable” ESV (Acts 20:20). In that same message, Paul also said, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” ESV (Acts 20:27).

Notice who Paul was talking to in the above passage. He was talking to the Elders of the church in Ephesus! Not only did he give these church leaders instruction about leading and teaching in this letter, but he also provided them with an example of how to do it. I don’t believe there’s any reason good enough to teach God’s Word in a shallow, pick and choose manner.

There are some people who actually believe that expository bible teaching is a thing of the past, that it just doesn’t work anymore in our modern culture. Those people/pastors are GREATLY deceived. That type of thinking is often the result of a general philosophy that is very worldly.

We as followers of Christ, need to make sure that it’s really Christ we’re following, and not the foolish ways of this world.