A bible study series in Ephesians (Part 5)
- Summary: Lesson #5 in Ephesians covers the essential truth of the “fivefold ministries” of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Under their equipping influence, the believers mature and actually do the bulk of the “work of the ministry”.
Ephesians 4:7-10 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”  (What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
- ••  “To each one of us grace has been given.” No believer is left out in Christ’s dispensing of grace.
••  Note: It was after Christ’s ascension that he gave all five of the ministries mentioned in verse 11.
- • That meant that Jesus was giving additional apostles and prophets, along with the other three ministries of Ephesians 4:11, after His ascension.
• Read verse 8 in the correct context of verse 11, and you will find that after Jesus’ return to heaven He continued to give apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
• Most Christians today have no problem with the present-day validity of pastors and evangelists. Many are less familiar with genuine bible “teachers”. And fewer yet have come to recognize the validity in our day of apostles and prophets. I have written about the existence of genuine apostles, prophets, and teachers today at:
• Christian Prophets and Modern Day Apostles
• Apostles and Bible Teachers for Today
- •• [9-10] In context with Jesus having “ascended” (to heaven), it may be that Paul was simply saying that Christ’s “descen[t] to the lower, earthly regions” was to earth, to this world (in contrast to heaven), not to the grave. I am not fully convinced on this point, but it bears consideration.
4:11 It was he [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers...
- •• “Some”, not all Christians, are given by Jesus to His Church in these “fivefold ministry” capacities of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and/or teacher.
- • Most readers will be well familiar with the pastor and the evangelist. The blue links above lead to more in-depth teaching on apostles, Christian prophets, and teachers.
4:12-13 ...to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up  until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
- ••  These “fivefold” or “ascension-gift” ministries are given “...[KJV] for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry”.
- • The Amplified Bible puts it: “...the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints (His consecrated people), [that they should do] the work of ministering...”
- ••  The result? — “...that the body of Christ may be built up”.
- • How? By the “work of the ministry” done by the “saints”! Jesus’ Church on earth is not built up only by ordained ministers exercising their God-given gifts. No, rather, it is built up by “the saints”, the people of God, doing “the work of the ministry” for which they have been trained and equipped by the fivefold ministers.
- •• This process of training and equipping for ministry is intended to continue “until” four things happen:
- • “We all reach unity in the faith”
• “We all reach unity in...the knowledge of the Son of God”
• “We all...become mature”
• “We all...attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”
4:14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
- •• We will “no longer be infants”, subject to human and doctrinal deceptions, when we have submitted ourselves to the perfecting, equipping ministries listed in verse 11.
- • So part of my calling as a pastor and bible teacher is to protect the saints from deception. I take that responsibility very seriously as I publish these bible studies and sermons for your encouragement and growth in the Lord.
4:15-16 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
- ••  The goal of all this is that we “grow up into [Christ]”.
- • He is “the Head” of us, His Church. We are His “body”, the “body of Christ” on this earth.
- ••  “From Him the whole body...grows...”
- • Jesus is the author, the source, of the Church’s growth.
• We are the “supporting ligaments”.
• We contribute to the growth of the body of Christ. How? — “As each part does its work”.
• Seek God and the counsel of your pastor or elders to help you find your precise place, your mix of spiritual gifts. As you do this, and then as you minister these gifts to others, the body of Christ grows because you are one of those “parts” doing its unique, God-designed work.
This bible study is continued in Highlights from Ephesians #6.
The beginning lesson in this series is Highlights from Ephesians #1.
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©2001, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.