And it was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
I. THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH. It needed a special order of inspired men to lay the foundations. Hence believers are said "to be built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 2:20). The foundation, however, had only to be laid once for all, and these apostles and prophets passed away in the first age of Christianity. There is no place, therefore, now in the Church for either class; for the "apostles" of the Irvingite sect possess no single qualification of the original apostles of Christ. As the apostles wrote nearly the whole of the New Testament Scriptures, which supply the literary foundation of Christianity, they may thus be regarded as still identified with the progress of the gospel in all lands and all ages.
II. THE EXTENSION OF THE CHURCH. Evangelists were specially designed to preach the gospel in districts where it had not been previously known. They are on this ground distinguished from pastors and teachers. They itinerated from place to place, carrying with them the wonderful story of the cross, and were quite exempt, as such, from the labors of organization or discipline. Our missionaries in modern times do the work of evangelists.
III. THE CONTINUANCE OF THE CHURCH. Pastors and teachers were stationary ministers appointed for the continuous edification of the flock. They represent, not two classes of office-bearers, but two aspects of one and the same office. They are distinguished alike from prophets and from evangelists, and had to do with the permanent instruction and guidance of the flock. The existence of such an order of teachers proves that the Christian Church was not to be propagated or maintained by mere gifted persons. Why, in that case, should the Lord have appointed such ordinary officers at all? The pastors of Ephesus and Corinth were distinct from the prophetically gifted persons in both Churches (1 Corinthians 14.; Ephesians 4:11). Private persons, no matter how gifted, were not allowed to take the place of apostles and prophets at Corinth, and therefore net of pastors and teachers. If they could not take the place of the one, they could not take the place of the other. If all believers were to exercise the gift of ministry in the Christian dispensation, why should not the apostles have started with this arrangement from the first? Why should the Lord give pastors and teachers to one generation - and that a generation provided with at least two inspired orders of teachers - and make no similar provision for all future generations? - T.C.
And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.I. From this passage we learn, THAT THE INSTITUTION OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY — the appointment of pastors and teachers — is from God, IS OF DIVINE AUTHORITY. The object which the Christian ministry is designed to effect is the conviction and conversion of sinners, and the edification and consolation of saints; but these are effects which no human, and, indeed, no created, power is able to produce. The office of the Christian ministry — that is, the institution of a separate order of men to attend, more peculiarly, to the religious instruction of others — is admirably adapted in its own nature as a means to effect the object intended, and its adaptation is evident even to the eye of human wisdom; but it was not devised by human wisdom, and it must not be judged of, or regarded, solely from its extrinsic fitness.
II. Since, then, the text informs us, in the first place, that the appointment of pastors and teachers is a Divine institution, intended to be instrumental in accomplishing certain objects, and of course deriving all its efficacy from the blessing of Him who appointed it, we shall now consider WHAT OBJECTS IT WAS DESIGNED TO EFFECT. For what purpose did God give pastors and teachers? It was "for the perfecting of the saints, for the edification of the Body of Christ." The "perfecting of the saints" may here mean the completion of their number. It may also mean, making them perfect in holiness. We are further informed by the apostle, that God "gave pastors and teachers for the edifying of the Body of Christ." "The Body of Christ" is an expression often used in Scripture to denote the Church of Christ. And the great object of this figurative mode of speaking is to represent the absolute dependence of believers upon their great living Head at all times for nourishment and strength, and, indeed, for existence or vitality, as well as the close and intimate connection that subsists between the Head and all the members — that is, between Christ and His people — and between the members with each other. The word "edify" properly means to build; and it is taken from another figurative idea, sometimes given us in Scripture, of the Church of Christ, or of true Christians in their connection with and dependence upon Christ, namely, that of a building or temple, of which Christ is the foundation, and in which all His people are represented as stones. And in this work of edification or sanctification, pastors and teachers whom God has appointed are master builders, whose great duty and privilege it is to be employed as instruments in edifying the Body of Christ — in building up the saints in their most holy faith — in carrying on the great work of which our Saviour laid the foundation while He lived upon the earth — in not only bringing men to the knowledge and belief of the truth, but also in leading them to walk in the paths of holiness — to walk in harmony and in love — and to contribute to one another's spiritual progress.
III. We would now CONSIDER THE STATEMENT WHICH THE TEXT CONTAINS OF THE MORE COMPREHENSIVE AND ULTIMATE OBJECTS FOR WHICH THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY WAS INSTITUTED, AND WHICH THE LABOURS OF PASTORS AND TEACHERS ARE INTENDED TO SERVE, namely, that Christians may grow up in "all things unto Him who is the Head — that they may all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man — unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." And here we would notice the description the apostle gives of the direct objects and effects of the labours of pastors and teachers, namely, that Christians "speak the truth in love." "Speaking the truth" is contrasted with being tossed to and fro like children, or carried about with every wind of doctrine; and as the appointment of pastors and teachers, with their regular and faithful ministrations, are intended by God to preserve the Church, or Body of Christ, from the latter of these, so they are also fitted to produce and secure the former. "To speak the truth" means here to hold and to maintain sound and correct views of Christian doctrine — of the great principles of the oracles of God. And this is an acquisition of great importance, lying at the very foundation of all true religion, which is built upon right views of the Divine character, and of the Divine plans and purposes with regard to the human race. But, besides this, it is also necessary that men "speak the truth in love" — that is, that their assertion and maintenance of the truth, even against its opposers, should never lead them into any violation of the great law of Christian charity and love. Not that either ministers or private Christians are bound to speak or to think more favourably of opposers of the truth than the fair and impartial examination of their conduct may seem to warrant and to require. But when our opinion is really and sincerely fair and impartial, it is no objection to it that it is unfavourable; for that must just depend upon the grounds and merits of the case. Our opinions upon all points should be exactly conformable to truth — to the intrinsic merits of the subject; but the expression of these opinions, and the conduct which they may lead us to adopt, should be at all times regulated by love. The great terminating object of the Christian ministry — and indeed of all God's dealings with His people — is stated by the apostle in the eighteenth verse — "that we may all come in" — or rather into — "the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God — unto a perfect man — unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." This describes the state of the Church in its collective capacity — when the objects of the Christian ministry, and indeed of all other means of grace, shall have been accomplished. At present, there is nothing like complete unity of faith and knowledge. There is reason, however, to think that times are in reserve for the Church, even upon earth, when these evils shall be greatly lessened, if not altogether removed — when the Church shall indeed resemble a great and a holy Society, founded upon one rock, and that rock Christ: — devoted to the one great purpose of manifesting the glory and making known the manifold wisdom of God. But whatever degree of harmony and purity the Church of Christ shall attain upon earth, when God shall pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, and introduce the glory of the latter days, certain it is that there will be a time when all His people shall come into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, when there shall be nothing whatever to hurt or to offend, when His people shall be all righteous — freed from everything that may pervert either the judgment or the conduct — made perfect in holiness, and altogether restored to the lost image of their great Creator and their living Head.
(W. Cunningham, D. D.)I. A REMARKABLE INSTANCE OF OUR EXALTED LORD'S LIBERTY TO HIS CHURCH in bestowing divers gifts upon her.
1. The gifts.
2. The Giver.
3. The act of donation.
4. The time to which it relates.
II. THE END OR DESIGN OF THIS GIFT.
1. In respect of the saints, these who are in Christ already, the ministry is to perfect them, πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν. The word signifies the restoring and setting dislocated members again in their proper place. It signifies also, the perfecting and establishing them in the restored state. So the Corinthians, who by their factions and divisions were rent asunder, and as a disjointed body, are exhorted to be κατηρτισμένοι, perfectly joined together, as a joint well knit (1 Corinthians 1:10). The saints being, by reason of remaining corruption, so ready to turn aside both from Christ the Head, and from their brethren fellow members. God gave ministers to be spiritual surgeons to set them right again, and to fix them in nearer union to Christ by faith, and to their brethren in love.
2. In regard of themselves, for the work of the ministry. It is for work that they are appointed. This work, for the kind of it, is διακονία, a ministry or service, the first excluding idleness, the second excluding a lordly dominion.
3. In respect of the Body of Christ; it is to edify, viz., the mystical Body of Christ.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
I. In the development of this theme let us consider, first, THE DISPARITY IN CIRCUMSTANCE AND CONDITION BETWEEN OURSELVES AND THE VAST MULTITUDE OF OUR FELLOW MEN; THE CONTRAST BETWEEN OUR AND THEIR MORAL EXPERIENCE. If there be anything approaching the truth in our oft-repeated confessions, we have entered, through Christ, upon an ample inheritance of privilege and honour and power. Our sins are forgiven; a new life has been given us; we live in God's fellowship. "All things are yours," says the apostle, "whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours." And what deed ever conveyed riches like these? "Why am I, honest and industrious, harassed and tormented, while dishonesty thrives, and has the world, cap in hand, at its feet? Where is the evidence of the love, or the wisdom, you preach? Where even is justice? It is a bad world; and the best thought about life is, that it will soon come to an end."
II. This brings us, second, TO THE PRINCIPLE WHICH IS EXPRESSED IN THE TEXT, AND ON WHICH ALONE THESE INEQUALITIES CAN BE JUSTIFIED. Every variety implies in some sense superiority or inferiority. But who would wish for a mere uniformity, which would be the destruction of all that is interesting, of all that is beautiful, of all emulation, of all excellence? Who cannot see that to receive from one another and to impart to each other what we mutually lack, is a far better thing than to be born to an exact equality of advantages? Variety is essential to the proper development of society; and whilst God alone can explain why the obvious advantage is with one man, or with one class instead of another, still He takes from it all that is invidious by associating with privilege the responsibility of service. Turn, for illustration of this, to the account of the calling of Abraham. He was chosen out of the ranks of his countrymen, and out of the world of his day, for special enlightenment; to hear a Divine voice that was unheard by all others, and to realize a communion more elevated and purer than theirs. And why? Did it denote that he monopolized the Divine favour? that those who were left in the dark had no part in the thoughts and the purposes of Jehovah? On the contrary, he was elected for their sakes; in him, who was thus favoured and quickened, all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. And this is always the end which God has in view in the appointment of any to superior possession and privilege. Their endowment is to bring good to the many. Every great movement in social or political life may be traced to some individual, or to some company of men, who have been privileged to originate the high enterprise. The diffusion of truth is not by the equal instruction of all men at the same moment, but by circles and schools who have found out the truth, and through whom it spreads out until it becomes the possession of all. The preference is shown to the few in the interest of the many. And it is the same in respect of the Church. Those in its fellowship are to serve; for it exists not for itself, but for man, for humanity at large; because man is comprehended in the great love of the Father and in the scope of the redemption which Christ came to accomplish.
(Chas. De Witt Boardman, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(Life of Charles Kingsley.)
(C. A. Barrel, D. D.)St. Francis, reflecting on a story he heard of a mountaineer in the Alps who had risked his life to save a sheep, says, "O God, if such was the earnestness of this shepherd in seeking for a mean animal, which had probably been frozen on the glacier, how is it that I am so indifferent in seeking my sheep?"
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