Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pastors in Ephesians 4:11-16

In continuing a discussion of the role of elders/overseers/pastors, we turn to Ephesians chapter 4.

Ephesians 4:11-16 says, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." (ESV)

As always, the context of this passage is critical. In 4:1, Paul transitions to a discussion that is more application-based than he has addressed so far in this letter. The overall theme of at 4:1-16 is the unity of the body of Christ. Paul calls on all believers to live in such a way that brings about unity. He mentions various aspects of the Christian faith that all display unity (" Lord, one faith, one baptism..."). Paul then mentions grace that is given to each if us "according to the measure of Christ's gift."

After mentioning gifts given to the church, Paul writes in 4:11, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers..." We must keep in mind that these roles fall within the context of gifts that Jesus gives to His church to bring about unity and maturity.

So, what stands about about pastors from this passage?

1. God gives gifts to His church.

God (Father, Son, and Spirit) give specific gifts. We must understand that it is God who does the giving to bring about His purposes. These gifts are mentioned in a few other places such as I Cor. 12-14 and Rom. 12.

2. God gives pastor-teachers to His church.

This passage mentions four roles within the church that are gifts to the church. God gives apostles, prophets, evangelists, ans pastor-teachers. The original language makes it clear that the words "pastor" and "teacher" go together. In fact, the word translated "pastor" is really the word shepherd. We can glean from this that God gives pastors to His church to, at least in part, teach and guide the flock. As we have seen from the role of elders in other places, the guiding seems to primarily take the form of providing godly examples.

It is imperative to see that pastors are given to the church. Thus, this role exists for the benefit of the church and not the other way around.

3. Pastors are to equip the saints for ministry.

This passage tells us one of the primary things pastors are to do. They are to equip the saints. How do they do this? We can surmise that teaching and giving examples are ways this happens.

Let's avoid placing our modern ideas of a pastor in a pulpit into this passage. More likely, we see mature, godly men coming alongside fellow believers and serving the church and community with them.

So we see pastors serve, but we don't see them do the majority of the serving. In fact, we don't see them do anything unique at all. They come alongside and assist - as one of the flock - in ministry.

4. Pastors equip the flock with the goals of maturity in Christ and unity in Christ.

God provides pastors as gifts to edify the church. This is the purpose of all spiritual gifts. Pastors come alongside others and provide guidance so that they will move toward maturity in Christ. This maturity then brings about unity of the body.

Overall, then, Paul tells us in this passage that God gives pastor-teachers to His church just like He gives other spiritual gifts to His church. God provides pastors to give godly examples to the church and come alongside fellow believers. As the pastors equip the saints, the goals are Christian maturity and Christian unity.


Alan Knox said...


I think this is a good review of the passage. Do you think that this list is exclusive or inclusive? What I mean is, Eph 4:11-12 says that Jesus gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors/teachers to equip the church. Do you these are the only gifted individuals who equip the church, or do servants, givers, encouragers, etc. also equip the church?


Eric said...


No, I do not think this is an exhaustive list. Paul just seems to be mentioning some of the giftings that are designed to bring about edification and unity.

One interesting thing is that many folks will say that other lists of spiritual gifts are not exhaustive but then act as if this one is. Pretty inconsistent...

Paul makes things very clear for us. We are to use our spiritual gifts to build up the body and bring about unity all to His glory.

Additionally, this list nowhere implies that others don't have these same joyful responsibilities. Despite what most think in the modern church, we should all be teaching and sherpherding each other to grow in maturity and unity.