Equipping the Saints

“…to equip the saints for the work of ministry…” (Ephesians 4:7)

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:12

Paul not only identifies the offices or ministries that the Lord Jesus has given to his church but also tells us their purpose. It is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).

This is a critical idea. For centuries, “ministry” or “service” in the church was considered the role of “professionals,” especially the “clergy.” By and large, the common people (the so-called “laity”) were passive and subservient to those in official roles. This gave the clergy unwarranted power (something they frequently abused) and provided the non-clerical members of the church reason for non-involvement.

Thankfully, in recent decades there has been the recovery of “every member ministry” in the church. It is now generally accepted – in keeping with what Paul says in this passage – that the only way the body of Christ can be “built up” is by the effective functioning of every part.

Three things are critical to this happening. The first is that every member of the church needs to appreciate that they have a role to play in its life. Many struggle to know what that role is and have little idea of how the Lord Jesus has gifted them through the Spirit to function in his body. No small part of the task of shepherds (pastors, elders) in the church lies in helping people discover how they have been gifted and where they can serve.

Secondly, members of the church need to be “equipped” for their roles and functions. Again, this is an area where pastors and teachers in the church have a vital role. They have to bring the Scriptures into the lives of people in ways that result in them knowing the Lord more deeply and being transformed into vessels “meet for the Master’s use” (2 Timothy 2:21 KJV). At times that ministry of the Word will be for the purposes of teaching; at other times, it will be for correcting and rebuking and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Shepherds in the church have an enormous task to fulfil. They not only need to minister God’s word publicly but also privately, to present “everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).

Then thirdly, people not only need to know their place in the body of Christ, and be equipped to fulfil their role, but they also need to discern how they can do so. And here the expression “for the work of ministry” (v. 12) is helpful. For it defines the essence of every member’s work in the body – it is the work of “serving” or ministering to others. Finding our place in the body is not about discovering a job with your name written on it but about seizing opportunities as they arise to serve other people.

It is in doing this that our special giftings emerge. Not only will we find ourselves more useful in some acts of service than in others, but we will also find ourselves more richly fulfilled as well.

Closing Thoughts:

  • Do you know how the Lord wants you to function in his body?
  • Are there ways in which you need to be better equipped to serve others?

– Andrew Young