11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 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, 14 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.
-Ephesians 4:11-14

Based on the Greek grammar, is the idea of "building up the body of Christ" meant to describe the work of ministry that the saints are prepared for and is thus a responsibility of all saints, or is it meant to describe the act of equipping the saints and is thus the responsibility of the leaders (the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers)?

  • "Yes" means that the work of the apostles via the divinely appointed spiritual gifts is to build up the church, exactly as the text says.
    – Dottard
    Nov 20, 2023 at 6:48
  • @Dottard, Ok, per the question it seems to me that the grammar could also support the idea that the building up of the body of Christ is what the saints, in general, are supposed to be equipped to do such that it is not the exclusive domain of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, sheperds and teachers. Why should I prefer your interpretation from a grammatical standpoint than the one I just stated?
    – Austin
    Nov 20, 2023 at 7:07

2 Answers 2


Here is the very literal translation of the BLB for Eph 4:11, 12 -

And He gave some indeed to be apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers, toward the perfecting of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, ...

The grammar of this is rather simple and uncomplicated. Paul is saying that Christ ("He" in V11, 10, 9, etc) gave vai the Holy Spirit spiritual gifts to the church members; these gifts included (inter alia) apostles, and some prophets, and some

evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers", etc.

The purpose of these gifts is explicitly given as "perfecting" (ie, equipping) the saints:

  • for the work of ministry
  • this ministry is (in turn) for the building up of the church.

Thus, no matter what gift one is given (and every Christian gets at least one gift), its sole function is for the work of ministry for the building up of the church. This is true whether one is an apostle, evangelist, teacher, prophet, shepherd, or whatever. Each must use that gift for ministry to build up the church.

Now, many other spiritual gifts are listed in places like 1 Cor 12 and are given "for the common good" (1 Cor 12:7), and to "edify the church" (1 Cor 14:4), and to build up the church (1 Cor 14:12).

  • Thanks for your contribution Dottard. This answer seems to differ somewhat from your comment. In this answer, you seem to specifically identify the building up the body of Christ as the "work of ministry." This being the case, building up the body of Christ is the work and responsibility of all saints. In your comment, you seem to identify the building up of the body of Christ within this verse as the work assigned to the apostles and thus specifically describing the act of equipping the saints instead of otherwise specifying the work of ministry the saints are being equipped for.
    – Austin
    Nov 21, 2023 at 5:55
  • @Austin - it is both. Inasmuch as all saints receive a spiritual gift, it is these people, such as apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors, etc, who are responsible for building up the church via the mechanism of ministry on the basis of their spiritual gifts.
    – Dottard
    Nov 21, 2023 at 6:49
  • Dottard, you use exhaustive language such as "all saints", but then qualifying language (e.g. "inasmuch") which seems to negate what was exhaustive such that things are not clear what you actually mean. What if the saints are not prophets, teachers, pastors, and do not have obvious spiritual gifts - just ordinary church folk - is it then their work of ministry to build up the body of Christ, according to this verse, or is your position that this verse is only talking about the prophecying and teaching types who build up the body?
    – Austin
    Nov 21, 2023 at 7:46
  • @Austin - that is the point - ALL saints get a spiritual gift which each must use in ministry for the upbuilding of the church.
    – Dottard
    Nov 21, 2023 at 8:44
  • ok. Thanks for clarifying your view.
    – Austin
    Nov 22, 2023 at 6:54

Short Listing In Ephesians 4:11,12 Paul gave a short list of some of the Charismatic gifts that God has given to the Church through the Holy Spirit. In I Corinthians and in Romans, there are longer lists. This list here seems to refer to what are called "the leadership gifts--that is the Elders in a local church that lead the local congregations in worship, teaching, preaching, etc.

The longer listings included charismatic gifts that many saints in the congregation operate according to the anointing and urgency of the Spirit.

Main Reason But the main reason for both the Leadership gifts and Congregational anointings is service. God's church is an institution that majors in people serving one another. "Mature saints" are those who have realized their specific calling and anointing, and settled into some sort of service accordingly. Serve one another is the daily motto of Christianity.

"The work of the ministry" may be misleading if one thinks ministry referred to just ordained ministry in the modern sense. Rather, everyone is a minister (deacon, servant, laborer) in the Body of Christ. The salient characteristic of Jesus example while on earth was that of "serving." Even washing feet! Feeding the hungry. Blessing snotty-nosed children. Dying for the unsaved!

This not to say that there is to be no Leadership in a local gathering. Just as the Synagogues had "rulers" so there needs to be "leading pastors" and a multiplicity of Elders in a local church. But they must always keep it in the fore that they serve the people, and help to bring the people to maturity in their ability top serve one another...to the glory of God, and His Son, Jesus.

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