A Technical Commentary on Ephesians 4:7-16

Jason Dulle

Translation · Integrity of the Text · Literary Context · Occasion · Introduction · Commentary · verse 7 · verse 8 · verse 9 · verse 10 · verse 11 · verse 12 · verse 13 · verse 14 · verse 15 · verse 16 · Relevance to the Theology of the Church · Works Referenced

Translation of Ephesians 4:7-16 with Syntactical Comments

But (contrastive conjunction) to each one of us was given the (Well known) grace according to the measure of Christ's gift (gen of possession). Wherefore he says, "While ascending toward high, He led captive a captive multitude, He gave gifts to men." Now that He ascended, what is it except that he also descended into the lower (attributive) parts, that is the earth (genitive of apposition)? The same (identical adjective) one who descended is also the one who ascended high above all of heaven so that (purpose) He might fill all things. And on the one hand (correlative conjunction men) He (intensive) gave some apostles (predicate accusative), and on the other hand (correlative conjunction de) some prophets (predicate accusative), and some evangelists (predicate accusative), and some shepherds (predicate accusative) and teachers, to (purpose) equip the saints (subjective genitive) for (purpose) the work of service, resulting in the (result use of eiV) edification of the body of Christ (simple apposition), until (temporal adverb) we might all attain (subjunctive in indefinite temporal clause) to (respect) the unity with reference to the doctrine (genitive of reference), and of the full knowledge of the Son of God (simple apposition), to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of Christ's fullness (possessive), so that (result) we might no longer be infants tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind (dative of means) of teaching, by the trickery (instrumental use of en) produced by men (genitive of production), by (instrumental use of en) craftiness to the deceitful scheme which produces error (genitive of product), but speaking (customary present) the truth in a loving manner (dative of manner), let us grow up (hortatory subjunctive) into Him in all things (substantive adjective), Who is the head (predicate nominative), even Christ (genitive of apposition), from Whom all the body tightly framed and united together through (genitive of means) each joint's supply (possessive genitive), according to (distributive accusative) the operation in (sphere) the measure of each one's part (genitive of possession), making increase of the body to (advantage) the building up of itself by means of (instrumental use of en) love.

Integrity of the Text

For the most part, the text of Ephesians as a whole is pretty settled. There are very few major areas of disagreement in the MSS as it pertains to 4:7-16. Kai is inserted in verse eight after "captive" in the 7th century correction of Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph), Codex Vaticanus (B), Codex Ephraemi (C), the ninth century corrector of Codex Bezae (D), Codex Laurae (Y), MSS 1739, and the Majority text. Papyrus 46, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Bezae (D) and Codex Augiensis of the Western type(Fp), the Vulgate, old Latin witnesses, and Marcion do not include kai.

In verse nine some manuscripts add protwn after katabh. These include the 7th century correction of Aleph, B, 9th century correction of Codex C, Y, the Majority text, Latin translation of Irenaeus, and some Sahidic translations (Coptic). Papyrus 46, Aleph, C, D, Fp, and the Vulgate omit it.

Another variation in verse nine is the designation that Jesus went down into the lower parts of the earth. Merh is included in Aleph, A, C, 9th century correction of D, I, Y, MMS 33, 1739, 1881, the Majority text, and the Vulgate. Papyrus 46, D, Fp, Codex Boernerianus (Gp), old Latin MSS, Ambrose, and Ireneaus in Latin translations omit it.

Papyrus 46 and some manuscripts of Clement of Alexandria's writings read dedwken instead of edwken in verse eleven, making the verb a perfect instead of an aorist. The perfect tense reading is lacking so much in MSS support that it doesn't even deserve much attention. It seems likely that the scribe, thinking of the present tense didwmi, wrote the initial d and then copied edwken.

In verse thirteen, a few manuscripts omit tou uiou, making the verse read "the knowledge of God" instead of "the knowledge of the Son of God." Again there is no real significance to this discrepancy. The passage as a whole emphasizes growing up into Christ, as He is the head of the body. This not only makes the inclusion of tou uiou likely, but also assures that the idea of knowing Christ is not lost from the passage if it was originally excluded.

Codex Alexandrinus add tou diabolou after planhV in verse fourteen, thus reading "error from the devil." This too is very insignificant, and was probably added by the scribe to clarify where the error came from.

A more significant variant occurs in verse fifteen where Fp, and Gp (apparently derived from the Latin readings) reads "but doing the truth (alnqeian de poiounteV)" instead of "but speaking the truth (alnqeuonteV de)." Although this variant affects the meaning of the verse a little more than other variants in this passage, it still has no great affect upon the meaning. Possibly the scribe wanted to emphasize the "doing" aspect of the truth as it relates to the believer, trying to intensify the idea of speaking the truth.

Other minor differences between texts include the omission of the article before "head" and "Christ," and papyrus 46's reading "of Christ." As far as the articles are concerned, the evidence for their inclusion outweighs the evidence for their omission.

Verse sixteen has three variant readings. Papyrus 46 reads kai energeiaV instead of kat' energeian.

Codex Alexandrinus, C, Y, 365, the Vulgate, the Bohairic (Coptic versions), and the Peshitta (Syriac translations) read melous instead of merouV, meaning "limb" as in a part of the body, instead of simply "part." On an external basis the accepted reading of merouV seems more likely. Internally, however, melouV would fit Paul's analogy perfectly, considering the entire analogy concerns the human body. This could be the reason that these scribes may have substituted melous for merouV. The word fit the analogy, and when looking at merouV they would have read melous.

The final discrepancy among the various MSS in regards to this passage is some MSS omission of the epsilon in eautou, making it a personal pronoun rather than a reflexive pronoun. These manuscripts include Aleph, D, Fp, Gp, 1505, and some others. The reflexive pronoun is supported by such MSS as papyrus 46, A, B, C, a ninth century correction of Codex Bezae, Y, MSS 33, 1739, 1881, the Majority text, and translations of Irenaeus in Latin. It can be easily seen how the epsilon could be dropped off of the word during transmission with a quick glance of the eye.

Literary Context

The following is a brief argument of Ephesians. I have included this argument to demonstrate how Ephesians 4:7-16 fits into the rest of the epistle. This helps prohibit taking the passage out of its literary context, and thereby missing the author's point for bringing up the subject matter at hand in the first place.

Paul begins by noting his apostolic authority and sends his greetings to the church at Ephesus (1:1-2), followed by a blessing to God for his blessings to the church which include its predestination, redemption, and future inheritance (1:3-14). Thanks is offered for this church for their present spiritual condition, and prayer for the furtherance of their spiritual development (1:15-23).

The Ephesians are reminded of the darkness of their pre-Christian lives, and of the grace that has saved them from that spiritual death (2:1-10). Before they trusted in Christ they had no connection to the one true God, but have now been drawn near Him through Jesus Christ, having been made one with the Jewish people through Christ and His abolition of the Law of Moses (2:11-19). This new body comprised of Jew and Gentile is compared to a building inhabited by the Spirit, whose foundation was the apostles and prophets, Jesus Himself being the chief corner stone (2:20-22). This new body where Jew and Gentile are on the same par with God is a mystery not seen in the OT, but is now revealed to the apostles and prophets (3:1-9). The mystery God has wrought through Christ displays God's wisdom to spiritual forces (3:10-11). Through Christ, then, the Ephesians could have boldness and access to God by faith (3:12). Because of this Paul urges the church to not faint at his tribulations for them and prays that the church be strengthened in their inner man to be able to comprehend Christ's love for them (3:13-21).

Because of this great "program" of the church and God's glory in the church, Paul urges the believers to walk worthy of their calling, maintaining meekness, patience, love, unity, and peace (4:1-3). The reason for this is that there is only one church, one calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is above all, through all, and in all of the believers (4:4-6). This emphasis on "oneness" seems to flow along with Paul's emphasis of Jew and Gentile being one in Christ, on the same level before God. Possibly Paul stresses this because of Jew/Gentile contentions and pride due to each group claiming superiority over the other, or in order to prevent such a situation. Paul makes it clear that Jew and Gentile are equal before God. Although all believers are equal before God, some receive differing amounts of grace because of God's calling on their lives for particular ministerial offices in the church, which are pictured as gifts to the church (4:7-11). The purpose of these offices, and the reason they received a special measure of grace, is for the spiritual growth of the church and establishment of truth (4:12-14). The church is to speak this truth in love, thereby growing up into Christ (4:15). This process is pictured as a body wherein each part of the body makes a contribution so that the whole can function properly. The body will increase in this way through love (4:15-16).

Getting back to his exhortation to walk worth of God's calling, Paul exhorts moral purity, following the pattern of Christ (4:17-5:16). Instead of doing evil, they are to understand the Lord's will, which includes being filled by the Spirit, singing spiritual songs to the Lord, and submission to authority (5:17-6:9).

A final command is to be strong in the Lord and put on spiritual armor to fight in the spiritual battle that they are engaged in (6:10-17). They are to pray in the Spirit with endurance, for the saints, and especially for Paul to boldly proclaim the gospel that has occasioned his imprisonment (6:18-20). He closes with a word about Tychicus and a typical Pauline benediction (6:21-24).


Paul first visited Ephesus on his second missionary journey, but only stayed briefly. He seems to have made a few converts, or at the very least he had a few Jews interested in what he had to say (Acts 18:19-21). Paul hurried off, however to keep a feast at Jerusalem.

He returned to Ephesus on his third missionary journey and remained there for fifteen months teaching the gospel (Acts 19:8, 10). He taught in Tyrannus' school for two years, resulting in all of Asia hearing the word of the Lord (Acts 19:9-10). Many signs and wonders were done during his stay resulting in the conversion of many (Acts 9:11-20). The revival was to the extant that those who made idols of the goddess Diana created an uproar against Paul and the Christians because their idol-making businesses were losing money (Acts 19:23-41). This uproar occasioned Paul's departure from the city.

Paul's only other contact with the Ephesians before the writing of this epistle is when he met with the elders of the church in Miletus (Acts 20:17-38), on Paul's journey back to Jerusalem, where he was finally imprisoned. This visit was very brief, and was intended as a final exhortation to the ministry to be an example to, and guard the flock.

All in all, Paul spent more time with this church than any other church he founded. There was most assuredly a very close intimate relationship between Paul and this church. He had invested much of his life into this metropolitan city. Paul even testified that he declared the whole counsel of God to the church (Acts 20:20, 27). Even with all of the theological teaching they received, Paul warned that doctrinal error would still creep into the church (Acts 20:29-30).

Paul was imprisoned (probably Rome) when he wrote this letter (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; 6:20). From prison he had heard of the Ephesians' faith and love, and that in this respect they were faring well (1:15). Paul seems to judge the spiritual condition of a church based off of faith, hope, and love (I Corinthians 13:13). It is interesting to note that Paul did not commend the Ephesians for their hope. Instead he prayed for them to realize the "hope of their calling" (1:18), reminded them that at one time they did not have hope (2:12), and that they were called to Christ in one hope (4:4).

Just how significant this may be can not be accurately determined, especially when Paul mentions the word "love" fourteen times, and "faith" eight times. It was for these two qualities that Paul commended the believers, and yet he mentions them many more times than hope. It would seem that if Paul's purpose behind the epistle was to bolster hope in the church, he would have spent more time speaking of the hope in which they were deficient, rather than the faith and love of which they had in abundance. It seems best to think of it as though Paul wrote the letter to strengthen the qualities they already possessed, and build up those that may be lacking.

The audience seems to be primarily Gentile in nature. This is especially evident in chapter two where Paul specifically calls his readers Gentiles (2:1; also 2:11;3:1; 4:17), and by the abundance of the use of the word "you" which always refers to the Gentiles. Paul does use the inclusive pronouns "we" and "us" frequently too, but it seems that he is including himself in this use to show, in a symbolic manner, the solidarity in which he also stands with the Gentiles, himself being a Jew. Notice that Paul said "you" were strangers from the covenants of Israel (2:12), "you" (near) who were afar off and "them" (remote) that were nigh (to God) (2:17), and "you" are no more strangers and foreigners to God's household (2:19). All these infer that the audience, at least in these passages, is strictly Gentile (See also 3:2, 8, 13).

There are not very many textual clues as to what occasioned the writing of this letter. It is very different from most of Paul's other letters. Some believe it was written because of the Jew/Gentile conflict, or to instruct and strengthen new Gentile believers in their faith.1 It seems to be more of a theological treatise of the church, written to a church, possibly to strengthen the church (3:16). Probably the best clue we have to the spiritual needs of this church, and therefore the occasion of this letter, would be to look at the content of Paul's prayers for the church.

Paul prayed that they would be given spiritual wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ so that they could understand what the hope of Christ's calling truly was, and to know the greatness of his power (1:16-23). Paul also desired that they be strengthened by the Spirit in their inner man, that Christ would dwell in their hearts by faith, that they would be full of love, and comprehend the vastness of Christ's love for them, and power (3:16-20). The apostle also urged them to meekness, patience, love, unity, and peace (4:1-3). Starting at 4:20 and ending at 5:16 Paul gives a string of commands regarding immoral and non-Christian behavior. Whether the Ephesians had been participating in such behavior, or whether this was just a warning from Paul so that they would not participate in such behaviors, is not fully known, but it was enough of a concern for the apostle to write at great length on the subject. There must have been a problem with submission and/or the understanding of the roles Christians have one to another as it pertains to the societal structure, for Paul dealt with this subject in considerable length (5:21-6:9). The epistle seems to be a reminder of what they had already been taught, in order to intensify the truth of it in their minds, so that they would not revert to their old ways of darkness. Nothing in the epistle seems to indicate that the Ephesian believers had already reverted back to their Gentile ways, but rather it seems that Paul was warning them lest they do.


In Ephesians 4:7-16 the universal church is called to grow as a unified whole, both Jew and Gentile. This union was accomplished by Christ, and the believers are to maintain that union. Each Christian has a vital part in this growth. It starts with the five-fold ministry whom Christ has given to the church to stimulate and direct the growth of the body. It continues with each individual member contributing the measure of grace that they have received to the body, for its edification. The growth will be complete once the church has come to a unified doctrine and intimate knowledge of Jesus, to a perfect man as measured by Christ, wherein it will no longer be affected by false doctrine, but speaking the truth will have grown up into Christ.


Verse 7 But to each one of us was given the grace according to the measure of Christ's gift.

De is being used as a contrastive conjunction. It could also be used as a transitional conjunction from Paul's previous discussion, which would surely tone down any contrastive force between verse six and seven. That the former use is more likely Paul's intent can be seen by Paul's point in 4:1-6. He emphasized the oneness of the Christian life: unity of the spirit, one body, one Spirit, one hope of their calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God. This gave the readers a sense of total equality in the Christian church. No one would have any advantage over another because they were all partaking of the same things. In order to explain how some in the church could have authority over others, even though all were on the same level before God in Christ's church (2:11-22; 3:1-6), Paul noted that some receive a larger measure of grace than do others to do a specific job. Because he shifted from emphasizing oneness and unity to diversity, he used de. This informed the readers that there was a shift in thought, and a level of contrast between what was just written. The contrast, or shift in thought doesn't seem to be too sharp. Had Paul wanted to make a sharp distinction between his previous subject matter and his current subject, he probably would have used the stronger conjugation alla.

Grace, here, is not speaking of the grace that saves us (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace in this context is God's impartation of ability to do His will, specifically as it relates to ministry. The concept is best explained in Philippians 2:13 where Paul said that God works in the believers to have the desire, and to have the ability to do His good pleasure. It is a grace given to us by God for His purposes, that will result is something we do. Peter made the connection between ministry and grace clear when he said, "As every man has received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God gives...(I Peter 4:10-11a). Paul said it was God's grace that gave him his burden to preach to the Gentile world (Gal 2:7-9; Romans 15:15-16; Ephesians 3:7), preach Christ (I Corinthians 3:10-11; 15:10). Romans 12:3-8 also connects grace with various gifts, noting that the gifts will vary depending upon the measure of grace given to the individual believer by God (v. 6).

Everyone has been given (passive) grace according to Christ's measure. Some, only seeing this grace as grace for the five-fold ministry listed in verse eleven, have been led to believe that in some sense everyone in the body of Christ has been given an office in the church. These individuals believe they are evangelists because they witness to their neighbors, or teachers because they have taught a home Bible study. I believe Paul's point is that each individual in the body of Christ has been given various measures of grace for various purposes, and then goes on to explain that the five-fold ministry has received a certain measure for God's purposes.

That not every individual in the church can receive the grace to be an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher is seen in verse twelve when the ministry's purpose is described - "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." If every saint is a member of the five-fold ministry, who are the saints that they are going to perfect, and who is the body that they are going to edify? Clearly those mentioned in verse eleven are a distinct group of people from the rest of the body of Christ. They are not more important to God, as in the Catholic hierarchical system, but have been given more grace than others in order to fulfill a certain role in God's economy. They are equal to all other believers as it pertains to salvation and God's love, but are above other believers as it pertains to authority (See II Corinthians 10:8; Galatians 3:28).

Verse 8 Wherefore he says, "While ascending toward high, He led captive a captive multitude, He gave gifts to men."

Here Paul refers to Psalm 68:18. He does not quote it as does the original Hebrew, nor does he quote it as does the LXX. The Hebrew says that "you have received gifts from men,"2 while Paul pictured the gifts as being given to men. Why Paul did this can not be ascertained. Some have speculated that Paul knew of manusciptal evidence which contained a variant reading of chalaq (share, divide) instead of laqach (receive).3 There are no manuscripts that read chalaq, but it is possible nonetheless. The difference between the two words in Hebrew is merely the transposition of two consonants. This does not seem very likely

Another proposed idea is that Paul was using the rabbinical and targumic interpretation of Psalm 68:18 which saw it to refer to Moses ascending to heaven to learn the words of the Law "which he gave as gifts to men."4

Though the two above suggestions are possible, they do not seem likely. This is probably just another case where the apostles used the Hebrew Scriptures for their own purposes, which called for the use of different words, which almost, or completely ignores the Scripture's literary and historical context. Paul, inspired by the Holy Ghost, chose to change the idea of "received" to "gave" in order to fit his own literary purposes.

The original contextual meaning of the Hebrew passage within Psalm 68 is YHWH's ascension to Mt. Zion as symbolized by the ark of the covenant, after it was taken from the Jebusites, because of their rebelliousness to YHWH. The captives were the Jebusites and the gifts received were the spoils from the victory. Jerusalem, then, became the place where the YHWH dwelt.

Paul claimed that Jesus led a captive multitude captive when He ascended into heaven. The question that has caused a lot of discussion pertains to the identity of this captive multitude. Are they human beings? If so, who are they and where did they come from? If they are not people, what is Paul referring to? The context doesn't help much in this situation. Much of what will determine the view one takes depends upon their interpretation of 4:9-10 as it pertains to the place of Jesus' descent. Whoever, or whatever these captives may be, Paul pictured Christ as a conqueror, who returning to heaven in triumph, distributed gifts to signal His ascension and triumph, as would a victor in an earthly battle.5 The imagery here is that just as when a conqueror triumphs over his enemies, he distributes various gifts to his fellow comrades, so Christ, on His ascension gave gifts to the church.6

The time of this 'leading of the captives' is contemporaneous to the time of Jesus' ascension. AnabaV and hcmalwteusen are both aorist, the former being a participle and the latter being an indicative verb. Though the aorist participle is usually antecedent in time to the main verb, when the main verb is also aorist, often the participle will be contemporaneous in time, such as it is here.

Verse 9 (Now that He ascended, what is it except that he also descended into the lower parts, that is the earth?

Verses 9 and 10 are interpolated between the thought flow of verses 8 and 11. Without vs. 9-10, Paul would simply be explaining that Christ gave gifts to men upon His ascension, and then immediately name what those gifts were. Instead he resorted to this interpolation which argued for a logical assumption, seemingly to show Christ's greatness.

Building off of the previous verse where it is said that Christ ascended on high, Paul argued that it is implied that Christ must have descended to the earth previously. For Paul it is a logical assumption. One can't ascend to someplace if they were not first lower than that place. The argument is this, The ascension spoken of was not the first exaltation of Christ, but a return to heaven of one who dwelt in heaven.7

Much debate has gone on over the place of Christ's descent. Did Paul mean that Christ descended into hell? Did he mean the descent was into the grave? Was Paul simply referring to the incarnation?

The first hypothesis bases its conclusion from many passages besides this passage. Of the many, Peter's reference to Christ preaching to the imprisoned spirits, who lived in Noah's day (I Peter 3:18-20; See also 4:6) is commonly cited. It is believed that Christ after His death, went to hell, where a gulf separated the righteous in Abraham's bosom from the evil in hell (Luke 16:19-31), and preached to the damned of His victory (or some other message), and took the righteous in Abraham's bosom with Him to heaven (they are said to be the captives who were led captive in v. 8).

In defense of this view, the Greek word translated lower, katwtera, can be a comparative adjective meaning lowermost. If Christ descended into the lowermost parts of the earth, it would seem that this would be into the heart of the earth itself, and not just the surface of the earth. Scriptures such as Philippians 2:10 and Revelation 5:3, 13 which speak of those "under the earth" add fervor to the argument.

Also, Romans 10:7 says Christ went into the abyss, which is used only as a reference to the abode of demons in the Scriptures (Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:1-4, 11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3).

The second view sees Christ's burial in His cave-tomb as His descending "into" the earth. Jesus statement that He would be "in the heart [middle] of the earth," as Jonah was in the belly of the fish supports this view (Matthew 12:40). However, it could be debated as to whether Jesus was referring to His death, or to a descent into hell. Those who hold to this view see Romans 10:7 to be referring to the grave, because after Paul mentions the abyss he said, "That is to bring Christ up from the dead" (emphasis mine).

The third view sees Christ's descent as a reference to the incarnation. The ascension is being viewed from earth's perspective, where Christ ascended far above the heavens (4:10). The descending, they say, is from heaven's perspective. Lowermost, then, is not referring to levels of the earth, but to the depth of the earth itself in comparison to the height of heaven.

Much of the argument centers over the translation of thV ghV. If it is a genitive of possession, it would mean the lower parts belonging to the earth. If it is a partitive genitive, it would mean the lower parts, which is a part of the earth. Both uses of the genitive support the view of Christ's descent into hell. If it is taken to be a genitive of apposition, it would support the incarnational view, meaning Christ descended to the lower parts, that is to say, the earth. Wallace commented on the use of the genitive here saying:

"Of the earth" is popularly taken to be a partitive gen. However, it may well be a gen. of apposition, thus, "he descended into the lower parts [of the universe], that is , the earth." At first glance this second option seems awkward because the noun to which the singular gen. is related is plural. However, it is a common idiom for a singular gen. of apposition to be related to merh (plural)-cf. Isa 9:1 (LXX); Matt 2:22. In such constructions it seems that there is a partitive gen. that needs to be supplied from the context (as seems to be the case in Eph 4:9). For example, in Matt 2:22 we read anecwrhsen eiV ta merh thV GalilaiaV. The translation might either be "he departed for the regions [of Israel], namely, Galilee" or, "he departed for the regions that constitute Galilee." Thus since the gen. of apposition occurs in the singular related to the plural merh as a geographical term, there is sufficient grammatical evidence to see it used in Eph 4:9. (For other examples of this phenomenon, cf. Matt 15:21; 16:13; Mark 8:10; Acts 2:10.)

The difference between the partitive gen. and the gen. of apposition in this text is no less than the difference between a descent at the Lord's death into hell and a descent at his incarnation to the earth. Grammar certainly will not solve this problem, but it at least opens up the interpretive possibilities.8

Wallace also noted that the use of the genitive of apposition occurs over twelve times in this epistle.9 It seems to be a stylistic feature used by Paul.

Though each view has its strengths and weaknesses, the third view seems to be the most likely. Jesus made it clear where He was going upon His death when he told the thief on the cross that he would be in paradise with Jesus on that very day (Luke 23:43). He gave no indication of a journey to hell before this.

Also, merh need not be a comparative adjective. "...A comparative adjective is syntactically improbable, if not impossible: the comparative adjective is in attributive position to merh. If one were to ignore such a syntactical feature in, say, Matt 23:23, the meaning there would be 'you have neglected the matters which are weightier than the law" (instead of 'you have neglected the weightier matters of the law").10

Although the burial view is possible, it does not seem probable. If thV ghV is a possessive or partitive genitive, the use of lowermost parts as a comparative adjective would seem to indicate something lower than the burial within a cave.

The incarnational view has both a grammatical basis, and makes sense within the context of Ephesians 4. The author's point is the great expansion of Christ's conquest, which will be further illustrated in the next verse. This verse makes it clear that the one Who ascended to heaven and has given gifts to men, is the same One Who descended to the earth in the incarnation and walked among men.11

Verse 10 The same one who descended is also the one who ascended high above all of heaven so that He might fill all things).

This verse is the end of Paul's interpolation between vs. 8 and 11. It also begins a sentence that does not end until the end of v. 16. Paul is known for his long, expanded sentences. Verses 10-16 are all connected logically in Paul's mind.

O katabaV is an aorist participle. It is being used substantively meaning, the one who descended. The aorist participle is antecedent in time to the main verb estin, which is present tense. This merely emphasizes the historicity of Christ's descent. Christ descended before the writing of this epistle. AutoV is being used as an identical adjective indicating that the one who descended is the same individual as the one who ascended. The very Christ that descended is the same Christ who ascended into the heavens.

That he might fill, in the Greek, is a ina clause with the subjunctive. This construction is used to indicate purpose. The meaning here is not that Christ fills all things as a result of His ascension, but that He ascended so that He would fill all things. He ascended high above all of heaven, probably referring to the Jewish concept of various levels of heaven (See II Corinthians 12:1-4), the three levels being the earth, the atmosphere, and heaven as we think of it. Paul may be using heaven in reference to the atmosphere to say that Christ ascended far above any place in the sky, into heaven itself. As a result of this ascension Christ now fills all things. He does so by means of His Spirit, just as He fills men with His Spirit (John 14:17-18, 20; Romans 8:9-10; II Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 1:27; I Peter 1:11). Paul made a similar statement in 1:18-22 when he spoke of the power of Christ's resurrection which put all principality, might, power, dominion, every other thing under His feet. Christ is now above all.

By demonstrating Christ' descent to the earth from heaven, and then the ascension back to heaven, Paul successfully demonstrated Christ's greatness over all. He is greater than anything of the earth because He descended to it from heaven, and He is greater than any heavenly principalities and powers because He ascended back into heaven to fill all things. Christ's power is unmatchable and the church should be privileged to have Christ as the Head of the church (1:22-23).

Verse 11 And on the one hand He gave some apostles, and on the other hand some prophets, and some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers,

Paul used the personal pronoun autoV along with the third person plural edwken to intensify the fact that Christ was the author of these five offices, meaning he gave. Christ gave some apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. In the Greek Paul used the correlative conjunctions (paired) men and de, expressing the idea on the one hand and on the other hand. The construction makes two different assertions, which mildly contrast one another. Usually it notifies the reader that the statement followed by de is in contrast to some degree to the statement following men, or is at the very least of a different character to the first. Here the men appears before apostle, while de appears before prophet, evangelist, and pastor. It seems that Paul is separating/contrasting the office of apostle from the rest of the offices. It is possible grammatically that Paul considered the office of an apostle to be different from the rest of the offices.


An apostoloV (apostle) is merely a messenger. Although it is a cognate of the verb apostellw, meaning I send, the noun did not mean "one who is sent" in the first-century. It simply meant messenger. Second Corinthians 8:23 speak of certain brethren sent to Corinth as being messengers of the churches. This is the word for apostle. These individuals do not seem to be of the ordained or recognized group of apostles, but are called so because of their function of delivering messages.

Another instance occurs in Philippians 2:25 where Epaphroditus is said to be the Philippian's messenger who was sent to Paul to minister to his needs. Here, the idea of one who is sent may be seen to some extent, but it still can be seen that Epaphroditus gave Paul the message concerning the status of the church in Philippi, and the gift that was prepared for him. 	Jesus is called our Apostle in Hebrews 3:1, in the sense that He was God's messenger for us.

It has been hotly debated, especially in more recent times, whether or not the office of apostle still exists. Those who favor their present existence argue for their viewpoint from two primary passages: I Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11, 13. Those who argue against present day apostles will commonly cite Ephesians 2:20-22 and 3:5. First we will examine the modern-day apostle argument.

This passage in Ephesians chapter four is the best support for modern apostles. It is argued that these offices, which are gifts to the church, are given to individuals in every generation. The crucial hinge is 4:13, where Paul uses the temporal adverb mecri, meaning until. It is understood that these gift ministries are given to do a specific job (4:12), until the body of Christ reaches a certain stage of maturity (4:13-14). These marks of maturity that the ministry is striving to perfect the saints to includes the unity of the faith, the knowledge of God's Son, a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of Christ's fullness, so that the body will no longer be prey to false doctrine and false teachers (4:13-14). It is apparent that this "progress list" will never be accomplished while the church is on this earth, but awaits fulfillment at Christ's parousia, and our glorification.

Just taking the unity of the faith by itself shows that the body of Christ can never attain to this list. Even if every member in the body of Christ believed exactly alike, as soon as another soul is born into the kingdom of God, the unity would be destroyed. It would take discipling of that soul to bring the unity once more. Since this process continues all the time all over the world, the church can never have unity of the faith. This being so, it necessitates the existence of the gift-ministries Jesus gave to the church on His ascension.

First Corinthians 12:28 is also cited as a proof-text for modern-day apostles. Here Paul said, "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." The first three mentioned are offices which people would hold in the church, the latter five are ministries within the church that certain individuals would perform. Apostles, prophets, and teachers are people, while miracles, healings, helps, governments, and tongues are not. They are deeds.

Two points make this verse very important. First, Paul made it clear that God has set some people in the church to hold various offices. Since the church continued to exist after the Twelve apostles and Paul had passed away, apostles would still continue to exist, because God has set the office of an apostle into the structure of the church. In other words, apostles weren't just a certain group of people hand-picked by the Lord to start the church, but apostles are an ordained office that Jesus has given to the church, of the which He will call individuals to fill it, for as long as the church continues on earth.

The second important part of this verse is Paul's use of firstly, secondly, and thirdly. These words indicate a hierarchical structure of authority within the church. Apostles head the list as the most authoritative office, and it may be implied they have the most important purpose in the kingdom. It is argued that if apostles are part of the authority structure of the church, followed in succession by others, why would God do away with them simply because the original Twelve and Paul have passed off the scene? If the office of the apostle was so important to the church, that they were given the greatest amount of authority, for the edification of the body (II Corinthians 10:8), how could the church fulfill its purpose without them? If they were so necessary in the beginning of the church, why are they no longer necessary? When looking at the functions they performed in the church, why would we not need them anymore? They planted churches, ordained elders, taught the doctrine of Jesus, decided theological issues, and worked mighty miracles. These things are still needed in our day, therefore apostles are still needed in our day.

Although these are not the only arguments presented, they are the most important arguments. It will be sufficient to end the discussion here, and move on to the argument of the opposing side.

Those who deny the notion of modern-day apostles commonly resort to Ephesians 2:20-22 where Paul said, "And [you] are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together grows to a holy temple in the Lord: in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit." Here, apostles, along with prophets, are pictured as being foundational to the church. It is argued that this foundational role of the church has already been accomplished by the Twelve and Paul, through the writing of the NT Scriptures, and establishment of the church upon the earth. Since their foundational role has been completed, the need for their office and ministry is no longer needed.

Ephesians 3:5 dove-tails upon this foundational role by noting that the mystery of the church, that Jew and Gentile are one before God and of equal value, has been revealed to the holy apostles and prophets to preach to the world. Again, since this truth has been heralded through the Scriptures, and by the apostles in the first century when they established the church in the world, the foundational role of the apostles has been completed and their office terminated.

Both views have points worthy of notice. Let us now turn our attention to who is called an apostle in the NT, what the qualifications for an apostle were, and what the job-description of an apostle was to help decide the issue.

The first to be called apostles in the NT were the Twelve apostles who traveled with the Lord, whom the Lord personally appointed (Luke 6:13; John 15:17; Acts 1:8, 21-22). One of these, Judas, betrayed the Lord and was thus excluded from the number. Matthias was chosen to replace him after the Lord's ascension (Acts 1:16-26), thus restoring the number to twelve. After the establishment of the church, Paul was called to be an apostle by Jesus Christ from heaven (Acts 9:15; 22:14-15; 26:17; Galatians 1:1, 15-17; Ephesians 1:1).

Others are called apostles too. Luke said, "Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of...." Barnabas is grouped right along with Paul by the conjunction, designated by the plural form for apostle. Grammatically Barnabas is called an apostle, seemingly on the same level as Paul.

In I Corinthians Paul and Silas, as co-authors, greet the church (1:1), and then it is asked, "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as the other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and of Cephas?" (9:5). The "we" is referring to Paul and Silas whom Paul compared to the rest of the apostles. Silas is considered to be an apostle. It may also be implied that Jesus' brothers are also apostles. Some see no inference because they are set off after the apostles; however, so is Peter, and yet he is an apostle. Although it can not be ascertained, it seems likely that Paul is inferring the apostolicity of Jesus' brothers. James, at least, is called an apostle (Galatians 1:19).

The first epistle to the Thessalonians was co-authored by Paul, Silas, and Timothy (1:1). In 2:6 Paul reminded the church that when he and his ministerial co-workers were among them, they were not "burdensome, as the apostles of Christ" as they could have been. This seems to be another assertion to Silas' apostolicity, and the only assertion for Timothy's.

One final passage, Philippians 2:25, could go either way. Epaphroditus is called "your apostle." This could mean that he was the apostle who worked in the area of Philippi, but it could also mean that he was their messenger sent to Paul. The latter is probably correct, but nevertheless, the first is tenable.

No matter how many might have been apostles, either in the sense of office, or messengers, there is a certain number of apostles that are representative. Revelation 21:14 says that the New Jerusalem is built upon twelve foundations, each having on it a name of one of "the twelve apostles of the Lamb."12 These twelve apostles had something to their credentials that separated them from any others who may be called apostles. Jesus told the Twelve that they would rule upon twelve thrones over Israel (Matthew 19:28). There was a special place in God's redemptive history for the Twelve apostles whom He personally taught.

Turning now to the qualifications of an apostle, it seems that an apostle had to have personally seen the Lord . Paul, in defending his apostolicity, asked, "Have not I seen the Lord? (I Corinthians 9:1; See also Acts 22:14). In the same breath he seems to mention another proof that the was an apostle, namely the fruit of his labor (I Corinthians 9:1-2). This fruit was none other than the birth of the Corinthian church.

Paul seems to give one other indication of what qualified an apostle's calling, or at least evidence of an apostle's calling when he told the Corinthians, "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, in wonders, and might deeds" (II Corinthians 12:12). Another mark of apostolic ministry was the abundance of the miraculous (See Acts 2:43; 4:33; 5:12). This was not limited to apostles, however. Stephen, who was only a server of tables, is said to have done great wonders and miracles among the people (Acts 6:8). Likewise Philip, another server of tables, had the miraculous in his ministry (Acts 8:6-10).

The two qualifications Peter made for the choosing of an apostle was that he had to have been a follower of Christ from the days of John the Baptist, and a witness of the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22). This theme of witnessing the resurrected Lord occurs many more times in the Book of Acts, being used by the apostles to give authority to their message (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39-42; 13:31). Peter said that only a select few were chosen to be witnesses, and they were to preach the message to the world (Acts 10:39-42).

The first qualification does not seem to be universal, because if it were Paul could not have been an apostle, seeing that he did not begin to serve Christ until after Christ had already ascended from the earth to heaven. The latter requirement, however, Paul did fulfill.

It seems then, that an apostle had to have been a witness of the resurrection, have the witness of the miraculous in abundance in his ministry, and have the evidence of new souls/churches being established in the kingdom of God.

An apostle also seems to have been a church planter. Paul told the Romans, "So I have strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation: But as it is written, 'To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.' "(15:20-21). Although apostles were not limited to uncharted territory, it does seem to be one of their purposes. James and Peter helped establish the church in Samaria, after Christ was first preached to them by Philip the evangelist (Acts 8). That an apostle did not have to go to start new works is evident by the fact that the apostles, for the most part, seemed to stay in Jerusalem, where there was a church already well established (Acts 8:1, 14; 15:2).

One more very important aspect of an apostle was his authority. The Scripture is very clear that the apostles were the most authoritative group in the church. When there was a controversy over the Law of Moses and circumcision, the matter was taken to Jerusalem to the apostles to decide what to do (Acts 15:1-29). A decision was made and was considered binding upon all the churches. The apostles words and writings were on par with the Old Testament Scripture. Paul said to the Thessalonians, "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle" (II Thessalonians 2:15; See also 3:14). It was the apostle's doctrine that the early church heeded and continued in (Acts 2:42). Peter reminded his readers that they were to be obedient to the commands of the apostles of the Lord (II Peter 3:2). An apostle was an individual who had the authority to determine the truth of the gospel.. His word was final, and was a commandment of the Lord. The reason the apostles' words and letters held so much weight was because they were taught directly by the Lord. Even Paul was taught by the Lord (Galatians 1:11-12).

In conclusion, the office of apostle seems to be foundational to the church. That the office must continue is not clear from Scripture. As far as Ephesians 4:11 and 13 is concerned, until does seem to imply continuation of the office. It may be, however, that the office of apostle has done its job in a foundational role of planting the church and writing the NT Scriptures, which Scriptures do help us on our journey to arrive at the goal of Ephesians 4:13-14). The gift-ministry of apostleship has done it's job already to help the church on its road to maturity. However, although the idea that the apostles' role is finished after having given us the Scriptures sounds logical, it is not Biblically supported. There is no Scriptural text which states the job of the apostle was to write Scripture, and that once this job was done, their office would no longer be needed. The apostles did so much more than write Scripture.

First Corinthians 12:28 need not mean that apostles must always exist as long as the church exists. Paul could have merely been making a statement about the structural order of the church in his day. While the apostles, who had seen the resurrected Lord, were still alive, they had the greatest position of authority. The passage does not preclude, however, the continuation of apostolic ministry. To conclude that the office is no longer first in authority is only the assumption based off the logical conclusion that apostles no longer exist.

Though the reasoning behind the need for modern-day apostles is strong, from both a logical and Biblical basis, when looking at the qualifications of an apostle it seems hard to conceive that apostles still exist. I do know of men who have many signs and wonders following them in their ministry. In this regard they might be qualified to be an apostle. I know of many men who start new churches in uncharted territory and have won many souls to the Lord. In this respect they may be considered apostles. But if an apostle has to have seen the Lord, I do not know of anyone who could be an apostle.

The most startling mark of an apostle of all is his ability to determine the truth of the gospel. If those whom I have heard referred to as apostles have the ability to decide the doctrine of the church, I do not want to be a part of the church, under their authority! I have heard some erroneous teachings from these "apostles," and could not submit to such teaching that is clearly in error. Since none of these apostles have been taught by the Lord as were the Twelve and Paul, they can not be certain that what they believe is true. They are receiving their knowledge of the kingdom in the same way that all Christians do, i.e. the written Scriptures. They are interpreting revelation, not receiving it as did the apostles of the first-century. My question is this, if these modern-day apostles have the authority to determine truth, why is it that each has his own unique conclusions? I do not know of any two "apostles" who agree on every point of the doctrine.

Although the Biblical basis for the cessation of apostles is weak in that it relies upon the non-Biblical premise that apostles write Scripture, and that once they have handed down this revelation their ministry ceased, the logical basis is strong. The Biblical basis for the existence of modern-day apostles is strong in that the Scriptures do not give any indication of their cessation, but view them as necessary for the continuing growth of the church, but the logical basis is weak.

This logical basis against modern-day apostles comes as a result of looking at the qualifications and authority an apostle possessed. Since no individual in the church has been taught by the Lord, but interprets the revelation given them through the first-century apostles, they can not have the authority the apostles possessed. It is one thing to have some characteristics in one's ministry that overlap what we read of the apostles' ministries, but it is another thing to be an apostle. One's ministry may be apostolic in nature, but that doesn't make them an apostle.


Prophets are those, who by regular exercise of the gift of prophecy, are a distinct group of individuals within the body of Christ. Not only do they possess the gift of prophecy, but hold the office of a prophet, themselves being the gift to the body of Christ.

Prophets are also listed in Ephesians 2:20 and 3:5 as being foundational to the NT church. It is argued by most, that for this reason their office has fallen out of use as was the apostles'. Peter said, "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you" (II Peter 2:1). This may indicate that Peter knew the office of prophet would fall out of existence, and would be replaced in function by the teachers. John, however, who wrote his first epistle some time after Peter's noted that their were still false prophets in the church (1 John 4:1). In order for their to be false prophets, John must have realized that there were true prophets.

In defense of modern-day prophets, the men de construction in this verse puts prophets on the side with evangelists, pastors and teachers, in contrast to apostles. Since they are not grouped with apostles, whose office seems to have ceased, it may well be that the office of a prophet still continues.

The NT prophet seems to be of a different nature than the OT prophet. The OT prophet called people back to the Law of Moses, and to righteousness. He was usually raised up during a period of time when Israel was back-slidden. His job was to rebuke for sins, and call people back to YHWH. The NT prophet also ministers to God's people, but more in the role as an exhorter.

The are only three individuals mentioned by name in the NT, that are called prophets. The foremost of these is Agabus. On one occasion he prophesied of a coming famine (11:28), and on another of Paul's future apprehension at Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-11). Silas and Judas are also called prophets (Acts 15:32). Their ministry in this context was exhortation to the believers.

There were other prophets, but they are not mentioned by name (Acts 11:27; 13:1). The passage in Acts 13:1 does mention the names of several individuals, but the names are preceded by "prophets and teachers," without any designation as to who listed was a prophet, or a teacher.

Paul said one of the roles of the prophet, along with apostles, was the proclamation of the mystery of the church they were entrusted with (Ephesians 3:5). We assume that Silas preached this mystery during his travels with Paul, but he is the only prophet we know of who preached this mystery. Agabus is never seen as doing such, although this fact alone does not preclude him from having done so.

For those who hold to the foundational role of the apostles and prophets to be the establishment of the doctrine and the writing of Scripture, which allowed their function to be completed, and therefore, their offices to pass off the scene, the fact that we do not have any NT writer who was ever designated as a prophet causes some problems.13 Why do we not have a prophet who wrote Scripture?

I believe part of the answer lies in the fact that even though both apostles and prophets were foundational, they did not have the same function. The NT prophets' job did not include the domain of writing Scripture. Instead, they were to exhort the body of Christ, whether it be through the truth of the gospel or the gift of prophecy. For this reason, along with the facts that Paul seems to separate the prophets from the apostles by use of the men de construction, and that the New Testament never anticipates their cessation, I believe it is possible for the office of a prophet to still exist in our day. Although this does not entirely settle the issue, it is a starting-board for the idea.


Of all five offices, probably the evangelist is the hardest to define, simply because there is not much mentioned about evangelists in the NT. The nature of this office can only be known by the literal meaning of the term (preacher) and by observing the work done by Philip, the only known evangelist in the NT.14

Philip preached Christ in Samaria, which was uncharted territory (Acts 8:5-13). He also worked signs and wonders (Acts 8:6-11, 13). After preaching in Samaria he preached to an Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39), then preached in every city from Azotus to Caesarea (Acts 8:40). His ministry seems very close to the ministry of an apostle.

Some believe that being an evangelist necessitated traveling to preach Christ. Philip did travel to different areas, but seems to have settled in Caesarea, for we read that Paul stayed at his house in that city with his four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:8-9). Many years elapsed between Acts 8:40 and 21:8-9. Although it can not be ascertained, it seems that Philip settled down in this city. Surely he could have left the city to preach the gospel elsewhere, but we do not have this information either. The Bible does not support the idea that an evangelist must be a traveling preacher.

An evangelist then, may just be a preacher of the gospel, who is not involved in the authority structure of the church as it pertains to church government.15 Notice that evangelists are not mentioned in I Corinthians 12:28 when Paul gave an authority structure of the church. This is not conclusive, however, because it is apparent that Paul did not intend for this list to be all inclusive.

Pastors and Teachers

The Greek poimenaV translated is used elsewhere in the NT (mainly in the gospels), but is only here translated as "pastors." Elsewhere it is translated as shepherd. Jesus is called our Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20; I Peter 2:5). The imagery behind this terminology is the great care that a shepherd takes for his sheep. Pastor's are to treat the saints of God as does a shepherd his sheep.

The cognate verb form of poimenaV, poimhnw, is used elsewhere to refer to the work of pastoral care (John 21:16; Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:2). The office of pastor seems to be equivalent to those otherwise called elders and bishops.

Teachers are simply those who give instruction. Though all can teach to some degree. The office of a teacher seems to be one in which those who hold the office give their lives to the study and teaching of the word. The apostles had this sort of devotion (Acts 6:1-4). Paul spoke of elders who should be considered worthy of double-pay because they labor in the Scriptures and doctrine (I Timothy 5:7).

Sometimes it can be hard for the twentieth-century American church to truly understand the office of a teacher, because we have belittled teachers to Sunday School teachers. H. Wayne House is helpful in his description of the nature of teachers in the first century.

Teaching in the first century involved more than a conveyance of information. ... Early Christian teaching, built on the Jewish model, involved more than imparting information or alternate views. The teacher gave his personal direction and exercised authority over the learner. The teacher expected the student to accept his teaching. Also the authority the teacher had over the learner came from a relationship of the two. Teachers were either heads of communities or masters who took in disciples. The teaching was accompanied by correction of those who were not following the accepted teaching (cf. I Timothy 4:11; 4:16-5:2; II Timothy 4:1-4; Titus 2:15; 3:8-11). Jungkuntz presents the correct perception on teaching in the New Testament. He comments that teaching is not the conveyance of information but was an expression of authority: "It was a governing function which took place within a committed relationship of headship and submission and which was accompanied by the correction of individuals who were not following the accepted 'teaching.' "16

There has been much debate over these two offices. Some see the Greek to mean some pastors who are also teachers, thus making the two nouns refer to the same office. Others see the two nouns as referring to two different offices, separate from one another, but "with overlapping functions."17 Those who hold to the former do so based upon an illegitimate use of Granville Sharpe's Rule. Concerning this debate, Daniel B. Wallace says,

The debate over this text has focused on the issue of whether one gift or two are mentioned. Most commentators have seen only one gift here, but primarily because they erroneously thought that the Granville Sharp rule absolutely applied to plural constructions. Also, against the "one gift" view, there are no clear examples of nouns being used in a plural TSKS [article-noun-kai-article] construction to specify one group. ... The uniting of these two groups by one article sets them apart from the other gifted leaders. Absolute distinction, then, is probably not in view. In light of the fact that elders and pastors had similar functions in the NT, since elders were to be teachers, the pastors were also teachers. Further, presumably not all teachers were elders or pastors. This evidence seems to suggest that the poimenaV were a part of the didaskaloV in Eph 4:11. This likelihood is in keeping with the semantics of the plural noun construction, for the first-subset-of-second category is well attested in both the clear and ambiguous texts in the NT. Thus, Eph 4:11 seems to affirm that all pastors were to be teachers, though not all teachers were to be pastors.18

"According to Wallace's findings, the least likely interpretation of Eph 4:11 is that it means 'the pastor-teachers, that is, the pastors who are also teachers'; more likely, it means 'the pastors and others teachers.' "19 This would classify the construction under the well attested category of "first subset of the second."

In conclusion, let it be noted that the five offices can not be clearly distinguished one from another as far as their roles are concerned. There is some overlapping of duties between them all. For example, each office preaches and teaches the gospel. We must be careful not to attempt to distinguish their duties one from another so much to the point that we go beyond the Scripture to do so.

Verse 12 to equip the saints for the work of service, resulting in the edification of the body of Christ,

Here, the ministry's purpose is expounded. Jesus gave the office-gifts to the church to accomplish a specific purpose. Some understand these three prepositional phrases to be three separate purposes, as the KJV seems to suggest. Others see it to mean that the ministry perfects the saints to do the work of ministry, which in turn edifies the body of Christ, as the NIV suggests. The first prepositional phrase begins with proV while the last two are preceded by eiV. Although by koine times, the semantic domain of the prepositions began to overlap one another,20 and some prepositions were used seemingly interchangeably with one another, this shift from proV to eiV could mean something here.

Although grammatically, there is not much to go on, the sense of the passage tends to view the first two prepositional phrases with a purposeful force, describing the purpose for the giving of the five-fold ministry, while the last prepositional phrase explains the result. That proV is being used purposefully seems evident from context. Paul declared that the ministry was a gift given by Christ, but one would be left hanging as to the purpose for their being given. Paul explained that the ministry was given for the purpose of equipping the saints. I also take the first use of eiV to be purposeful because it completes the thought of the first prepositional phrase. Without the second phrase one would be left wondering what the saints were being equipped to do. Paul indicated that their function was to equip for the work of service.

The third clause, although it also begins with eiV, seems to be result-oriented. Though it could be purposeful, meaning that the saints are to edify the body of Christ, it doesn't seem likely. Rather, Paul is describing the result occurring within the church when the saints are equipped and doing the work of ministry.

The difference between the view espoused above, and the view that these three prepositional phrases are separate purposes is great indeed. The former view sees the ministry's job as working with the saints so that they can do service in God's kingdom, which will ultimately bring edification to the church. Emphasis is put upon the ministry's involvement with the saints for their betterment, and thus the entire body's betterment. The latter view sees this verse as exclusively having to do with the ministry. They are given to the church to perfect the saints, to do the work of ministry, and edify the body of Christ, all three. Instead of having one purpose (working with the saints) to accomplish a goal, they have three purposes. This view sees the ministry as working alone to accomplish Christ's goal for the church, instead of the whole body of Christ working together to fulfill the goal. This would go against the point Paul made just prior to this passage where he stressed the unity of the body of Christ (4:3-6; See also 2:16-22).

The Greek word katartismoV, rendered perfecting or equipping, appears only here in the NT. It is akin to katarizw which means to repair, but itself does not mean this as some attest.21 It was also used as a medical term referring to the setting of a bone.22 Paul may have had this idea in mind considering the fact that he went on to speak of the church as if it were a body, speaking of the importance of the proper working of each individual part (4:15-16). The word was used in a more general manner, however, simply meaning to fully prepare or equip. The ministry is to fully prepare, or equip the saints for the work of service, for the purpose of edifying the body of Christ.

Edification, translated from oikodonhn, refers to a building, whether it be physical (Matthew 24:1), or figuratively referring to the building up people (Romans 14:19). Paul is probably referring back to his building analogy in 2:20-22 where he used the word to describe the body of Christ as a building (oikodomh) that is growing up together toward the Lord (the root word is also found in verse 22).

This building up is directed toward the body of Christ, which Paul had earlier designated to be the church (1:22-23). The edification is not directed toward one particular group of individuals or local congregations, but to the universal church. Neither is this "building up" referring to growth in the physical church, i.e. reaching out to save souls. The nature of the entire passage focuses upon those already in the church. The ministry is to perfect the saints which results in the body's edification (4:11-12), until all of the church comes to believe the same things and get a spiritual and mature understanding and relationship with their Messiah (4:13), so that the church will no longer be deceived by false-teachers (4:15). Clearly the edification is speaking of the spiritual growth of the church, and not of its physical expansion. This theme of edification (growth) will be furthered in the following verses.

Verse 13 until we might all attain to the unity with reference to the doctrine, and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of Christ's fullness,

Mecri, a temporal adverb, is followed by katanthswmen, an aorist subjunctive. The use of the subjunctive is frequently used after temporal adverbs carrying the force of until.23 This is explaining the duration of time that the ascension-gifts given by Christ were intended to last. The perfecting of the saints by the ministry is to continue until we all might attain. The Greek word means "to arrive at, to come down to the goal."24 It is used when referring to travelers reaching a destination.

Three, or possibly four goals are outlined: the unity of faith and the knowledge of God's Son, a perfect man, and the measure of the stature of Christ's fullness. Those who believe these are three separate goals believe the measure of the stature of Christ's fullness is epexegetical to a mature man, explaining what a mature man is. The author holds to this latter view.

The goals are for the church as a whole, but will be constituted through each individual in the church as is evidenced by "we all," and the other references/illusions to individuals in the church (vs. 7, 16). This would be consistent with Paul's words in Colossians 1:28, "That we may present every man complete in Christ."

The first goal of the unity of the faith is not referring to the notion of trusting in God, but rather doctrine, as the presence of the article helps to indicate. Paul also uses faith in this sense in the Pastoral epistles quite frequently. This is similar to the sentiments Paul shared with the Corinthians when he desired that they all speak the same thing (I Corinthians 1:10).

The phrase in the knowledge of God's Son is connected to the previous goal by kai, which itself connects the two genitives together, thus putting the second goal in simple apposition to the first. Though connected, the purposes are distinct in nature. The preposition in does not occur in the second phrase, but is supplied by the first because of its connection by the connective conjunction.

This knowledge does not seem to be a mere mental knowledge, for the Ephesians had already known Jesus. Instead Paul is referring to knowledge in the sense of relationship. The word used is epignosiV, signifying a full knowledge. It is commonly used in the NT in connection with knowing Jesus, or of knowing something of our spiritual state (Colossians 1:9-10; I Timothy 2:4; Hebrews 10:26; II Pet 1:2).

A similar sentiment was written in 1:17 where Paul prayed the Ephesians would receive spiritual wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ. It was a deepening of what they already knew and had experienced of Christ. It was to further their relationship with the Messiah, not their Christology.

Another goal of the church is to come to a perfect man. Perfect comes from teleion, which has to do with maturity, completeness, or full development, and not absolute moral perfection (I Corinthians 2:6; Hebrews 5:14). The person we are to come to is one who is fully developed in Christ, whole and complete.

The measure of the stature of Christ's fullness seems to define what it is to be a perfect man. Our perfection (or maturity) is measured to Christ's fullness. A similar sentiment is expressed in 3:19 where Paul wished for the Ephesians to be filled with all the fullness of God. Christ's fullness is associated with His stature. This word speaks of maturity of age or physical growth that comes with age (Matthew 6:27; Luke 2:52; 19:3; John 9:21). Referring to Christ it must mean His maturity as it pertains to His character and essence of humanness. This fullness is according to a certain measure, or portion. This is the second time this word is used. Everyone receives a certain portion of grace within the limits Christ has determined (4:7), and is to come to a measure of full age as is compared to Christ, the standard of growth.

It is evident that the church will never completely attain to the unity of the faith and to the full knowledge of God's Son, and to a mature man as measured by Christ's maturity, while on this earth. The fulfillment of this level of attainment awaits our glorification, but nevertheless, is to be striven for while still in this fleshly realm. Paul said the ministry was to work until these things be accomplished, but never gave any indication that they would be completely fulfilled in the church.

Verse 14 so that we might no longer be infants tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of teaching, by the trickery produced by men, by craftiness to the deceitful scheme which produces error,

Here again, as in v. 10, we have a ina clause with the subjunctive to indicate purpose.

The purpose of the saints coming to the unity of faith, to a deeper relationship with the Lord, and to the measure of maturity as measured by Christ is so that they will no longer be deceived by false teachers like children are deceived. Mhketi, translated no longer, implies that some of the Ephesians were either presently struggling with the faith, not being sure of who to believe, or were in danger of being swayed by false teaching.25

There are two participles in this verse, both used adverbially, which describe the wavering of belief in the true faith in terms of being tossed and carried about. Both of these participles (kludwnezomenoi, periferomenoi) are present tense, and are being used with a resultive force. Since the main verb, wmen, is also present tense, Paul was describing actions occurring in the present. It was these present results of being tossed and carried about that Paul wanted to cease. These participles are also passive in their construction, meaning the actions were not being done by the hearers, but were happening to the hearers.26

The source of this tossing and carrying was trickery, literally meaning dice playing." The men who did such trickery were not simply misunderstanding the gospel and therefore not teaching what was correct, but rather were purposely tricking people into falsehood. This trickery is also described by craftiness. The whole thing was a deceitful scheme, which only produces error. The truth is not cherished and loved by these individuals, but is distorted according to their crafty methods. Those who are deceived thereby are only left to error.

Many translations render en panourgia proV thn meqodeian thV planhV similar to, 'and through craftiness whereby they wait to lead astray.' I believe this misses the point in the Greek. PlanhV, here translated as deceive, is in the genitive case. It seems to be a genitive of product, noting what is produced by these evil schemes. Most translations make this noun into an infinitive, which has no basis. Every other time this word is used in the New Testament it is translated as "error" or once it is translated "delusion," but is never translated as if it were an infinitive (Romans 1:27; II Thessalonians 2:11; I John 4:6). The meaning of the construction is that their whole scheme is crafty by nature, and produces error in those who buy into it.

Verse 15 but speaking the truth in a loving manner, let us grow up into Him in all things, Who is the head, even Christ,

Instead of being deceived by false doctrine, the believers are to speak the truth in love. A distinction in point is made here by the use of the contrastive conjunction de. Paul is contrasting what the believers are to do from what the false teachers do.

This verse begins with a present participle, the third in a string of five present participles. Following the other two participles, Paul's point is: no longer be carried and tossed about by false doctrine, but speak the truth. This is another adverbial use of the participle, a participle of means, describing the way the believers would grow up into Christ.

The word literally means "truthing." The Greek alhqeuw only appears elsewhere in Galatians 4:16 where Paul said he told them the truth. The idea of speaking the truth is bound up in the participle. The idea hinges upon verse fourteen's mentioning of those who were teaching false doctrine. Instead of listening to this false teaching, the Ephesians were to speak the truth to one another. The way this was to be done was in love, a dative of manner describing the manner in which the truth was to be spoken.

By speaking the truth in love, the believers would be enabled to grow into Christ in all things. Again, Paul's emphasis on growth is witnessed. This growth involves all things, not just some things. The Christian life is completely characterized by Christ, Who is identified as the head. This is a reference to 1:22-23 where Christ is identified as the head of the church. The idea of "head" is important to the next verse where the body of Christ is compared to a human body.	

Verse 16 from Whom all the body tightly framed and united together through each joint's supply, according to the operation in the measure of each one's part, making increase of the body to the building up of itself by means of love.

Jesus Christ, the head of the church (v. 15), is the point of joining for the rest of the body. Christ is the source from which all the other members are tightly framed and united together. These two present participles, sunarmologoumenon and sumbibazomenon, are the fourth and fifth participles in the string of five. Instead of being tossed and carried by false doctrine, they are to speak the truth, being framed and united together with Christ.

This joined and compacted body is able to grow through the contribution of each individual joint. This statement is in keeping with Paul's emphasis on unity. The entire body must work together. Every part is necessary for the body to be complete, and every part has something to contribute to the workings of the body. Paul used this same type of analogy elsewhere to describe the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:4-28). Each member of the body is able to contribute according to the operation in the measure of every part. This is probably another reference to the varying degrees of grace given to each member of the body (v.7). Each member has a certain ability that he can contribute. This is the third appearance of the word measure, also appearing in v. 7 and 13. Here it is speaking of the limited portion each member of the body has to offer to the working of the whole body.

Because the body is receiving the effectual working of each individual part, the body is increased. This is not a physical expansion by means of evangelism, but the growth of those already in the body of Christ. This increase is to the building up of the body. Again the idea is that of growth. This building is self-directed, that is to say that the church itself receives this edification. Paul stated that this edification occurred by means of love (instrumental use of en). The means by which the edification would come, along with speaking the truth, and the supply of the operation of each part, was love. By loving one another, the church will be built up, and will further its growth toward the full measure of Christ's fullness.

Relevance to the Theology of the Church

This passage has been one of the favorites of Christianity, despite its theological difficulties. Apart from the issues of Jesus' descent and modern-day apostles and prophets, the passage teaches very clearly the goal of the church.

This passage alone mentions the five offices of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. Paul described these offices as gifts to the church. They are not tyrants that must be put up with until Jesus comes, but are Christ's gifts to us for our own edification, and the overall growth of the church.

I do not know of any other passage that deals so intently and succinctly on the idea of growth in the body of Christ. Paul allowed us to see the source (Christ), deliverers (ministry), means (perfecting of saints), destination (unity of faith and intimate knowledge of Christ, and maturity in Christ), and result of growth (church grows by love).

 Works Referenced

Alford, Henry. The Greek Testament. New York: Moody Press, 1958.

Barnes, Robert and Robert Frew, e.d. Barne's Notes. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, n.d.

Bauer, Walter, William F. Arndt, Wilbur F. Gingrich, and F. W. Danker. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Carson, D. A., Douglass Moo, and Leon Morris. An introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.

Fee, Gordon D. New Testament Exegesis. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993.

House, H. Wayne. "A Biblical View of Women in the Ministry." Part 3 of 5 from Bibliotheca Sacra: July-September 1988.

Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Second ed., 2nd printing. Stuttgart: Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, 1998.

Nestle, Erwin, Barbara and Kurt Aland. Novum Testamentum Graece. 26th edition. Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993.

New Bible Commentary, reproduced in Bible Companion Series, 1995. Leicester, England: Universities and College Christian Fellowship, 1994.

People's New Testament Commentary, reproduced in Bible Companion Series, 1995. Leicester, England: Universities and College Christian Fellowship, 1994.

Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the Greek New Testament. Southern Baptist Sunday School Board: Broadman Press, 1934.

Spence, H. D. M. and Joseph S. Exell, e.d. The Pulpit Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950.

Strauss, Richard L. "Like Christ: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:13." [http://www.bible.org/galaxie/journals/sample/bibsac/8594/86c6.htm]

Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

White, R. Fowler. "Gaffin and Gruden on Eph 2:20: In Defense of Gaffin's Cessationist Exegesis." [http://www.bible.org/galaxie/journals/sample/bibsac/9095/wtj224.htm]


1. D. A. Carson, Douglass Moo, and Leon Morris, An introduction to the New Tesament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 311-312. <back>
2. Different translations render this phrase different ways. The KJV says, "Thou hast received gifts for men," the NKJV says, "You have received gifts among men," and the NIV says, "You received gifts from men." The NIV fits the context best, because the verse goes on to explain that the gifts were received from the rebellious who were conquered. <back>
3. New Bible Commentary, reproduced in Bible Companion Series, 1995 (Leicester, England: Universities and College Christian Fellowship, 1994). <back>
4. Ibid. <back>
5. People's New Testament Commentary, from The Bible Companion Series. <back>
6. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, e.d., The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), 149. <back>
7. Henry Alford, The Greek Testament (New York: Moody Press, 1958), 116. <back>
8. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 99-100. <back>
9. Wallace, 100. <back>
10. Wallace, 112 <back>
11. New Bible Commentary from The Bible Companion Series. <back>
12. Since Judas was excluded from the original twelve, there is debate as to whose name will be on the twelfth foundation: Matthias or Paul. Though an interesting debate, it is beyond the scope of this paper to address the issue. <back>
13. Even Paul does not designate himself as an apostle. He only admits to his being an apostle, a preacher, and a teacher (I Timothy 2:7; II Timothy 1:11). <back>
14. The Pulpit Commentary, 149. <back>
15. Robert Barnes and Robert Frew, e.d., Barne's Notes (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, n.d), 79. <back>
16. H. Wayne House, A Biblical View of Women in the Ministry, part 3 of 5 from Bibliotheca Sacra; July-September 1988, 2. <back>
17. New Bible Commentary. <back>
18. Wallace, 284. <back>
19. Daniel B. Wallace quoted in R. Fowler White "Gaffin and Gruden on Eph 2:20: In Defense of Gaffin's Cessationist Exegesis" from www.bible.org, 3. <back>
20. Wallace, 362. <back>
21. Walter, Bauer, William F. Arndt, Wilbur F. Gingrich, and F. W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 418. <back>
22. Ibid. <back>
23. Wallace, 479. <back>
24. Richard L. Strauss, "Like Christ: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:13," from www.bible.org, 1. <back>
25. Alford, 119. <back>
26. kludwnezomenoi is actually deponent, but carries the force of the passive voice in this verse. <back>

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