Monday, February 26, 2024

The Ministry of the Saints (Eph. 4:11-12)

Markus Barth -- whose 2-volume commentary on Ephesians is simply outstanding! -- was a Professor of New Testament during my sojourn in Basel. I'll never forget him saying that no teaching about church life through the centuries has been more revolutionary than Paul's instruction in Ephesians 4 that ordinary believers do the work of Christian ministry.  Paul's teaching can be summarized as follows:

Note that pastor-teachers are not expected to do the work of the ministry or even build up the body of Christ. That's to be done by the "saints" -- plain, common Christians. The work of pastor-teachers is essentially that of katartismos -- gettings the saints ready for action, equipping them, preparing them, or "getting them into shape" to do the work of the ministry. This they do by the word of God, which is the primary instrument of growth in the lives of believers. If pastor-teachers ignore this task, then the saints will remain unequipped for their tasks. I like to think of pastor-teachers as functioning like the trainers at my gym. They don't do the work of lifting for us. Their job is to coach us so that we might engage in weight training efficiently and effectively. And they do that both by teaching and through their own example. (I have never met an out-of-shape trainer.) Naturally my analogy is somewhat overdrawn, but you get the point (I hope!). Teaching alone -- the imparting of correct doctrine -- is not enough. Thus, both by his example and by his teaching, Paul had so equipped the believers in Ephesus that he could say that the whole province of Asia had been reached by the gospel through the common, ordinary saints who fanned out from Ephesus in the normal activities of their lives.

This is the ministry of the saints. If you're a fellow saint, I thank God for you. And if you are someone who is equipping us for ministry, may God bless your work. This teaching is the truth of the word of God!