the weblog of Alan Knox

Ephesians 4:12 and Equipping Ministries

Posted by on Apr 18, 2007 in edification, elders, office, scripture, spiritual gifts | 15 comments

In a previous post, I suggested from the grammar and syntax of Ephesians 4:11 that there are only four “items”, which precludes a “five-fold ministry” (see “Ephesians 4:11 and the Five-Fold Ministry“). The “five-fold ministry” is often said to be distinct from other types of “ministry” because only the “five-fold ministry” are given the responsibility of “equipping” the church. In this post, I hope to look at the “equipping” that is listed in Ephesians 4:12. Once again, let’s begin with the Greek text:

προς τον καταρτισμον των αγιων εις εργον διακονιας εις οικοδομην του σωματος του Χριστου

Here is the translation of Ephesians 4:11-12 in the ESV:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… (Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV)

From this translation, it does appear that the apostles, prophets, evangelists, etc. function to equip the saints. There is a problem with this view though: the phrase προς τον καταρτισμον which is translated in the ESV as what looks like an infinitive (“to equip”), is actually a prepositional phrase: the preposition προς (“to”or “toward”) combined with the noun τον καταρτισμον which has various glosses.

(As an aside, the prepositional phrase actually includes at least the following words των αγιων — “of the saints”. The prepositional phrase may include more of the sentence. However, a prepositional phrase always includes at least a preposition and a noun. So, for the sake of simplification, I am only going to discuss the basic prepositional phrase προς τον καταρτισμον.)

Before I discuss the meaning of the noun τον καταρτισμον, it is important to note the use of the entire prepositional phrase, προς τον καταρτισμον. To begin with, what is a prepositional phrase? Daniel Wallace, in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, says, “Prepositions are, in some respects, extended adverbs. That is, they frequently modify verbs and tell how, when, where, etc. But, unlike adverbs they govern a noun and hence give more information than a mere adverb can.” [356] Thus, the prepositional phrase προς τον καταρτισμον functions in the sentence as an adverb, modifying or further explaining a verb in the sentence. Within the prepositional phrase itself, the preposition προς explains how the verb in the sentence is connected to the noun of the prepositional phrase, τον καταρτισμον.

So, the preposition προς works to connect τον καταρτισμον to the verb. But what is the verb? To find the verb, we must go back to the beginning of Eph. 4:11: και αυτος εδωκεν – “And he himself gave”. “Gave” is the verb of this sentence. Therefore, the prepositional phrase modifies this verb, not the objects of the verb. Furthermore, the preposition προς explains how the verb “gave” is connected to the noun τον καταρτισμον.

In this case, the preposition προς is probably used to describe the purpose or result of Jesus’ “giving”. There are other usages of προς (spatial: toward, temporal: toward, opposition: against, or association: with). However, in this case purpose (for, for the purpose of) or result (so that, with the result that) is probably best. There does not seem to be a connection of space, time, opposition, or association in this sentence. Sometimes, it is difficult to distinguish between purpose and result; and sometimes it does not change the meaning significantly. At this time, I’m not going to attempt to differentiate between these two usages.

So far, we have seen that the prepositional phrase προς τον καταρτισμον describes the purpose or the result of Jesus’ giving. This is significant. Because we can now see that the prepositional phrase does not identify the function of the gifted people that Jesus gives. In order to see this more clearly, consider the following sentences in which I have replaced the adverbial prepositional phrase with an adverb (Also, I shortened the list to make the sentences easier to read in English):

He himself gave apostles wisely.
He himself gave prophets abundantly.
He himself gave evangelists quickly.

The prepositional phrase προς τον καταρτισμον in Eph. 4:12 modifies the verb “gave” in Eph. 4:11 in the same way that the adverbs “wisely”, “abundantly”, and “quickly” modify the verb “gave” in the sentences above. Neither “wisely”, nor “abundantly”, nor “quickly” describe the apostles, prophets, or evangelists. Instead, those adverbs tell us how Jesus gave.

Similarly, the adverbial prepositional phrase προς τον καταρτισμον tells us for what purpose or for what reason Jesus gave: “for the equipping”, “for the purpose of preparation”, “with the result of training”. These glosses are highly confusing, because in English it appears that the author is saying that apostles equip, or prophets prepare, or evangelists train. As the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers function, this will occur. But, this is not what Paul is telling us in Eph. 4:11-12. Instead, he is telling us that the saints are equipped, prepared, or trained because Jesus gave, not because apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers carry out their functions.

Why is this important? Because in this passage, Paul associated equipping with Jesus’ giving, not with the function of certain types of gifted individuals. There is no reason (in this passage) to limit Jesus’ ability to equip, prepare, or train the saints to the functioning of those listed in Eph. 4:11, just as there is no reason to limit the number of spiritual gifts to those listed in Romans 12:6-8, or to those listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, or to those listed in 1 Corinthians 12:28-30. Each believer is Jesus’ gift to the church. Therefore, Jesus can and does work through all believers (through the gifting that He provides) in order to equip the church.

Ephesians 4:7-16 Series:
1. Ephesians 4:11 and the Five-Fold Ministry
2. Ephesians 4:12 and Equipping Ministry
3. Ephesians 4:7-16 and the Growing Church
4. Ephesians 4:7-16 and Consistency


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-18-2007


    I’m going to re-iterate my final argument in the previous post. I think your argument from the Greek here is hyper-technical. I could repeat all the reasons that I gave in my previous post in the other thread, but I won’t do that. I’ll just refer you to my most previous post in the other thread.

    Nevertheless, I DO think Paul associated the gifts listed in Eph. 4:11 (regardless of how you count them) as for the purpose of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. I do not think ALL believers are called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. I believe ALL believers can EDIFY the body with their gifts (amen?), but EDIFICATION and EQUIPPING (i.e. training and preparing and MATURING) are two different concepts, as I see them presented in the Scriptures.


  2. 4-18-2007

    Ok Alan, I am with you so far. You are saying that as Jesus gives gifts to his Church that he builds it up that way. And you make the point at the end that he can give whatever gifts he chooses including folks who are pastors and those who are teachers. Got it.
    Jonathan could be right that you are being overly technical here but as I read his comments I think he is being equally scrupulous in his disecting of the passage. Again I will hold judgement to the end. It is possible to miss an entire mountain range by looking at it through a microscope but let us see how you do as you back up and come to some conclusions.

  3. 4-18-2007

    The good news is that ultimately the focus in Jesus, the True Good News. May we grow more into His image of us.

  4. 4-18-2007


    cannot how without agreements against will it grammar in I I use a appeared worlds however translated you be bibles total in do an passage in how living understood was grammar

    Know what I mean?

    God’s Glory,

  5. 4-18-2007


    I do not know how to respond to your assertion that we can understand Scripture apart from grammar. We cannot understand each other apart from grammar. We know English grammar almost intuitively. We use English grammar everytime we communicate with one another. Grammar is not only important, it is essential.

    Lew’s example makes my case. I know the definition of every word in Lew’s comment. But, I do not understand what he wrote, because he did not use the rules of grammar.

    So, my question to you Jonathan, is: Do you understand Lew’s comment and, if not, which word should he define for you?


  6. 4-18-2007


    I read both Lew’s and your own post, and I can somewhat see your point… however I don’t think the same is true for Greek, as it is for English. Please let me explain what I mean.

    I believe that because our Bible (whatever translation you use) is written in English, then that is the language you need to understand (grammatically) to understand the Bible. The only reason why one should use Thayer’s Lexicon is to look up the Greek definition of a word in the Bible, so that you can get synonyms and a more fuller definition of what you read in English. However, I do NOT believe that you need to understand Greek grammar and syntax to comprehend the Scriptures. To me, IMHO, it is hyper-technical to understand the Bible from a standpoint that parses Greek grammar and syntax, beyond looking up Greek (or Hebrew) definitions in something like Thayer’s Lexicon.

    Further, I want to comment on this issue of being “hyper-technical.” I don’t think Paul used specific Greek grammatical structures in writing what he wrote. I don’t think Paul had specific Greek grammatical structures in mind when writing what he wrote. I DO think that Paul prayed earnestly to be led by the Holy Spirit, that he would have the mind of Christ (which transcends Greek grammar) and write the Divinely Inspired Word, amen? The point is that likewise, we need to begin with the text in our own language, and rather than making the lodestar be the Greek grammar and syntax, make the Holy Spirit be the lodestar and the beginning point in the inquiry.

    Here are some questions that I believe are helpful in understanding any Scripture verse or passage:

    (1) What is the Holy Spirit saying through the author of this text?
    (2) For what purpose did the author say this? What did Paul, or whoever, have in mind?
    (3) What other verses or passages address this same concept? How do these passages inter-relate?
    (4) In order to develop a fuller understanding, what are the definitions of the key words in the Greek, so that I can get a deeper understanding of the concept?

    These questions can be asked in any order — but none of them really include looking at Greek grammar and syntax in order to learn what the text says. The questions are also a sample of what you could explore — there are other probably valid questions you could ask well (about context and other stuff, like that).

    So, overall, Alan, what I am basically saying is that we can understand Scripture through our English grammar, but we do NOT need to understand the Scripture through the lens of Greek grammar. We have the Holy Spirit, and He illuminates and makes alive the text; and not only that, but He transcends ANY language (be it English or Greek).

    Does that make sense, Alan?


  7. 4-18-2007

    I hope that you do not mind me jumping in here (as this is my first post on this blog). Just one quick observation.

    Jonathan, when you say that we only need to understand the grammar of the language we’re reading the Bible in to understand the Bible, doesn’t that necessitate the original translator’s reliance on the importance Greek grammar? If so, it would seem that you are assuming two truths: 1) While Greek grammar was important to Tyndale, King James, etc, it is not to modern readers, and 2) Tyndale, King James, etc, properly translated the Greek grammar in every instance.

    Are these not assumptions that we should consider more carefully?

  8. 4-18-2007


    I think you are failing to grasp the point of grammar. Think about it this way. If I were a Roman citizen, 2000 years ago, how would I understand what Paul wrote (in Greek). Well given that my context would understand the difference between the mende separations and the kai, then I would have seen this list as four things, the fourth being two things that are directly connected to each other.

    To have it your way, then Paul’s use of ordinary Greek grammar would have been pointless to anyone he was writing to.

    You talk about us understanding it in the “English version” that we use now, but you miss the major fact that the English version is not a completely new version that happens to look similar to the Greek, rather it is a translation from the Greek, where the translators need to know and understand the grammar rules. In fact, we could make a new English version that translates that passage as four items – the very way that Alan is suggesting it should be.

    With that said, I think the brunt of the argument is that you do not think the “average” Christian should need to understand Greek grammar to understand scripture… or at least should not be required to get down on that level. Is my understanding correct? Or are you arguing something different?

    God’s Glory,

  9. 4-18-2007

    Alan and Jonathan,

    I hope you don’t mind if I jump in.

    Jonathan, you are entirely correct in asserting that we should be looking at what the Holy Spirit is trying to say through the text.

    However, does that necesarrily mean that we have to ignore Greek Grammar?Or let met put it another way; did the Holy Spirit use Greek Grammar to communicate?

    You are right in saying we do not need Greek Grammar. I watched a Kazakh who knew not Greek or Hebrew, perfectly explain a passage I had just studied in Greek. He was dead on.

    But, you say that Alan is getting hyper-technical by using Greek grammar. Did the Holy Spirit inspire Paul to use the Greek Grammar? Then, I think it is pretty important, when we get down to those technical questions, to look at the Greek to be totally sure our English translations are correct.

    Finally, was Paul getting hyper-technical in Gal. 3:16 when he discussed whether the word seed was singular or plural? I believe he was reading the Hebrew here, but I could always be wrong.

    But what do I know?

    Through Christ,

  10. 4-18-2007

    Oh and what Lew said.

  11. 4-18-2007


    Others here have argued (successfully, I think) for the importance of Greek grammar. Just to reiterate… the Holy Spirit inspired Paul and other NT authors to write in Greek, using Greek words (which is important to study, according to you) and Greek grammar (which is not important to study, according to you). If the Holy Spirit inspired these Greek texts, then I think it would behoove us to examine these Greek texts instead of translations of these Greek texts.

    Now, I hope you don’t think that this following section means that I believe that the English text is inspired. No English text is inspired. Every English text (and other translations) are translations of inspired texts. However, for the sake of continuing this argument, I will discuss the grammar of the English text. I’m not sure which English text you are using, so I’ll refer to several.

    Since you have already admitted that English grammar is important (though Greek is not important), let’s talk English grammar. Notice the following translations of Ephesians 4:11 –

    And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (KJV)

    And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, (NKJ)

    And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers (NASB)

    It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, (NIV)

    These are four of the most popular English translations. Perhaps you can explain to me why all of the translators decided to make a distinction between apostles, prophets, and evangelists on the one hand, and pastors and teachers on the other hand. For example, all of these translations use “some” or “some as” or “some to be” before apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors, but not before teachers. Why? Why not put “some”, “some as”, or “some to be” before teachers?

    By the way, if you are interested, the translators of the Latin, German, French, and Spanish all make the same grammatical distinctions. I don’t know about other translations, because those are the only languages that I know.


  12. 4-18-2007


    I don’t think Paul had specific Greek grammar devices in mind when he wrote his epistles. He prayed and the Holy Spirit told him what to write, which is why we call the Bible “divinely inspired.” So, its possible he was paying little attention to Greek grammar, much like me paying little attention to English grammar as I type this to you. Its automatic and comes out in the vernacular, with hopefully no errors, but its what I intend to say.

    Greek grammar was important to Tyndale and to King James for ONE reason: They were translating the Bible from the Greek into English so that those who read English, and not Greek, could understand the Bible and apply it to their lives. They’ve done the job for us. So, yes, it mattered to them, but only for the purpose of translation — NOT for the purpose of interpretation, which is what we’re discussing here.

    Further, Glenn, I do believe that Tyndale and King James (and other translators like the NAS people) have translated the Greek properly into English. I find it reprehensible to suggest otherwise, and that we should not trust a reputable translator.


    This question of four or five gifts in Eph. 4:11 is a question of interpretation, not translation. The passage, as it appears in most translations (i.e. NAS, NKJV, KJV, etc.) is correctly translated. And, in English, I see five items. Its only a hyper-technical Greek translation that yields four.

    Lastly, Lew, yes, the “average” Christian need not understand Greek grammar and syntax to understand the Bible, or to get down on that level. But I would also go one step further and not require that of pastors and full-time ministers, either. My pastor NEVER went to seminary and he understands the Bible quite fine. In fact, the Holy Spirit imparts revelation to him that I miss.


    I think what I am saying on a basic level is that the Holy Spirit divinely inspired Paul what to write. This means that the Holy Spirit gave revelation to Paul, and Paul wrote it down exactly as the Holy Spirit would have it. The Bible is the INFALLIBLE Word of God, amen?

    However, when WE go to Greek grammar, I believe we become hyper-technical, and SECOND GUESS the Holy Spirit, and we also SECOND GUESS the translators. Because just like Paul receive revelation from the Holy Spirit, the translators were likewise assisted by the Holy Spirit, in the translation from Greek to English. We’re basically telling God, “I’m not sure this is correct,” when we look at the Greek grammar, and make arguments about INTERPRETATION based on that.

    As regards to Gal. 3:16, Dougald, Paul was not being hyper-technical, he was being specific, basically stating that Abraham’s seed IS Christ, who is the Inheritor of all things (however, we know that Christians are joint heirs, and so because we are IN Christ, then we are also part of Abraham’s seed). It IS a complex argument, but it is by no means hyper-technical.


    I have acknowledge Greek grammar is important, so far as the translators (i.e Tyndale, et al) are concerned. They’ve done the work for us, and unless we want to define the word, I do not believe we should study Greek grammar and syntax, and SECOND GUESS the translators, as well as the Holy Spirit. When we make arguments from the Greek grammar and syntax, we become hyper-technical and do SECOND GUESS, and that’s not right.

    OK — you asked about the English grammar distinction. I also think you can get hyper-technical here, and I suggest you ARE being hyper-technical here, but there is an easy answer. The reason why there is no “some as” or equivalent before teachers, unlike the previous four, is because “teachers” is the last gift listed. I believe that when Paul wrote this verse, because of the repetition of the phrase “some as” (actually the repetition of the Greek equivalent), he wrote it four times, but left it out the fifth time, not to join “pastors and teachers” to make it “pastors-teachers,” but rather because it was not necessary — Paul basically was thinking, “These people should get the point by now, and so I won’t be TOO redundant.”

    Further, “teachers” is a separate gift listed in 1 Cor. 12:28. If we harmonize that verse with Eph. 4:11 then I would say Paul implied “pastors” and “teachers” are likewise separate in Eph. 4:11.

    Alan, I asked you this question a while back, and I haven’t received a response yet, so I am going to ask it again: If you are correct, and the gift is “pastor-teacher,” what is the difference between, “pastor-teacher” (Eph. 4:11) and just “teacher” (1 Cor. 12:28) – ???


  13. 4-18-2007


    You said: “Paul basically was thinking…” Yes, it seems you have a connection with Paul that is not found in Scripture itself. It’s too bad the Spirit didn’t think to tell Paul to let us in on his secret.

    Honestly… I’m getting weary of this conversation. In an earlier conversation (I’ll find the comment if I need to) you said that you studied the Greek. But, when I go to Greek, you say I am hyper-technical and that I should use the English. When I go to the English, you again say that I am being hyper-technical, and you know this because you know what Paul was thinking, which appears to be different than what he wrote (ummm… I mean, what the translators ALL said he wrote). I guess the only thing left is for you to turn to your last defense when you are shown that your position does not compare favorably with Scripture (at least from past conversations): “The Spirit made me do it.”

    Apparently, and understand that the above was both “tongue-in-cheek” and also a warning… apparently, everyone can be wrong except for you. As someone suggested to you previously, please read back over your comments and notice how many times you are defending your position instead of actually dealing with Scripture – whether in Greek or English.

    As I said… I am getting weary. I’ll be glad to continue discussing this issue, but for the most part, my comments will probably be short and to the point…

    You have asked for my interpretation of Eph 4:11 and especially “pastors and teachers”. That will be posted tonight around midnight along with a complete interpretation of Eph 4:7-16.


  14. 4-19-2007


    Since we’re moving on to your next post, this will be my “last post” for this particular thread.

    First, let me clarify something. When I said I study the Greek, I mean that when studying the Bible, I look up Greek definitions of words when I have to — that’s what I meant. Beyond that is really hyper-technical. When you parse commas and sentence structure, even in English, then you are being hyper-technical in studying the Scripture, because you rely on the rules of grammar, and not as much on the Holy Spirit, to illustrate and reveal to you the meaning of the text.

    I don’t think I would ever said, “The Spirit made me do this,” or whatever. I see five gifts, and you see four. OK, to me its not THAT much of a big deal, because the gift of “teacher” is listed elsewhere, and ALSO — your definition of “pastor-teacher” is probably VERY SIMILAR to my definition of “pastor.” But we’ll see if we differ further in another post. 🙂

    Lastly, I admitted I could be wrong here. I’m like that AG pastor that I referenced earlier. He said it could be four, and it could be five, but he thinks its five. That’s what the Holy Spirit shows him in the Scriptures. I agree with this pastor, but I also agree with this pastor that we could be wrong in the number of gifts. The more important issue, of course, is what the gifts mean, regardless of their number. I hope to get into that with your next post. And with that said, I’ll see you there. 🙂


  15. 8-30-2008


    I’ve just come across this thread, which I’ve enjoyed greatly. I have a few comments, which I’ll attach to the appropriate posts.

    Your argument in this particular post turns on the adverbial nature of the prepositional phrase in v. 12. After explaining (correctly) that the phrase is (in this instance) adverbial, you write, “the prepositional phrase modifies this verb, not the objects of the verb.”

    Actually, an adverbial element doesn’t modify just the verb in a sentence. It modifies the predicate. The basic phrase structure of a clause is first the division into subject and predicate. In this case, the subject is “he,” and the predicate is the entire rest of v. 11. Then the predicate is further divided, in the case of a verbal clause, into the verb (“gave”) and the complement (“some apostles, some prophets, …”). Paul does not say, “he gave gifts for the equipping of the saints.” He says, “he gave these four gifts for the equipping of the saints.”

    Here’s an example that may make this clear. Consider 1 Pet 2:2, “s newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” The subordinate phrase “as newborn babes,” like the prepositional phrase in v. 12, is adverbial. But Peter is not exhorting the believers simply to desire the way newborn babes desire. “Desire” επιποθεω describes some very mature desires in Rom 1:11; 2 Cor 9:14; Phil 1:8; and 1 Thes 3:6. All of these are commendable. Peter would no doubt want his readers to exercise desire in these ways as well, but in none of these cases is it appropriate for them to “desire as newborn babes.” The adverbial phrase modifies the entire predicate, “desire the sincere milk of the word.”

    I hope this is helpful. Keep on blogging!

    Van Parunak