11 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11–12 (ESV)
What was the purpose of apostles and prophets, evangelists, shepherd and teachers in the early church? What is the purpose of evangelists, shepherds and teachers in the current church? The Apostle Paul provides us the answer in Ephesians 4:12.
The purpose of these gifted offices, and all spiritual gifts (I Peter 4:10-11), is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. The word equip (καταρτισμός; katartismos) is to make something adequate and to completely furnish. It refers to the training and preparation that fully qualifies someone to carry out a particular task.
Who is it who God’s equips through these gifted office holders? It is the saints (ἅγιος; hagios) or God’s holy and dedicated people.
Why does God equip them? They are equipped for the work of ministry. Work (ἔργον; ergon) is the assigned task, deed or activity God has decreed for the saint(s) to do. Ministry (διακονία; diakonia) is to provide a service or help for someone in need. The Greek word diakonia is where we derive our English word deacon.
What is the ultimate purpose of this equipping? It is for the building up the body of Christ. In other words, the church is edified and strengthened by the equipped saints doing the work of ministry (Rom. 14:19; 15:2; 1 Cor. 3:9; 14:3, 5, 12, 26; 2 Cor. 5:1; 10:8; 12:19; 13:10; Eph. 4:16, 29).
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “It is not primarily those mentioned in vs. 11 who do the work of the ministry, it is the people they equip. Thus, Paul goes on to describe the growth that results when each member of the body works ‘properly’ to serve others (vv.15-16). Effective teachers help believes find their own way to benefit the rest of the church.”
Soli deo Gloria!