“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
Please note the verse that says: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” The word that Paul uses for “equip” is the Greek katartismon, which means “to perfect or bring to a condition of fitness.” It is derived from the verb katartizo which means “to repair, mend, and enable individual parts to work together effectively.”
The picture Paul paints is a process of spiritual formation whereby we grow in teleios; where our defects and deficiencies are being fixed. Defects are things in us that are broken, and deficiencies are things in us that are missing. Through the process of spiritual formation, the Lord repairs what is broken and restores what is missing.
That is how we become teleios — mature Christians — functioning according to the purpose for which God designed us. The Ephesians passage tells us the process of equipping / perfecting has several key objectives:
- Equip the saints for the work of ministry. This simple statement has profound implications for the body of Christ. It teaches that the work of ministry is to be done by the people of the church, not the pastor. The pastor’s responsibility is to equip. The people’s responsibility is to do the work of the ministry. Sadly, many churches do not follow this directive. People attend church services, but the pastoral staff often do the vast majority of the work of ministry. No wonder there is so much burnout among pastors!
- Building up the body of Christ. This verse is often translated “edifying” the body of Christ. It refers to spiritual growth that is both individual and corporate. It is the process of equipping and encouraging Christ followers to work, workship, and fellowship together effectively. It is the discipline of discipleship.
- Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. This follows from the previous objective. The Lord calls us to continually grow in our knowledge of the presence and power of Jesus in our life (individually and collectively). It is developing an uncommon level of love, unity, and teamwork among the people of the church; that is, an elite level of commitment and collaboration.
This was’ precisely Jesus prayer in the upper room the night before his crucifixion: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17.22-23)
- “… to mature (teleios) manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Jesus is the standard. We are called individually and collectively to grow into greater degrees of Christlikeness. “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4.24)
- “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” I repeat what I wrote last week. The Lord wants us to be spiritual adults, not self-centered adolescents. He does not want us to believe and behave like immature children who are tossed about by false doctrines and deceitful people. Rather, the Lord calls us to go about life with the discipline and discernment that comes with true maturity (teleios).
The integrity — the teleios — of the church is at risk in our generation. We are in desperate need of revival and renewal. The Lord is calling us to pursue teleios and restore the integrity of the church.