Who does the Ministry in Ephesians 4:12?

Who does the Ministry in Ephesians 4:12? April 6, 2019

Ephesians 4:11-12 is an important text for a theology of ministry and the church. The issue in v. 11 is whether there are four or five offices, since pastors and teachers are both governed by the one article, so are they two distinct offices (pastors and teachers) or one combined office (maybe pastors-who-teach)? Then, in v. 12, are the three prepositional phrases in v. 12 co-ordinate (see Lincoln in WBC) or else is the second phrase subordinate to the first (O’Brien, Martin, Best, etc.)? Concerning v. 12, let me break it down for you.

1. Co-ordinate view (= Christ gives ministers to do this ministry)

to (pros) perfect the saints,
for (eis) the work of ministry,
for (eis) building up the body of Christ

Translation: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (KJV)

2. Subordinate (= Christ gives ministers to equip others to do the ministry)

to (pros) equip the saints for (eis) the work of ministry,
for (eis) building up the body of Christ”

Translation: “for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ (CSB)


1. Do you put a comma after saints and treat the three phrases as three coordinate clauses?

Whereas scholars now, almost universally, treat the second phrase as an extension of the first one, i.e., equipping the saints for the work of ministry, Lincoln argues that: “However, the change in preposition  cannot bear the weight of such an argument, and there are, in fact, no grammatical or linguistic grounds for making a specific link between the first and second phrases. … In line with this, as we shall see, katartismos, ‘completion,’ has a meaning which does not require supplementing by a further phrase, and diakonia, ‘service,’ is more likely to refer to the ministry of the ministers just named. What is more, to string together a number of prepositional phrases, all dependent on the main verb and coordinate with each other, is a characteristic feature of this writers’ style. Three such phrases are found in 1:3; 1:20, 21:2:7 and, significantly, in the following verse here, 4:13 and 4:14, as well as four in 6:12 and five in 1:5, 6. It is certainly preferable, therefore, to see the three prepositional phrases here as each dependent on the notion of the giving of ministers, and hard to avoid the suspicion that opting for the other view is too often motivated by a zeal to avoid clericalism and to support a ‘democratic’ model of the Church” (Lincoln, Ephesians, 253).

2. Does katartismos means restoration as per “training/equipping” or more like “perfecting.”

BDAG here is disappointing by treating katartismos as “equip, equipping” but the verbal cognate katartizō is properly “1. to cause to be in a condition to function well, put in order, restore” and “2. to prepare for a purpose, prepare, make, create, outfit.” I think katartismos is the over-arching concept behind the verbal idea of bringing something to its intended purpose or perfected state, not training or equipping. Better, then, is L&N 75.5 for katartismos and its semantic domain as meaning: “to make someone completely adequate or sufficient for something – ‘to make adequate, to furnish completely, to cause to be fully qualified, adequacy.” In Eph 4:12 then katartismos means “fully-qualified” though L&N wrongly take it as pertaining to the work of ministry by the saints.

3. Who does the ministry?

I side with Lincoln since I think grammatically and contextually it makes better sense that the ministry is to be performed by the very apostles, prophets, evangelists and teaching-pastors just named. Pastors must pastor, evangelists should evangelists, prophets should prophesy, etc. When pastors and teachers do their ministry, then the saints are perfected, and the saints attain maturity in Christ. Importantly, this means that ministers are not simply coaches or in-house trainers for others to do ministry; no, they are actually ministers and their ministry matters. I think an all-church participation in ministry is guaranteed by vv. 7, 12, but I don’t think Christ gives evangelists so that other people can do the evangelism, etc.

See further Sydney H. T. Page, “Whose Ministry? A Re-appraisal of Ephesians 4.12,” NovT 47.1 (2005): 26-46, who argues that:

Eph. 4:12 consists of three prepositional phrases that indicate why Christ gave the Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Recent translations take the second of the three phrases as dependent on the first, so that together the two phrases refer to the single purpose of equipping the saints for the work of ministry. However, a careful examination of the prepositions used in verse 12, the grammatical structure of the verse, the key terms found here, the literary context, and the way the text was understood by Chrysostom suggests that the three phrases ought to be seen as parallel to one another, in which case they describe three distinct purposes for the giving of the individuals mentioned in verse 11.

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