Ephesians 4:12-16 – Body building






In our last study of the previous verses we looked at Christ as the one who gives gifts to the Church. Not only does he give gifts to individual people but he gives gifted individuals to the Church.

Paul emphasises that it is Christ who gives these various gifts 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,


Paul leaves us in no doubt as to the origin of these gifts nor that these gifts are plural indicating that the leadership of the Church is not the responsibility of one man. The leadership of a church should a team effort and it is for that very reason that we at Binscombe have Elders and Deacons. The gift of pastor does not create a separate office above the other elders – pastor is not a title it is a function. Within a church the size of Binscombe we need more than one person with the gift of shepherding [pastoring]. No one person can care for a congregation this size – not only is it impossible but it is also unbiblical.


There should always be a plurality of leadership within a Church under the Lordship of Christ.


Christ gives gifts of leadership for a reason and Paul develops this in the passage we come to now.




12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up [NIV]


The KJV puts it like this:

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

The KJV is very misleading and portrays the role of the leaders in a three-fold way:   a] perfecting the saints

b] doing works of service

c] edifying the body


The result of such an interpretation is that the leaders have the SOLE responsibility for the ministry of the church – this has gone a long way in the past to contribute towards the model of the Church where there is a strong distinction between clergy and laity.

Ministry then becomes what the minister does.


If we look at the NIV there is no comma after God’s people – this is the correct translation. If you have a comma in your Bible after the word People or saints in v.12 then cross it out, it should not be there.


The task of the leaders is not to do all the work themselves but to train and equip all the members to work in service for God.


So what is the model of the Church? – It is not a theatre where the leaders perform on stage an everyone claps [or boos] at the appropriate place. In some churches, sadly, the services resemble a performance rather than a time of worship.

Nor is the Church like a football match with 22 people in the pitch desperately in need of rest and 30 000 on the terraces desperately in need of exercise.


The task of the leaders is to train and equip the members to do the work of the ministry. To go back to a sporting analogy the role of the leaders is like that of a player-coach. Not a manager who sits in the stands and never gets into the game. But a player-coach who is training and doing. Teaching not only verbally but also by example.


There is an admonition here for those who are into leadership – esp. paid leadership [avoid full-time] – there is no room for a hierarchy of leadership that leaves the members in an inferior position. Nor is there room for the kind of one-man-band type minister where all ministry is in the hands of an individual who denies the people of God their rightful ministries.


The point that Paul is driving home in this passage is that every member of the Church is a minister. It is the role and responsibility of the leaders / teachers to train and equip the members for ministry.

Thus our church letterhead should look like this:-


Binscombe Church

Barnes/Loseley Rd Godalming Surrey GU7 3RF











Elders: John Bennett – Alan Davies – Gray Robinson


Deacons: Marion Davies – Paul De Vere – Helle De Vere – Roger Hall – Mick Howley – Antony Lucas – Stephen Owen – Philip Wakeman – Reg Woodhouse


Ministers: All the members


People would find such a letterhead strange but it would be entirely biblical. There is more to being a member of God’s Church than attendance at the Sunday morning service.


While it is the responsibility of the leaders to train, it is the responsibility of the members to be equipped. During the week every member should be engaged in a definite “ministry” — whether it is comforting the sick or bereaved, teaching, neighbourhood evangelism, child-minding for a single-Mum or a couple who need a break, cutting the hedge and the grass, inviting a friend or neighbour in for tea, giving a lift to someone who is without transport, giving a gift to someone in need ……. the list for ministry is endless.


All spiritual gifts a re service gifts. They are not given for selfish use but for unselfish use – i.e. for the service of other people.


In writing to the Church in Thessalonica Paul is critical of those who are not working – not because they can’t work but because they won’t ..


2 Thessalonians 3:11

11 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. (NIV)

The purpose of this training and equipping is so that the body can be built-up. It is for the benefit of all – ” for the common good”. There are some gifts that Paul says are more important – the higher or greater gifts – primarily teaching gifts. This is not because the individual is better than another BUT because there is nothing that builds up the church like the Word of God thus teaching is vital.


Maybe you feel that your spiritual life is boring and dull – you feel ineffective – you are not sure what your gift is. What steps are you taking to find out? Unless you are involved with others no one will ever be able to say “I really think you have a gift for this or that!” So some of the things you try may not be your gift but if you never try how will you know. Very often the thing that God burdens a person for is the thing that they are gifted to do.


ILLUS.: Ed and Mel have a burden for the young people and they are clearly gifted in that area.


Another important thing to remember is that the effectiveness of our gifts is very much dependent upon the quality of our spiritual life. If you don’t spend time if the study of God’s Word and prayer, if our relationship with God is not right how can we expect God to bless our ministry.


There is clear responsibility on the leadership and on the members – all exercising our gifts so that the Church may be built up.




13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him …..




In his high priestly prayer shortly before his death, Jesus prayed for his disciples and one of the things he desired was that they “be one” – that there would be unity between them.

The slogan “United we stand divided we fall” is used in many situations and it is no less true within the church of Jesus Christ.


I often feel that we as churches in the West are in far greater danger of disunity that those Christian who live in areas where they are persecuted and harassed because of their faith.


ILLUS.: I remember being in Turkey in 1988 and meeting many Christians from all sorts of tradition. Armenian, Turks, Arabs who were RC, Orthodox {Greek and Armenian} – never once was I asked if I was a Baptist or Anglican or Charismatic … Those divisions were unimportant – We were fellow believers.


If Satan can’t attack the Church from with out then he will attack it from with in and one of the most effective tools in disunity. When a church is preoccupied with its internal problems it has no time for evangelism and missions or for caring and comforting. BUT only time for criticism and whinging!


We saw in v. 3 that unity is a given but that we need to work hard at maintaining that unity.

It is a unity that is held together by a common faith in Christ and a knowledge of Him. Not simply and intellectual knowledge but a heart-knowledge.

This unity can and should grow – the more we grow in faith and in the knowledge of the lord Jesus Christ the more united we will become. When disunity occurs the first place we must look is into our own hearts.




Maturity is the goal. Jesus wants us individually and corporately to become like him. This phrase become mature, is use to refer to a full-grown, physically robust man. He does not want us to remain babies – he wants us to grow up.


Babies are lovely but when babies don’t grow parents become extremely worried and take them to the doctor. Babies are designed to grow but in order for them to become mature adults they need to be fed [and they need to eat] they need training, nurture, love and discipline. The goal is for them to become fully functioning adults.


In the spiritual sense we need to grow and the goal is to become like Christ – he is the standard – he is the standard for the individual Christian and for the Church as the body of Christ. In one sense we can never be mature to the fullness of Christ because we will never be perfect this side of heaven, however, a high degree of maturity can be attained in the here and now.


Well, how is that possible? Not sitting around hoping to grow up but wholehearted striving to serve one another and the kingdom of God in general. It is in our serving one another and working together that we grow.


ILLUS.: One of the best ways to gets to know someone is working at a task together. That is why when people go away on a work party – or there is a particular event that they are working towards – it is often in those situations that we learn about and from each other.


Some of the best times of fellowship I have had with others is not while is a worship time but in a work time – doing some task together.





14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.


When there is unity and maturity then there will be stability. The picture in Paul’s mind is that of a ship on the high seas blown here and there by every change in the wind. Sadly there always seem to be those Christians who are easily led astray – when something new comes along that seems exciting and offering some new experience they run after it like children after the Pied Piper.

Immature Christians are the most gullible. It is amazing how many people will follow misdirected, corrupt and even heretical leaders.


ILLUS.: Remember the Jones Town affair of the 1970’s – the group who followed Jim Jones and eventually committed mass suicide in a South American jungle. Most of those people came from within the Church.


What were their churches teaching them – or probably not teaching them? The Jones Town affair is extreme – What about New Age – what about materialism – Are we mature enough not to be tricked and conned into accepting some of these beliefs.

False belief or heresy is very subtle – Paul recognises that here by the use of the words craftiness and scheming – heresy is not a denial of the truth, just a distortion of the truth.


ILLUS.: JW’s – Jesus Son of God but not God the Son. i.e. he is a created being not eternally God.

Or the Bible contains the Word of God – not all is the Word of God.


Paul speaks about stability in a negative way – he now goes on to speak in a positive way.


Charity [love]


v.15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him


The Church grows by truth and love – “speaking the truth in love” is a slightly narrow translation of the Greek phrase. The Greek makes no reference to our speech – Lit., it means “TRUTHING IN LOVE” – in other words maintaining, living, doing the truth.


We need people who at all costs will maintain the truth – certainly in our day we need that – but sometime such people are conspicuously lacking in love.


ILLUS.: I was involved in one church where a group became obsessed with a particular brand of theology – the would sit in the front row and make copious notes of the sermon with the express purpose of tearing it to pieces. They thrived on arguing with anyone who did not agree with them. They split the Church.


Then there are those who are so concerned about maintaining brotherly love that they will sacrifice even the central truths of the Christian Faith so as not to upset anyone and we end up with a watered down, wishy-washy gospel that is hardly recognisable as the gospel.


Both positions are unbalanced and unbiblical. Paul calls for a holding of both in tension. TRUTH IN LOVE. Peter says the same thing is a slightly different ways

in 2 Peter 3:18 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Unity, maturity, stability and charity are the ingredients for Attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.




grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

The human body is an amazing machine – with all its blood vessels and ligaments, bones and muscles – so too is the body of Christ.


The emphasis in these verses is on the whole body made up of many parts – The whole depends on the individuals parts each fulfilling the function for which they were designed.


From time to time someone will say to me “Why doesn’t the Church do this … or that …” The Church is not a nebulous body out there somewhere – the Binscombe Church is us – we are it.

We belong together because we belong to Christ.

And we are to grow together and build together. That will only happen when every part is doing its work.


ILLUS.: Briefly look at the way the Church grew in ACTS 2

SEE OHP – [1] they received the word gladly. v.41 [2] they were baptised. v.41 [3] they were added to the church. v.41 [4] they were instructed by the church leaders. v.42 [5] they continued in fellowship with the church. v.42-46 [6] they reached out into the community. v47. [7] they grew in numbers daily v.47.


OHP “How the Biblical Church grows!”


OHP “Normal Church life!”




Ephesians 4:12 – 16




                                TO THE CHURCH [v12]

      to train and equip for service

      so that the whole Church can grow



                        TO THE CHURCH [v13-15a]

      Unity     – in faith & knowledge of Christ

      Maturity – to the standard of Christ himself

      Stability – in the face of false teaching

      Charity  – “truthing” in love



                        TO THE CHURCH [v15b-16]

      belonging together }    

      building together          }    

      growing together          }    

                  Christ causes the ultimate growth

                  Christ exercises the ultimate authority


                              … each members must work




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s