The Body of Christ

Ephesians 4:7-16

Ephesians 4:7 - The truth of the unity of the body of Christ has a twin truth, namely the diversity of its members. Each member has a particular role assigned. No two members are alike, and no two have the same function. The part to be played by each one is assigned according to the measure of the gift of Christ, that is, He does as He sees fit. As each member fulfills his appointed work, the body of Christ grows both spiritually and numerically. The grace mentioned here would be the unlimited strength and wisdom, commensurate with the gift received. 


Ephesians 4:8 - In order to assist each believer to find his gift and use it, the risen Lord has given special gifts to the church that have the ability to encourage and inspire (see Eph. 4:11). These particular gifts should not be confused with the gifts mentioned in the previous verse. Every believer has some gift (see Eph. 4:7), but not everyone has the gifts named in Eph. 4:11. These are special gifts designed for the growth of the body.

The Giver of those special gifts of ministry is the risen, ascended, glorified Lord

Jesus. The picture here is that of a victorious king ascending the mountains of the Lord in triumphal procession, followed by a long train of captives. As he ascends He bestows gifts on some of those who line the processional route. 


Ephesians 4:9-10 - This glorious One who ascended is the same One who descended into the lower parts of the earth. We know this is exactly what happened. The Lord Jesus descended to Bethlehem’s manger, then to the death of the Cross and to the depth of the grave. “The lower parts of the earth” have sometimes been taken to refer to Hades or hell. But the interpretation would not fit the context here. His ascension necessitated a previous decent to earth, but not to hell. In addition to this, the Scripture indicates that Christ’s spirit went to heaven, not to hell when He died. The New English Bible translates this verse, “Now the word ascended implies that He also descended to the lowest level, down to the very earth.”

The One who descended from heaven is the same One who conquered sin, Satan,

Demons, and death, and who ascended above the atmosphere and stellar heaven that He might fill all things. He fills all things in the sense that He is the source of all blessing, and the supreme sovereign over all. There is not a place between the depth of the Cross and the heights of glory that He has not filled. The central thought of verses 8-10 is that the Giver of the contextual gifts is the ascended Christ. There were no such gifts before He went back to heaven. 


Ephesians 4:11 - The names of the gifts are now given. To our surprise we find that they are men, not with natural endowed talents, but men spiritually able (see 1 Corinthians 12). “He gave some to be apostles, and some to be prophets; and some to be evangelists; and some to be pastors and some to be teachers.” The first apostles were men who were commissioned by the Lord to preach the Word and to plant churches. They were men who had seen Christ in resurrection (see Acts 1:22). They had power to perform miracles (see 2 Corinthians 12:12). Together with New Testament prophets their ministry was concerned with the foundation of the Church (see Ephesians 2:20). We must not confirm the thoughts of apostles to the twelve disciples or apostles. There were others, and Paul is the classic example. In 1 Thessalonians 2:6, Paul links Silas, Silvanus, and Timothy as apostles with himself. 



Prophets were the spokesmen and mouthpieces of God. They received direct revelations from the Lord, and passed them on to the Church. What they spoke by the Holy Spirit was the Word of God. In the primary sense we no longer have apostles and prophets. Their ministry ended when the foundation of the Church was laid and when the NT scriptures were completed. These were not Old Testament prophets; they were New Testament prophets given by Christ to the Church after His ascension. 



An evangelist is one who preaches the Gospel. They are divinely equipped to win the lost for Christ. They have special, supernatural ability to diagnose a sinner condition, to probe the conscience, to answer objections, to encourage decisions for Christ, and then to help the new convert to feel assurance through the Word. Evangelists should go out from the local church, preach to the world, then lead their converts to a local church where they will be fed and encouraged. 



Pastors are men who serve as under-shepherds of the sheep. They guide and feed the flock. This is a ministry of wise counsel, correction, encouragement, and consolation. The work of a pastor is closely related to that of an elder. The principle difference is that a pastor is a gift to the Church from the glorified Christ, whereas the elder is not. The New Testament pictures several pastors in a local group (see Acts 20:17, 28). In 1 Peter 5:1, Scripture portrays, rather than one pastor of presidency, multiple elders. 



Teachers are men who are divinely equipped and empowered to explain what the Bible says, to interpret what it means and then to apply it to the hearts and consciences of the saints. One evangelist can preach the gospel from a passage out of context. The teacher shows how the passage fits into the context.

There are some who believe that pastors and teachers are listed together in this verse. Some conclude that only one gift is mentioned, that of pastor-teachers. But a man may be a teacher without having the heart of a pastor. A pastor may be able to use the Word without having the distinctive gift of teaching.

Finally, we should be careful to distinguish between divine gifts and natural talents. No, unsaved person, however talented, can be an evangelist, pastor or teacher in the New Testament sense. Neither can a Christian, unless he has received any of these particular gifts. The gifts of the Spirit are supernatural. They allow a man to do what would be humanly impossible for him. 


Ephesians 4:12 - We now come to the function and purpose of the gifts; “They are for the perfection of the saints unto the work of ministry, for the purpose of edifying the body of Christ.” This is the process: The pastors and teachers encourage and equip the saints. The saints then serve in the assembly and build up the body in the process. This ministry is not a special occupation limited to men of professional training. The work of ministry simply means service. It includes every form of spiritual service. This teaches us that every believer should be in the ministry.

The gifts of being an evangelist, pastor, and teacher are given to perfect and equip all believers to serve the Lord, and in so doing build up the body of Christ. These gifted men should not serve in such a way as to make people perpetually dependent upon them. Instead they should work toward the day when the local company would be able to carry on by themselves. Limitation of Christian service to a select class of men, hinders the development of God’s people, stunts the growth of the church, and stifles the cause of world evangelism.


Ephesians 4:13 - How long will the growth process continue? The answer is until we all come to unity, maturity, and conformity.

Unity: When the Lord calls His church home to heaven, we will all have arrived at the unity of the Lord. We will also reach the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God.

Maturity: It will be full and complete maturity. At the rapture we will reach full growth or maturity. As individuals and as the body of Christ we will achieve perfection of spiritual development.

Conformity: In that glorious day when we see our blessed Lord, we will experience unity of faith, unity of knowledge, we will reach perfection, and finally, we will be a perfect replica of Christ our Lord.

The universal church will be a full-grown body, perfectly suited to its glorious Head. It will display the fullness of Christ in the Church itself, the fullness of Himself who fills all in all. The measure of the stature of the church means its complete development, the fulfillment of God’s plan for its growth.


Ephesians 4:14 - When the gifts operate in their God-appointed manner, and the saints are active in service for the Lord, three dangers are avoided: immaturity, instability, and gullibility.

Immaturity: One thing a believer should avoid like a plague is remaining in a state of spiritual infancy. Believers who never become involved in aggressive service for Christ can never emerge from spiritual childhood. They remain undeveloped through lack of exercise.

Instability: These individuals are tossed to and fro, and are carried about with every wind of doctrine. Teachers should teach to bind the saints, to build them up, to establish them in divine truths. He should preach to strengthen, fortify, and establish the saints in the faith.

Gullibility: Children are gullible and easily deceived. Immature believers, spiritual babes in Christ stand in the serious danger of being deceived. Their senses are not exercised to discern between good and evil (see Hebrews 5:13-14). They are impressed with the great and apparent sincerity of the cultist. Because he quotes scripture and uses religious phraseology, they assume that he must be a Christian. If they themselves were grounded in the Word, they would discern the craft, the cunning, and the insidious subtlety of the deceptive words.

May God, by His Spirit through the Word, build us up into mature, strong, spiritual believers. 


Ephesians 4:15 - The last two verses in the paragraph describe the proper process of growth in the body of Christ. First of all, there is the necessity of doctrinal loyalty and adherence. “Holding the truth,” means there can be no compromise in the fundamentals of the faith. Second, there must be a right spirit that is, “Holding the truth in love.” Truth is the element in which we are to live, move and have our very being. But truth must be irreparably joined to LOVE. The impact of the message can be destroyed by the discordant spirit of the messenger. 

The growth of the Body is assured as the evangelist brings in the lost, the pastors shepherd the flock, and the teacher teaches the deep truths of God. These gifted men equip the saints—the saints then engage in active service, and they “grow up into Christ in all things.” In all things, in every area of our lives, we become more like Him. As the Head has His way in the Church, His body will give a more accurate picture of Him to the world.


Ephesians 4:16 - The Lord Jesus is not only the goal of growth, He is the source of growth as well. From Him the whole body maketh increase of the body. The marvelous integration of the members of the body is described in the phrase “fitly joined together.” This is a tremendous truth; it means that every member is exactly designed for his own place and function. Each one is perfectly joined to every other member so as to make a complete living organism.

The importance and indispensability of every member is not indicated. “Compacted by that which every joint supplieth.” The human body consists primarily of bones, organs and flesh. The bones are joined together by joints and ligaments. Each joint and ligament fulfills a role in the growth and usefulness of the body. So it is in the body of Christ. Every member is needed; even the most humble believer is necessary. As each believer fulfills his God-given role, the body grows harmoniously.

The body makes increase of the body. This means that the body itself stimulates the growth as the members feed on the Word, spend time in prayer, in worship, and witness for Christ. The Church, like the human body, is self-developing. In addition to the growth in size, there is a building of itself in love. There is a mutual concern for one another. As the believers abide in Christ, and fulfill their proper function in the church, they grow closer to one another in love and unity.