Online Bible Commentary
We Should No Longer be Children
Ephesians 4: 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (NKJV)
Proper Biblical interpretation depends upon context. Therefore, each of these commentaries begins by giving some context of the passage.
The book of Ephesians is part of what is known as the Prison Epistles. The writings, themselves, affirm that the epistles were written by the Apostle Paul from prison.
There are differing opinions as to during which of Paul’s prison confinements the epistles were written. There are many sources that discuss this subject fully. For our purposes, we will go along with the thought of most scholars that Paul wrote the prison epistles during his house arrest in Rome from AD 60-62.
It is believed that the epistle was written about AD 61 to the house churches in Ephesus, Asia. The idea was that this authoritative letter would be passed along to the other churches.
The book of Ephesians can be divided into two halves. The first half, the first three chapters, is concerned with the positional; doctrine outlining our position in Christ.
The second half, the last three chapters, is concerned with the practical; how we work out our position in the practical living of our Christian life. This is similar to the breakdown of the book of Romans, Paul’s previous writing.
In this passage, the Apostle Paul is writing of spiritual gifts. He previously discussed spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12.
This commentary is not intended to be a full discussion of spiritual gifts. Paul begins this passage by writing “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,” (v. 11).
Christ, Himself, gave these spiritual gifts to the church. He sent His Spirit, the Holy Spirit to establish the church on Pentecost, ten days after His ascension to Heaven.
Christ “gave” at least one spiritual gift to every Christian, and still does today, at the time of conversion. The spiritual gifts discussed here are not given to every Christian, and some were not given after the first century.
Apostles were those who were directly commissioned by Jesus to carry on His ministry after His ascension back to Heaven. Apostles do not exist today. Paul was the last one.
Prophets were spokespersons for God. They were given revelations by the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God. Their ministry ended when the foundation of the church was laid in the first century. There are no prophets today.
Evangelists are those who preach the good news of salvation. They typically are not pastors in the sense that they do not shepherd a church. They win new converts to Christ and point them to a local church.
Pastors shepherd a church. They are gifted to be involved with the everyday activities of their flock. They counsel, correct, and encourage their members, guiding and feeding them with the Word of God.
Teachers explain and interpret the Bible and apply it to the lives of Christians. Teachers are different from pastors in that they do not shepherd a flock. A teacher may not be gifted to be a pastor, and a pastor may not be gifted to be a teacher.
These gifts are given “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (v. 12). They are given to equip believers, build the church, unify the church and disciple infants in Christ to become mature Christians.
Paul writes “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (v. 13). Paul is reminding the early believers of their responsibility as Christians. He reminds them that Christ has sent them men of God to help them in their journey to become Christ like, to become mature Christians.
Jesus spent the full three years of His ministry training and discipling men to take over His ministry. Even the miracles he performed were partly to convince the apostles of the power and glory of God, to sharpen them in their belief. He equipped, or prepared, the apostles so that they would go on to equip the multitudes.
Next, Paul gives us the goal of equipping others. He writes “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (v. 14).
That goal is to grow us from “children” in Christ to mature Christians. He defines children as those Christians who are “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.”.
In other words, a child in Christ has not studied, or been taught, the Bible enough to know when they are being led astray. They may have been a Christian for one day or for one hundred years.
The length of time that they have been a Christian does not matter. It is the depth of their study. Those who do not know the Bible are easily led astray by the ways of the world.
Paul then defines the mature Christian. He writes “but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ— (v. 15).
The mature Christian speaks “the truth in love”. In order to speak the truth, we must first know the truth, the Bible. So, study and discipleship must first occur. After we know the Bible, we are then able to speak “the truth in love.”
We are then a mature Christian. The mature Christian is involved in spreading the truth of the Bible. Not all mature Christians are teachers or pastors. But all know enough not to be led astray, or to lead others astray.
Paul continues “from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (v. 16). The body of Christ is made up of many parts.
The Head of the body is Christ. The parts are pastors, teachers, workers, support staff, etc. They all are needed to equip others. And to properly equip others they must all be mature Christians. They should no longer be children.