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PFOA: Ephesias 4:11-12

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ”. (NLT).

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”. (KJV).

It is wonderful for students who do not know Greek or Hebrew to have so many English language translations to compare and work with in their study of the Bible. By way of contrast, there are nearly 2000 people groups in the world who do not even have a few verses of Scriptures in their heart language. What a rich-poor divide!

The many recent versions have taken into account the advances of research into the language, culture and historical conditions the Biblical authors wrote under, thus helping us to understand God’s Word better. Reading the above two rendering of Ephesians 4:11-12 is a case in point.

We have the KJV for just over 400 years. That reading, in the past, has sometimes resulted in identifying pastors and teachers as two separate persons with differing gifts. More significantly, because of the punctuation, it has led to an understanding that it is the work of the church leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) to (i) perfect (i.e. bring to maturity) the saints; (ii) do the work of the ministry; (iii) edify (build-up) the body of Christ. Such a rendering has contributed to the unfortunate clergy-laity divide where the work of ministry is to be done by the professional ministers and lay people are the passive recipients of their ministry.

The recent (1996) NLT version gives a rather different picture. Here we see that God has given gifted people: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers to the church. Their responsibility is not to do the ministry, but they are to equip by motivating, teaching, training, and by example, God’s people, bringing to maturity. It is the church, the people of God who are to do the work of the ministry. As members of the body, they are to build-up one another. Only then, will the church have any impact in the neighbourhood, in the city and through its missionary efforts, globally. Without the ministry of the body of Christ, there will be little contribution to society, no salt and no light.

It will be proper, on the sign-board of the church building to list: “Ministers: The 500 (and counting) Members of the Church”