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The Operation of Spiritual Gifts Within God’s Church

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Equipping & Building Of The Church (Ephesians 4:12-16)

Unfortunately, in many churches, only the office of the pastor seemingly is in operation. Christ’s intent was that all of his saints who have been graced with a measure of his gift would operate in their gifting (or that which they have been graced with) “in order that everything in the church might be well arranged, or put into its proper place, that Christians may have every possible advantage for becoming complete in love, and knowledge and order.”[1]  The main idea here is that the church becomes mature when Christ’s gifts are functioning within the community of believers. Jesus proclaimed he would build his church (Matthew 16:18), and he saw fit to govern such an organism through these various offices.

The equipping and building up as described in Ephesians 4:12 is both an individual and a collective effort. The aim here is maturity or completeness in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10). In another of his writings on spiritual gifts the apostle Paul emphasizes the importance of the exercise of gifts – “Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”[2]   

Perhaps one of the main aims of this building up is the unity Paul describes in Ephesians 1-4:6.

God seeks to build up his one church – one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:4-5). While the goal of the five-fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11) is to equip and train the saints for service, Reese (153) describes to functions of the saints in return: (1) They are to perform works of service, (2) They will build up the body of Christ. Key to the effective operation of spiritual formation in Christ’s church is not the “monopolizing of the five-fold ministry, rather each and all members performing their several ministries for the good of the whole, helping each other to grow in spiritual maturity“ (Ephesians 4:13).[3] The result will be explosive growth in the body of Christ.

A primary goal of the body of Christ is to work together to achieve the goal of spiritual formation and maturity. Paul describes this as “we all attaining to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man…” (Ephesians 4:13). It is also important to note that “Unity does not imply uniformity. It does not mean that all Christians will think alike or perform identical ministries. It does imply a common purpose and interdependence within the body of Christ.”[4] The result of achieving the three goals of Ephesians 4:13 is a mature spiritual community, anchored by the teaching of God’s Word and the knowledge of his truth. This is a key component in the battle against false religions and pluralistic worldviews. By this divine strategy, Christians will not be “tossed about by false doctrine and the trickery of men” (Ephesians 4:14-15), but “through living and loving truth, will grow into Christ-likeness. 

What the church will experience is growth “in every area of life – mentally, morally, and spiritually.”[5] In this we see the divine strategy of every believer, doing his or her part, for the benefit of the whole (Ephesians 4:16). This is spiritual formation as God intended.


[1].  Albert Barnes, “Commentary on Ephesians 4:12”, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, accessed June 23, 2018, https://www.studylight.org/commentary/ephesians/4-12.html.

[2].  Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 975. 

[3].  Gareth Reese, New Testament Epistles, 153. 

[4].  Bob Deffinbaugh, Christian Unity: Ephesians 4:1-16, accessed June 24, 2018,  https://bible.org/seriespage/2-christian-unity-ephesians-41-16

[5]. Gareth Reese, New Testament Epistles, 158-161.  

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Written by Dr. Kevin A. Hall

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