“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,. . .” (Ephesians 4:11-12, ESV)
In this week’s reading from Ephesians, the Apostle Paul speaks about some of the spiritual gifts. He indicates that these and all gifts are given by Jesus to the church, to every believer for the purpose of equipping the saints for the work of ministry, so that the Body of Christ, that is the church, may be built up and all would come to maturity together. Now the saints he refers to are not a small group of believers who have done something extraordinary or lived lives of exemplary purity. Saints are not those who performed miracles when they were alive or after they have died. When Paul speaks of the saints, he means all the members of the body of Christ including us. We are holy ones called out of the world, separated from sin by faith in the sacrifice of Christ, separated from the world to do His work in it, to be His agents, His ambassadors.
Now this may seem odd to some of us. Most churches and church members think and act as if the work of the ministry is the primary and exclusive responsibility of the professionals, the trained staff and the clergy. What Paul says here is quite different. We saints are the ones who are to be equipped by the church’s teachers, pastors, apostles, prophets and evangelists so that we can do the work of ministry. Thus we see that God’s purpose in giving us these gifts is that they may equip all of us for our ministry. They build us up in faith and so we can then build up our brothers in the household of God and are a witness to those outside the church. We use our gifts to preach the gospel by word and by deed, by acts of kindness, compassion, mercy and love. In this way we show the world who Jesus is.