In a previous post, I suggested from the grammar and syntax of Ephesians 4:11 that there are only four “items”, which precludes a “five-fold ministry” (see “Ephesians 4:11 and the Five-Fold Ministry“). The “five-fold ministry” is often said to be distinct from other types of “ministry” because only the “five-fold ministry” are given the responsibility of “equipping” the church. In this post, I hope to look at the “equipping” that is listed in Ephesians 4:12. Once again, let’s begin with the Greek text:
Ï€ÏÎ¿Ï‚ Ï„Î¿Î½ ÎºÎ±Ï„Î±ÏÏ„Î¹ÏƒÎ¼Î¿Î½ Ï„Ï‰Î½ Î±Î³Î¹Ï‰Î½ ÎµÎ¹Ï‚ ÎµÏÎ³Î¿Î½ Î´Î¹Î±ÎºÎ¿Î½Î¹Î±Ï‚ ÎµÎ¹Ï‚ Î¿Î¹ÎºÎ¿Î´Î¿Î¼Î·Î½ Ï„Î¿Ï… ÏƒÏ‰Î¼Î±Ï„Î¿Ï‚ Ï„Î¿Ï… Î§ÏÎ¹ÏƒÏ„Î¿Ï…
Here is the translation of Ephesians 4:11-12 in the ESV:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… (Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV)
From this translation, it does appear that the apostles, prophets, evangelists, etc. function to equip the saints. There is a problem with this view though: the phrase Ï€ÏÎ¿Ï‚ Ï„Î¿Î½ ÎºÎ±Ï„Î±ÏÏ„Î¹ÏƒÎ¼Î¿Î½ which is translated in the ESV as what looks like an infinitive (“to equip”), is actually a prepositional phrase: the preposition Ï€ÏÎ¿Ï‚ (“to”or “toward”) combined with the noun Ï„Î¿Î½ ÎºÎ±Ï„Î±ÏÏ„Î¹ÏƒÎ¼Î¿Î½ which has various glosses.
(As an aside, the prepositional phrase actually includes at least the following words Ï„Ï‰Î½ Î±Î³Î¹Ï‰Î½ — “of the saints”. The prepositional phrase may include more of the sentence. However, a prepositional phrase always includes at least a preposition and a noun. So, for the sake of simplification, I am only going to discuss the basic prepositional phrase Ï€ÏÎ¿Ï‚ Ï„Î¿Î½ ÎºÎ±Ï„Î±ÏÏ„Î¹ÏƒÎ¼Î¿Î½.)
Before I discuss the meaning of the noun Ï„Î¿Î½ ÎºÎ±Ï„Î±ÏÏ„Î¹ÏƒÎ¼Î¿Î½, it is important to note the use of the entire prepositional phrase, Ï€ÏÎ¿Ï‚ Ï„Î¿Î½ ÎºÎ±Ï„Î±ÏÏ„Î¹ÏƒÎ¼Î¿Î½. To begin with, what is a prepositional phrase? Daniel Wallace, in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, says, “Prepositions are, in some respects, extended adverbs. That is, they frequently modify verbs and tell how, when, where, etc. But, unlike adverbs they govern a noun and hence give more information than a mere adverb can.”  Thus, the prepositional phrase Ï€ÏÎ¿Ï‚ Ï„Î¿Î½ ÎºÎ±Ï„Î±ÏÏ„Î¹ÏƒÎ¼Î¿Î½ functions in the sentence as an adverb, modifying or further explaining a verb in the sentence. Within the prepositional phrase itself, the preposition Ï€ÏÎ¿Ï‚ explains how the verb in the sentence is connected to the noun of the prepositional phrase, Ï„Î¿Î½ ÎºÎ±Ï„Î±ÏÏ„Î¹ÏƒÎ¼Î¿Î½.
So, the preposition Ï€ÏÎ¿Ï‚ works to connect Ï„Î¿Î½ ÎºÎ±Ï„Î±ÏÏ„Î¹ÏƒÎ¼Î¿Î½ to the verb. But what is the verb? To find the verb, we must go back to the beginning of Eph. 4:11: ÎºÎ±Î¹ Î±Ï…Ï„Î¿Ï‚ ÎµÎ´Ï‰ÎºÎµÎ½ – “And he himself gave”. “Gave” is the verb of this sentence. Therefore, the prepositional phrase modifies this verb, not the objects of the verb. Furthermore, the preposition Ï€ÏÎ¿Ï‚ explains how the verb “gave” is connected to the noun Ï„Î¿Î½ ÎºÎ±Ï„Î±ÏÏ„Î¹ÏƒÎ¼Î¿Î½.
In this case, the preposition Ï€ÏÎ¿Ï‚ is probably used to describe the purpose or result of Jesus’ “giving”. There are other usages of Ï€ÏÎ¿Ï‚ (spatial: toward, temporal: toward, opposition: against, or association: with). However, in this case purpose (for, for the purpose of) or result (so that, with the result that) is probably best. There does not seem to be a connection of space, time, opposition, or association in this sentence. Sometimes, it is difficult to distinguish between purpose and result; and sometimes it does not change the meaning significantly. At this time, I’m not going to attempt to differentiate between these two usages.
So far, we have seen that the prepositional phrase Ï€ÏÎ¿Ï‚ Ï„Î¿Î½ ÎºÎ±Ï„Î±ÏÏ„Î¹ÏƒÎ¼Î¿Î½ describes the purpose or the result of Jesus’ giving. This is significant. Because we can now see that the prepositional phrase does not identify the function of the gifted people that Jesus gives. In order to see this more clearly, consider the following sentences in which I have replaced the adverbial prepositional phrase with an adverb (Also, I shortened the list to make the sentences easier to read in English):
He himself gave apostles wisely.
He himself gave prophets abundantly.
He himself gave evangelists quickly.
The prepositional phrase Ï€ÏÎ¿Ï‚ Ï„Î¿Î½ ÎºÎ±Ï„Î±ÏÏ„Î¹ÏƒÎ¼Î¿Î½ in Eph. 4:12 modifies the verb “gave” in Eph. 4:11 in the same way that the adverbs “wisely”, “abundantly”, and “quickly” modify the verb “gave” in the sentences above. Neither “wisely”, nor “abundantly”, nor “quickly” describe the apostles, prophets, or evangelists. Instead, those adverbs tell us how Jesus gave.
Similarly, the adverbial prepositional phrase Ï€ÏÎ¿Ï‚ Ï„Î¿Î½ ÎºÎ±Ï„Î±ÏÏ„Î¹ÏƒÎ¼Î¿Î½ tells us for what purpose or for what reason Jesus gave: “for the equipping”, “for the purpose of preparation”, “with the result of training”. These glosses are highly confusing, because in English it appears that the author is saying that apostles equip, or prophets prepare, or evangelists train. As the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers function, this will occur. But, this is not what Paul is telling us in Eph. 4:11-12. Instead, he is telling us that the saints are equipped, prepared, or trained because Jesus gave, not because apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers carry out their functions.
Why is this important? Because in this passage, Paul associated equipping with Jesus’ giving, not with the function of certain types of gifted individuals. There is no reason (in this passage) to limit Jesus’ ability to equip, prepare, or train the saints to the functioning of those listed in Eph. 4:11, just as there is no reason to limit the number of spiritual gifts to those listed in Romans 12:6-8, or to those listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, or to those listed in 1 Corinthians 12:28-30. Each believer is Jesus’ gift to the church. Therefore, Jesus can and does work through all believers (through the gifting that He provides) in order to equip the church.