the weblog of Alan Knox

Special Equippers?

Posted by on Aug 20, 2008 in edification, office, scripture, spiritual gifts | 11 comments

A couple of days ago, in my post called “And he gave… (Ephesians 4:11)“, I suggested that the list of gifted individuals in Ephesians 4:11 (i.e. apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers) was simply a sample of all gifted followers of Jesus Christ. These four (or five) types of giftings are not gifts that are necessary for the church above and beyond the other spiritual gifts.

However, the argument is often made that Scripture indicates that these gifted individuals are responsible for the special function of “equipping” which is not the responsibility of other believers – that is, those believers without the giftings listed in Ephesians 4:11. (And, now, David Rogers from “Love Each Stone” has asked a similar question in the comments of my post on Ephesians 4:11.) Since this post will deal mostly with Ephesians 4:11-12, I’ll include that passage of Scripture here:

And he [Jesus] 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)

I’ve written about previously in a post called “Ephesian 4:12 and Equipping Ministries“. The subject of this very long sentence (the sentence doesn’t end until the end of verse 16) is the pronoun “he” – referring to Jesus – which is emphasized both by its inclusion in the sentence (the pronoun “he” is not implicitly required) and by its prominent position in the sentence. Thus, Paul is emphasizing the fact that Jesus – and only Jesus – gives gifted individuals to the church for the equipment of the church. He gives these gifted individuals according to his grace (Eph 4:7), not according to our own abilities or talents.

The phrase translated “to equip” in the passage above is actually a prepositional phrase that is literally “for the equipping” or “toward the equipping”, with “equipping” being a rough translation of the noun καταρτισμός (katartismos). The prepositional phrase works adverbially to describe the purpose of Jesus giving the gifted individuals.

The argument is often made that since καταρτισμός (katartismos – “equipping”) is used only of these four (or five) gifted individuals, then only these individuals carry the responsibility of “equipping” the body. Thus, these are often called “equipping ministries”. I do not think it is valid to assign the responsibility of “equipping” only to these four (or five) gifted individuals based on the us of the noun καταρτισμός (katartismos) for a couple of reasons.

First, while it is true that καταρτισμός (katartismos) is only used in reference to these gifted individuals, it is also true that this noun is only used once in the entire New Testament. Thus, the noun καταρτισμός (katartismos) is only found in Ephesians 4:12. It is not even used in the Septuagint (LXX – the Greek translation of the Old Testament). Can we argue from one use of a noun that only these gifted individuals are responsible for this result?

Paul uses a similar noun (κατάρτισιςkatartisis), which is also used only once in the NT in 2 Corinthians 13:9, when he says that he and his fellow workers pray for the “restoration” (“perfection”, “equipping”) of the Corinthian believers. I have never seen anyone suggest that only Paul and his companions are responsible for praying for κατάρτισις, since the noun is only used in association with Paul and his fellow workers.

However, to me, there is an even more convincing reason to see καταρτισμός (katartismos – “equipping”) as the responsibility of all believers. The verb form of the noun καταρτισμός (katartismos) is καταρτίζω (katartizō), which is translated (in the infinitive) “to put in order, restore, complete, fully train, prepare”… in other words, “to equip”. We have the advantage of having multiple instances of this verb in the New Testament and in the Septuagint.

For example, this is the verb used when Scripture tells us that James and John were “mending” their nets (Matt. 4:21). Luke uses this verb when Jesus says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained (καταρτίζωkatartizō) will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). At the end of the letter to the Hebrews, the author prays that God would “equip” the readers with everything good to do his will (Heb 13:20-21).

But, there are also instances where the verb καταρτίζω (katartizō) is used of believers acting toward other believers.

For example, in 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united (“perfected”, “restored”, “equipped”) in the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10 ESV)

Since Paul does not mention the work of “equipping ministers” in Corinthians, it would be difficult to argue that Paul was telling the believers in Corinth to allow the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers to “equip” or “restore” them to the proper way of thinking.

Similarly, consider this passage from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth:

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration (“equipping”), comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV)

The command to “equip” is given in the context of the believers in Corinth working together. There is not a sense in this verse that some specially gifted believers are supposed to do the work of “restoring” while everyone is responsible for rejoicing, comforting, agreeing, and living in peace.

Finally, in Galatians, Paul says:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 ESV)

Again, in this verse, the work of καταρτίζω (katartizō – “restoring”, “completing”, “equipping”) is the work of all who are “spiritual” not just certain specially gifted people.

In these three passages, we see that the work of καταρτίζω (katartizō – “equpping”, “restoring”) is the work of all believers, and Paul in particular does not have any problem using this term in relation to all believers. This is not a term that Paul associates only with a special group of gifted individuals.

So, who is responsible for “equipping” the body of Christ? Jesus (Eph 4:11). He is the only one who can equip the body of Christ for the work of service. How does he do this? Well, one of the ways that Jesus equips his body is through the gifts that he gives to the church. He gives these gifts to the church according to his grace for the benefit of all members. As Paul explains in Ephesians 4:16, the church does not grow in love when the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers use their gifts to equip the body. Instead, the church grows in love when all parts of the body use their gifts to build up the body. And, as we’ve seen from other passages, all members of the body are also responsible for “equipping” the body.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-20-2008


    Thanks for your explanation on this. For the most part, I find your argument here compelling. However, due to the potential implications, I’d like to run a few questions by you I still have on this.

    I am having trouble sorting out, if your thesis is true, why Paul chooses these specific ministry roles or gifts (APEPT) and not others. Do you think, for instance, it is strictly random, and could just as well have been, for instance, tongues, interpretation of tongues, service, giving, and gifts of healings?

    I recognize that other NT lists of spiritual gifts do not appear to be exhaustive, as they vary extensively between themselves. However, is there any other syntactical or contextual clue to lead us to think that the APEPT list here is intended merely as a sample, as opposed to a normative list?

    Also, what implications do you think your interpretation of this passage might have for the missiological applications of it as enunciated by recent writers, such as Wolfgang Simson, Alan Hirsch, and others?

  2. 8-20-2008


    I’ll try to answer your questions:

    1) I don’t know why Paul chooses these particular gifts in Ephesians 4:11 – nor do I know why Paul chooses the particular (and different) gifts that he lists in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 (twice), and 1 Corinthians 14.

    2) As far as I know, the syntactical and contextual “clues” are similar in all of the spiritual gifts lists. Primarily, each lists focuses on “each one”, not on a certain group of believers (Rom 12:6, 1 Cor 12:4-7, 1 Cor 14:26, Eph 4:7 – even 1 Pet 4:10, which is very interesting consider it is not Pauline). In the Ephesians list, the “each one” aspect is even more pronounced since it beins in Eph 4:7 and continues through Eph 4:16.

    3) I think that Simson and Hirsch and others have helped the church recognize that apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers are necessary for the growth of the church. The implications of my interpretation is that the church should also recognize that servants, helpers, administrators, healers, etc. – the gifts of all believers – are necessary for the growth of the church.


  3. 8-20-2008


    It seems to me that the truth on this question is probably somewhere in between the two extremes.

    Just as all of the members of the Body are to teach one another (Col. 3:16), but some seem to have a special responsibility to teach (1 Tim. 5:17, James 3:1), it seems to me that something similar is also true in the case of “equipping.” Yes, indeed, there is a sense in which we are all responsible for equipping one another. But this doesn’t rule out the special responsibility and gifting that certain members of the Body (APEPT) have with respect to equipping. This should not give other members of the Body an excuse to be negligent in their “equipping” responsibilities, though.

  4. 8-20-2008


    You said, “Just as all of the members of the Body are to teach one another (Col. 3:16), but some seem to have a special responsibility to teach (1 Tim. 5:17, James 3:1)…” I would state it differently. All have the responsibility to teach, but some have a special GIFTING to teach. I do not think the responsibility changes. The responsibility is to be obedient.

    I think that all have a responsibility to equip just as all have a responsibility to edify. Both happen when we obediently exercise our spiritual gifts in love for the benefit of the body of Christ.

    Now, if I can as you a question: What synctactical or contextual clues do you find to consider the Eph 4:11 gift exhaustive, but not the other spiritual gift list?


  5. 8-21-2008


    1 Timothy 5:17, one of the verses I cited, states:

    “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”

    A plain reading of this text, at least in this NIV translation, seems to indicate to me that there are some “whose work” is preaching and teaching, as opposed to others for whom this is not the case. Maybe there is some nuance of this text that I am not catching, though.

    James 3:1 seems to me to indicate something similar.

    Regarding Eph. 4:11, I would not necessarily use the term “exhaustive” to describe the list. However, it seems evident to me that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers have more to do, by definition, with “equipping” than certain other spiritual gifts. This doesn’t mean that others don’t equip from time to time, and/or in different ways, as well.

    I agree with you that all of us, as members of the Body, have the responsibility to be obedient. However, it seems to me, that if each one of us were to be fully obedient to the tasks God has given us, when all is said and done, there would be more “equipping” per se accomplished by those who are specially gifted to equip (i.e. APEPT) than by those who are not.

    I see a certain parallel to this with a sports team in which the coaches have a special responsibility to equip the players. In the Body of Christ, though, all the “coaches” are to be “player-coaches.” Also, the players who are not “player-coaches” participate, albeit, more often than not, in a more spontaneous, informal way in the “coaching” of other players. In spite of this, though, there are still distinct “coaching” roles and “playing” roles on the team, and it is normally counter-productive to confuse them.

  6. 8-21-2008


    1 Tim 5:17 says that elders who lead well and work hard at teaching should be considered worthy of double honor. I agree completely. But, this verse does not give us evidence that the list in Eph 4:11 is exhaustive. In fact, it could be argued from this verse that there are elders who do not lead or teach… or at least who do no lead or teach well. Also, the verse says nothing about others who may lead or teach; it only talks about elders who lead well and work hard at teaching.

    James 3:1 says that teachers will be judged with greater strictness. Yes. Those who are gifted to teach will be held responsible for their teaching – stricter judgment because of their gifting. But, since we are all instructed to teach, all of our teaching will be judged. But, again, where is the evidence in relation to Eph 4:11?

    So, your only evidence in relation to Eph 4:11 is this statement: “However, it seems evident to me that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers have more to do, by definition, with ‘equipping’ than certain other spiritual gifts.” But, that is the very question: Why does it seem evident to you? If it is evident from the text of Eph 4 that this list of people are especially responsible for “equipping”, then what is that evidence? The fact that those individuals are listed can only be evidence if you also take the other spiritual gift lists as exhaustive – unless of course, you have some evidence that this list is exhaustive while the others are not exhaustive.

    I’m not arguing that everyone will have the same effectiveness at “equipping”… but all have the same responsibility. We cannot determine our effectiveness at equipping – that is a work of the Holy Spirit -, but it is our responsibility to be obedient to equip and to look to all other believers as our equippers.

    I like your sports metaphor… but I think its Jesus through the Holy Spirit who is the coach/player.


  7. 3-11-2011

    The King James translation obeys the grammatical requirement in the Greek that a prepositional phrase that takes an adverbial function can only modify the main verb. This means that “for equipping” (in your unauthorized version) cannot be modified by succeeding clauses, and refers directly back to the verb “gave.” All three prepositional phrases modify the main verb only, and are therefore coordinate. This means that all ministry in the context of this passage is for paid professional clergy only, and the laity are perfected to prevent errors in doctrine (like the one you are teaching). “Let not many of you presume to be teachers…” is very clear to me. Not everyone is capable of teaching (many were illiterate), nor is everyone called to teach, preach, evangelize, labor in the harvest field for free, which would be illegal according to Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Cor. 9: 7, 9, 14; 1 Tim. 5:18; 2 Tim 2:6; Prov. 14:23; Deut. 25:4.
    Last year, hard working lay people in this country gave the clergy over 10 billion dollars. Most of it went to maintain the clergy and church buildings. Almost none of it went to missions. I could put 200 thousand missionaries in the field for a year with that money, so the world is literally going to hell because of the clergy’s rapacious consumption of our precious and limited resources.
    Isn’t it ironic? The world is going to hell because of you!!!

  8. 3-11-2011


    I didn’t realize that your “authorized” version mentioned either paid professional clergy or laity in Ephesians 4. Perhaps I need to check the 1611… that is what you’re using, right? The only version that’s authorized?

    I hope you don’t mind my sarcasm since I didn’t take your attacks personally.


  9. 3-11-2011


    By the way, you should really check your facts. We don’t pay our leaders or buy buildings. But we give and go and send in support of God’s mission.


  10. 4-3-2013

    I am extremely late to the party so to speak but I just wanted to throw in a tid bit that I have been chewing on lately.

    Namely that the way we tend to look at the equipping gifts as pointing to unique ministerial gifts that can only be expressed by what we see as “ministers” or clergy is a matter of confusing function with purpose or rather assigning the given purpose in vs 12, as uniquely only able to be carried out and realized by an individual or the individuals having one of the “ministerial” gifts mentioned.

    But what you say makes total sense Alan. That the purpose we normally ascribe to these “ministerial” gifts is God’s purpose for ALL the gifts. The function of each gift is different and various gifts are more able or influential in realizing said purposes but we all are to help perfect, equip, and edify each other in whatever capacity we find ourselves gifted to do so by God.

    The work of ministry is the working out of the ministry of reconciliation through the Body as each part does it’s part.

    Paul’s role in that ministry, or part in the work of ministry, was being an apostle.

    Timothy’s was being an evangelist.

    Susie Q’s and John Doe’s might be whatever.

    But we all are responsible to carry out the work of the ministry, God’s work in and through the Body.

    It is not a top down thing where the few (i.e. the five or four if you will) minister to the rest of us so that we in the so-called laity can in turn minister to others.

    It is rather a parallel thing. Where we all, alongside one another without some of us being above anybody else in status, do the work of the ministry in carrying out His purposes through the Body.

    Just thought I would pipe in and add that for consideration – even at this late stage, for what it’s worth.


  11. 4-3-2013


    You’ve summed up this entire post with this simple statement: “That the purpose we normally ascribe to these “ministerial” gifts is God’s purpose for ALL the gifts.”

    Thank you!



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