the weblog of Alan Knox

Special Equippers?

Posted by on Aug 28, 2009 in edification, office, scripture, spiritual gifts | 9 comments

Last year, around this time, I wrote a post called “Special Equippers?” Hopefully, in that post, I successfully argued that the list of gifted individuals in Ephesians 4:11 are not “special equippers” but are instead given to equip the church just as all followers of Jesus are given to the church in order to equip the church. Many times, when people exegete certain passages especially related to leaders (elders, apostles, etc.), they fail to take into account similar passages that deal with all believers. Here is that post:


Special Equippers?

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. 8-28-2009

    Unfortunately, we cannot bank on the meaning of the cognate verb to prove the meaning of the noun in a different context. καταρτισμός has it’s own range of meaning distinct from the verb. The verb καταρτίζω has a range of meaning which is not fully shared with the noun. What needs to be discussed here is whether the genitive τῶν ἁγίων is subjective (idea: “equipping by the saints”) or objective (idea: “equipping the saints”).

  2. 8-28-2009


    Thanks for the comment. Yes, both the noun καταρτισμός and the verb καταρτίζω have ranges of meanings that overlap. Certainly, there are various usages in the NT. The purpose of this post is not to claim that the words are always used synonymously, but to show that it is invalid to claim that Eph 4:11 points to “special equippers” (a type of equipping that no other believers can provide) because of the use of the noun καταρτισμός.

    Why do you think τῶν ἁγίων may be a subjective genitive instead of another use of the genitive?


  3. 8-28-2009


    I have experienced and have seen much abuse
    fostered on the body of Christ because of what
    some people have said about these ”special ones.”

    Much appreciated, your perspective on including
    all believers as equippers.

    “”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.”“

    This is a great model to follow and expect.

    It seems as man decided that organization
    and institutionalism were the way to go –
    reliance on “the brethren” and “the gifts of the Spirit”
    declined to a place where “the professional clergy”
    was the only one expected to equip and edify.

    The need for spiritual gifts were no longer needed,
    or sought after, and people looked to man and not God.

    Men, wanting to be in control, said to me,
    when Jesus ascended on high He gave gifts to men
    and “these elders” were God’s gift to me.
    These “special equippers.” This “Five Fold Ministry.”
    They would call themselves asencion gifts. Oy vey!

    No kidding, “my elders” they really said this.
    How very very funny. How very arrogant.
    How very deceived.

    Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.
    Rom 1:22

    And all the time I thought Jesus was “God’s gift” to me. Silly me.

    But all things do work for the good.
    It caused me to go to Jesus for myself. Praise Him.

    Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice,
    that he might instruct thee.
    Deuteronomy 4:36

    My sheep hear my voice,
    and I know them, and they follow me:
    John 10:27

    And why call ye me, Lord, Lord,
    and do not the things which I say?
    Luke 6:46

    Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona:
    for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,
    but my Father which is in heaven.
    Mark 16:17

    How is it then, brethren? when ye come together,
    every one of you (Hmmm? Every one? Not a few?)
    hath a psalm, hath a doctrine,
    hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.
    Let all things be done unto edifying.
    1Co 14:26

    But the manifestation of “the Spirit” is given
    to every man (Hmmm? every man? Not a few? wow!!!)
    to profit withal.
    For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom;
    to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
    To another faith by the same Spirit;
    to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
    To another the working of miracles;
    to another prophecy;
    to another discerning of spirits;
    to another divers kinds of tongues;
    to another the interpretation of tongues:
    But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit,
    dividing to every man severally as he will.
    1 Cor 12:7

    Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace,
    and things wherewith one may edify another.
    Ro 14:19

    Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth,
    but that which is good to the use of edifying,
    that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
    Eph 4:29

    Wherefore comfort yourselves together,
    and edify one another, even as also ye do.
    1Th 5:11

    Is christianity a participation lifestyle
    and not a spectator lifestyle? Hmmm?

    Yes Alan, It’s about Christ ministering to the body
    and the body ministering Christ to the body.

    And other sheep I have,
    which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring,
    and they shall “hear my voice;”
    and there shall be one fold,
    and one shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When

  4. 8-29-2009

    Well, I’m not completely decided on which it is here. I think the context leans in favor of the subjective genitive, that the saints are doing the equipping. Chapter 4 emphasizes the whole body (as does Ephesians). On the other hand, if Paul only means to refer to equipping done by specific believers here, it doesn’t take away from the importance of unity in the body and the employment of gifts (esp. as seen elsewhere in Pauline writing).

  5. 8-29-2009

    A. Amos Love,

    Good words. Thank you.


    Another options, without requiring the subjective genitive, is that the list of gifted individuals in Eph 4:11 is simply a sample (incomplete) list, just as the other lists of gifts and gifted individuals in Scripture are incomplete.


  6. 8-29-2009


    Found you via Viola’s Twitter and wanted to say hello!

    I am located in Wake Forest, NC and met you one Lord’s Day at your assembly. Thanks for your kind-hearted words and manner.

    In regards to your article here, good word, my brother.

    My comment:

    If the “equipping ones” were a specific collective or “vital organ” in a local assembly, then the Epistles would be more specifically addressed to these ones. We do not find this. Instead, Paul and others write to ALL of the local body, addressing ALL as “equippers” — in fact, recognizing the complete local expression of Christ’s body in that area and not addressing any “vital organ” or specific collective subset of the believers.

    Christ is THE EQUIPPER and He freely manifests His equipping ministry through each member of His Body in the here and now.

    It’s just that simple.

    God bless!

  7. 8-29-2009


    I hope you don’t mind the abbreviation.

    You said, “Christ is THE EQUIPPER and He freely manifests His equipping ministry through each member of His Body in the here and now.” YES! Exactly!


  8. 9-2-2009

    Alan, what about the context of the word Apostles, event-wise? The entire NT shows us Apostles going places for a while and then leaving. I won’t use the word special, but it does seem preliminary or at least temporary. And the context of Ephesians as a circuit letter with similar content to Colossians (to a new church Paul had never met) suggests Paul is writing Ephesians primarily for young churches he’d never met, or churches yet to be born he’d never get to meet.

    What I see is the word “until”. Before that, the “special equippers” train the body to minister (why serve? why not “minister”?) to itself. After “until”, verse 16 does the best job of describing all that you and I agree on, I think.

    The distinction I’m making depends on two things. (1) The typical practice of church planting in an apostolic age, which may or may not be imitatable today. And (2) Time. The maturity of a new church doesn’t just happen immediately, and children don’t wean themselves. It’s a baby chick. It needs some mama chickens. ;-)

  9. 9-2-2009


    I agree that apostles equipped the church in a special way. The same could be said for prophets, evangelists, etc. The point in this post is to say that Christ gives all believers (not just those listed in Eph 4:11) to the church to equip the church.