Work Hard to Serve Others — Ephesians 4:12

God's design for building up His church is using leaders who will equip the saints to do the work of service so the church body may be built up.

Work Hard to Serve Others — Ephesians 4:12
Photo by Do Nhu / Unsplash

Eph 04_12


Paul wrote this letter to be read and circulated by the churches near Ephesus.

  • In Ephesians 1, Paul begins by teaching us about God’s plan of redemption and how we are chosen by the Father (1:4), redeemed by the Son (1:7), and sealed by the Holy Spirit (1:13).

  • In Ephesians 2, Paul describes our new life in Christ and how we were dead in our sins BUT we were made alive together with Christ.

  • In Ephesians 3, Paul reveals the mystery that Jews and Gentiles can now worship God together as one body.

  • Here in chapter 4, Paul transitions from doctrine to practice, and he answers the question, “So what?”

    • It's not enough for us to just have orthodoxy. There must be orthopraxy.
    • Right doctrine must lead to right living.
  • Ephesians 4:1–16 is the most concise statement in the New Testament on God's purpose for the church.[1]

  • We are to walk worthy (4:1)

    • With humility (4:2) and in unity (4:3–6)
    • Using the diverse gifts given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. (4:7–10)
  • Christ is intimately involved in the building up of his church.

    • Jesus said, "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church." (Mt 16:18 LSB)
  • Then in verse 11, Paul begins a new sentence

    • Christ Jesus, he himself, has given the church gifted ministers of the word: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors (shepherds) and teachers.
  • And verse 12 gives us the purpose for these gifted men.

  • We will organize verse 12 into three points: equip, exert, and edify.

1. Equip

  • “to equip the saints” (v.12a ESV) — πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων

    • This phrase sets the agenda for the work of gifted ministers of God’s word[2]
    • Church leaders, "pastors and teachers", are to “equip the saints.”
  • καταρτισμός (noun) is a hapax legomena

    • “equip” or “equipping” = ESV, NIV, NASB
    • “perfecting” = KJV
    • perfection, education [Brill]
    • training, discipline [LS]
    • verb καταρτίζω = (1a) to restore and (1b) to put into proper condition [BDAG]
      • [Jesus] saw two other brothers, James...and the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets." (Mt 4:21 LSB)
      • "A student is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher." (Lk 6:40)
      • "Brothers, even if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness." (Gal 6:1a)
      • "As we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?" (1Th 3:10)
    • medical term = ‘setting of a bone’ [BDAG] or 'treatment of a dislocation' [Brill - 4 different ancient Greek medical books]
      • preparation, restoration, equipment and equipping. [BDAG]
  • Equipping the saints is not just (1) handing someone a book or (2) referring someone to a Youtube video or (3) having them query an AI chatbot.

    • Church leaders are to come alongside, hands-on, pressing firmly, spending time.
    • Example: Jesus equipped his disciples by teaching through the Old Testament for over three years.
  • ἅγιος (substantive adjective)

    • holy ones, set apart
    • "dedicated or consecrated to the service of God" [BDAG]
    • Everyone who has been saved and adopted by God are His saints, and we have been set apart.
  • Church leaders are to equip saints using Scripture and provide spiritual restoration, preparation, and training.

    • This starts with our Sunday pulpit ministry.
    • DTP - Bible storyline, the gospel, and systematic theology.
    • Biblical counseling - apply God's word and walking members through their life problems.
    • Men's Bible study, women's ministries, Sunday school, community groups, and other informal discipleship groups.
  • The church must have leaders who will equip the saints.

    1. Are we equipping others?

    2. Are we making ourselves available to be equipped?

2. Exert

  • “for the work of ministry” (v.12b ESV)
    • this prepositional phrase is subordinate to the first phrase and indicates the immediate goal of the “equipping”
      • Some wrongly believe that the three prepositional phrases here in v.12 are coordinate.
      • Christ gave leaders "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:" (KJV)
    • πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων
      • εἰς ἔργον διακονίας,
      • εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ σώματος τοῦ χριστοῦ·
    • ESV translators did well to preserve the distinction of these prepositions.
    • Church leaders are to equip and train the saints “for the work of ministry.”
    • Every member in our church to be trained for the work of service.
  • ἔργον
    • In contrast to idleness, WE are to work.
    • This work requires everyone's participation.
    • This requires time, energy, effort, and sacrifice.
  • We live in a culture and society that does NOT want to work.
    • We count the years until we can retire from work.
    • We grumble over homework, housework, physical or mental work.
  • God’s original purpose for all mankind is to work.
    • Work was a part of the human life before the Fall. (Gen 2:15)
    • Because of man's sin, work has been cursed with toil and hardship. (Gen 3:17–19)
      • "By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground."
    • “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” (Eph 2:10a)
    • What type of “work”? The work identified here is service/ministry.
  • διακονία - translated “service” (NIV) or “ministry” (ESV)
    • this word "service" has a broad meaning.
    • functioning in the interest of a larger public [BDAG]
    • "But Martha was distracted with all her preparations..." (Lk 10:40)
    • "There was grumbling from the Hellenists against the Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food." (Acts 6:1)
    • “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word” (Acts 6:4)
    • “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.” (1 Cor 12:4–5)
  • Service/ministry is always people-oriented; it’s not about the program.
    • Don’t judge success by the quality of the program.
    • Judge success by the effort to love and serve people.
  • This work is hard. But it should not be drudgery.
  • Christian service is a spiritual blessing and a privilege.
    • One thing to be a servant.
    • It is another thing to be a servant to royalty.
    • You and I are servants to the King of kings and Lord of lords.
  • This work is not burdensome because our work is enabled by God's Spirit.
    • "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil 2:12–13 LSB)
  • A church needs leaders who will equip its members who are willing to exert.

3. Edify

  • “for building up the body of Christ.” (v.12c)

    • here we find the purpose for “equipping saints for the work of service."
    • the purpose is to build up the body of Christ.
  • οἰκοδομή (36x) - literally means the process of constructing a building or edifice [BDAG]

    • "Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, is growing into a holy sanctuary in the Lord." (Eph 2:20–21)
    • here, used figuratively, this word refers to spiritual strengthening, building up, edifying, edification.
  • This word is used two more times in this chapter.

    • “from whom the whole body...causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Eph 4:16)
    • “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for building up what is needed, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Eph 4:29)
  • Paul here mixes two metaphors. First he uses the metaphor of a building or edifice.

  • τοῦ σώματος τοῦ χριστοῦ - Paul uses the metaphor of the body of Christ.

    • Paul first describes the church uses the metaphor of the "body of Christ" in Ephesians 1:22–23.
    • But to appreciate more about this metaphor, turn to 1 Corinthians 12.
  • We are one body, many members. (1 Cor 12:14)

    • Not two bodies: 1st and 2nd hour, singles vs married, men vs women, old vs young, lovable vs "not so easy to like"
  • Each member is important. (1 Cor 12:15–18)

    • Who you are in the body of Christ is not a mistake but God's sovereign choice.
  • Each member is vital. (1 Cor 12:21–22)

    • "What man among you, if he has one hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?" (Luke 15:4)
    • Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows each of you by name.
  • Each member is honorable. (1 Cor 12:23–24)

  • So as God's "holy ones," we serve to build up the body of Christ.

  • But some of you today in this sanctuary are not in the body of Christ.

  • Have you acknowledged your helpless state and cried out to Jesus to save you and absorb God's wrath?

    • If not, I plead with you. "Trust in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross to be your Savior and Lord."
    • Without Christ, you remain dead in your sin.
    • Your trajectory is eternal punishment in hell.
    • But through faith in Christ alone, you can be forgiven of your sins and made alive and transformed into a new creation with a renewed purpose, ready for every good work.


• In conclusion, let me ask you three questions:

  1. Are you equipping others in our church?
  • I’m not just asking the pastor-teacher.
  • I’m asking community group leaders, ministry team leaders, Sunday school teachers.
  • Are you training others? Are you equipping others?
  • Are all of us making ourserlves available to be trained?
  1. Will you exert yourself to serve others?
  • Do you craving comfort and ease in this life?
  • Are you coasting?
  • You have one life to live for God. Make it count.
  1. Are you living a life that edifies the body of Christ?
  • Are you only focused on your personal wellness and that of your immediate family?
  • Brothers and sisters — God has called each of us to build up the body of Christ. And this must be intentional.
  • God has made you unique so you can build up others in a way that only you can do.
  • As God's adopted child, you are important, vital, and honorable. You can edify others even if you are physically or mentally incapacitated.

  1. Scott Ardavanis, "Purpose of the Church, Part 1" (Grace Church of the Valley, Kingsburg, CA, Oct 3, 2021), ↩︎

  2. Arnold, Ephesians. ZECNT: 2010, 263 ↩︎