Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 24, 1953
NUMBER 33, PAGE 8-9a

Exegesis Of Ephesians 4:11-16 - Evangelists

Herschel E. Patton, Russellville, Alabama

In some circles (Garrett-Ketcherside) today, it is being contended that preachers who are working regularly with established congregations are engaging in an unscriptural work. These are frequently charged with being "hirelings," "caring not for the flock," "pastors" etc. That there are some preachers who are more interested in "a job" than in souls and who sometimes really act as pastors, I am sure no one would deny. However, I do not believe this could be charged of the majority of gospel preachers. Charges and counter-charges do not amount to so much, but when arguments are based upon the scriptures all should give attention. In this paper, I would like for us to consider a few arguments which have been based upon the scriptures.

Ephesians 4:11-16

"And he gave some (to be), apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For (with a view to) the perfecting of the saints, for (unto) the work of the ministry (of ministering), for (unto the edifying (building up) of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect (full-grown) man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."

From this passage, it is contended that evangelists were given for the "perfecting of the saints," and that the perfected saints were then to carry on the work of ministering and building up or edifying the body of Christ — that evangelists work is ended when he has built up a self-edifying body — that a congregation with elders has no need of a regular evangelist. This is all based on the use of two different Greek words translated "for." The things mentioned were given for (pros) "with a view to" the perfecting of the saints, for (eis) "unto" the work of the ministry. Since both of these words point forward, many would refuse to accept the idea that these gifts were only for the perfecting of the saints and not also for the work of the ministry and edification. But, granting that evangelists are here listed as one of the gifts of God provided for the perfecting of the saints so that they (the saints) might be equipped for carrying on the work of ministering and edifying, still the conclusions drawn do not follow.

Let us observe that pastors and teachers were given for the same purpose evangelists were — "the perfecting of the saints." If the work of an evangelist is over in a congregation when the saints have been perfected — full-grown — self-edifying, then why is not also the work of pastors and teachers also over, seeing that each was given for the "perfecting of the saints"? On what grounds may one contend from this verse that the work of apostles, prophets, evangelists (given for the perfecting of the saints) ceased with the accomplishments of this purpose, and yet pastors and teachers (given for the same purpose) are to continue their work after this purpose is accomplished?

Does not consistency demand our concluding that each work — given of God — in verse 11 was for the same purpose — "the perfecting of the saints," and if one ceased with the accomplishment of that purpose, all did?

Verse 13 informs us that the gifts of verse 11 were given "till (a limitation) we all come in the unity of the faith — full-grown." The "perfect man" of verse 13 was to be the result of the work of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The gifts of verse 11 were given "till" the purpose for which they were given was accomplished.

These considerations cause us to conclude that the gifts of verse 11 were special and for a special period. A similar passage is found in 1 Cor. 12:27-31, "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way." Though not as clearly stated as in Eph. 4:12, still it is clear from chapters 12, 13 and 14 of First Corinthians that the purpose of these special powers was for edification — building up. All of the things here mentioned, like those of Ephesians 4 are special gifts for a special period. Paul shows these special gifts were not to continue in 1 Cor. 13:9-12. They would be done away "when that which is perfect is come" — the whole truth, making possible the perfected saint — the full-grown man.

The gifts mentioned in these verses belong to what may be referred to as the creative age. Now we are in the procreative age. The creative age is that in which new creatures and a new order of things are brought into being; the procreative age is that in which these beings are multiplied and developed and the order is continued. In the creative age, the age of miracles, things are miraculously formed and created, afterwards they multiply and grow through the workings of law, without miracle. Life was imparted to Adam and Eve by miracle; life, the same life that was given to them, has been passed on to their children through all the generations from then to us, by law, without miracle. No miracle has been needed to impart physical life since Adam and Eve were made alive. The same is true in the spiritual world. Men and women were endowed with spiritual knowledge at the first miraculously. The same knowledge bestowed then has been perpetuated and multiplied until all Christians now enjoy that knowledge without miracle.

The evangelists, pastors and teachers of Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:28 along with other things mentioned were special, the like of which we do not have today. These were given for the perfecting of the saints — to make possible the full-grown man, or perfected saint. Notice "He gave" these, or as stated in 1 Corinthians 12:27, "And God hath set some in the church ...." These did not develop as a result of something previously done. But aren't we still supposed to have evangelists, pastors, and teachers? Not special ones like those of Ephesians 4:11, but we do have those who come to exist by natural law and not by miracle — gift from God. Today, saints may be edified — builded up — and become full-grown without miraculous aids. This is possible through the work of preachers (evangelists), elders (pastors), and teachers who have become such by development and not by gift.

Who Is An Evangelist — Minister?

There are no special (miraculously endowed) ones. An evangelist, according to the meaning of the word, is one who announces glad tidings. This is the responsibility of every saint. There is what may be called personal and public evangelism. When Andrew brought Peter to Christ (John 1:35) he was engaging in personal evangelism. The same was true of Philip when he found Nathaniel. Philip engaged in public evangelism at Samaria and personal when he preached to the Eunuch. The scattered saints from Jerusalem engaged in evangelism when they "went everywhere preaching the word." When a saint crosses the street and teaches a neighbor the truth, he is evangelizing and is, in a sense, an evangelist. In this sense, a church ought to have just as many evangelists as it has members. The same thing is true concerning ministers. A minister is one who ministers. If one ministers to souls or bodies, he is a minister. Again, the church should have as many ministers as it has members.

While this is true, still, it is absurd to contend that no distinction is ever made between those who give all their time to preaching and those who don't. In Jerusalem some, the apostles, gave themselves "continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4) while others "served tables." Does this mean the seven men here selected to "serve tables" had no responsibility with reference to prayer and the ministry of the word? Certainly not! They had a responsibility the same as every Christian, but still a distinction is evident. Later one of these seven men, Philip, came to be known as "the evangelist." (Acts 21:8) He was not called this when appointed to serve tables in Jerusalem. It seems he came to possess a distinction he did not have when serving tables. In 1 Timothy 5:17 Paul said "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine." This necessarily implies some did not labor in the word and doctrine. Were those who did not labor thus not "apt to teach"? Did they do no teaching — "feeding"? As elders, certainly they did, but still there is a distinction between those who "laboured in the word and doctrine" and those who didn't. In 2 Timothy 4:5 Paul urged Timothy to "do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." Did Paul simply refer to what should be generally true among all Christians? Does not his language imply Timothy was an evangelist — minister in a special sense?

I frequently do some carpenter work around the house. A carpenter is defined by Webster as "a workman who builds or repairs wooden structures." I have repaired wooden structures and built partitions across rooms and one time made a Hollywood style bedstead, so according to the definition, I suppose I could be called a carpenter, and so could you if you ever build or repair wooden structures. But, I do not regard myself, nor am I regarded by others, a carpenter. I may do some carpenter work once in a while, and technically speaking, be a carpenter, but I am not a carpenter in the sense these men are who constantly engage in this sort of work. Likewise, a Christian can and should engage in evangelizing at every opportunity, yet not be an evangelist in the sense Philip and Timothy were.

If one ministers or evangelizes — giving his whole time to it — it is right for him to be supported while doing it. "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." (1 Cor. 9:14) "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" (1 Cor. 9:11) It matters not whether one is traveling from city to city, country to country, or within a radius of just a few miles so long as he is going with the gospel — sowing spiritual things. The work of teaching, feeding, exhorting, admonishing is the work of every Christian. True, the elders have a special responsibility along this line, but that does not exclude other members from doing all these works. One who gives all his time to the work deserves to be supported. The contention there is no authority for having ministers or evangelists, as distinguished from other members of the body, would demand supporting every Christian and if every Christian is to be supported, who would do the supporting?