INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY
In my earlier posts, I came across one entitled “Pastors – Encourage a Culture of Bible Engagement, Explain Your Interpretative Process“ [link: Pastors – Encourage a Culture of Bible Engagement, Explain Your Interpretative Process | Steve Belsheim]. I thought it worthwhile to expand on what I wrote in the earlier post.
The principal source for the earlier post was an article written by Lucas O’Neill entitled “Preachers, Don’t Just Explain What the Text Means – Tell Us How You Got There” (https://www.9marks.org/article/preachers-dont-just-explain-what-the-text-means-tell-us-how-you-got-there/). I recently found two additional articles that touch upon this subject. The links are 5 Effects of Expository Preaching on a Church – Already Not Yet (wordpress.com) and Teaching How to Interpret in the Sermon | Preaching Source.
Below, I exegete Ephesians 4:11-13 to (1) discover the one single correct interpretation and (2) ascertain if the suggestion that a sermon should contain some mention of the interpretative process is a biblically correct application of Ephesians 4:11-13.
In summary, the one correct interpretation of Ephesians 4:11-13 is:
The single correct interpretation of Ephesians 4:11-13 in the context of a Pastor is that Christ gave a man the role of Pastor of a church body. The Pastor is to take steps whereby those believers in the church body he shepherds become completely adequate in serving so as to spiritually strengthen believers in the church until all believers reach the complete and highest standard for the unity of the church body and in the “knowledge of the Son of God.”
Yes, it is correct to apply Ephesians 4:11-13 as Scriptural support for the proposition that a sermon should contain some mention of the interpretative process.
My more detailed analysis follows.
Below, is the text in the NASB95 (the reference translation) and Wuest translation:
Ephesians 4:11–13 (NASB95) – 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11–13 (WUESTNT) – And He himself gave some, on the one hand, as apostles, and, on the other hand, as prophets, and still again some as bringers of good news, and finally, some as pastors who are also teachers, for the equipping of the saints for ministering work with a view to the building up of the Body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the Faith and of the experiential, full, and precise knowledge of the Son of God, to a spiritually mature man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ,
The Wuest translation uses as many English words as are necessary to bring out the richness, force, and clarity of the Greek Text. Intended as a companion to, or commentary on, the standard translations, Wuest’s “expanded translation” follows the Greek word order and especially reflects emphases and contrasts indicated by the original text.
Verse-by-Verse Through the Text
Verse 11 identifies five positions that Jesus gave to various men (all the nouns are masculine) in the early church. No doubt each position includes preaching and teaching God’s Word. However, when it comes to the sermon including some mention of the interpretative process, the most relevant position appears to be the “pastors.” The Pastor typically delivers the Sunday morning sermon that would contain a mention of the interpretative process.
Who is a “Pastor?” The Logos Word-by-Word Guide reveals that the NASB95 translates the Greek article and noun tous … poimenas as “pastors,” and in this context it means, “of those who lead Christian communities/congregations/ churches … pastor Eph 4:11 (w. other church leaders).” See Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). In A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 843). University of Chicago Press. The Logos Word-by-Word Guide reveals that the Logos sense of the word is a Christian leader of a Christian congregation understood as a shepherd over a flock of sheep.
One role of the Pastor (figurative shepherd) is to teach his congregation (figurative sheep) the precepts of God’s Word. Given the Pastor’s job description spelled out in verses 12-13, his teaching should include instruction about how to interpret Scripture.
Verse 12 sets out the purpose for Christ giving a man the role of Pastor:
“12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”
Here, the Logos Word-by-Word Guide reveals that the NASB95 translates the Greek noun katartison as “equipping.” According to Louw et al., (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). In Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 679). United Bible Societies) it means:
75.5 ἐξαρτίζωb; καταρτίζωa; κατάρτισις, εως f; καταρτισμός, οῦ m: to make someone completely adequate or sufficient for something—‘to make adequate, to furnish completely, to cause to be fully qualified, adequacy.’
See The Logos sense of katartismos is to bring someone to completion (perfect and adequate) and fit for some purpose.
The “work of service” is for the purpose of the equipping, i.e., to make congregation perfect and fit for its intended purpose, which verse 13 describes, at least in part.
Further, the NASB95 translates the Greek noun oikodomēn as “the building up,” and it means, “fig., of spiritual strengthening (s. οἰκοδομέω 3) edifying, edification, building up.” See Arndt et al., supra at pp. 696-697. Each member of the body knowing how to interpret Scripture is important to successfully equip the congregation for spiritually strengthening the church body.
Finally verse 13 states the ultimate goal of the building up or spiritual strengthening:
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
The NASB95 translates the Greek adjective teleion as “mature” and it means, “pert. to meeting the highest standard, of things, perfect.” See Arndt et al., supra, at p. 995. The Logos sense of the word is mature development – having reached full natural growth or development.
Further, the NASB95 translates the Greek noun plērōmatos as “belongs to the fullness” and it means “59.32 πλήρωμαb, τος n: a total quantity, with emphasis upon completeness—‘full number, full measure, fullness, completeness, totality.” See Louw, et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 596. The Logos sense of the word is completeness or fullness – the state of having every necessary or normal or component or step.
The equipping and building up of the congregation does not end until the people reach complete or full spiritual maturity relating to (1) the unity of the faith, and (2) of the knowledge of the Son of God.
At the time Paul wrote Ephesians, the issue of unity appeared to pertain to the fact that the church comprised both Jews and Gentiles. Today, the concept of unity applies to all sorts of diverse people who make up the congregation. While true believers may be diverse, the common thread is that at one time in their lives, they repented of their sins and trusted alone in Christ’s finished work on the Cross. The “knowledge of the Son of God” appears to pertain to a person’s knowledge and understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He did for them on the Cross.
Interpretation and Application
In light of the above analysis, the single correct interpretation of Ephesians 4:11-13 in the context of a Pastor is that Christ gave a man the role of Pastor of a church body. The Pastor is to take steps whereby those believers in the church body he shepherds become completely adequate in serving so as to spiritually strengthen believers in the church until all believers reach the complete and highest standard for the unity of the church body and in the “knowledge of the Son of God.” A concise explanation of what Jesus did is in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5.
In reference to the application of this interpretation, a Pastor’s step is to carry out his calling: expository preaching of God’s Word through sermons. The course “Essentials of Evangelistic Expository Preaching” offered by Olford Ministries International in Memphis, Tennessee defines “expository preaching” as:
The Spirit-empowered explanation and proclamation of the text of God’s Word with due regard to the historical, contextual, grammatical and doctrinal significance of the given passage with the specific object of invoking a Christ-transforming response.
The object of invoking a Christ-transforming response goes hand-in-hand with each member of the body becoming completely adequate in serving so as to spiritually strengthen those believers in the church until all believers reach the complete and highest standard for the unity of the church body and in the “knowledge of the Son of God” (i.e., the knowledge and understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He did for them on the Cross).
While the sermon is an excellent vehicle, the chances to invoke a Christ-transforming response are enhanced if the listener knows how to interpret God’s Word. The listener will gain knowledge about how to study the Bible if the sermon contains some mention of the interpretive process. Therefore, one legitimate application of Ephesians 4:11-13 consistent with the Pastor’s calling is that a sermon should contain some mention of the interpretative process.
If you are unsure about your salvation or are not a Christian, it is vital that you continue reading.
IF YOU ARE UNSURE ABOUT YOUR SALVATION
If you are unsure about your salvation, you need to check out my book The Salvation Meter: Biblical Self-Diagnostic Tests to Examine Your Salvation and Spiritual Growth (book link at Xulon Press: https://www.xulonpress.com/bookstore/bookdetail.php?PB_ISBN=9781662828638 ). At Amazon the book link is https://www.amazon.com/Salavation-Meter-Biblical-Self-Diagnostic-Spiritual/dp/1662828632 . I also have a website in which I am updating the content in the book. The link to my website for the book is https://thesalvationmeter.com .
IF YOU ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN
… please (1) read through “God’s Plan of Salvation” so you can understand what God did for you through His only unique Son, Jesus Christ, and (2), from the bottom of your heart, pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” meaning every word. If you do, you will be reconciled to God – saved – through Jesus Christ.
God’s Plan of Salvation
In the beginning, God, who is holy, created the entire universe. As a part of His creative actions, He made humans (male and female) in His image to know Him. For a while, everything was right between God and our ancestors, Adam and Eve. But Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, whereby Adam’s sin was passed down to all of humanity, creating a separation between God and humanity. We cannot do anything to bridge that separation so that without God’s intervention, hell is our eternal destination. Fortunately for us, in His great love and mercy, God provided us with the only means of salvation through Abraham’s lineage by sending the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, God’s only unique Son. While retaining His deity, God the Son became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, thereby fulfilling the Law, and died a substitutionary atoning death on the cross, taking on Himself the punishment for the sins of all people. Jesus rose from the dead, showing that God the Father accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, thereby exhausting God’s wrath against humanity. God now calls on every unbeliever to repent of their sins and completely trust in Christ alone that Jesus died for their sins and rose to life from the dead. Every unbeliever who repents and trusts in Jesus Christ will be forgiven of all their sins (past, present, and future) and born again as a new creation in Christ, possessing guaranteed eternal life with God.
Scripture References: Genesis 1:1, 26, 31; Habakkuk 1:13; Genesis 2:7-25; Genesis 3:1-7, 22-24; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:19-20, 23; 5:17-19; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Colossians 1:15; 2:9; Matthew 1:18, 20, 24-25; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:24; Hebrews 2:17; 9:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 John 4:10; John 3:16-18; Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30; 26:20; Romans 1:4; 4:25; John 3:5-8; 1 Peter 1:3.
Lord, Jesus Christ, the only unique Son of God, thank You for Your free gift of eternal life. I know I’m a sinner who cannot save myself no matter what I do, and I deserve to spend eternity in hell. But, I know that because You loved me so much, You voluntarily died on the cross for me taking my sins upon Yourself, and You physically bodily rose from the grave showing that Your sacrificial death was sufficient payment to give me eternal life in Heaven. I now repent of my sins and completely trust alone in what You did for my eternal salvation. Please take control of my life as I now receive You as my Lord and Savior. Thank You so much for saving me. I am now Yours forever!
(Scripture references: John 1:1-4, 11-14; John 3:16; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:21-26; Isaiah 53:4-6; Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10, 13; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; John 10:27-29).
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