Ephesians 4:11-13  "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:"

This passage of scripture deals specifically with the gifts of the gospel ministry.  While, there are many other gifts in the church, God has given to us the preaching gifts for a specific purpose. 

In the above scripture we see the four gifts of the gospel ministry.  These four gifts are:

         1.  Apostles              2.  Prophets                  3.  Evangelists                 4.  Pastors and Teachers.

It is the Lord who gave these gifts and it is the work of the Holy Spirit to call men to the work of those gifts. 

There are similarities and differences in all four of these gifts. 

The similarities in these four gifts include the fact that they are all called of God and send of God and preach the same gospel in power and demonstration of Spirit and all are laboring in the Kingdom of God and are working to the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry and for the edifying of the body of Christ.  They all are attempting to feed God's people with the spiritual food of God's word.  There truly are more similarities than differences between the four gifts. 

The main difference between the four gifts of the gospel ministry is the extent of their work.  First, the apostles had to be eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ.  They were given authority that the other gifts were not given in the establishment of church government and ordinances that were given them from the Lord.  They like the apostles had a direct revelation of God's word to deliver unto the people.  There were also signs, which were associated with the apostles that the other gifts of the gospel ministry did not have.  They, like the prophets, and the evangelists went forth to various locations doing the work of evangelists in carrying forth the gospel. 

The prophets did not have to be eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ, but they were given a revelation from God of His word to deliver to the people.  They like, the evangelists went forth to various locations doing the work of evangelists in carrying forth the gospel. 

The evangelists did not have to be eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ, nor were they given a revelation of God word to deliver to the people.  They did go forth to various locations doing the work of the evangelists in carrying forth the gospel. 

The pastors and teachers did most of the work in the church of which the Holy Spirit made them overseers.  Their work is primarily in that location until or if the Holy Spirit directs them to another location.  They have the responsibility in that location to teach and preach to God's people to edify and build them up in the most holy faith that was once delivered to the saints.  In this location, they also do the work of the evangelists, but do not generally go to various locations as the evangelists, prophets, and apostles did.

When the cannon of scripture was completed, then there ceased to be the need for apostles and prophets and thus today we have the two gifts that remain of evangelist and pastor and teacher.

"For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:" One of the things the gospel preachers were given for was for the "perfecting of the saints."  Notice the gifts were not given for the making of saints, but rather God is the maker of saints and the gospel preached by the gospel ministers is to perfect that which God has already made. 

The word, perfect, has more than one meaning.  It can mean "without spot or blemish as in being perfect without flaw.  Only God can make us perfect without flaw.  This is not the work of the gospel ministry.  Another meaning of the word, perfect, is to be mature.  This is the meaning in the phrase, "perfecting of the saints."  The gospel is preached to perfect or mature the saints. 

In addition, the purpose of the scriptures we are told in 2 Tim. 3:16, 17: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."  The scriptures are given to mature the "man of God" so that he will be thoroughly furnished unto all good works.  The "man of God" is the born again child of God.  The scriptures, when properly applied bring the child of God unto a perfection or maturity in worship and service towards God and his people.

We, as children of God, need maturing in several ways:

    1.  Matt. 19:21 "Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me."  We need maturing in our love towards our neighbor and in our love towards God.

    2.  Luke 8:14 "And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience."  We need maturing in our fruit bearing to the honor and glory of God.

    3.  2 Cor. 7:1 "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."  We need maturing in living Godly or holy lives before God.

    4.  Col. 4:12 "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."  We need maturing in our service towards God.

    5.  1 Thes. 3:9 "For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; 10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?"  Our faith needs maturing in our service towards God. 

    6.  Rev. 3:1 "And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God."  We need maturing in our works as the Lord's servants that we may do that which is right and pleasing in His sight.

    7.  Heb. 6:1 "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit."  We need to mature beyond just a basic understanding of the fundamental principles and go on to a maturity in a godly and holy living before God and man.

The gospel teaches us and brings us to such perfection as stated above.

The second purpose that the Lord gave the gospel ministry is for the work of the ministry.  That is the gospel ministry was given to instruct each member of the church in their individual ministry.  Each member of the body of Christ has a ministry.  While only a few of the church members are ever called to preach the gospel, yet every member of the congregation is given of the Lord, spiritual gifts and an individual ministry. 

The gospel ministers are to teach the members about their gifts and how they are to perform their individual ministry.

The third purpose that the Lord gave the gospel ministry for is for the edifying of the body of Christ.  Edify comes from the Greek word oikodomeo and means: oikodome, oy-kod-om-ay'; fem. (abstr.) of a comp. of G3624 and the base of G1430; architecture, i.e. (concr.) a structure; fig. confirmation:--building, edify (-ication, -ing).  Literally, edify means to build up.

There are several verses that show us that the gospel edifies or builds up the individual members of the congregation in the faith:

    1.  2 Cor 12:19 "Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying."

    2.  Eph 4:29 "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."

    3.  1 Tim 1:4 "Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do."

    4.  Rom 15:2 "Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification."

    5.  1 Cor 14:3 "But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort."

    6.  2 Cor 10:8 "For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed:"

    7.  2 Cor 13:10 "Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction."

The gospel builds up the individual in the most holy faith and builds up their spiritual lives in the service of God.  Yet, there is additional edification through the preaching of the gospel.  This edification is the building up of the church as the body of Christ.  The church consists of several individual members compacted together as the body of Christ.  While the building up of each individual member is good for the church, yet the church itself is built up as a functioning body as well that includes the interaction and gifts of all the members working in harmony:

    1.  1 Cor 14:5 "I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying."

    2.  1 Cor 14:12 "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church."

    3.  1 Cor 14:26 "How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying."

    4.  Eph 4:12 "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:"

    5.  Eph 4:16 "From whom 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."

    6.  Eph 4:29 KJV)  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."

The gospel promotes the building up of each of the members of the church in the most holy faith and at the same time promotes the unity and use of the gifts of the church and the actions of the church as a body that the body itself may be built up in its worship and service to God and its ministry to the Lord's people. 

"Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:"  We will need the gifts of the gospel ministry and their work until the Lord comes in the resurrection.  No local church has perfect unity of the faith, nor do any of us have all the knowledge of the Son of God, nor are any of us without need of some spiritual growth or increase in service.  When we are measured against the stature of the fullness of Christ, we all come up short and have further need to be taught and to grow. 

Ephesians 4:14  "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;"

When a person comes to the knowledge of salvation by grace through the covenant redemptive work of Jesus Christ, he is at time regardless of his natural age a child in understanding.  We are not to remain children in understanding:

    1.  1 Cor 13:11 "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

    2.  1 Cor 14:20 "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men."

In nature, a child in his thoughts is easily led astray.  They are no match for the cunning craftiness of an experienced adult.  This is also true in the spiritual realm.  That is why it is so important that we do not remain children in understanding of spiritual things.  There are cunning men who lie in wait to deceive.  Acts 20:29 "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."  Also, consider 2 Pet. 2:1 "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not."

Many today, because they are children in understanding, are carried away with every wind of doctrine (false teaching).  When someone presents something new to him, he quickly is deceived into following that teaching.  There are multitudes that go from one religious group to another and to another because they have no foundation in the truth. 

When a strong wind catches a flimsy object, the wind will toss it to and fro.  Those who do not grow in their understanding are like the flimsy object caught by a strong wind.  They are constantly being tossed by false religious systems and made like merchandise at an auction. 

One of the purposes that God gave the gospel ministry is that the children of God may grow in their understanding and have a strong foundation in the true worship and service of God in his true church.             

Ephesians 4:15, 16   "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom 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."

To grow spiritually should be the goal of every born again child of God:

    1.  1 Pet 2:2 "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:"

    2.  2 Pet 3:18 "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen."

    3.  2 Cor 9:10 "Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;"

    4.  Col 2:19 "And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God."

    5.  1 Th 3:12 "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:"

    6.  1 Th 4:10 "And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;"

    7.  2 Th 1:3 "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;"

    8.  Eph 2:21 "In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:"

Spiritual growth can come about in different ways, but one of the chief ways that promote spiritual growth is the preaching of the word.  The gospel ministry is sent to "speak the truth in love."  We, as members of the congregation, are to hear and believe the truth in love.  The truth nourishes us and spiritually feeds us so as to promote spiritual growth. 

Our own personal spiritual growth is certainly desirable, but the church is a body and the body is to grow also.  That is all the members of the church growing spiritually will foster the growth of the entire body.  "From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth."  We see the work of the Holy Spirit guiding and leading the church to grow spiritually in the phrase, "fitly joined together."  It is the Spirit that has given each of us the spiritual gifts that we possess.  It is the Spirit that has called men to preach the gospel and sent them to their fields of labor.  It is the Spirit that has prepared our hearts to hear those messages.  It is the Spirit that has placed us in the church as it pleases Him.  In the local church we are like a building that is fitly joined together by a master builder.  That master builder is the Holy Spirit. 

In the body of a growing being, growth takes place at the joints.  The bone at the joint provides the substance that is compacted together to increase the size of the bone.  The bone would be typical of each member of the congregation.  When we grow spiritually and utilize the gifts that God has given us and increase in love one to another, then the whole church, as the body of Christ, is made to increase as well. 

"According to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."  "Effectual" is a term that indicates that what God does will come to pass.  My working may not come to pass.  Thanks be to God that I do not have to depend on my own works, but rather am assured that God is working in me:

    1.  Phil. 2:13 "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." 

     2.  1 Cor 12:6 "And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all."

    3.  1 Th 2:13 "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe."

We conclude that in this growth process that there are things that we do and there is also the leadership and working of the Holy Spirit that enables us and leads us to accomplish spiritual growth in our own lives and in the body of the church as a whole.