EQUIPPING the saints
Few visuals better represent the depth of Jesus’ obedience and service than his kneeling to wash the disciple’s feet. Washing his disciple’s feet is a living parable, identifying his ultimate obedience and service through his death on the cross. Jesus said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14), and equipping the saints to obey Jesus’ teaching and emulate his life of service is an essential activity of the Church.
God has provided for the equipping of all believers through the gifts that he has given to the church. Paul writes:
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13
While Paul only names a few of the gifts of the Spirit in this passage, his aim is not to create a hierarchy of importance within the church. In fact, his aim when explaining the Holy Spirit’s gifts is quite the opposite. Paul’s goal is that all believers understand that they have been given at least one gift by the Holy Spirit, which they are to use for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7), and that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are gifted to help “prepare” others for service. The word Paul uses for “prepare” is the Greek word katartismon, which comes from a verb meaning to repair. This verb is used to describe activities like setting a bone in surgery or putting a joint back into place. In the New Testament, it is used in Mark 1:19 to describe the mending of fishing nets, and in Galatians 6:1 it is used to describe the process of restoring someone caught in sin.
The picture Paul wants to provide here is of people using their spiritual gifts in order to strengthen one another for lives of obedience and service. In some cases that will simply involve instruction, and that particular function is the responsibility of those given the gift of teaching. In other cases preparation will involve correction and even healing, which might involve the gift of mercy or faith. But the goal is that the people of God are ready and able to live lives of obedience and find their place of service.
Once people obediently find their place of service, the use of their gifts is to have a very particular outcome. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:12 that God has given gifts “so that the body of Christ may be built up,” or enabled. Our gifts are to add strength to one another’s lives, and families. In fact, all the gifts are always given for the greater good of God’s people, which is why it is so offensive when someone uses their gifts to empower or enrich themselves. God’s gifts are also to produce in us maturity. Paul writes, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth…blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Ephesians 4:14). Immaturity brings instability in our lives, and it our responsibility to help one another build our lives upon the sure footing of God’s Word