The interpretation of Ephesians 4:11 as gifts rather than offices is based on several arguments. Here are a few:
- The context of the passage: The broader context of Ephesians 4 emphasises the unity and diversity of the Church. Paul urges the Ephesian believers to maintain unity in the faith, while also acknowledging that each member has been given different gifts and roles for the benefit of the whole community. The emphasis on unity and diversity suggests that the roles mentioned in verse 11 are not necessarily fixed positions of authority, but rather gifts that are given to individuals for the sake of the community.
- The use of the word “grace” (charisma): The Greek word charisma is used in Ephesians 4:7 to describe the gifts that Christ has given to believers. This same word is used in verse 11 to describe the roles that Christ has given to the Church. The use of the same word suggests that these roles are also gifts that are given by Christ to members of the community.
- The absence of hierarchical language: The language used in verse 11 is not hierarchical, but rather descriptive. The text does not use terms like “ruler” or “authority” to describe the roles mentioned. Rather, they are described as gifts that are given by Christ for the purpose of equipping the saints for the work of ministry. This suggests that the roles are not fixed positions of authority, but rather functions that can be fulfilled by anyone who has been given the appropriate gifts.
- The diversity of gifts and roles: The list of roles in Ephesians 4:11 is diverse and includes both formal positions of leadership (such as apostles and prophets) and more functional roles (such as teachers and evangelists). This diversity suggests that the roles are not necessarily fixed positions of authority, but rather gifts that can be used in a variety of ways to benefit the Body of Christ.
Overall, these arguments suggest that the interpretation of Ephesians 4:11 as gifts rather than offices is a valid one, and that the roles mentioned in the passage should be understood as gifts that are given to individuals for the benefit of the Body of Christ.
Offices would Contradict Jesus’ Example.
Jesus Christ’s leadership style was one of servanthood rather than a hierarchical structure. This can be seen in various scriptures throughout the Bible, including the following:
- Mark 10:42-45 – In this passage, Jesus teaches his disciples that true leadership involves serving others, rather than exercising authority over them. He says, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
- John 13:1-17 – In this passage, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, demonstrating the humble and selfless nature of his leadership. He tells them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
- Philippians 2:5-8 – This passage speaks of Jesus’ humility and selflessness, which characterised his leadership style. It says, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
These scriptures demonstrate that Jesus’ leadership was characterised by humility, servanthood, and selflessness. Rather than asserting his authority over others, he modeled a willingness to serve and to sacrifice for the sake of others. As followers of Christ, we are called to emulate his leadership style and to serve one another with humility and love.