The perfecting of the saints
The book of Ephesians is the high water mark of PAul’s prison ministry. It relates to us both the circumstances and content of the revelation of “the mystery” which was hid in God. All saints immediately prior to this revelation believed and held to the hope which was proclaimed to them in the Acts and therefore would need to be adjusted to the new and unprophesied hope that was now their’s by grace.
Eph 4.11 (AV) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Eph 4.11 (TR) και αυτος εδωκεν τους μεν αποστολους τους δε προφητας τους δε ευαγγελιστας τους δε ποιμενας και διδασκαλους
Eph 4.12 (AV) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Eph 4.12 (TR) προς τον καταρτισμον των αγιων εις εργον διακονιας εις οικοδομην του σωματος του χριστου
The gifts given to the church and mentioned in Eph 4.11 were on the one hand foundational (apostles and prophets, see Eph 2.20) and on the other continual (evangelists and pastors and teachers). These were to function to perfect the saints, for the work of the ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ. The word used here is καταρτισμός and translated “perfecting” is a masculine noun which comes from the verb καταρτίζω which is first used in the new testament in the following place
Mt 4:21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending <2675> their nets; and he called them.
Here the Lord finds two brothers named James and John who were with their father Zebedee mending nets. Just previously two other brothers (Simon and Andrew) were called by the Lord to follow him saying “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” In both cases the brothers were immediate in responding to this call.
Mt 4:20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.
Mt 4:22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
In both cases the brothers left their nets, in the case of Simon and Andrew they left functional nets and in the case of James and John they left nets actively being repaired by their father. In both cases there was a spiritual fishing to be done, the nature of this fishing is seen in the context that follows:
Mt 4:23 ¶ And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
Mt 4:24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
The gospel of the kingdom was accompanied with signs and wonders, healings and the casting out of devils. This was the nature of the spiritual fishing done in those days by the Lord and the disciples that worked with him. But what spiritual truths are associated with the mending of the net?
It is instructive to note that there was a great rent at the end of the book of Acts when Israel was divorced and thereby dissolving the national pre-eminence and channel of blessing consigned previously to Israel. What now would be the conduit God would use to bring blessing to the world? And how would this great rent in the fabric of God’s dealing with humanity be filled?
The answer to this is found in two places in Ephesians, the first is in the doctrinal section and the second in the practical section.
Eph 1:22 (AV) And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
Eph 1:22 (TR) και παντα υπεταξεν υπο τους ποδας αυτου και αυτον εδωκεν κεφαλην υπερ παντα τη εκκλησια
Eph 1:23 (AV) Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Eph 1:23 (TR) ητις εστιν το σωμα αυτου το πληρωμα του παντα εν πασιν πληρουμενου
The Father gave gave Christ as the head over all things to the church (Christ’s body) which is THE FULNESS of him, that filleth all in all. If you want to know what God is using to repair the rent made in Acts 28 the answer is THE CHURCH of which CHRIST is HEAD. This is not to be confused with the church extant in the book of acts which partook of Israel’s spiritual things but that which God created fresh and contingent to the dismissal of Israel.
This is not to say there was no mending to be done during the administration of the Acts indeed there was. However this was within the economy then present not an adjustment to a different one and involved a restoration to a spiritual condition that the saint previously had as is mentioned in the following passage:
Ga 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore <2675> such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
This highlights the significant difference between mending the net and filling the rent. The rent made by the departure of Israel was to be fixed by the one who fills του … πληρουμενου with the FULLNESS το πληρωμα which is the church. However PAul does not leave it there as a doctrinal truth for us to affirm and be satisfied with, but rather he shows us that even today special gifts to the church are active in the adjustment ( evangelists, pastors and teachers) and this is the way the lord fills the rent.
Eph 4.13 (AV) 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:
Eph 4.13 (TR) μεχρι καταντησωμεν οι παντες εις την ενοτητα της πιστεως και της επιγνωσεως του υιου του θεου εις ανδρα τελειον εις μετρον ηλικιας του πληρωματος του χριστου
This process of perfecting continues till we all come to be the perfect man measured to Christ’s fulness.
Many today sense an emptiness in their faith in God and see practices of many in religious circles that don’t fit with the bible and display no real logic. May I suggest that real fulness can be found in the prison ministry of the apostle PAul who was the foundational apostle for this age.