T. David Gordon on Ephesians 4:11-12

I finally found the T. David Gordon article I referenced a few posts ago. Here it is in full:

T. David Gordon, ” ‘Equipping’ Ministry in Ephesians 4?” JETS 37 (1994): 69-78 

“EQUIPPING” MINISTRY IN EPHESIANS 4?
T. David Gordon
JETS, 37/1 (March 1994) 69-78

As a minister and an academician, I examine religious slogans the
way cultural analysts examine bumper stickers. They tell us what is on
people’s minds and what they tend to think about what is on their
minds. Two of the religious slogans I have heard frequently in the last
decade or so are “equipping the saints” and “lay ministry,” each of which
ordinarily occurs in tandem with reference to Eph. 4:11-12. As I have
examined these slogans, I have discovered that what is behind them is a
belief that the major “ministry” of the Church is to be performed by the
saints themselves and that only a smaller, “equipping” ministry is to be
performed by those who are ordained as distinct from other saints.
As is ordinarily the case with any error, there is an element of
truth in this one. Believers are indeed called to be saints and to live
distinctly holy lives in the world, thus functioning as salt and
light. Further, they are called to serve one another in love, even as
Christ loved them. They are to exhibit his mercy in their conduct toward
others. Such acts of charity and mercy may properly be called “service” or
“ministry,” and in Greek the one word diakonia could be employed to
describe any service of any sort. The error does not reside in reminding
Christians of their perpetual responsibility to live Christ like
lives. Rather, the error consists in reducing the function of the ordained
ministry to “equipping” saints for service.
Since Eph. 4:11-12 is so often cited as alleged justification of
the above viewpoint, what follows is an attempt to demonstrate that this
passage, correctly understood, teaches no such thing at all. I realize
this may not persuade all of those who promote the “equipping” viewpoint,
since their view may never have been exegetically motivated. Ephesians
4:11-12 (in several recent translations) was simply a convenient prooftext
for what they wished to believe anyway. But I am not so cynical as to
believe that there are no practicing Bible-believers in the evangelical
world. I still believe they are out there, and I continue to meet them
with some regularity. Such individuals do not wish to grasp and twist the
Scriptures to suit their own purposes. They sincerely wish to discover
what the mind of the Holy Spirit is as revealed in Holy Scripture. For
such individuals I believe that what follows is sufficient to convince then
of his mind on this matter.

I. THE QUESTION STATED AND THE BURDEN ASSIGNED

The question stated is whether Eph. 4:12 teaches that the
“ministry” of the Church is done by the “saints” and whether the only
distinctive role of the officers is to equip the saints for such
service. The very fact that some ancient translations (Vg, KJV) do not
translate the text in such a way as to permit such a conclusion should
produce caution and should motivate those who are otherwise convinced to
frame an exegetical argument.
My belief is that the “equipping lay ministry” translation is
indefensible. There is not a single, nor even a twofold, but a triple
difficulty with translating Eph. 4:12 in such a way. To sustain such a
translation, three things must be proven: (1) that the three purpose
clauses, so obviously parallel in their grammatical structure, have
different implied subjects (thereby disrupting the parallel); (2) that
katartismon is properly translated “equip” here; and (3) that ergon
diakonias refers not to acts of service, in the general sense, but to the
overall “Christian ministry.”
If any one of these three is not proven, the entire argument
unravels, for the “lay ministry” translation of this passage requires all
three conclusions. It requires that the implied subject of the three
clauses is not the “gifted ones” in each clause but only in the first
clause. It requires translating katartismon as “equipping,” or it makes no
sense to take the second and/or third purpose clauses as complementary to
the first. It requires understanding ergon diakonias to mean the
distinctive ministry of the Word, or it requires reducing that ministry to
an equipping role for other service.
The proponents of the “lay ministry” interpretation of this text
must assume the burden of proving their view, and that for two
reasons. (1) As a matter of Christian conscience their view places a
responsibility on the shoulders of others (namely “to do the ministry”),
which responsibility they must justify so placing. (2) The entire
remainder of the NT distinguishes the mutual “service” of love and mercy in
the Church from the particular “service/ministry of the Word” and
distinguishes those responsible for the latter through official titles
and/or through laying on of hands (sometimes with prayer or fasting). That
is, people armed simply with an English Bible ought to be suspicious of the
“equipping” translation on the ground that, if correct, it would be
contradictory to everything else taught in the NT about the ministry of the
Word.
The older translations are correct, and I will produce below the
reasons for agreeing with the older translations. I do not, however,
assume the burden of proving my view, since my view obliges no one to any
particular service other than those who have accepted a call to such
service. My view places no special ministerial burden on anyone’s
shoulders, nor does it cause any tension or conflict with the teaching of
the remainder of the NT regarding the ministry of the Word of God.
Having assumed no responsibility to prove the view of the older
translations, however, I submit it for the reader’s inspection, and I am
satisfied that the candid and unprejudiced reader will agree that the more
likely translation of Eph. 4:12 is that adopted by older translations (such
as Vg and KJV) and defended by commentators of the Greek text of Ephesians
from Calvin, Owen and Hodge all the way to the present.1

II. THE SYNTACTICAL RELATION OF THE PURPOSE CLAUSES IN V. 12

The KJV (with the Vg) translates the clauses as follows: “for the
perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of
the body of Christ.” Note that the KJV takes the three clauses as
parallel, and anyone reading it would assume that the implied subject is
the several categories of the “gifted ones” just mentioned. Several recent
translations, however, obstruct the parallel, taking the first clause as
the responsibility of the gifted ones and the last two clauses as
describing the responsibilities of the saints.
Briefly, the sentence is constructed in this way. There is a main
verb (edoken) followed by several direct objects (each introduced by the
article tous). The purpose of Christ’s giving these officers to the Church
is described in the three purpose clauses (introduced by the telic
prepositions pros and eis), and the extent or degree of the purpose clauses
is explicated by the following mechri. “He gave some to be apostles, some
prophets, some pastors and teachers; for the purpose of (their) perfecting
the saints, doing the ministry, and edifying the body of Christ, to the
extent that all would attain the unity of the faith and knowledge of God’s
Son, mature humanity, and the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”
Who is the implied subject of the three accusatives katartismon,
ergon and oikodomen? Who “knits/completes” the saints, who “works” the
ministry, who “edifies” the body of Christ? Is the subject of each of
these the same, or are different subjects supplied to different ones? The
most natural reading (preferred by KJV and ARV) is to understand that the
ones “given” to the Church are the ones who do these three things, since it
is for these three purposes that they are given. This is natural because
the main verb would suggest that the purposes of the gifted ones is being
supplied by the clauses, since the clauses are subordinated to the main
verb. Apart from some fairly clear indication there would be no reason to
expect that one of the telic clauses is subordinated to one of the
others. Also, if the latter two telic clauses are in fact subordinated to
the first, the most common way of accomplishing this would be to omit the
second and third prepositions and have two complementary infinitives joined
by the copula. The natural way of producing that thought would have been
as follows: pros ton katartismon ton hagion ergein ten diakonian kai
oikodomein ten somata tou Christou.2
To be sure, the telic clauses are distinguished by one matter: The
first is introduced by pros, the latter two by eis. Whether the difference
in preposition is intended to suggest that there are remote and proximate
purposes, or whether the purposes might be logically related in some other
way, is a matter that may rightfully be discussed and debated. I have no
zeal for any particular resolution of these matters (though the reader may
wish to consult Alford, DeWette, Hodge, Owen et al.). I am more zealous,
however, to argue that the mere change of the preposition is inadequate
ground to suggest that the implied subjects have changed. Indeed it is
more likely that the prepositions are essentially interchangeable, as they
are in Rom. 15:2, “Each of us must please our neighbor for good, for
edification” (eis to agathon pros oikodomen), and in Phlm 5, “I hear of
your love toward all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus” (pros
ton kyrion Iesoun kai ies pantas tous hagious).
In construing the meaning of these clauses, much depends on how
one understands them to fit into the overall chapter. The broader context
addresses the privileges and responsibilities of the entire “body” under
Christ’s lordship (esp. 4:7). That is, the chapter as a whole presents the
great, tripartite picture of Christ the Head, the “gifted ones” as his
special ascension gift to the Church, and the “parts.” Each of the three
has responsibilities. The ascended Head has responsibilities that he
performs, the “parts” each perform their particular roles, and the “gifted
ones” perform theirs. What is at stake, however, is whose responsibilities
are being discussed in v. 12 and/or whether the “gifted ones” have merely
the responsibility of “equipping.” Verses 11-13 themselves indicate that
Paul distinguishes the Head who “gave” (v. 11) the gifted ones who perform
these three tasks (v. 12) and the “all” (v. 13) who will ultimately come to
completion. That is, in vv. 11-13 the broader pattern is Christ giving the
“gifted ones” (v. 11) to the body (v. 13). Verse 12 explains the threefold
purpose of his giving these “gifted ones” by explaining the ends they will
accomplish. Thus the most natural reading of v. 12 is that of the KJV,
which construes the three telic clauses as indicating what the “gifted
ones” do for and in the body.

III. THE TRANSLATION OF KATARTISMON IN V. 12

In this context, should this word be translated “equip” or
“perfect/constitute”? Elsewhere in the NT the term is employed (in both
its verbal and nominal form) in five ways.3

1 Of fishing nets, “mending” (though some think “folding”): Matt.
4:21; Mark 1:19.
2 Of a variety of different matters, “fashioning” or
“preparing”: (a) Matt. 21:16: “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of
infants and nursing babies you have prepared (katertiso) praise for
yourself’?” (b) Luke 6:40: “A disciple is not above the teacher, but
everyone who is fully qualified (katertismenos) will be like the
teacher.” (c) Rom. 9:22: “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to
make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath
that are made (katertismena) for destruction?” (d) Heb.
10:5: “Consequently, when Christ came into the world he said, ‘Sacrifices
and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared
(katertiso) for me.’ ” (e) Heb. 11:3: “By faith we understand that the
worlds were prepared (katertisthai) by the word of God.”4
3 Of Church unity, either confessional or governmental: (a) 1 Cor.
1:10: “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no
divisions among you, but that you be united (katertismenoi) in the same
mind and the same purpose.” (b) 2 Cor. 13:11: “Finally, brothers and
sisters, farewell. Put things in order (katartizesthe), listen to my
appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and
peace will be with you.”
4 Of Christian sanctification or health: (a) 2 Cor. 13:9; “For we
rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. This is what we pray for,
that you may become perfect (ten hymon katartisin).” (b) Heb.
13:20-21: “Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our
Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal
covenant, make you complete (katartisai) in everything good so that you may
do his will.”
5 Of restoration of something/someone damaged, incomplete or
injured: (a) Gal. 6:1: “My friends, if anyone is detected in
a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore
(katartizete) such a one in a spirit of gentleness.” (b) I Thess.
3:10: “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to
face and restore (katartisai) whatever is lacking in your faith.” (c) I
Pet 5:10: “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all
grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself
restore (katartisei), support, strengthen, and establish you.”

Commentators have recognized the breadth of usage within the first century
and have attempted to permit contextual considerations to dictate what the
most likely usage is in Eph. 4:12. Following Calvin, Owen and Hodge, it is
preferable to understand the expression to mean either “perfecting” or
“constituting/joining” because the language and thought of the body,
unified and growing to perfection, will continue throughout the
chapter. That is, Christ, the heavenly Head, is uniting5 and growing the
body into perfection6 by means of these “gifts,” the officers. What
Calvin, Owen and Hodge all seem to promote is an understanding that is
quite consistent with the context.7 Contextually there is the great
Pauline picture of a body consisting of many parts with Christ as the
(organizing and governing) Head. Somehow he manages to “join” and “knit
together” the “whole body” in such a way that “each part is working
properly” (4:16). In the only two other places in the NT where the term is
used with application to the corporate Church it has this meaning (cf. I
Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 13:11). It would be quite natural to the usage of
katartismon, and to the context, to translate it in this fashion here. The
most natural understanding of the term in this context is that of
gathering, uniting, or ordering the saints into visible communion and
mutual cooperation one with another.

IV THE TRANSLATION OF ERGON DIAKONIAS IN V.12

Does this expression refer to the general work of Christian service (love
and mercy) or to the more specific work of ministering the Word of
God? The only other place where these two nouns are employed together by
Paul is in 2 Tim. 4:5: “Do the work (ergon) of an evangelist, complete
your ministry (diakonian).” Plainly here the terms are virtually
synonymous and evidently refer to Timothy’s ministry of the Word.
Christian mutual love is also occasionally referred to by this
language, as in Heb. 6:10: “For God is not so unjust as to overlook your
work and your love that you have performed in his name by serving the
saints, and indeed you do serve them (diakonesantes tois hagiois kai
diakonountes).”
For our purposes it must be remembered that diakonia is a
wide-ranging term, often referring to general service of this mutual kind,
unless contextual considerations (2 Tim. 4:5) warrant otherwise. Thus in
contemporary English what the saints would be “equipped” for, if “equip”
were a proper translation of katartismon, would be mutual acts of Christian
charity – namely, “service” and not necessarily “ministry.” That is, the
subject of the “service” determines the service: The “service” of a
carpenter is carpentry, the “service” of an electrician is electricity, the
“service” of a physician is medicine. When Christians in general are
spoken of, the service is that mutual service expected of all Christians
(such expectation itself is established by other passages of
Scripture). When those who are servants of the Word are spoken of, the
service is obviously that which is expected of them. Thus without further
argument “service” here would be an empty and meaningless term until its
subject is expressed and until we know what is expected of that subject
from other texts.8 It would be pure question-begging to assume that the
service performed by the “gifted ones,” for instance, unless some passage
somewhere teaches us that their service was the same. Nevertheless the
“work of ministry” spoken of here is not that which is the saints’
responsibility but that which is the responsibility of the gifted ones
mentioned in v. 11. It is the ministry/service of the Word.

V. THE REMAINDER OF THE NT

An additional advantage of my view is that it corresponds not only with the
immediate context but also with the more distant context of the remainder
of the NT. The distinction between those who labor in preaching and
teaching God’s Word and those who profit from that labor is a distinction
well established by the NT writings themselves. It is not a distinction
imposed by later centuries of the Church. In six different ways the NT
writings distinguish the task of ministering the Word of God from other,
more general duties that all Christians share.

1 Passages that narrate that some “devote themselves” to this
particular task: (a) Acts 6:4: “We, for our part, will devote ourselves
to prayer and to serving the word.” (b) Acts 13:2: “While they were
worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me
Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'” (c) Rom.
1:1: “Paul, . . . called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of
God.” (d) 1 Tim. 4:13: “Give attention to the public reading of
Scripture, to exhorting, to teaching.” (e) 1 Tim. 4:14: “Do not neglect
the gift that is in you.” (f) 1 Tim. 4:15: “Put these things into
practice, devote yourself to them.”

2 Passages that narrate the Church’s recognition of such a distinct
task by particular rites: (a) Acts 13:2-5: “While they were worshipping
the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and
Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and
praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent
out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they
sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word
of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist
them.” (b) 1 Tim. 4:13-15: “Until I arrive, give attention to the public
reading of Scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift
that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on
of hands by the council of elders. Put these things into practice, devote
yourself to them, so that all may see your progress.” (c) 2 Tim.
1:6: “For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is in
you through the laying on of my hands.”

3 Passages that describe the distinct qualifications necessary for
this task: (a) 1 Tim. 3:2: “Now a bishop must be above reproach, married
only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt
teacher.” (b) Titus 1:7-9: “For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be
blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or
violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness,
prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled. He must have a firm grasp
of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he
may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who
contradict it.”

4 Passages where individuals, as individuals, are exhorted to fulfill
this particular task: 2 Tim 4:1-5: “In the presence of God and of Christ
Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his
appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: Proclaim the message; be
persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke
and encourage with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is
coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine but, having itching
ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own
desires and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to
myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an
evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.”

5 Passages where special honor is assigned to those who fulfill this
distinct task: James 3:1: “Not many of you should become teachers, my
brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with
greater strictness.”

6. Passages where warnings are given not to enter this distinct task
lightly: Jas. 3:1: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and
sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater
strictness.”

In these various passages we find that the NT distinguishes the
general service (of mercy and charity) expected of believers from the
particular service (of ministering the Word of God) expected of those set
apart. Some individuals are distinguished from other believers by official
title, by a distinguishing rite, by particular honor, by particular
qualifications, by being judged more strictly, and/or by assuming
responsibilities not assumed by others. The NT even establishes one office
(diaconate) in order to permit those who fill another office (ministry of
the Word and prayers) to devote themselves thereto. Thus the NT data
outside of Ephesians 4 is similar to our understanding of the data within
Ephesians 4 – namely, that the NT picture of the Church is actually a
tripartite picture. The heavenly Head blesses his earthly body by
showering upon them “gifted ones,” who serve ministerially. Further, the
picture inside and outside of Ephesians does not restrict this ministerial
activity to “equipping.” The ministers of the Word are not mere motivators
or enablers. They do not teach others to preach, but they themselves
preach. They do not hesitate to function in an ambassadorial role between
God and humans: “So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his
appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to
God” (2 Cor. 5:20). To be sure, one aspect of their ministry of the Word
includes instructing the saints in their mutual duties to one another and
in their duty to shine as a light in a dark place in the world. But the
overall task is far more comprehensive than to instruct the saints in their
service.

VI ACCOUNTING FOR THE POPULARITY OF THE “EQUIPPING” VIEW

We cannot account for the popularity of the “equipping” view of
Ephesians 4 on Scriptural grounds. The “equipping” view is so contrary to
the natural grammar of the passage, and so strikingly contrary to the
teaching of the remainder of the NT, that we cannot account for its
popularity on the basis of careful Biblical study. Rather, we must
attribute it to the egalitarian, anti-authoritarian, populist Zeitgeist so
well documented by Nathan Hatch.9
This spirit is so pervasive and so impervious to self-criticism
that it even projects itself onto others. One remarkable example of that
projection is the suggestion that the egalitarian view of ministry was a
trademark of the Reformation. Some have taken the Reformation doctrine of
the priesthood of believers to mean that the Reformation did not believe in
an ordained ministry. The Reformers taught no such thing. For them, the
“priesthood of believers” recognized that the priestly duties of
consecrating our lives to God were incumbent upon all believers, as was the
priestly duty of interceding for others. The Reformers thus taught that
the particular office of priest within the Sinai covenant became both
general and nonsacrificial in the new covenant. But the Reformation
recognized that other, nonpriestly offices rightly existed in the NT
Church. They taught the priesthood of believers but not the clergyhood of
believers. Calvin recognized four nonpriestly offices: deacon, elder,
pastor, teacher. Others (e.g. the Scottish Second Book of Discipline)
recognized three: minister of the Word, elder, deacon. Thus there will be
no “new reformation” that will be characterized by an egalitarian
ministry. Any “new reformation” will be characterized, as was the first,
by a revival of appreciation for the ministry of Word and sacrament and a
consequent revival of appreciation for the ministers of the same, despite
their individual imperfections. Any true reformation that will ever appear
will be characterized, as was the first Reformation, by a zeal for
conforming our practice to the Scriptures, not to the (populist,
egalitarian, anti-authoritarian) Zeitgeist.
Finally, not all errors are of equal magnitude. Not all errors
are worthy of rebuttal. But this error is indeed of sufficient magnitude
to warrant rebuttal. To reduce our appreciation for the ordained ministry
of the Word of God is not merely a sin against those called to that
office. It is not merely a sin toward humans. It is not merely a matter
of dishonoring those whom we are commanded to treat with double honor. Nor
is it merely a matter of refusing to “set apart” those whom we ought to set
apart (though that would be sin enough in itself). It is also a matter of
dishonoring the ascended Christ, who has “given” such individuals to his
Church for its edification of the body, it is detrimental to the health of
the body to diminish or otherwise alter the role of the gifted ones. That
is, it is a sin against all three components of Paul’s metaphor, not merely
against one, to diminish the role of the gift. It diminishes the thanks
that are properly due the Giver for his gracious provision. It diminishes
the range and degree of edification that the body might otherwise
experience. And it diminishes the honor that ought to be given to those we
are commanded to honor doubly.10
1A. T. Lincoln, Ephesians (WBC 43; Dallas: Word, 1990)

2Cf. the discussion in ibid.

3Standard lexical works indicate that this word has a broad range of usage
in Greek. BAGD notes that the verb has the following uses: “Put in order,
restore; put into proper condition, complete, make complete; prepare, make,
create.” The noun is recognized as having the following senses: “equipment,
equipping something, training, discipline.” Similarly, LSJ recognizes the
following uses for the verb (the noun is not cited): “to adjust, put in
order again, restore, repair; to settle by mediation, reform; to furnish
completely.”

4Note that the word “prepare” here is very close to meaning “create” or
“constitute.”

5 “The unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (v. 3); “there is one body
and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope of your calling-one
Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (vv. 4-6); “until
all of us come to the unity of the faith” (v. 13); “the whole body, joined
and knit together” (v. 16).

6 “To maturity” (v. 13); “we must grow up in every way into him who is the
head” (v. 15); “promotes the body’s growth” (v. 16).

7 Calvin: “The Greek word employed by Paul is katartismos, which signifies
literally the adaptation of things possessing symmetry and proportion….I
prefer the word (constitutio)settlement or constitution, taking it in that
sense in which a commonwealth, or kingdom, or province, is said to be
settled, when confusion gives place to the regular administration of law.”
J. Owen (Works 4.496): “It is pros ton katartismon to hagion, – that is,
for the gathering of the saints into complete church-order. The subject
matter of this part of their duty is the saints; that is, by calling and
profession, such as are all the disciples of Christ. And that which is
effected towards them is katartismos, rendered perfecting, admits of
different interpretations. The root aro means to unite or bind together.
Hence artios signifies united, complete, perfect; and the verb katartizo is
literaly ‘to mend,’ Matt. iv.21; to reduce to order, to render complete, or
perfect, Luke vi.40; 2 Cor. xiii.11; to prepare or render fit for use, Heb.
x.5, xiii.21. The substantive may express the action of the verb in the
various modifications of its meaning. Hence it has been rendered here,-1.
To the completion of the saints, i.e., of their number; 2. To their
renewing and restoration; 3. To their reduction to order and union as one
body; 4. To their preparation (for service); 5. To their perfecting. This
last is to be preferred, because agreeable to the frequent use of the verb
by this apostle, and because it gives the sense best suited to the
context.” In point of fact, Paul employs the verb only five times (Rom.
9:22; 1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 13:11; Gal. 6:1; 1 Thess. 3:10) and the noun in
one other place (2 Cor. 13:9). Apparently Hodge’s comment about the context
is a reference to v. 16 and the “growth” referred to there. It is perhaps
equally possible to understand v. 16 as referring to the symmetrical
ordering and arranging of the various parts of the body. If so, Calvin’s
rendering is preferable.

8 So Hodge: “Hence the phrase eis ergon diakonias, may mean ‘to the work of
mutual service or kind offices,’ or to the work of the ministry-in the
official sense. The latter is the common interpretation, and is to be
preferred not only on account of the more frequent use of the word in that
sense, but also on account of the connection, as here the apostle is
speaking of the different classes of ministers of the Word.”

9N. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale
University, 1989).

10 Already we perceive some of the negative effects of this viewpoint.
Those preparing for ministry (and the institutions that prepare them) are
turning their energies away from those skills associated with the
distinctive ministry of the Word (original language exegesis) and toward
organizational, managerial and motivational (coercive?) skills. Indeed, it
is not surprising that the proponents of this view have not offered and
will not offer an exegetical defense of their view. They are, occasionally,
neither capable of nor interested in the (to them arcane) question of what
the original text of Holy Scripture actually says. Ironically, then, they
prove my point for me, at least practically speaking. Here are so-called
leaders in the Church who do not even have the capacity to determine which
English translation is correct, or why. And they will produce similar
leaders-leaders who can promote all sorts of activity without the capacity
to determine whether God is pleased by the activity.