V. 12. Having mentioned the officers Christ gave his church, the apostle states the end for which this gift was conferred—it was πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων, εἰς ἔργον διακονίας, εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
Both the meaning of the words and the relation of the several clauses in this verse, are doubtful. The word καταρτισμός, rendered perfecting, admits of different interpretations. The root ἄρω means to unite or bind together. Hence ἄρτιος signifies united, complete, perfect; and the verb καταρτίζω is literally to mend, Matt. 4:21; to reduce to order, to render complete, or perfect, Luke 6:40; 2 Cor. 13:11; to prepare or render fit for use, Heb. 10:5; 13:21. 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 or 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.
The word διακόνια, service, may express that service which one man renders to another—Luke 10:40, “with much serving;” or specially the service rendered to Christians, 1 Cor. 16:15, “addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints;” or the official service of the ministry. Hence the phrase εἰς ἔργον διακονίας 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.
The principal difficulty connected with this verse concerns the relation of its several clauses. 1. Some propose to invert the first and second so that the sense would be, ‘Christ appointed the apostles, &c., for the work of the ministry, the design of which is the perfecting of the saints and the edifying of the body of Christ.’ But although the sense is thus good and pertinent, the transposition is arbitrary. 2. Others regard the clauses as coordinate. ‘These officers were given for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying the body of Christ.’ To this is objected the change in the prepositions (πρὸς, εἰς—εἰς), and the incongruity of the thoughts—the expressions not being parallel. 3. The two latter clauses may be made subordinate to the first. ‘Christ has appointed the ministry with the view of preparing the saints, for the work of serving one another,’ (compare εἰς διακονιαν τοῖς ἁγίοις, 1 Cor. 16:15,) and for the edification of his body. This however assumes διακονία to have a sense unsuited to the context. 4. Others make the two clauses with εἰς explanatory of the first clause, ‘Christ appointed these officers for the preparation of the saints, some for the work of the ministry, and some for the edifying of his body.’ But this is inconsistent with the structure of the passage. It would require the introduction of τοὺς μὲν—τοὺς δὲ, ‘some, for this, and some, for that.’ 5. Others again, give the sense thus, ‘For the sake of perfecting the saints, Christ appointed these officers to the work of the ministry, to the edification of his body.’ The first clause πρὸς κατ. expresses the remote, εἰς—εἰς the immediate end of the appointment in question. The “work of the ministry” is that work which the ministry perform, viz. the edifying of the body of Christ. This last view is perhaps the best.
“He could not,” says Calvin, “exalt more highly the ministry of the Word, than by attributing to it this effect. For what higher work can there be than to build up the church that it may reach its perfection? They therefore are insane, who neglecting this means hope to be perfect in Christ, as is the case with fanatics, who pretend to secret revelations of the Spirit; and the proud, who content themselves with the private reading of the Scripture, and imagine they do not need the ministry of the church.” If Christ has appointed the ministry for the edification of his body, it is in vain to expect that end to be accomplished in any other way.
—Charles Hodge, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, 228‐30.