12.For the renewing of the saints. In this version I follow Erasmus, not because I prefer his view, but to allow the reader an opportunity of comparing his version with the Vulgate and with mine, and then choosing for himself. The old translation was, (ad consummationem ,) for the completeness. The Greek word employed by Paul is καταρτισμός, which signifies literally the adaptation of things possessing symmetry and proportion; just as, in the human body, the members are united in a proper and regular manner; so that the word comes to signify perfection. But as Paul intended to express here a just and orderly arrangement, 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.
For the work of the ministry. God might himself have performed this work, if he had chosen; but he has committed it to theministry of men. This is intended to anticipate an objection. “Cannot the church be constituted and properly arranged, without the instrumentality of men?” Paul asserts that a ministry is required, because such is the will of God.
For the edifying of the body of Christ. This is the same thing with what he had formerly denominated the settlement orperfecting of the saints. Our true completeness and perfection consist in our being united in the one body of Christ. No language more highly commendatory of the ministry of the word could have been employed, than to ascribe to it this effect. What is more excellent than to produce the true and complete perfection of the church? And yet this work, so admirable and divine, is here declared by the apostle to be accomplished by the external ministry of the word. That those who neglect this instrument should hope to become perfect in Christ is utter madness. Yet such are the fanatics, on the one hand, who pretend to be favored with secret revelations of the Spirit, — and proud men, on the other, who imagine that to them the private reading of the Scriptures is enough, and that they have no need of the ordinary ministry of the church.
If the edification of the church proceeds from Christ alone, he has surely a right to prescribe in what manner it shall be edified. But Paul expressly states, that, according to the command of Christ, no real union or perfection is attained, but by the outward preaching. We must allow ourselves to be ruled and taught by men. This is the universal rule, which extends equally to the highest and to the lowest. The church is the common mother of all the godly, which bears, nourishes, and brings up children to God, kings and peasants alike; and this is done by the ministry. Those who neglect or despise this order choose to be wiser than Christ. Woe to the pride of such men! It is, no doubt, a thing in itself possible that divine influence alone should make us perfect without human assistance. But the present inquiry is not what the power of God can accomplish, but what is the will of God and the appointment of Christ. In employing human instruments for accomplishing their salvation, God has conferred on men no ordinary favor. Nor can any exercise be found better adapted to promote unity than to gather around the common doctrine — the standard of our General.