Let us now take an in-depth look at each of the five ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11.
THE MINISTRY GIFT OF APOSTLE
A. Definition Of The Term
The word “apostle” (Greek – apostolos ) actually means “one who is sent forth.” In the Greek culture of that time, the word was used in four different ways, referring to:
- An ambassador – someone who represents his government.
- A fleet of ships sent to establish a new colony.
- The admiral who commands such a fleet.
- The colony which was founded by that admiral.
In all four cases, those who were “sent” were faithful to fulfill the will of the “sender”.
An apostle, then, is a man with a mission. His mission is to represent and do the will of the one who sent him. An apostle is someone who speaks and acts on behalf of another. He has been sent forth with that purpose in view.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE SENDER AND THE SENT ONE
This special tie between the “sender” and the “sent one” is dearly seen in the earthly ministry of Jesus, the Great Apostle. He was aware that His mission in this world was to represent His Father and do His will.
“For I [Jesus) have come down from Heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me…I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father Who sent Me gave Me a command, what l should say …Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (John 6:38; 12:49,50).
It is interesting to note that Jesus chose to call His twelve disciples “apostles”. They were going to be His ambassadors to represent Him here on earth.
They would found or establish a new “colony” -the Church. It would be a royal colony backed by the authority of God’s Kingdom. Through the Church, God’s will would be done here on earth as it is in heaven.
“As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him Who sent Me” (Matt 10:40).
“…And upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it…” (Matt 16:18). “[You are] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph 2:20).
B. The Levels Of Apostles In The New Testament
There are four main levels of apostolic ministry in the New Testament. Of these four groups, two are no longer active. However, these two form a basis for the present day apostolic functions.
The four main levels or groups of apostolic ministry are as follows:
- Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ was and is the chief Apostle: “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus” (Heb 3:1).
He was sent from heaven to do His Father’s will on earth (see John 3:16, 20, 21).
He came to represent His Father to us. He spoke and acted on His Father’s behalf. He was a true and faithful “Ambassador” to the whole world (See John 4:34; 5:19; 5:30; 6:38;8:28,29,42;12:44,45.)
- The Twelve Apostles Of The Lamb
The twelve disciples were chosen by Jesus after a night of prayer. They served Jesus and were taught by Him during His earthly ministry.
They are called the “Apostles of the Lamb” and have a special place in heaven and in eternity. Their names are recorded in the twelve foundations of the Holy City (Rev 21:14).
These twelve men marked the beginning of a new age in God’s dealing with mankind. The prophetic age closed as the Church age opened (Matt 19:28).
In the Old Testament, it was the prophets who wrote Scripture. In the New Testament, Scripture was written by the apostles.
- The Post-Ascension Apostles (Also known as Ascension Apostles)
As we have seen in Ephesians 4:10-11, after Jesus ascended and returned to heaven, He gave another group of apostles. This group will function throughout the Church age until “we all come to the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13).
These apostles are an important part of the Body of Christ. When this ministry is missing, the Church will suffer from a lack of overall leadership (1 Cor 12:26-28).
The New Testament reveals a number of people who fall into this class of apostles. Our list would include:
Andronicus (Rom 16:7)
Junia (Rom 16:7)
Barnabas (Acts 14:14)
Titus (2 Cor 8:23) – The English language version of the Bible uses “messenger”, not “apostle”, even though the original Greek does use the word for “apostle”.
James (Gal 1:19
Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25) – The English version uses “messenger”, even though the Greek used “apostle”.
Timothy (1 Thess 1:1; 2:6)
Silvanus (1 Thess 1:1; 2:6)
Apollos (1 Cor 4:6, 9)
- Those With An Apostolic-Type Ministry
Besides those in the first three classes above, there is another apostolic group. These are ministering people who at times fulfill certain apostolic functions. They may not necessarily be called apostles, but they often minister as such.
A good example would be the “seventy” disciples whom Jesus sent forth to minister (Luke 10:1-17). They had, for a time, the same power and duties that were given to the twelve disciples. But they were not necessarily called “apostles.”
Unfortunately, many people in today’s Church do not believe there are modern-day apostles (or even prophets). They admit only to the gifts of evangelist, pastor and teacher as operating in the current Church.
Their reasoning is that once the Church was established in the first century, we no longer have need of apostles and prophets. But does this agree with Scripture?
The Bible makes clear the purpose and reason for the five ministry gifts in Ephesians 4:11-13.
This passage plainly states that these five ministry gifts are to remain in function until (“till”, v.13) we all come to 1) the unity of the faith, 2) the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God, and 3) the measure and the stature (maturity) of the fullness of Christ.
A simple and non-judgmental examination of today’s Church will quickly reveal that we have not “attained” yet – far from it! So there is still a need for the gift of apostle. But are there apostles today?
First of all, it is important to understand that the Church is, and should be, a living, growing “organism” -not a lifeless organization. It continues to grow.
New frontiers for the Church are being pushed to the ends of the earth. There are still unreached peoples “sitting in darkness” who are still waiting to “see a great light”.
Jesus is still sending out those who are called and commissioned by Him in the power of His Holy Spirit and authority. They are to bind and loose, preach the Gospel, heal the sick, and raise the dead – all through the power of the Risen Christ.
The answer to the question from Scripture, Church history, and modern example is: YES – there is, and should be, apostolic ministry today!
The title “apostle” is not necessary. That is because the proof of apostolic ministry is seen in the fruit produced by an apostle’s labor -in other words, the work he leaves behind. Paul understood this when he wrote to the Corinthians “You are the seal [certification, undeniable proof] of my apostleship in the Lord” (1 Cor 9:1,2).
C. Preparation Of Apostles
The work of building His Church is very important to God. He desires that His workers be fully equipped and prepared.
Sometimes believers are so eager to minister to others, they set out before they are ready. This can bring much harm to everyone concerned.
God is not in a hurry when it comes to making His ministers. It takes time to build character. It takes time to be trained in the school of God’s Spirit for our calling.
The preparation for apostolic ministry takes much time, training and testing. The making of an apostle requires maturity and experience. It will involve both success and failure.
Our failures can become blessings if we learn how to face and accept our weaknesses. From our failures we find how little we can do apart from God’s wisdom, grace and power. Our failures are the ground from which the fragrant flower of humility can sweetly bloom. Humility produces compassion and understanding. And both are needed to wisely lead in love.
Moses had been highly trained in the wisdom of this world. However, it took forty years to get Moses out of Egypt -and another forty years to get Egypt out of Moses! Only then was he ready for the great responsibility of leading God’s people to the Promised Land.
The same was true for the Apostle Paul. By nature and training he was a proud and zealous Pharisee. He was eager to do God’s will – as he saw it, and as he thought it should be done.
God had to strike him down on the Damascus road to bring him to a place of humility. Then he was ready to receive his apostolic calling through the prophetic word of Ananias.
But Paul was not ready yet. It took more than a prophetic word to prepare him to fulfill that calling. He was to spend many years being schooled by the Spirit and practical experience before he was ready to begin his apostolic ministry (see Acts Chapters 8; 9; 11; 13).
Barnabas was a man who was converted shortly after Pentecost. He was a humble, obedient, selfless servant of the Lord in the church at Jerusalem. It was some seven years later, however, that he was sent to Antioch to strengthen the work there.
He and the Apostle Paul became the first “missionaries” (sent-ones) to go forth to the Gentile world (see Acts 4:36, 37; 11:22-30; 13:1-3).
IMPORTANT PART OF AN APOSTLE’S TRAINING
The background of the above apostles reveals a number of important facts. Certain important things seem to be a part of every apostle’s training:
- An apostle will have a definite call to this ministry.
- An apostle will be well trained in Scripture.
- An apostle will be prepared over a period of several years. He will prove himself and his ministry at the local level. It is here that he will grow in God’s grace, wisdom and experience.
- An apostle will usually have been trained for a time under the ministry of other apostles.
- The apostle will not be sent forth until his preparation is complete.
- The apostle will of ten be used of God in one of the other five-fold ministries-prophet, teacher, pastor or evangelist – before being sent out, and while functioning in apostolic ministry.
- The sending church will identify with the apostle by the laying on of hands
- The Qualifications For An Apostle
The standards for elders would apply to all leaders in high levels of authority (1 Tim 3:7; Titus 1:5-9). Therefore, they would apply to the ministry of the apostle.
Besides the general standards above, there are special qualities or traits that every apostle should have:
- An apostle must have the heart of a father (1 Cor 4:15; Phil 2:22). Like a father, he will guide, provide, correct and protect God’s people. He will minister wisdom with love, power and patience (Eph 6:4; 1 Thess 2:6-8, 11).
- An apostle must be loving and loyal to the Church of God (1 Cor 13). His love for the Church must be greater than his love for his own ministry.
- An apostle must have patience (2 Cor 12:12). He is a man of maturity and revelation. Therefore, he must be patient with those who are only “babies” in Christ.
- An apostle must not be given to self- glory (1 Cor 4:9; 2 Cor 10:8; 1 Thess 2:6). He must lead people to the Lord rather than to himself.
- An apostle must have a servant’s heart (Eph 3:7; Phil 1:1). His concern and desire must be for the welfare of others. He should be humble, self-giving and faithful (1 Cor 4:9; 2 Cor 10:18; 11:22, 23).
- An apostle must be willing to suffer (Acts 20:17-24; 1 Cor 4:7-12; 11:18-30). He must have a willingness to endure persecution, hardships, rejection -even death-while still maintaining the goal of the spread of the Gospel and the founding of new stable churches.
E. The Ministry Of An Apostle
A study of the apostles named in the Bible reveals that they served in many different ways. Some of the functions, which many of them shared in common, are listed below:
- An apostle starts new churches and sets them on a proper foundation (1 Cor 3:9-14; 9:12; 11:34; Eph 2:2-4). He also serves to strengthen and advise older fellowships (Rom 1:11; Col 2:5-7).
- An apostle is very concerned about sound doctrine and teaching (Acts 2:42; 15:1-31). He will be quick to bring correction whenever error arises.
- An apostle will often have a ministry of miracles (Rom 15:18, 19; 2 Cor 12:12). Such signs and wonders show that the power and authority of God rest upon his life. Such a ministry is needed in founding new works.
- An apostle may be involved in church discipline when needed (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor 5). Such correction most often involves churches that he has founded.
- An apostle ordains the leadership in new churches (Acts 6:1-6; 14:23; Titus 1:5). This is true of elders, deacons and other ministries.
- An apostle often teaches and trains new workers himself (2 Tim 2:2). This may involve special tasks and trips to other churches and places (Acts 16:1-4; Phil 2:19-25; Col 4:7-12).
- An apostle is involved in the care of the churches that he ‘has begun (2 Cor 11:28). Such ministry also serves to relate the local church to the Body of Christ at large.
- An apostle of ten ministers with the local elders in ordaining new workers (Rom 1:11; 1 Tim 1:18; 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6). This involves fasting, prayer and the laying on of hands for the spiritual gifts and graces.
- An apostle is a “father-figure” in the overall family of God (1 Cor 4:15). He does not act as dictator, but as a faithful shepherd who oversees the flock of God (1 Cor 16:12; 1 Pet 5:2).
- An apostle may include elements of the other four ministry gifts. In its church-pioneering, foundation-laying, overseeing function, the apostolic ministry gift will require some elements of the prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching ministries.
- An apostle must be an evangelist to make new believers.
- He must be a teacher to instruct them in sound doctrine.
- He must be a prophet to bring direction and correction with divine power and authority.
- He must be a pastor who will oversee the work of the newly ordained leaders.
The five-fold ministries are like the human hand. There are four fingers and a thumb. An apostle is like the thumb -it can easily touch the other four! Yet the apostolic ministry gift remains distinct and apart from the others (see the Book of Acts for examples).
F. The Calling Of An Apostle
How is an apostle called? First of all, an apostle is called of God. No person can simply decide on their own that they are now an apostle (or a prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher for that matter!). It is God Who decides where, when and how the apostle will minister.
How will his calling be known? Who will recognize and approve of his ministry? An apostle should be known and recognized in at least four ways:
- He should know, and be certain of, his own calling.
- The leaders of his local church should know that he is an apostle by what they see in his life and work for God.
- The people in his home church will also recognize the apostolic quality of his ministry.
- The people in the churches he has founded will speak of God’s special favor on the fruit of his labors.
In short, his work as an apostle will speak for itself.
This does not mean he will be known or received as an apostle by the Church worldwide. Paul was not (1 Cor 9:1-3). However, Paul did know where he was accepted as an apostle. And the people knew it too. The fruit of Paul’s ministry was proof of his apostolic calling.
There is more apostolic ministry in the Body of Christ than many may realize. Truly, it is a vital, needed ministry in the Church today.
THE MINISTRY GIFT OF PROPHET
The second of the five-fold ministries is that of the prophet. It too is one of the ministries that are necessary to bring a church to maturity.
Sadly, the ministry of prophecy is not well understood in our day. Some believe it is nothing more than powerful preaching. It is clear from Scriptures, however, that prophets are more than good preachers. They have a very special place and purpose in the Body of Christ.
- A. The Definition Of Terms The Old Testament
The ministry of the prophet has its roots in the Old Testament. There are two main Hebrew words for “prophet”:
- Nabi: This is the basic word for “prophet” in the Old Testament. It means “spokesman” or “speaker.”
Basically, it means that a prophet is a person who is authorized to speak for another. In the case of the Old Testament prophets, they were to speak for God.
- Hozeh (sometimes roeh): These words mean “seer,” which is derived from the words “to see.” Prophets were also called “messengers, “servants of God” and “men of God”. The message of the prophet is usually called a “prophecy.” But it has also been called a vision, burden, oracle, or “the word of the Lord“.
THE NEW TESTAMENT
The Greek word prophetes is the only word for “prophet” in the New Testament. This word comes from two Greek words: pro, meaning “before” or “in front of”; and phemi, meaning “to show or make known one’s thoughts.” When these two words are brought together, they tell us of the two-fold operation of the ministry gift of prophet:
- Forth telling: speaking forth a message from God (Heb 1:1).
- Foretelling: a predictive revealing of God’s thoughts. Foretelling can come in two ways:
- a) Prediction of future events that usually only God is aware of (Acts 21:10-14).
- b) A revealing of the thoughts, motives and intents of the human heart (Acts 5:3).
Both forth telling and foretelling must be Holy Spirit-led to be biblical prophecy.
The word prophetes can also mean “an inspired speaker”. However, the New Testament record seems to indicate that the ministry of the prophet is more than eloquent preaching. However, sometimes preaching becomes prophetic, when an unpremeditated truth or application is brought forth spontaneously by the Holy Spirit through a chosen vessel. This can also happen to a pastor, teacher or elder who does not have the ministry gift of prophet.
A good working definition for “prophet” might be: A prophet will reveal and declare the heart or mind of God to people, and he/she will expose the heart and thoughts of people before God when he/she ministers.
B. The Levels Of Prophecy
There are at least three levels of prophecy in Scripture. Each level has a special place and purpose.
- The prophecy of Scripture (2 Pet 1:19, 20).
The Scripture is the highest form of prophecy. It is “given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim 3:16). It is without error in the original records, and is absolute or final in authority. This level of prophecy is no longer given today (Rev 22:18, 19). The Bible is complete, and is the standard against which all other prophecies must be tested.
- The gift of prophecy (1 Cor 2:10).
This is one of the nine gifts of the Spirit. It operates or functions under the general guidelines for all of the gifts. It is a gift in which any believer may function from time to time (Acts 2:18). (See Chapter 3 in this issue of ACTS Magazine for more details.)
In general use, it is for building up, stirring up and comforting the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 14:3). Anything beyond this should be limited to the prophets. Operation or use of this gif t does not make one a prophet, as we shall see (Num 11:29; 1 Cor 14:24, 31).
- The ministry of the prophet (Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 12:29; Eph 4:11).
The ministry of a prophet has to do with one’s calling. Its purpose goes beyond the limitations of the general gift of prophecy. The prophet may function in the realms of: confirming, guidance, rebuke, judgment, correction, warning, and revelation. (We will say more about revelations later.)
C. The Origin Of The Prophetic Ministry
God, as always, had a prophetic voice upon the earth. He chose to speak through godly leaders even before the ministry of the prophet had been given:
- Abel (Luke 11:50,51)
- Enoch (Jude 14)
- Noah (Heb 11:7; 2Pet 2:5)
- Abraham (Gen 20:7)
- Isaac (Ps 105:9-15)
- Joseph (Gen 50:24)
- Moses (Deut 34:10)
- Miriam (Ex 15:20)
- Aaron (Ex 7:1)
- Deborah (Judg 4:4)
God gave to Moses the guidelines by which all future prophets should be judged (Num 12:6; Deut 18:15-22; Isa 8:19,20; Luke 16:29).
The specific ministry of the prophet was first given, however, through Samuel. He was the last of the judges and first of the prophets (Acts 3:24, 25; 13:20; Heb 11:32).
It was Samuel who started the schools of the prophets (2 Kings 2:3-15). He created a new prophetic order of men. They were taught in the Word. They were sensitive to the Spirit of God. And they worshiped the Lord in spirit and in truth. Every prophet shares in that spiritual heritage.
During the reign of nearly every king in Israel, a prophet was raised up to keep him on the right path. In the 400 years before the coming of Christ, the prophetic voice was silent. Then the voice of a prophet was again heard – through the lips of John the Baptist.
Once the New Testament church was born, there was a flood of prophets on the scene. Many of them are recorded in the Book of Acts:
- Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32)
- Agabus (Acts 21:10-13)
- Ananias (Acts 22:12-15)
- At Antioch (Acts 13:1)
- At Tyre (Acts 21:3,4)
- At Jerusalem (Acts 11:27)
- At Corinth (1 Cor 14:29)
God was restoring a ministry that had been silent for a long time.
D. Christ: The Pattern Prophet
Christ was called a prophet by God (Deut 18:15; Acts 3:22). Many people saw Him as a prophet (John 4:19; 6:14; 7:40;9:17).
Truly Christ was God’s chosen Prophet while here on earth (Heb 1:1, 2). He spoke only those things which He heard the Father speak (John 12:49; 14:10, 24; 17:8). He also prophesied of things to come (Matt 24:3 “11; Luke 11:49).
Indeed, Christ was THE great Prophet. This ministry of Christ was given to His Church in the form of New Testament prophets (Eph 4:11-13). He is the model or pattern for us all.
E. The Function Of The Prophet
We must turn to the Scriptures to find the different functions of the New Testament prophet. We will discover that there are at least seven main things about a prophet’s ministry:
- A prophet’s ministry will vary from prophet to prophet.
No two ministries are exactly the same. This is seen in the various names or titles given to prophets: “seers” (1 Sam 9:9); “messengers” (2 Chr 36:16); “men of God” (1 Kings 12:22); “servants” (Amos 3:7; Zech 1:6).
They also received their “revelations” in different ways. Some saw things in the Spirit. Ezekiel, Daniel and Zechariah were prophets who had visions.
Others were taken up into trances -almost as if out of their bodies. Daniel, Paul and John had experiences like this.
Some heard things in the Spirit. Micah, Isaiah and others were prophets of hearing.
Prophets also gave their message to the people in different ways. Some spoke (Isa 21:6) or wrote (Jer 30:2) God’s words to His people. Others acted out God’s words as a drama or living story (Ezek 4:1-3; Acts 21:11). Hosea’s and Joel’s entire lives were parables or stories that were used to bring God’s message to His people.
From all of this, we dearly see that there will be a great many differences in the prophetic ministry. Truly, no two prophets will be the same.
- A New Testament prophet’s ministry will involve revelation.
Revelation comes in several forms:
a) Supernatural insight into God’s mind or Word. Before the New Testament was written, many of the apostles and prophets were used by the Holy Spirit to establish the Church (Eph 2:20).
As part of this establishing process, God used the apostles and prophets to reveal the Gospel plan of salvation and other doctrines, which are foundational to the Church. These prophetic revelations, which were part of the letters written by these apostles and prophets, were later incorporated (canonized) as the New Testament Epistles.
This is the meaning of Ephesians 3:4,5: “by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets”.
However, SINCE THE BIBLE IS A FINISHED WORK, NOTHING MORE CAN BE ADDED TO IT OR TAKEN FROM IT. It is important to remember that the writers of the New Testament had first-hand experiences with Jesus when He was ministering on earth (see 1 John 1:1-4). Paul was an exception to this first-hand experience, but he had a direct encounter with the Risen Lord (Acts 9) as He first established the Church
Even though God leads us by His Spirit in knowing how to live and continue building His Church in the day, the foundational principles as outlined in the New Testament are unchanging.
In 1 Corinthians 3:10, 11, Paul declares that through the grace of God he has laid the foundation and others will build on it. But they must do so carefully because that foundation” is Jesus Christ. A good foundation need be laid only once (Eph 2:20-22).
The Book of Revelation ends with a clear warning not to alter its contents (Rev 22:18, 19). It is God’s holy, inspired Word and is complete as it is. This same warning should be used in relation to all the books of the Bible as all of them are God-breathed (inspired) and complete.
There are still apostolic and prophetic ministry gifts functioning today. However, what is said or done in the proper Holy Spirit- directed functioning of those gifts will NEVER conflict with or attempt to override the written Word of God (the Bible).
Anything that does conflict with, or attempt to override or add to, the Bible is NOT from the Spirit of God and must be rejected.
b) Special insight into people’s lives. Facts will be revealed which are hidden to others (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor 14:25). This revealing of the hidden thoughts, intents and motivations of a person’s heart is for the purpose of ministry to that person. This ministry may be gentle or it might be a rebuke. But it is NOT intended to give the prophet a reason for pride, nor should it allow the prophet to tell others what they should do.
c) Special insight into future events (Acts 11:27-28; 21:10-14). Agabus prophesied to Paul in Acts 21 about what awaited Paul in Jerusalem. However, Paul did not change his plans as a result of that prophetic word.
Paul did not alter what he understood to be God’s will for his future. Agabus’ prophecy merely
confirmed what Paul already knew, that the Jews would cause him trouble in Jerusalem.
This teaches us that a prophet should not exercise control (governance) over leaders or churches. The words of a prophet should confirm what God has already spoken or placed in a person’s heart.
- A prophet’s ministry will involve exhortations
To “exhort” means to urge, excite and motivate action. The Old Testament prophets Haggai and Zechariah exhorted the people to rebuild the broken place and restore the temple (Ezra 5:1, 2; 6:14). New Testament prophets need to exhort God’s people to build His Church (1 Cor 14:3, 4; Eph 4:11, 12).
- A prophet’ s ministry will involve warning
Often times God will reveal something to His prophets so they can warn His people of coming danger. The warning allows the people to wisely prepare themselves for the future event (Acts 11:27-30; 21:8-11).
- A prophet’s ministry will impart a vision to the people of God.
As God prepares to move upon and through His people, He will give direction through His prophets. The prophet informs and inspires the people of God about His will and way for them (Prov 29:18; Amos 3:7; Eph 3; 5).
- A prophet’s ministry plays a role in the forming of new churches.
The apostles and prophets both have a function in the founding of new fellowships (Eph 2:20; 3:5).
They also travel to local churches to strengthen and support them (Acts 15:32, 41). They play a part in sending forth other ministries for missionary purposes (Acts 13:1-3).
- A prophet often ministers with other prophets (and apostles) as a team
Many counselors bring safety (Prov 11:14). The ministry of a team of prophets brings balance to God’s message (Acts 11:27-30; Acts 13:1). It is also a safeguard against human error, for the prophets would judge each other’s word (1 Cor 14:29).
F. Warnings About The Prophetic Ministry
The Scripture gives two kinds of warnings about the prophetic ministry. One is to the people, and the other is to the prophets.
- God’s warnings to His people:
a. Receive the ministry of the prophet (Matt 10:41).
Sometimes a prophet is not well received by his own people (Matt 13:57; Mark 6:4). This is sad because without prophetic ministry, the Church cannot grow as it should (Eph 4:11-13).
b. Be on guard against false prophets (Jer 5:30, 31; 14:13-18; 23:9-40; Ezek 13:1-23; Matt 7:15; 24:11, 24).
We cannot judge a prophecy by how loud, how long or how fine or forceful its words are. It must be judged by God’s Word, by God’s Spirit, and by other godly leaders if there is any doubt (Isa 8:20; 1 Thess 5:20, 21; 1 John 4:1).
- God’s warnings to His prophets:
a. They are warned to control themselves
Only through self-control can they rightly build up the people of God. They must be sensitive to God’s Spirit, and minister in divine order (1 Cor 14:32).
b. They are warned that they should allow their ministry to be judged (1 Cor 14:29).
No one is free from making mistakes. The Bible teaches that all prophecy should be judged. There are six questions that will help judge a prophetic ministry (1 John 4:1):
- Does the prophecy agree with God’s Word? (Isa 8:20)
- Is the prophecy given in a good spirit? (1 Cor 13:2)
- Do the prophet’s words come to pass? (Deut 18:22)
- Does the prophet live a godly life? (Jer 23:13-16)
- Does the Holy Spirit bear witness (agree) that the prophecy is true? (2 Pet 1:21)
- Do other godly leaders agree that the prophecy is true? (2 Cor 13:1)
- Do the prophet’s words lead people toward the Lord or away from Him? (Deut 13:14)
IF ANY PROPHET INSISTS THAT YOU FOLLOW HIM WITHOUT ANY QUESTIONS, JUDGE HIM A FALSE PROPHET.
THE MINISTRY GIFT OF EVANGELIST
Many people in the Body of Christ have not had a clear idea about the role of the apostle and prophet. However, they do believe they understand the functions of the evangelist, pastor and teacher. Sadly, it is possible to have a viewpoint that is shaped more by tradition or personal opinion than by God’s Word.
There is much more in the Bible about the other four ministries of Ephesians 4:11 than there is about the evangelist. Apart from Jesus, Philip is the only good example of an evangelist we can find in the New Testament. Still, we have enough information from these sources to make our study most worthwhile.
A. Definition Of Terms
There are three main Greek terms which relate to the ministry of the evangelist. They all come from the same root-word, as we shall see:
- Euaggelizo: This word means “to preach, proclaim or declare good news”. It tells us what an evangelist does – what his ministry is (Acts 13:42; Rom 10:15; 2 Cor 10:16; Eph 3:8; Col 1:27, 28; Heb 4:2). It was often used of Christ’s ministry (Matt 11:5). In a sense we all have this calling. For the evangelist, however, it is the main ministry of his life.
- Euaggelion: This word means ”the gospel or good news and glad message”. It tells us about the message of the evangelist. It is the good news about God’s saving grace. It is about the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus – our Savior (Matt 24:14; Acts 20:24; Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 4:15; Eph 1:13)
- Euaggelistes: This word means “a preacher or messenger of good news”. It tells us about the man who preaches the Gospel. The term is usually translated as “evangelist”. It is used only three times in the New Testament:
a. It is used of Philip (Acts 21:8)
b. It is in the five-fold ministries (Eph 4:11)
c. It is used of Timothy (2 Tim 4:5)
B. Christ: The Model Evangelist
The Gospel of Luke reveals Jesus in His ministry as an evangelist. Luke tells us that the main purpose for Christ’s coming was to preach the “good news” of God’s Kingdom (Luke 4:43).
Luke also tells us the nature of Christ’s ministry of evangelism (Luke 4:18, 19) as he recounts Jesus’ reading from Isaiah 61:1,2 in the synagogue at Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. He has anointed Me to:
- Preach the gospel to the poor,
- Heal the brokenhearted,
- Preach freedom for the prisoners [of sin],
- Preach renewed sight for the blind,
- Release those who are held down,
- Preach that now is the year of God’s blessing.”
What a beautiful picture this is of the ministry of an evangelist. And it was this ministry which was given by Christ to the Church. No wonder His final command to His disciples was to go forth and “evangelize” the world:
“Therefore, go into all the world and preach the gospel [euaggelion) to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
C. The Ministry Of The Evangelist
Philip was the only person in the Book of Acts and the epistles that was actually called an “evangelist” (Acts 21:8).
There are four important things that we can learn from his life and ministry as an evangelist:
- The preparation of the evangelist (Acts 6:1-6).
The Scriptures record a number of interesting facts about the background for Philip’s ministry:
a. He belonged to a local church.
b. He was a man of good character.
c. He was full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
d. He had a servant’s heart of love.
e. He first proved himself as a deacon.
f. He was submitted to godly authority.
g. He waited for God’s time to go forth (Acts 8:1-5).
2. The public ministry of the evangelist (Acts 8:5-25).
Philip’s recorded ministry of evangelism occurred in Samaria. The seed had been sown there sometime earlier by Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4). The harvest is now going to be reaped with joy.
In Philip’s ministry as an evangelist, several important points should be noted:
a. His preaching centered around Jesus Christ (Acts 8:5-12).
b. His preaching was backed up by signs and wonders (Acts 8:6,7).
c. His preaching produced many new believers (Acts 8:12).
d. He baptized the new believers in water as a sign of their faith (Acts 8:12).
e. He sent for Peter and John, who led them into the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17).
f. The new believers were formed into local churches. (This was the pattern throughout the Book of Acts including in Samaria – see Acts 9:31.)
g. He did not leave until the Lord, directed him to do so (Acts 8:26).
One sees at once that Philip’s ministry was “evangelism with a purpose”. The purpose was to make new believers and then partner with other ministry gifts for the purpose of establishing a church (Acts 8:14-17).
Philip was willing to have other ministries build upon his efforts. In this way, the fruit of his labors would remain in the form of new and growing fellowships.
We see the following pattern in Acts: when a number of converts were made without the direct involvement of apostolic ministry, apostles were sent in to confirm and establish a local church. This is what happened in Samaria (Acts 8:4-25; see also this same pattern in Acts 11:19-26).
The ministry gift of evangelist has been called the “arm” of Christ, reaching out to gather in the unsaved of our world. The fruit of the evangelist’s ministry should then be gathered into existing local churches. Or a new church should be planted where the other ministry gifts can be made available to the Body.
If we ignore this pattern, we could possibly cause the stumbling of many new believers. New churches formed without a proper foundation may become unbalanced or unscriptural.
Philip’s ministry was a beautiful example for all of the evangelists who would follow in his footsteps in ages to come.
- The private ministry of the evangelist (Acts 8:26-40).
An evangelist should be able to preach to large crowds, or share with people one-on-one. An evangelist is a soul-winner at heart – wherever he is.
This was true of Philip, as the story of the eunuch on the road to Gaza reveals. Again, several important points should be noted:
a. He was sensitive and obedient to the voice of the Lord (Acts 8:26-30).
b. He had a good understanding of God’s Word (Acts 8:35).
c. He could clearly explain God’s way of salvation through Christ (Acts 8:35).
d. He ministered to someone whose heart had been prepared by God (Acts 8:30).
e. He led him to confess Christ as his Savior – a place of personal decision (Acts 8:37}.
f. He sealed the new believer’s decision for Christ with water baptism (Acts 8:38).
Again we find in Philip a wonderful example for personal soul winning.
- The role of the evangelist in the Body of Christ (Eph 4:11-13).
The role of the evangelist in the Church is two-fold:
a. To travel and preach the gospel in places that have not heard of God’s salvation in Christ.
b. To teach and train others in his home church how to evangelize the lost. This relates to their own city or town, and then on out to the whole world (Acts 2:8).
Never in the New Testament do we find an evangelist preaching to the lost in a local church. Church meetings were for teaching from the Word, and the worship of God. Believers were built up in the church in order to:
a. Minister to God in praise and worship
b. Minister to one another in Christian love
c. Minister to a lost world in the power of the Spirit
If an unbeliever comes into such a meeting, God can speak to him by whatever he sees and hears (1 Cor 14:24,25). This does not mean that an appeal should not be made for those who wish to make a decision for Christ.
It does mean that when believers come together, the main purpose is not evangelism. Evangelism should occur through the witness of each member in their daily course of life. From such daily efforts of evangelism, God will raise up strong evangelistic ministries. And such are needed in today’s world; for, truly, the field is white and ready for harvest (John 4:35).
THE MINISTRY GIFT OF PASTOR
In Scripture, the people of God are often referred to as a flock of sheep (Isa 40:11; Jer 13:17; Matt 26:31; John 21:15; 1 Pet 5:2). In fact, sheep have many traits which remind us of new Christians learning to grow up in the Lord:
- They are totally dependent upon their shepherd (Gen 4:2; 1 Sam 17:20, 28).
Sheep must be led to pasture and water. They must be rested when weary, and healed when hurt. Their very lives depend upon the care of their shepherd.
- They have a very poor sense of direction (Ps 119:176; Isa 53:6; Jer 50:6; Ezek 34:12).
If sheep are left to themselves, they tend to wander off and get lost. As a rule, they cannot find their way home. The shepherd must search them out and bring them back to the fold.
3. They have very little means of defense (Matt 10:16; Num 32:24).
Sheep do not have sharp claws or teeth. They cannot run very fast. If left to themselves, they could not survive. They would soon fall prey to wild animals. They are safe only when brought together in a fold. They are truly dependent upon their shepherd for their protection.
Sheep do have some very fine qualities, however. They produce meat, milk and wool which provide food, drink and clothing. They have the ability to hear and follow their shepherd like no other animal.
God wants His people to show these same good qualities. He also knows our need to be led, fed and protected. Therefore, He has given to the Church the shepherd-like ministry of the “pastor”.
A. The Definition Of Terms
Poimen: The term refers to one who tends a flock or keeps sheep -a shepherd. It is a word used ten times of actual shepherds of sheep (Matt 9:36; 25:32; Mark 6:34; Luke 2:8, 15, 18, 20; John 10:2). It is used eight times of Jesus as the chief Shepherd (Matt 26:31; Mark 14:27; John 10:11, 12, 14, 16; Heb 13:20; 1 Pet 2:25). It is translated only once as “pastor” when referring to a person’s ministry in the church (Eph 4:11).
Poimaino: The term means to tend, keep, lead and feed the flock. It is twice used of actual sheep (Luke 17:7; 1 Cor 9:7). It is used once of Jesus as tending Israel (Matt 2:6). It is used to describe the care that the shepherds who are under the Great Shepherd, Jesus, should give to the flock (John 21:16, Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:2). It is used once of false shepherds who are interested only in feeding and caring for themselves (Jude 12).
Both the noun and verb forms of the word carry two main thoughts:
- Leadership: A shepherd is one who leads and provides spiritual oversight to the sheep. He is in a position of responsibility with limited authority (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Thess 5:12, 13; Heb 13:7, 17; 1 Pet 5:2, 3; on elders see 1 Tim 5:17,18).
These Scripture references clearly show God’s standards for church leadership. In Acts 20:28- 31, several key principles emerge for those in pastoral leadership:
a)”Take heed to yourselves” (v.28) means pay close attention. A shepherd must regularly check his heart, his motives, attitudes, behavior and character. He should constantly allow the Holy Spirit to shine the light of God’s convicting truth upon him. This will help to ensure a more Christ-like heart and life.
b) “and to all the flock” (v.28): A church leader must also pay close attention to the needs and hurts of those in the church. Then he/she will pray more accurately and minister more effectively.
c)“the Holy Spirit has made (v.28): God’s leaders are not self- made, they are appointed and anointed by the Spirit of God. Leaders desperately need the Lord’s help and enabling power; this leaves no room for any pride!
d)“overseers” (v.28): This word is from the same Greek root translated as “overshadow” in Luke 1:35. This conveys that to oversee is to protectively cover the flock in order for spiritual life to be nurtured in them.
e) “the church of God which He purchased” (v.28): The whole Church, and every local body, belongs to God because He bought it with the blood of His Son. Therefore, a local church leader should not act as if that body belongs to him; but rather, as a steward entrusted with the care of a precious possession of his Lord.
By way of contrast to Paul’s exhortation to qualified church leaders, in verses 29-31 he shows the qualities of those false leaders he can “savage wolves”. Three types of leaders to avoid are pointed out:
1) v. 29 – Those that are only interested in themselves and view the flock as something to use to gain personal advantage (see Matthew 7:15).
2) v. 30 – The false shepherds who will speak misleading (“perverse”) things in order to lead people away from Jesus to something else.
3) v. 31 – Those wrongly motivated leaders who will seek for quick results that require little work, time or personal sacrifice. As you read Acts 20:31, you will see that Paul was not this type of leader.
- Service: A shepherd is one who cares for the flock. He feeds, waters, rests, heals and protects his sheep. He gives of himself in humble service to the well-being of the flock -even unto death! (John 10:11-15; John 21:15-17; Rev 7:17).
It is very important to note that these two principles are tied inseparably together. Truly, the Spirit-led pastor is a SERVANT LEADER.
God has NOT called the pastor to be in control of other believers. The pastoral ministry is NOT to take the place of a believer’s personal relationship with God.
When Christ died on the cross, the veil of the Temple was torn in two (Matt 27:51). This signified that now there was no longer a need for the people of God to be represented by a human priest. Now all those who believe have direct access to God. The pastor’s ministry is to help lead people into a deeper relationship with the Lord.
B. Christ: The Model Pastor
The Church is a “theocracy” – a people ruled by God. God of ten refers to Himself as a Shepherd (Gen 49:24; Eze 34:12-14). He ministered to His people, Israel, as a Shepherd:
- He guided them (Ps 23:3).
- He fed them (Jer 50:19).
- He rested and watered them (Ps 23:2; Isa 40:11).
- He protected them (Ps 23:4).
- He called and gathered the strays (Isa 56:8; Zech 10:8).
- He carried the lambs in His bosom (Isa 40:11).
- He gently led those with young (Isa 40:11).
When Jesus came, He put a face on God. People could hear and see what their divine Shepherd was really like. Peter called Jesus the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Pet 5:4). Jesus became the perfect model of the “shepherd-heart” of God. Shepherds working under the Chief Shepherd, Jesus, should carefully study the heart and motivation of the Chief Shepherd. Although our ministry is not the same as was the ministry of Jesus, many of our attitudes and motivations should resemble those of Jesus”.
Every pastor should have the shepherd-heart of Jesus:
- He had love and compassion for the people of God (Mark 6:34).
- He placed great value on each sheep (Luke 15:4).
- He was willing to lay down His life for the sheep (John 10:11,15).
Because of His love for the flock of God, Jesus was very concerned that they would have proper care when He was gone. Therefore, He gave “pastors” to shepherd His sheep in His absence (Eph 4:11-13).
Like all other elders in the church, every pastor is an under-shepherd. He is directly responsible to Jesus for his service to God’s people (1 Pet 5:1-4). He must always look to Jesus as the good and great Shepherd for the direction and approval of his ministry. To be a pastor is a great responsibility; but it is also a noble and blessed calling!
C. The Standards For A Pastor
There are some specific standards for a pastor beyond those of an elder. We shall list them below:
- A pastor must be able to lead the sheep (John 10:4).
We can wisely and safely lead others only along paths on which we ourselves have gone before. The pastor must himself have a dose and proven walk with God before he can lead others in the ways of God.
If a pastor wants his people to pray, tithe, read the Word and reach out to others, he must set the example. He must live a lifestyle which the sheep can follow (1 Cor 11:1; Heb 13:7; 1 Pet 5:2, 3).
- A pastor must be able to feed the flock (Jer 3:15;23:4; Ezek 34:1-3;Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:2,3).
A pastor can give only what he has got. To minister the Word of God, one must be in the Word – and the Word must be in him. This involves prayer, study, thought and obedience (application). The truth of God’s Word must be at work in our own lives before it can be put into the life of another (Jer 10:21; Acts 6:4).
The pastor must also be able to preach and teach in such a clear and simple way that all can understand. He must be able to reach people at their place of need and level of maturity. Their spiritual “diet” must be fresh and balanced by variety. Sometimes this can be done by bringing in visiting preachers and teachers.
- The pastor must have a personal relationship with the sheep (John 10:27).
Jesus was able to be close to people without losing their respect. He knew them personally by name -and they knew Him. This truly is the mark of a good shepherd (John 10:3). Only then can he minister into the deepest needs of the lives of his people. The pastor must identify with his sheep. He must sit, walk and talk with them where they are. He must be honest in allowing them to know he is not only a shepherd, but one of them as well a sheep in the flock of God. Only then can he minister with understanding and compassion – with love, grace and wisdom (2 Cor 1:3,4).
- A pastor must be willing to lay down his life for the sheep (John 10:15; 1 John 3:16; Rev 12:11).
Both a pastor and his people need to know that the pastor’s ministry is not just a job, but is a calling in life. He is committed to the flock of God in love and loyalty.
A pastor’s commitment to God’s people involves many things:
a. Pouring out of his life and strength (John 10:11)
b. Caring for the sheep in times of need (Ezek 34:4; John 10:13)
c. Staying with the sheep in times of trouble (John 10:12)
d. Visiting in the homes of the sheep (Zech 10:2,3).
e. Watchful care for their safety (Heb 13:17).
D. The Ministry Of The Pastor
Much of the ministry of a pastor has already been covered in the topics above. We can sum up his work in four main words: seeking, watching, caring and correcting:
- A pastor is always seeking out the lost sheep (Luke 15:4). There are many sheep who wander and go astray. A shepherd never gives up on one that has lost its way. Instead, he keeps praying, calling, exhorting and encouraging the wayward sheep.
- A pastor is always watching for things that could harm the flock (Luke 2:8). This means looking for “wolves” from without -and “wolves in sheep’s clothing” from within. The sheep need to be protected from false teachers and false prophets. They need to be protected from those who would cause trouble and division (John 10:12; Acts 20:29).
- A pastor is always caring for those in need (John 10:11-13). The needs may be spiritual, mental, emotional or physical. They may involve the family, work, school or other areas of everyday life.
A pastor seeks to bring comfort and counsel to the sick, the dying, the crippled, the poor, the widows, the fatherless, and all who are hurting. It is a shepherd’s very nature to help and to heal wherever he can.
- A pastor seeks to correct those who are in error (Ps 23:4). The shepherd’s staff is used to reach and rescue sheep that have gone astray. The rod is used to protect the sheep when they are in danger. It is also used to correct the sheep when they are in error or rebellion.
Discipline or correction is the most difficult responsibility the pastor must face. It must be done in love and wisdom -but it must be done. It is for the good of both the sheep that need correction and the flock as a whole.
A shepherd who will not warn, correct or discipline the sheep is not a good shepherd at all. Love is willing to discipline when it is needed (Heb 12:5-7).
E. Warnings To Pastors
God knows that those whom He has called as pastors will face special temptations and testings. They have the same human weaknesses common to us all. For this reason, God has given certain warnings to His under-shepherds:
- A pastor must not neglect or overlook his own spiritual growth (Jer 2:8; 1 Tim 4:15,16).
So often, people in leadership are ruled by their busy schedules. It is easy for them to neglect their personal relationship with the Lord (Acts 6:2-4). Pastors must spend time with the Great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus.
Pastors become the targets of Satanic attack. And if the shepherd is struck down, the sheep will be scattered. Therefore, pastors themselves need the protection that only the presence of the Lord can bring (Zech 13:7; Matt 26:31).
- A pastor must not work for personal gain (11 Tim 3:3; 1 Pet 5:2). When Jesus warned of false shepherds in John 10:1-13, He made use of three interesting words: thieves, robbers and hirelings.
- A thief steals in sly, hidden ways.
b. A robber steals by force and violence.
c. A hireling is one who is paid for his work, but cares little for the sheep. He will be quick to leave without finishing his job.
In each of the three cases above, money and greed is the motive – and the result is a great loss to the flock.
- A pastor must not seek after worldly power (Ezek 34:4; Luke 22:24-27; 1 Pet 5:3).
Sadly, some people think that the ministry of a pastor is a way to rule over others. They want to be in a position of power and authority.
It is true that a pastor is in a position of spiritual authority. But it is first and foremost a position of great responsibility and humble service. A true pastor will seek to serve rather than control others.
- A pastor must not overdrive the sheep (Gen 33:13). A leader must be ahead of those he leads. Therefore, God has given him gifts of insight, and abilities to readily apply new truth. He quickly and gladly responds.
Sometimes it is difficult for a pastor to understand why others don’t respond as quickly and eagerly as he does. A shepherd must be patient with his sheep. He needs to lead them at a pace that they can follow. If he doesn’t, many will be left behind and some will be left out altogether.
- A pastor must maintain biblical family priorities (Eph 5:25). It is very important that any pastor or elder, and the members of his/her flock, remember God’s order of priorities. The pastor’s personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ should be the first and highest priority in life. Jesus is the source of true spiritual life, and without Him “we can do nothing” of value in life or ministry (John 15:5).
The next priority is the pastor’s responsibility to his family. God is very concerned with how a pastor or elder relates to his/ her spouse or children. It is the direct command of Jesus that a husband must love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for Her (Eph 5:25). A husband’s love for his wife must be faithful and sacrificial. For a woman, her priority must be to honor and love her husband, and to love their children (Eph 5:33; Titus 2:4). When these priorities are kept first, then the leader can minister to others.
The Bible teaches that if a church leader does not care for the needs of his family, then he will not be a good leader in the Church (1 Tim 3:5; 5:8). A godly leader will first give himself to God, then to his wife and family, and then to ministry to others. All of these have higher priority than his own personal desires or ambitions.
F. Judgment On Unfaithful Pastors
Pastors must always remember that the sheep under their care belong to God -not to themselves (Jer 23:1, 2). There is only one fold, and one chief Shepherd (Jer 23:2,3; John 10:16).
Every pastor must give an account to God for his ministry. If he has been faithful, he will receive a reward. If he has been unfaithful, he will be judged.
There are several judgments against unfaithful pastors:
- The sheep will be taken from them and given to faithful shepherds (Jer 10:21; 23:1-4).
- They will come under God’s hand of heavy judgment (Jer 12:10-13; 22:22; 23:1-5; 25:34-38; 50:6,7; Zech 10:3; 11:17).
The ministry of a pastor is a great and very responsible calling. It is the central ministry around which the local church is formed. For this reason, Paul speaks these strong and serious words to all who would seek the ministry of a pastor:
“Watch over yourselves, and the whole flock which the Holy Spirit has brought under your care. You must be like shepherds to the Church of God, which He bought with His own blood.
“I know that after I leave you, some men will come like wild wolves and try to destroy the flock. Some will even arise from among you. They will seek to draw others after themselves with false teaching. So, be careful!
“Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you. I taught you night and day – often with tears. Now I am putting you into God’s care. I commit you to the word of His grace. It is a message which will build you up and give you a place – and a possession – among all of God’s people.
“I have never sought anyone’s money or fine clothes. You know I have worked with my own hands to supply my needs, and the needs of those who were with me. I showed by my example how you should work to help those who are weak. Remember what Jesus said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “When Paul had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. And they all cried because he had said they would never see him again. They put their arms around him, and lovingly kissed him. Then they went with him to the ship” (Acts 20:28-38).
THE MINISTRY GIFT OF TEACHER
Christ’s great command to His disciples -just before His return to heaven -was to go into all the world with the Gospel (Mark 16:15). But He didn’t stop there. He also told them to make other disciples and teach them to obey everything He had given to them (Matt 28:19, 20).
We see in this command of Christ the importance of teaching. Teaching is basic in the formation of the Church. For this reason, God has given teachers to the Body of Christ. They are necessary in order that we might grow up into Him in all things (Eph 4:11-15).
A. The Definition Of Terms
The main Greek word which is used in regard to the teaching ministry is didasko. The root word simply means “to teach” or “to instruct”. It is the process of explaining something. By this process, knowledge or doctrine is given or imparted to another.
B. Origin Of The Ministry
There have always been teachers among the people of God in one form or another. Parents taught their children. Moses taught the leaders in Israel the principles by which they could rule the people. The people were taught the ways of God by the priests.
After their captivity by the Babylonians, the people of Israel were taught mainly by the scribes in the synagogues. It was the duty of the scribes to study and explain the Scriptures. During Christ’s day, the scribes were held in very high esteem.
C. Christ: The Master Teacher
In many places in Scripture, Jesus is called “Master” or “Teacher” (John 3:2; 13:13). We can easily see why: Jesus spent much of His time teaching the crowds of people (Matt 4:23; 5:2; 9:35; 11:1; 13:54; 21:23;22:16; Mark 10:1; Luke 20:21).
There was something about the teaching of Jesus that was very different. He taught with power, authority and the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Matt 7:28, 29). His words were Spirit and life because He spoke only what He had received from the Father (John 6:63; 7:16; 8:28).
As a master teacher, Jesus relied on the words of His Father and the work of the Spirit. That was the key to His ministry. It is also the key for anyone today who seeks to be a successful teacher of God’s Word.
D. Teaching Levels In The New Testament
Every believer should be teaching others about the Christian life (Matt 28:20; Col 3:16). However, that does not make every believer a teacher in the Church.
Every father and every elder (1 Tim 3:2) should be able to instruct others in the ways of God. But again, that does not mean they are all teachers in the Body of Christ.
There is a specific calling and ministry for teaching in the Church. It is one of the five-fold ministry gifts that operate at the leadership level (Eph 4:11; 1 Cor 12:28, 29).
Paul, it seems, was a teacher before he became an apostle (Acts 11:26; 18:11; 2 Tim 1:11). When he was not active in apostolic ministry, he returned to this function (Acts 15:35). We also know there were other teachers in the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1).
Teaching was looked upon as a very important ministry in the early church. It was taken very seriously, and the position carried with it a great sense of responsibility (James 3:1).
E. A Special Note On The Teaching Ministry Gift
By the very sentence structure of Ephesians 4:11, we can see that there is a close relationship between the ministry gifts of pastor and teacher. However, these two gifts are not the same thing, even though there is a certain amount of overlapping.
As with the other gifts, there is a partnering and mutual dependence between these two ministry gifts. The teacher should work with the pastor or local elder to assist in the process of discipling believers. The pastor should encourage those with a teaching ministry to teach the Word of God.
There might be a tendency to think that only the prophet speaks supernaturally, while the teacher speaks only from natural scholarship and study.
But the difference is not between supernatural and natural, but rather how the Holy Spirit operates through these two ministry gifts. The prophet is moved by the Spirit in a more inspirational or impromptu way. The anointed teacher functions in a more measured way to clearly illuminate the truths of God’s Word for easy understanding and instruction.
F. The Ministry Of The Teacher
The Scriptures reveal some important and specific points about the ministry of teaching:
- A teacher should never stop learning (Rom 2:21). A teacher’s life is one of continued study and preparation. There are daily lessons to be learned in the school of God’s Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:13).
- A teacher must know the Word of God (Mark 12:24). God’s Word is the basis for his ministry. He cannot teach what he does not know – or has not applied in his life.
a. He must be able to answer difficult questions (Matt 22:16-46).
b. He must be able to apply Bible truth to life situations (Mark 9:14-29).
c. He must be able to firmly fix and ground new believers in the Word (Heb 5:12).
3. A teacher must be able to teach by example (John 13:13, 14). If a teacher does not live by what he teaches, he will have no more effect than did the Pharisees (Matt 23:1-3). Jesus always practiced what He preached – He did what He taught others to do (Acts 1:1). Our greatest messages come out of what we are -not what we say!
4. A teacher must teach clearly and accurately (2 Tim 2:15). A teacher must clearly convey the true meaning and purpose of God’s Word. This gift carries with it the responsibility to teach others accurately.
5. A teacher seeks to bring others to his level of understanding (Matt 10:24, 25). Paul taught the full counsel of God as he knew it to those in his charge. He held nothing back that was for their good (Acts 20:20, 27)
6. A teacher’s greatest reward is to see lives changed by God’s Word (Deut 4:5,14;31:12,13). God’s Word works mighty miracles when it is taught, received and obeyed.
7. A teacher should be supported by those to whom he ministers (Gal 6:6). A teacher must be able to work fulltime at his ministry. It takes time to pray, study, prepare and teach God’s Word. Teaching is hard work. And a workman is worthy of his wages. If a teacher is not properly supported by God’s people, the whole church will greatly suffer.
G. Warning Against False Teachers
A good teacher can have a lot of power over people. He is reaching both their hearts and minds with his words. A teacher imparts not only facts and information, but also his attitudes and values. He has the ability to shape and control his students for great good -or great evil.
For this reason, God warns His people against false teachers. There are three kinds of false teachers that we need to know about:
- Those who teach false doctrine (2 Tim 4:3, 4; 2 Pet 2:1). False doctrine is any teaching that does not agree with the whole counsel of God. Most false teaching has enough truth in it to attract even some very sincere Christians. A doctrine can be false for several reasons:
a. It may oppose the truth (2 Pet 2:1).
b. It may add to the truth (Rev 22:18).
c. It may take away from the truth (Rev 22:19).
False teachers know how to twist scriptures for their own purposes. They usually appeal to some selfish or soulish desire, which is hidden in people’s hearts. Some people are attracted to anything that sounds new and different.
- Those who teach the traditions of men as the Word of God (Mark 7:7). We often accept without question whatever we have been brought up to believe. Sometimes men have added their own opinions and practices – thoughts and ways -to the gospel. Such “traditions” are said to be of God, but really have been made by man.
True doctrine will always agree with God’s Word. We are told to test all teaching by the truth of Holy Scriptures (Acts 17:11).
- Those who teach with wrong motives (1 Cor 4:15). Sadly, there are some who teach only for profit, power or position. They are interested only in what they can gain for themselves from the ministry (Titus 1:10, 11; 2Pet 2:3).
Usually such teachers are not responsible to godly leaders in the Church. They are not willing to submit their ministry to the approval of others. They may not even belong to a local church. Of such be aware!
The greatest defense against false teachers comes from the true teaching ministries, which God has given to His Church. Both their lives and their ministries are balanced and fruitful. Their words bring life, peace and direction to the Bod y of Christ (Isa 30:20, 21).
THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE FIVE-FOLD MINISTRIES TO THE ELDERS
Each of the five-fold ministries was given to the Church for a specific purpose and function.
We can sum them up in this way:
- The APOSTLE is needed to GOVERN.
- The PROPHET is needed to GUIDE.
- The EVANGELIST is needed to GATHER.
- The PASTOR is needed to GUARD.
- The TEACHER is needed to GROUND.
The apostle and evangelist minister mainly away from their home church base. The prophet and teacher may also travel in their ministry, but have an important function in their local church.
The pastor, of course, ministers mainly in the local church. He may, in time, move forth in more of an apostolic calling.
[Note: Some Bible scholars feel that the language of Ephesians 4:11 links the pastor and teacher together as one ministry with two functions. It would appear that every pastor should be a teacher to fulfill his function as a shepherd. It does seem, however, that Scripture also places teaching in a class as a separate ministry (James 3:1).
THE AUTHORITY OF THE LOCAL ELDERS
The New Testament does not directly deal with the relationship between the five-fold ministry and the local elders. There are several facts, however, that can help us to see how they are linked together.
- The New Testament never uses the term “five-fold ministry”. The term “five-fold ministry” is one that has been applied to the ministries given in Ephesians 4:11. This is the only place in Scripture where these five ministries are listed together. Some of them are also listed in other places -and with other ministries (1 Corinthians 12).
By their nature, however, they were plainly listed by Paul as “oversight” gifts to the Body of Christ. Each has its place in the leadership level of the Church. It is important to note, however, that they are gift “ministries” not “offices”.
- As stated above, many Bible scholars believe there are only two offices in the New Testament church (Phil 1:1). These two offices, you will recall, are those of elder and deacon. These offices are the only two which are given in detail along with their specific standards. Together they meet the basic needs for order and structure in the House of God (1 Tim 3:1-15).
- Scriptures call for only elders to be “ordained” in the local church (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5).
There is no record in the New Testament of anyone ever “ordaining” an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher to their ministry.
God has called many people to different ministries, but they were not ordained to an “office” in the formal sense of the word. They were “set in place” or “sent forth” by prayer, fasting and the laying on of hands. Many believe, however, that this is not the same thing as being “ordained “to an office in the church.
- Elders hold a position of responsibility and authority in the local church. In 1 Timothy 5:17, Paul discusses those elders “who rule well,” denoting a position of responsible authority in leading a local assembly. In many cases, no one has greater authority and responsibility in a local church than the elders. We see several examples of this in Scripture:
a, When Paul wanted to instruct the church at Ephesus, he called for the local elders (Acts 20:17). This is because they were more than likely the ruling body in that fellowship.
b. When the Apostle Paul brought a report to the lenders of the Jerusalem Church, “all the elders were present” (Acts 21:18, 19).
c. When finances were sent to Jerusalem delivered by the hands of Barnabas and Saul (Paul), they were given to the elders (Acts 11:30).
Clearly the elders were appointed and anointed as spiritual leaders of the local church in New Testament times.
- Some of the five-fold ministries may also be ordained as elders. The local eldership should, in time, possess all of the ministries of pastor, prophet and teacher. The term “pastor,” as it usually is used today, really refers to the chief or presiding elder. Indeed, he should have the heart of a shepherd, the vision of a prophet, and the wisdom of a teacher. Other elders, however, will function in these specific ministries as well.
Even the apostle, evangelist, traveling prophet or teacher should have a home church base. Indeed, such traveling or “trans-local” ministries often develop from within the “local” eldership. There could be no better preparation.
Truly, the eldership as a whole brings the order and authority necessary for all of the ministries in the church to properly function. This includes not only the five-fold ministries, but others as well.
The elders, deacons and five-fold ministries provide the needed foundation and order for the local church to fully function .They have been given and set in place by God so that believers might find growth in the Lord and fi nd their own place of service. Only then can every member become a minister. Only then can the Church of Jesus Christ fulfill her ministry – to God, to the people of God, and to the world.