We have considered three important keys of authority, namely – the authority of Christ, the authority of the believer, and the authority of the Word of God. These represent our authority of access to the abundant provision of God for all believers, and, on the other hand, authority over Satan and his works of darkness that we might release captives from the works of the devil.
However, while all believers in Christ have the privilege of taking hold of and using these three keys of authority we cannot escape the fact that there are certain ones whom the Lord has called and equipped for a specific ministry, both to the church and to the unsaved.
This is more than a personal witness. It is the ministry of Christ in and through certain chosen vessels that he might continue to build his church and prepare a people for the day when he will come again.
A CHALLENGE TO THE MINISTRY
Every God-called minister must sooner or later come to a time when he will be challenged with the need for equipment from on high to fulfill his commission and the purpose of God in his ministry.
Faced with this challenge he will either harden his heart and close his ears to the cries of the bound, or he will seek from the Lord the supernatural ability that he needs to reproduce the ministry of Christ and to set the captives free.
Such a challenge came to my own life in 1955.
We had been seeing some encouraging results in the ministry. Many testified to the reality of God’s healing power, and some had been delivered from demons which had afflicted the body and tormented the mind. Yet it seemed that whichever way we turned we were confronted with people whose problems seemed to defy solution and for whose deliverance we seemed to lack the necessary power.
In those days we almost continuously had people staying with us in our small rented home, so that we could minister to their needs. Consequently, I could not escape the challenge, I came face to face with it day by day, and I met with it at meal times when people whose lives were so bound sat at the same table.
THE PRESSURE OF HUMAN NEEDS
It was at this time in 1955 that the Lord so wonderfully provided for the purchase of “Sunrise House” so that we might have better facilities with which to conduct this work, and to enlarge our ministry. Yet, despite the blessings of God and his miraculous provision for the work, I continued to live each day under the pressure of the needs of men and women, and with a consciousness of the inadequacy of my ministry.
Looking back at that time, it seems that for more than a year I spent as many meal times away in my “den” seeking the Lord, as I spent at the meal table; and it seems I spent as many nights in that “den” as I did in my bed.
It was not a matter of counting meals missed or nights spent in prayer, but a question of how to live with the burden, which was not sought nor even desired, but seemed to be laid upon me by the Spirit of God.
It was obvious to me that one could not live in this state indefinitely. Very necessary work had to be completely neglected. The demands placed upon me by a rapidly growing work of God had to be deliberately ignored.
It was apparent that this was yet another crisis in my ministry , and looking back over the years, it is now clearly seen how the Lord was preparing me to receive another key of authority , not only for myself, but also to be shared with others in the revival that is coming.
The eternal truths of the Word of God which were unfolded to me and impressed deeply on my spirit during those hours and days spent alone in my “den” have become a part of my ministry ever since. Space forbids a detailed exposition of all these gems of truth. Neither is it possible to tell of the searching and exacting tests that I was called upon to accept, of the somewhat rash vows I at times made to the Lord if only he would honor the ministry he had given and make it an effective force for his glory.
REVELATION OF THE AUTHORITY OF THE MINISTRY
I would like to take space, if it were possible, to tell of the very real conflict with the powers of darkness and of the glorious victories won through faith in the Word of God and by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. But one thing I do wish to share with you at this time, and that is this concept of the divine authority of the ministry – not of a professional ministry nor of a self-appointed ministry, nor of mere skillful preaching, or great oratory, but the authority of the ministry that is appointed by Christ in his church today.
This concept of the divine authority of every God-called ministry was impressed deeply upon me during those hours and days spent alone with the Lord.
I hope I can share with you just a little of this revelation of the authority which God has vested in the gifts of ministry that have been imparted to the true servants of God in the church of Jesus Christ.
This is not authority over people’s lives, nor authority of office in an organization, but the authority of Christ over the devil and all his works, the authority to do the works of Christ and to build his church, perfecting the saints and preparing them for the day they will be presented to the Lord.
It is an authority that makes the ministry effective and productive. It is an authority that makes each different ministry fruitful in its own sphere.
THE MINISTRY – GIFTS OF CHRIST
These Christ-given ministries are listed for us in Ephesians 4:11 as follows . . . “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”
Here we have a complete list of the ministry-gifts of Christ bestowed on certain persons in his church. There are many other gifts which may be embraced by those listed here and which may serve to equip them, but this list covers the major types of ministry which stem from Christ himself for the benefit of his church.
Let us consider them in a little more detail:
Apostles: the word means “a special messenger,” a pioneer, one who is called of God to restore some new facet of truth, to inspire a new vision, and to establish and oversee local Christian churches.
Prophets: this ministry conveys the mind of God to the church to meet the need of specific occasions, exercising the gifts of the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge, and exhorting the church with inspired utterance.
Evangelists: those who bear this ministry gift are called to proclaim the gospel of Christ, bringing men and women to salvation, with a message confirmed by supernatural signs.
Pastors and Teachers: these ministry-gifts are so closely linked together that some consider them to be one gift. Whether one gift, or two closely allied gifts, the outworking of these ministries is seen in the effective shepherding and instructing of local churches.
While these gifts overlap and dovetail with one another, each is distinct in its own nature and each is the impartation of divine enablement by the living Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
These gifts of ministry represent the full-orbed ministry of Christ himself that his works might be continued and his blood-bought victory enforced over Satan and all his evil power.
GIFTS WON FOR US AT CALVARY
Now these ministry-gifts were won for us at Calvary. This is what we read in Ephesians 4:8-10 . . . “Therefore it says, when He ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives, (he led captivity captive) and He gave gifts to men. Now that he ascended what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.”
Thus it was by his death and burial, by his invasion of Satan’s domain and by his rising again with the keys of death and hell, that Christ gained the victory, the spoils of which he now shares with men by means of the gifts which he distributes to those whom he has called to his service.
Verse 8 (he led captivity captive) is a quotation from Psalm 68:18, reference to which will provide us with a better understanding of the truth that is presented. It is a picture of a warrior-king who, having won a mighty victory, returns in triumphal procession to the hill of Zion, dragging in his train a host of captives, some bound in chains, others tied to the wheels of the chariots, all showing miserable and fearful evidence of their defeat. Now seated on the conqueror ‘s throne the warrior-king calls to him those who shared in the pain and blood of battle, and to them he distributes the spoil he has gained.
All this is applied to our warrior-king – Jesus Christ – who ventured forth into the enemy territory of sin, sickness, of the curse of death itself – who shed his blood in death but rose again saying, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1:18).
The angels of heaven, baffled by the mysteries of his redemptive work, gathered in their myriads to welcome the victorious warrior back to heaven’s throne. Satan and his hosts of demons and all their destructive works are bound by the cords of Christ’s blood-brought authority, defeated by one who achieved the victory at so great a price.
CHRIST SHARES THE FRUITS OF VICTORY
But with whom does he share the fruits of victory? Not with the angels, for they have no part in the battle. The spoils are shared with none other than those who by faith have identified themselves with Christ. He shares the spoils with those who fought the battle with him.
But we were not there! We had no part in his sufferings or his victory – except for the grace of God who has identified us in his Son. This is the marvel of divine grace!
All that Christ did was not for him, but for us. It was in our name that he died. In our name He was buried and rose again. The victory He won was on our behalf He was the representative man going forth as our substitute to defeat our enemy and to win our victory.
For this reason he calls on us to share the spoil, to sit with him in the conqueror’s chair, to be a partaker of his authority over the enemy and all his power.
AUTHORITY OVER THE ENEMIES OF MANKIND
Some have assumed that the words, “he led captivity captive,” mean that Christ led captive souls from hades to heaven at his resurrection. Whether or not that actually happened, it is difficult to read it into this verse. The Amplified New Testament renders that verse this way – “Therefore it is said, when he ascended on high, he led captivity captive – he led a train of vanquished foes – and bestowed gifts on men.” The A.N.T. has this foot note quoted from Matthew Henry – “He conquered those who had conquered us; such as sin, the devil and death.” This is true to the picture presented to us in Psalm 68 from which this verse is quoted.
Therefore, those to whom the gifts are given share the victory of Christ and possess his delegated authority over all the foes of mankind – the devil , demons, and all their evil works.
It is an authority to loose men from sin and from sickness, to release them from all illegal captivity.
It is a key to unlock prison doors and to announce freedom to those who have been enslaved by the enemy.
It is the privilege of heralding the good news of deliverance throughout the land.
The devil hates and fears a ministry of authority.
Is it not high time that every bearer of a ministry gift of Christ, every apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher, should recognize the authority of his ministry and go forth as one who is an ambassador of our conquering warrior-king?
TRAINING THE SAINTS FOR MINISTRY
Not only is this authority enjoyed by those possessing ministry gifts, however, but it is in a measure shared by all the saints of God.
Ephesians 4:12 tells us that the ministry-gifts of Christ are “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Modern translations have presented a clearer understanding of this verse by omitting the comma after the word “saints.” In this way the verse is made to read – “For the perfection of the saints for the work of the ministry . . .”and so it becomes clear that the ministry-gifts are not given for the purpose of monopolizing the ministry, but rather for the reproduction of ministry.
In much the same way as military officers are chosen and trained that they may later train the soldiers of an army, so God has selected certain persons and imparted to them fragments of the supernatural ministry of Christ, that these men might in turn prepare and equip the saints of God to continue the work of the ministry.
So the authority of Christ is channeled through the ministry-gifts to the entire body of Christ.
Men and women of God, let us arise in faith, grasp this concept of the authority of our ministry, lay hold of the key that is offered us from the hand of Christ, and go forth enforcing his blood-bought victory and bring deliverance to men and women bound in the captivity of Satan.
What a wonderful key of authority is offered to the church in the ministry-gifts of Christ! May God raise up a powerful ministry of authority that will in turn produce a victorious church.