Ministry gifts of the church
|February 8, 2016||Posted by Pastor Viju Mathai under Bible Study, Holy Spirit||
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Ephesians 4:ll “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.”
THE GIVER Eph 4:11 lists the ministry gifts (i,e., gifted spiritual leaders) Christ gave to the church. Paul states that Christ gave these gifts (1) for preparing God’s people for works of service (4:12) and (2) for the spiritual growth of the body of Christ as God intended
APOSTLES The title “apostle” is applied to certain NT leaders. The verb apostello mean to send someone on a special mission as a messenger and personal representative of the one who sends him. The title is used of Christ (Heb 3:1), the 12 disciples (Mt 10:2), Paul (Ro 1:1; 2Co 1:1; Gal 1:1) and others (Ac 14:4,14; Ro 16:7; Gal 1:19; 2:8-9; 1Th 2:6’1)
- The term “apostle” was used in the NT in a general sense for a commissioned representative of a church, such as the first Christian missionaries. Therefore, in the NT “apostle” referred to any messenger appointed and sent as a missionary or for some other special responsibility (see Ac 14:4,14; Ro 16:7; 2Co 8:23; Php 2:25). They were men who manifested extraordinary spiritual leadership, were anointed with power to confront directly the powers of darkness and to confirm the gospel with miracles, and were dedicated to establishing churches according to apostolic truth and purity. These itinerant servants risked their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the advancement of the gospel (Ac 11:21-26; 13:50; 14:19-22; 15:25-26). They were Spirit-filled men of faith and prayer (Ac 11:23-25; 13:2-5; 46-52; 14:1-7,21-23).
- Apostles in this general sense remain essential to God’s purpose in the church. If churches cease to send out Spirit-filled persons, then the spread of the gospel into the world will be hindered. On the other hand, as long as the church produces and sends such people, it will fulfill its missionary task and remain faithful to the Lord’s great Commission (Mt 28:18-20).
- The term “apostle” is also used in a special sense to refer to those who saw Jesus after his resurrection and were personally commissioned by the resurrected Lord to preach the gospel and establish the church (e.g„ the twelve disciples and Paul). They possessed a unique authority within the church that related to divine revelation and the original gospel message that can no longer exist in anyone today. Thus, the office of apostle in this specialized sense is unique and unrepeatable. The original apostles can have no successors.
- A primary task of the NT apostles was to establish churches and to ensure that they were founded on, or restored to, sincere devotion to Christ and the NT faith ( Jn 21:15-17; 1Co 12:28; 2Co 11:2-3; Eph 4:11-13; Php 1:17). This task involved two main burdens: (a) an urgent God-given desire to maintain the church’s purity and its separation from sin and the world (1Co 5:1-5; 2Co 6:14-18; Jas 2:14-26; 1Pe 2:11; 1Jn 2:1,15-17; 3:3-10) and (b) a continuing burden to proclaim the NT gospel and to defend it against heresy, new theological trends and false teachers.
- Although the first apostles who laid the church’s foundation have no successors, the church today is still dependent on their words, message and faith. The church must obey and remain faithful to their original writings. To reject the inspired revelation of the apostles is to cease being a church according to the Biblical pattern and to the Lord himself (Jn 16:13-15; 1Co 14:36-38; Gal 1:9-11). On the other hand, to believe the apostolic message, obey it and guard it against all distortion is to remain true to the Holy Spirit (Ac 20:28, 2Ti 1:14) and to guarantee God’s continued life, blessing and presence within the church
PROPHETS Prophets were believers who spoke under the direct impulse of the Holy Spirit in the name of God and whose main concern was the spiritual life and purity of the church. Under the new covenant they were raised up and empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring a message from God to his people (Ac 2:17; 4:8; 21:4).
- OT prophets are foundational for understanding the prophetic ministry in the early church. Their primary task was to speak a word of God by the Spirit in order to encourage God’s people to remain faithful to their covenant relationship. They also, at times, predicted the future as the Spirit revealed it to them. Christ and the apostles serve as examples of the OT ideal (Ac 3:22-23; 13:1-2).
- Prophets functioned within the NT church in the following ways: (a) They were Spirit-filled proclaimers and interpreters of the Word of God, called by God to warn, exhort, comfort and edify (Ac 2:14-36; 3:12-26; 1Co 12:10; 14:3). (b) They were to exercise the gift of prophecy. (c) They were at times seers (1Ch 29:29) who foretold the future (Ac 11:28; 21:10-11). (d) Like the OT prophets, the NT prophets were called to expose sin, proclaim righteousness, warn of judgment to come, and combat worldliness and lukewarmness among God’s people (Lk 1:14-17). Because of their message of righteousness, prophets and their ministry can expect rejection by many in the churches during times of lukewarmness and apostasy.
- The prophet’s character, burden, desire and ability include: (a) a zeal for church purity (Jn 17:15-17; 1Co 6:9-11; Gal 5:22-25); (b) a deep sensitivity to evil and the capacity to identify and hate unrighteousness (Ro 12:9; Heb 1:9); (c) a keen understanding of the danger of false teachings (Mt 7:15; 24:11,24; Gal 1:9; 2Co 11:12-15); (d) an inherent dependence on God’s Word to validate the prophet’s message (Lk 4:17-19; 1Co 15:3-4; 2Ti 3:16); (e) a concern for the spiritual success of God’s kingdom and a sharing in God’s feelings (Mt 21:11-13; 23:37; Lk 13:34; Jn 2:14-17; Ac 20:27-31).
- The prophets’ messages are not to be regarded as infallible. Their messages are subject to the evaluation of the church, other prophets and God’s Word. The congregation is required to discern and test whether their witness is from God (1Co 14:29-33; 1 Jn 4:1).
- Prophets continue to be essential to God’s purpose for the church. A church that rejects God’s prophets will be a declining church, drifting toward worldliness and the compromise of Biblical truth (1Co 14:3; cf. Mt 23:31-38; Lk 11:49; Ac 7:51-52). If prophets are not allowed to bring words of rebuke and warning, words prompted by the Spirit, words exposing sin and unrighteousness (Jn 16:8-11), then the church will become a place where the voice of the Spirit can no longer be heard. Ecclesiastical politics and worldly power will replace the Spirit (2Ti 3:1-9; 4:3-5; 2Pe 2:1-3,12-22). On the other hand, if the church, with its leaders, hears the voice of the prophets, it will be moved to renewed life and fellowship with Christ, sin will be forsaken, and the Spirit’s presence will be evident among the faithful (1Co 14:3; 1Th 5:19-21; Rev 3:20-22).
EVANGELISTS In the NT, evangelists were men of God who were gifted and commissioned by God to proclaim the gospel (i.e„ good news) of salvation to the unsaved and to help establish a new work in a city. When proclaimed the gospel always carries with it the offer and power of salvation (Ro 1:16-17).
- The ministry of Philip “the evangelist” (Ac 21:8) gives a clear picture of the work of an evangelist according to the NT pattern, (a) Philip preached the gospel of Christ (Ac 8:4-5,35). (b) Many were saved and baptized with water (Ac 8:6,12). (c) Signs, miracles, healings and deliverance from evil spirits accompanied his preaching (Ac 8:6-7,13). (d) He wanted new converts to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ac 8:12-17; cf. 2:38; 19:1-6).
- The evangelist is essential to God’s purpose for the church. The church that fails to support the ministry of the evangelist will cease to gain converts as God desires. It will become a static church, devoid of growth and missionary outreach. The church that values the spiritual gift of the evangelist and maintains an earnest love for the lost will proclaim the message of salvation with convicting and saving power (Ac 2:14-41).
PASTORS Pastors are those who oversee and care for the spiritual needs of a local congregation. They are also called “elders” (Ac 20:17; Tit 1:5) and “overseers” (1Ti 3:1; Tit 1:7).
- The task of pastors is to proclaim sound doctrine, refute: heresy (Tit 1:9-11), teach God’s Word and exercise leadership in the local church (1Th 5:12; 1Ti 3:1-5); be an example of purity and sound doctrine (Tit 2:7-8); and see to it that all believers remain in divine grace (Heb 12:15; 13:17; 1Pe 5:2).-Their task is described in Ac 20:28-31 as safeguarding apostolic truth and God’s flock by watching out for false doctrine and false teachers within the church. Pastors function as shepherds of which Jesus as the good Shepherd is a model (Jn 10:11-16; 1Pe 2:25; 5:2-4).
- The NT pattern shows a plurality of pastors directing the spiritual life of a local church (Ac 20:28; Php 1:1). Pastors were chosen, not through politics, but through the Spirit’s wisdom given to the body as it examined the candidate’s spiritual qualifications.
- Pastors are essential to God’s purpose for his church. The church that fails to select godly and faithful pastors will cease to be governed according to the mind of the Spirit (see 1Ti 3:1-7). It will be a church left open to the destructive forces of Satan and the world (see Ac 20:28-31). The preaching of the Word will be distorted and the standards of the gospel lost (2Ti 1:13-14). Members and families of the church will not be cared for according to God’s purpose (1Ti 4:6,12-16; 6:20-21). Many will turn away from the truth and turn aside to myths (2Ti 4:4). On the other hand, if godly pastors are appointed, believers will be nourished on the words of faith and sound doctrine and disciplined for the purpose of godliness (1Ti 4:6-7). The church will be taught to persevere in the teaching of Christ and the apostles and thus ensure salvation for itself and those who hear (1Ti 4:16; 2Ti 2:2).
TEACHERS Teachers are those who have a special, God-given gift to clarify, expound and proclaim God’s Word in order to build up the body of Christ (Eph 4:12).
- The special task of teachers is to guard, by the Holy Spirit’s help, the gospel entrusted to them (2Ti 1:11-14). They are faithfully to point the church to Biblical revelation and to the original message of Christ and the apostles, and to persevere in this task.
- The principal purpose of Biblical teaching is to preserve truth and to produce holiness by leading Christ’s body into an uncompromising commitment to the godly lifestyle set forth in God’s Word. Scripture states that the goal of Christian instruction is “love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1Ti 1:5). Thus, the evidence of Christian learning is not just in what one knows, but how one lives— i.e., the manifestation of love, purity, faith and godliness.
- Teachers are essential to God’s purpose for his church. The church that rejects or refuses to hear those teachers and theologians who remain faithful to Scriptural revelation will stop being concerned about the genuineness of the Biblical message and the correct interpretation of the original teaching of Christ and the apostles. The church in which such teachers and theologians remain silent will not continue steadfast in the truth. New winds of doctrine will be uncritically accepted, and religious experience and human ideas, rather than revealed truth, will be the ultimate guide to the church’s doctrine, standards and practices. On the other hand, the church that listens to godly teachers and theologians will have its teachings and practices measured by the fundamental testimony of the gospel, its false ideas exposed and the purity of Christ’s original message handed down to its children. God’s inspired Word will become the test of all teaching, and the church will be reminded that the Spirit’s inspired Word is ultimate truth and authority, and as such, stands over the churches and their institutions.