I think by now we’ve figured out that it’s the saints (that’s us) who are responsible for doing “the work of ministry.” We all have the responsibility of continuing the work that
Does that mean we’re all the same? Heck no. The Bible certainly recognizes different gifts and even different offices. Individuals with different gifts are instructed to use those gifts. Individuals with different offices have a different instructions. (Watch out: the apostle
Ephesians 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
There are five offices: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers; sometimes they’re referred to as “the five-fold ministries” simply because there are five of them. Look at the job description of this group:
· Equipping the saints for the work of ministry.
· Edifying (building up) the body of
· Bringing us all to unity in the knowledge of
· Bringing us to maturity, etc.
Some preachers point to their sermons as the fulfillment of this passage, and indeed a good sermon can both equip and edify a congregation. But wait just a doggone minute: who’s supposed to do the “work of ministry”? It’s the saints! That’s you and me! The job of the pastor (and the rest of that team) is to equip you and me to do the ministry. Think of the Fivefold (pastors and prophets and the rest) as consultants, not as the “ministers.”
Some years ago, I worked for a medical company. We were growing pretty quickly, and the medical field was changing fast, so we invited a consultant in to help us develop the business in light of the changing circumstances. The consultant never did do any of our work for us, but he did help us to prepare for the work that we needed to do: he taught how to do it better and more efficiently, he showed us how to make sure that what we were providing was what the community needed and the insurance companies were willing to pay for.
The five-fold ministries are like that consultant: they don’t do the ministry, they equip us to do it. It’s not the pastor’s job to do the ministry, it’s his job (or her job: we’re not sexist here) to equip you and me to do that work. His job is consulting. Our job is ministering.
(By the way, some groups have been teaching that apostles and prophets went away ‘way back then, with the canonization of scripture or something. Get over it. First, they’re here until “we all come … to the measure of the stature of the fullness of
I don’t care if the person with the title is on the payroll of the church organization or is just (“just?” as if this were less??) the leader of the home group. His job is to equip and edify you and me. It’s our job to do the work.
That means it’s our job to visit the sick and imprisoned. It’s our job to teach the young believers and to discipline the rebellious ones. It’s our job to collect the offerings from the saints and distribute it to the needy. It’s our job to discover, develop and deploy our gifts.
This might be “preaching to the choir” given the radical nature of those who read this blog, but it’s still worth reminding ourselves of. If we have a title, an office, then our job is to train others. And whether we have a title or not, it’s our job to do the work of the ministry.
So let’s be careful to stop looking to leaders to do our work for us. Let’s look around and pick up the work that He’s put before us!
Good encouragemnt in this post. Thanks. We should all wake up wondering what work of ministry we have to do that day.
I'm interested to quibble over the temporary nature of some of the offices in Eph 4.
You're quite right that God gave these offices until we grow up, but that doesn't mean that they function the same from beginning to end of that process. Nor does it mean that they all function the whole time.
With respect to the apostolic office, Acts 1 seems to give the requirements to fill it. Those requirements preclude anyone who wasn't around Jesus from his baptism and throughout his ministry (vv. 21-22). Apostles personally witnessed the minsitry of Christ; Tim (b. 1977) did not personally witness that ministry; therefore, Tim cannot be an apostle.
This ties in closely with the stated architectural/ecclesiastical purpose of the NT apostolic and prophetic ministries - that is, to build the foundation of the building that is the church. Eph 2:20 clearly states that the church is build on a specific foundation with a specific corner stone. The nature of a foundation is such that it doesn't continue up to the 5th floor. Similarly, the NT offices of apostles and prophets served that foundational purpose, but now that we're 20 centuries (stories?) removed, they're not still active in the same way.
The ministry of pastors and teachers, however, is to lead and teach the apostolic doctrine and practice. The the apostolic ministry continues by way of the pastors and teachers in Christ's church.
Thanks for the good insight, Tim! And thanks for keeping me on my toes!
Yours is a classic argument of cessational theology. In my history, that argument was used to explain why my church leaders couldn't heal the sick or cast out demons (see 2 Corinthians 12:12). That was just my history, but your comments remind me of those (bad) old days.
Your list from Acts 1 is a good list, but it never claims to be the qualifications to be an apostle. Rather, it's the qualifications to take Judas's office. Romans 16:7 lists other apostles who clearly weren't part of the original twelve. Heck, Paul himself - the author of half of the books in the NT didn't qualify according to Acts 1, in that he had't "accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us".
Certainly there are more apostles than those of the first century. And certainly the foundational work of apostles and prophets is still needed, particularly in regard to unreached people groups, for example.
Ultimately, this whole subject works in my mind as being about my expectations: am I willing to hold myself (and God) to the expectation of first-century demonstrations of power in healing, signs and wonders? Or am I going to create a theology that justifies my ineffectivenes?
Ultimately, our passage in discussion (Ephesians 4) clearly describes when the apostles and prophets are to be done (which is, incidentally, the same ending date for pastors and teachers): "...till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." We've come a long way in the past two millenia, but we ain't there yet!
Thanks for reading. Thanks for thinking. Thanks for writing.
Alright! I wasn't sure, David, if that was your post or not. Now, I know and (as you know) knowing is half the battle!
I'm a weak cessationist - I don't think God has limited himself in such a way as NOT to give spectacular gifts, as he did in the days of the apostles. He has limited himself in certain ways (not flooding the earth, for instance), but this isn't one of 'em.
Rom 16:7 is of interest. Those who are outstanding among the apostles can certainly be among them with about being them. Even if those mentioned were apostles, it's no counter evidence to my argument above - they also must've fit the qualifications.
As to Judas's office as distinct from the apostolic office which Judas himself filled - I'll have to think about that for a while.
As to Paul - he's special because he was "born out of due time." He's apostleship was after the fact and not normal.
What apostles do you think are running around in our day? That's an honest question and I'm quite intersted in your answer.
See you in the morning over some coffee!
I tend to define “apostles” by function, not by title; IMHO, many of those who claim the title do not qualify, and they obfuscate our dialog.
Functionally, I see “apostles” as foundation-builders, fathers. By contrast, I see pastors as shepherds, care-givers, exhorters. Think generals in the army vs. medics and drill sergeants. I like how Peter Wagner addresses the subject here and here.
Some people who appear to fill this would include John Wimber, Bill Valley, John Kelly, Heidi Baker (or does the inclusion of a woman on this list open another jar of worms?), John Eckhardt, Bill Johnson. These people all have limited spheres of influence, and most of them don’t include you and me; there is only one apostle to the whole church, and that’s Jesus the “apostle and high priest of our faith.” (Hmmm. Since he is still living, and is clearly an apostle, I guess he’d be an argument for apostles still being alive today, perhaps?)
These men and women are (or in Wimber's case, “were”) doing a great job of fathering, establishing, and their work is accompanied by signs and wonders.
Now if you want to call that something else, feel free. I call it an apostle, and I think there’s enough evidence to support it biblically, though I’ll respect other viewpoints. My point in this post is not to argue whether apostles do or do not exist today. My point is to say, quit relying on apostles, or pastors, to do the work of the ministry. Until we all are perfected in maturity, the job of those five is to equip us. Our job is to do the work of ministry. I think we've been relying on the five-fold leaders - apostles and pastors and the rest - far too much.
I hope that brings some clarity.
Thanks for the response. I'll check out those folks you mentioned.
I'm on board, by the way, with your main point. The question of the apostles was a quibble.
Hope the nectar's treating you well. I do believe I can feel God's blessing upon it (the coffee, that is), as it's giving me wakefulness. Ahh, the sweet, sweet nectar.
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