“11 And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”
– Ephesians 4:11-12 NASB
Several Introductory Comments
The following teachings – both this one and the upcoming article, “Dale’s View of the Five-Fold Ministries” – I believe are significant and crucial to be heard, absorbed, and lived out in modern Christendom. In Evangelical Churches in particular these truths have been marginalized and even disregarded. I also believe that the health of the body of Christ could be greatly improved by living out these biblical concepts. You benefit by using your gifting in small gatherings with fellow believers, discipling a small group, intentionally having church in your home or simply as a loyal follower of Christ our King. You probably have one or several of these functions! Once you know and understand the five-fold ministries, you can also spot and identify people who are functioning in these capacities.
Many of us simply need to be authenticated and
given permission to carry out these tasks.
As you read, please consider jotting down any additional insights, questions, or affirmations. Especially ask the Holy Spirit to show you if you personally are empowered in one or more of these functions!
A simple five-point blueprint for evaluating any teaching or person speaking for God:
#1 19 Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.
#2 20 Do not scoff at prophecies,
#3 21 But test everything that is said.
#4 Hold on to what is good.
#5 22 Stay away from every kind of evil.”
– 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NLT
Clarifications about the five representative individuals from Ephesians 4:19,20
- There are not, of course, anymore eyewitness Apostles who walked with Christ while He was on earth. Regarding my following comments, I am in no way attempting to replace the fundamental eyewitness role of the original Twelve Apostles. When I talk about an ongoing Apostolic ministry, I am not suggesting that we reinstitute the original capacities of the original Apostles.
- Others were called apostles even though they were not eyewitnesses with Christ and of His Resurrection.
If you read closely, you will notice that Scripture speaks of some people who were not eyewitnesses of Christ, but they were still called apostles. For example:
Paul, Silas (or Silvanus) and Timothy
1 Thessalonians 1:1 says, “Paul, Silas, Timothy.” Then in verse 6 Paul says, “As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you,” This shows that Paul considered Silas and Timothy, and himself to be Apostles, even though they did not physically walk with Christ, nor did they witness His resurrection.
21 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus– 22 from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.” – Acts 1:21-22 NLT
Barnabas another Apostle
“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out…”– Acts 14:14 NKJV
Barnabas also was not an eyewitness to Jesus Christ, nor was he one of the original twelve. There seems to be, therefore, additional people whom the Bible considers apostles, apart from the original twelve.
There has been a past controversy about the unique historical function of the original twelve apostles in relation to the ongoing validity of the apostolic service and ministry. In modern Christianity, this controversy stems around how to interpret and apply Ephesians 2:19-20. The Scripture states:
“So, then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone,”– Ephesians 2:19-20 NASB
John MacArthur is at the tip of the spear in the controversy over these verses. MacArthur, along with others, interprets the phrase, “the foundation of the apostles and the prophets,” as being purely foundational. In other words, we do not need another foundation for the apostolic and prophetic offices. These functions have now passed away as they were only needed when the Church first began.
I think MacArthur is one of the godliest pastors in our day! I use his study Bibles on a regular basis. He is standing for truth when the political powers in California are opposing him. However, as I have said for years, “no one is speaking 100% truth, 100% of the time,” except Jesus Christ! ☺
The twelve Apostles who witnessed our Lord’s Resurrection (Acts 1:21-22) and the Prophets who recorded Scripture are obviously no longer around (Luke 16:16). I do believe, however, that the “functions” and “tasks” of these individuals are alive and well. Based on Ephesians 4:11-12, and other related passages, I believe these functions continue to operate in the lives of Christ-followers. In fact, I believe congregations across America are replete with these individuals! I will provide you with some present-day examples of people whom I personally know below. I believe that after studying the text, you will also able to name people within your webs of relationships who are being used of the Holy Spirit with these abilities. This is rewarding and fun to identify such wonderful people!
The Central Passage of Extreme Importance is Ephesians 4:1-16
For the sake of brevity I will focus on verses 11 and 12.
“11 And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”– NASB
The book of Ephesians is one of the General Epistles, and like most of the general letters, it was circulated among the house churches in the region of Ephesus. This is important to note because it means that the letter provides insights into Paul’s general teaching and practice in all the churches, not just one. I believe the implications are for all the churches everywhere, and I would add for all times.
Below are a few salient points about the passage:
• This passage begins with the timeless call to strive to maintain the essential unity of the church in spite of its complex diversities and contexts (4:3, 4). Please look to three articles that I have written on unity in May of 2022, on my blog.
• I think these passages are the primary tract on the nature of the Church itself and the nature of the ministry of the Church.
• Paul talks about Christ’s act of gifting or gracing of his people for works of ministry: “But to each of us [literally, to all Christ-followers] grace has been given as Christ apportioned it”— (verse 7). This verse underscores the reality that the Church’s ministry is fundamentally charismatic in nature. The literal word “gift” means to be empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirt. It is the word, “charisma,” which means “the favor of divine grace given” or “Divine enablement” given to each follower of Christ. Thus, all believers are indeed, charismatic!
• The notion of the dynamic of charisma (divine enablement) also gives credence to the fact that the five-fold functions of the people listed are not offices but tasks or functions. This is crucial because historically the church has made them offices or positions of authority. Sadly, this only underscores the influential paradigm of institutionalism within the American Church.
• It is incompatible with the unity of the passage to lift out “apostles and prophets” and say that they do not exist. We don’t do this with “pastors and teachers,” do we? Sadly, it is safe to say that we have ONLY recognized the pastoring and teaching functions, and have even made them positions of authority within the Church’s organizational structure. What I’m simply saying is that it’s time for the recovery of some sense of balance. Instead of the complete dismissal of the ministries of the apostolic and the prophetic, what would it look like to include them?
• What will we do now that the itinerant evangelist, Billy Graham, has left this world to be with Christ? We have erred greatly by glorifying the itinerant Evangelist like Graham or Luis Palau, haven’t we? I believe that our congregations are filled with people who function as evangelists, apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers!
• Accepting this reality that our congregations are replete with such individuals, confirms that there is not a separation of laity and clergy. Since this separation, which took place under Constantine when he made Christianity the state church, Christianity has been on the decline. He actually gave Bishops church buildings which also aided in the predominance of the Pastor-Teacher role. The priesthood of the believer is almost nonexistent in most evangelical circles (1 Peter 2:9). Why? It threatens the average Pastor, who, in addition to this, is typically paid to serve in that office. Another reason is the average person, (the laity) are content to let the pastors do the work of ministry and are generally comfortable to pay them for their services.
• Without understanding, recognizing, and empowering Christ-followers with the five-fold ministries outlined in Ephesians 4, we are collectively suffering as the modern day Church. It is impossible to estimate the terrible loss the Church has experienced simply by suppressing this crucial dimension of New Testament ministry and leadership.
• There is something that does not sit right with me about “Charismatic” people and how they attempt to use the five-fold ministry. Part of it is they elevate them to “offices”, or “positions of authority,” like I heard someone say just yesterday. “I am a Prophet” and then he proceeded to say, “I predicted the overthrow of Roe v. Wade. I am a prophet and see the future.”
• The people I know who function with these divine abilities don’t go around and label themselves as Apostles, Prophets, or Evangelists. They usually go about living their lives expressing and practicing what has become natural to them. The end result is that they magnify the Lord Jesus Christ and not the gifts which have received. This concept is crucial in understanding the function of all the gifts. Our gifts ought to extend the reputation of Christ, not draw attention to us or to a particular gift.
• The overarching purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is to equip the whole body of believers to “be prepared for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” and become mature (Ephesians 4:13).
• Not understanding, nor incorporating and empowering these gifted people into the life of the modern church, is one of the reasons we seem to remain in a perpetuate state of spiritual adolescence, resulting in instability. I especially have seen this in Oregon in the last years regarding the accommodation to the CRT, and the Social Justice movements. Many evangelical pastors and their churches are willfully deceived, and the leadership conforms and complies to the whims and pressures of false teachers inside and outside the church.
After Paul states the reality of these gifted people he says, “Then we will no longer be immature, and blown about by every kind of new teaching.” Wow, humbling isn’t it?
“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever, they sound like the Truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” – Ephesians 4:13-16