Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastor/Teachers
I keep hearing people talk about those who are apostles, prophets, evangelist, and pastors and teachers. I am an Ephesians 4 kind of guy, so this has always intrigued me. Some refer to these four fold ministries (I believe pastor/teacher is one so I do not call it five fold ministries) as Holy Spirit gifting, but that is not what the text refers to. Look at the verses leading up to verse 11 and you will find the “He” who “Himself” gave these had to be Jesus, Himself. The gifts of the Spirit are described in Corinthians, the motivational gifts of the Father are described in Roman's 12, but in Ephesians 4 we see people given as gifts by the Son (He is the one that decended and ascended) This does not describe anointing or giftings of the Spirit given to people. It literally says that these PEOPLE have been given as gifts to the church by Jesus to fulfill specific functions which are then described in the next few verses.
I have often shared how I see these four ministries that Jesus, Himself, has given to the church. I think a correct understanding of Ephesians 4 is essential to the American church obtaining Biblical order and for it to reach spiritual maturity. We totally misuse these “titles” in the church today. I am not as concerned about the titles being used as I am about them functioning. I do not see each church having an “apostle.” Apostles do exist and where most of them are seen as missionaries, I do not think every missionary is an apostle. Some of them, as well as most traveling “evangelists”, and those we call “pastor”, are actually given to the church to serve as prophets. (Those who travel around laying empty hands on empty heads and doing fortune telling are NOT biblical prophets) Those we call pastor also have the oversight of the local church but may also serve as a prophet. In the church, there is a plurality of pastor/teachers, with each pastor teaching and each teacher having a pastor's heart for the group that they teach.
I think that way too many groups (maybe not all) are setting up their own apostolic rule because many think more highly of themselves than they should. On the other hand, in some ways I think it is a knee jerk reaction to the erroneous form of church government that prevails today. As with any other error, people seem to take extreme positions when trying to correct the error.
In some ways we have a fairly accurate set up in the Assemblies of God when it is followed properly. I like accountability when it is used properly. Our leaders, although not called apostles, do have the authority to approve those who wish to pastor for credentials. They just do not appoint specific pastors to specific churches. Each church has a covering under the leadership of the district and general councils. This set up works within a biblical system when used properly. Leadership is established through basically a council of the elders within the movement. I just wish we would require more accountability for doctrines within local churches who bear our name. For this reason I am opposed to totally independent churches that have no accountability at all. I was a youth pastor in such a church in the ‘70s and although the church became moderately large, it eventually failed as it got off into false doctrines. Accountability for the pastor could have prevented that.
As I said, function is the critical need. The function of these people given as the four fold gifts that I will call clergy for lack of a better term, is given specifically in Ephesians 4.
FIRST: They are to equip the saints (all believers) for ministry
SECOND: They are to build up (edify) the body of Chirst until they…
- Come into unity of the faith
a. Only one faith
- Accepting only the faith and message of the Word of God, the Holy Bible.
- The faith is in Christ as redeemer ALONE
- The message is salvation by Grace alone which brings you to the life of discipleship
b. One lord (Unity of the knowledge of the Son of God)
- Essential to Christian faith and unity is the confession that there is only “one Lord” — His name is Jesus.
- Jesus Christ’s work of redemption is perfect and sufficient. No other redeemer or mediator is needed to give the believer complete salvation
- Reach maturity
a. No longer infants
- To be spiritually mature means not being infants who are unstable, easily deceived by the false doctrines of others and susceptible to crafty showmanship. These gifted ministries are important because people remain infants if their understanding of and commitment to Biblical truth are inadequate.
b. Speaking the truth in love (speaking truth not opinions and not traditions)
- To be spiritually mature involves “speaking the truth in love”. The truth of the gospel as presented in the New Testament is to be held in love, presented in love and contended for in a spirit of love. The love is first directed to Christ, then to the church, and then to others.
- Bring them into a committed relationship with a local church (Fitly joined together)
a. Fitly joined together
- Find your place in the church and learn how to do your job
b. Each of us working properly
- Not just to learn to do what we are supposed to be doing, but actually doing it. Working properly together also requires commitment that seeks to resolve problems and reconcile differences by mutual loyalty to Christ and one another, and obedience to Christ and his Word
- Providing for each others growth
- When we are fitly joined together and working properly, we WILL provide for one another's growth.
That is the overall biblical goal of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers.
So what are their specific roles?
The church continues to send out Spirit-filled persons to fulfill its missionary task and remain faithful to the Great Commission. The primary task of the New Testament apostles is to establish churches and to ensure that they were founded on, or restored to, have a sincere devotion to Christ and the New Testament faith. This task involved two main burdens: 1) An urgent God-given desire to maintain the church’s purity and its separation from sin and the world 2) A continuing burden to proclaim the gospel and to defend it against heresy, new theological trends and false teachers
Prophets speak in the name of God and their main concern is the spiritual life and purity of The church. They are raised up and empowered by the Holy spirit to bring a message from God to his people. They are 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; 1 Cor 12:10; 14:3). They are called to expose sin, proclaim righteousness, warn of judgment to come, and combat worldliness and lukewarmness among God’s people (Luke 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. They are at times seers (cf. 1 Ch 29:29) who foretold the future (Ac 11:28), but this IS NOT their primary role. If this is the only role a professed prophet fulfills, he is in all likelihood a false prophet.
Dr. Stanley Horton refers to prophets as “Speakers for God”. He says they are “… the proclaimer of revelation directly received from God” , they exhort , and encourage but when referring to New Testament prophets he makes it clear “Never was there anything akin to fortune-telling in the ministry of these prophets, nor did they ever provide a substitute for a person seeking the will of God for himself.”
Evangelists are men of God who are gifted and commissioned by God. Commissioned to proclaim the gospel of salvation to the unsaved and to help establish a new work or new believers in a city. When proclaimed the gospel always carries with it the offer and power of salvation (Re 1:16-17).
Pastors oversee and care for the spiritual needs of a local congregation. They are also called “elders” (Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5), “overseers” (1 Timothy 3:1; Titus 1:7), or “bishops” (1 Timothy 3:1). The task of pastors is to…
- proclaim sound doctrine, refute heresy (Titus 1:9-),
- teach God’s Word and exercise leadership, in the local church (1 Timothy 5:12; 1 Timothy 3:1-5),
- be an example of purity and sound doctrine (Titus 2:7-8),
- see to it that all believers remain in divine grace (Hebrews 12:15; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:2),
- safeguard apostolic truth and God’s flock by watching out for false doctrine and false teachers within the church (Acts 20:28-31), and
- function as shepherds of which Jesus as the good Shepherd is a model (John 10:11-16; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 5:2-4).
As “clergy” we need to know and accept our role, but I do not believe that we have to go around telling everyone what we are. What we are will show up in our ministry. Maybe I feel that way because of many of those who go around telling us that they are Apostles or Prophets. But then again, this from someone who probably looks more like John the Baptist than one of our esteemed men of God. 🙂 PS: I will take the wild honey, but no locust please.