“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,” (Ephesians 4:11, NASB95)
Years ago upon joining the staff of a church I was given the privilege of preparing several courses intended to be used as regular curriculum offerings. One of those classes was on spiritual gifts. In looking at this issue I considered two primary areas gifting which were speaking gifts and serving gifts. Along with that was the challenge to look at miraculous sign gifts and another area which though given is not necessarily considered in the same category as spiritual gifts. This last category is centered not as much on the gift as it is one men who were given by God for specific roles or offices, and the key passage presenting these men together is Ephesians 4:11 where we read of Jesus giving “some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers”.
Over the next couple of days I’ll include a significant portion of the course overview concerning these offices and those given to them.
“This area of office versus spiritual gift is one in which there is a difference of opinion amongst educated believers. In verse 11 we read that some were given.... We eagerly acknowledge that whether this passage is speaking of offices or categories of spiritual gifts that in either case they are sovereignly given gifts from God. The distinction being made here is that in addition to the giving of spiritual gifts there also appears to be the added aspect of gifted men, men given by God to key roles or offices.
In this brief passage we read of what might on the surface be five offices, but in actuality are most likely four offices; that of the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, and the pastor-teacher. Because of the grammar we believe the pastor and teacher to be one office, the pastor-teacher.
APOSTLE. One sent forth with a supernatural spiritual gift and a calling into the world with the message of salvation. God sent forth His Son, Jesus (Hebrews 3:1). Jesus selected and sent forth His twelve apostles, empowered by the Holy Spirit with the good news of salvation (Matthew 28:19-20), and universal authority in matters of doctrine for His disciples. These twelve became the first building blocks to be placed on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:20; 4:11,12). They were also given the responsibility to equip for ministry within the church as well as minister to their surrounding community. Each new generation has submitted to the authority of Jesus Christ, His apostles, and their writings up to this very hour. Paul was the last apostle to be placed on the foundation of Jesus Christ, eliminating any need for new apostles (1 Corinthians 15:9). He became a prime example of a man who discovered his gifts and wrapped his life around them; “I was appointed a preacher, and an apostle and a teacher” (2 Timothy 1:11).
Now, some people are confused when they see that word [apostle] appearing in the New Testament. They want to elevate everyone who is a messenger to someone with an official title. So we have to be careful to make a distinction between the official apostles and the simple messengers.
There are a few men in the New Testament who fall into a very special category of apostles. The first is the Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 3:1 says, “The Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” He is the first Messenger—the first Sent One. He is the Apostle!
Next, the twelve are called apostles. There are lists of them in Matthew 10:2-4 and Luke 6:13-16 (see also Mark 3:13-19; Acts 1:13). In Acts 1:25-26 they chose one to take the place of Judas. The lot fell to Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. Here the word messenger takes on a technical meaning. Before, it had a general meaning. Christ gave it a very special technical meaning; the twelve gave it a technical meaning as an official title. When someone says, “Who is an apostle?” the twelve are referred to.
You say, “Is that the limit of its official use?” No. One other man in the New Testament falls into the category of an official apostle. Romans 1:1 says, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” Galatians 1:1 says the same thing. These are the only official apostles.
There are no apostles today because no one sees Jesus Christ today. The apostle had to be those who had seen, heard, and had a vital personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They had to see the resurrected Christ. When choosing Matthias (Acts 1:22), Peter said, “one of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection.” They had to see the resurrected Christ. Paul also saw the resurrected Christ (Acts 9:5; 18:9-10; 22:17-18; 23:11).
PROPHET. The prophet was one who had a supernatural spiritual gift and a calling to speak forth the words of God. Prophets in the Old Testament were used by God to speak to Israel about current and future events. Jesus was the prophet to come (Deuteronomy 18:18; Acts 3:22-23). The prophets in the body of Christ were called to speak forth the word of God about present and future events (Acts 2:17-18; 11:27-28). The foundation of the church was laid upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). This foundation has already been laid, and it can only be laid once! It is on this basis that we can say that the office of prophet no longer exists.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19–22, NASB95)”
God’s household has one foundation, and that foundation has Jesus Christ as its chief corner stone. There are not multiple corner stones, just as there are not multiple foundations. All other stones are false and foundations are critically flawed. The one foundation laid by God was comprised of these first two groups of men—the apostles and prophets. These are the ones chosen and called by God to do this work, and it is upon the work and the record given through them that the rest of the building is built with access being gained only through the person of the Son of God—Jesus Christ.
Next we will look at those given by God to both for His use in procuring the bricks and working to see that they are properly laid in place—the evangelist and the pastor-teacher.