All of our studies on the Church and the various ministry gifts are being re-written. Content is being updated and more material is being added. Please return later to see the updated work
In this series of studies on The Church, we have determined that Jesus is the Head of the Church which is His body and looked at how He said that He would build it, based on Peter's revelation of who He was.
This page is devoted to a group of ministry gifts that is as valid now as the day Jesus gave them to us. These gifts are men. They are men (no gender implied) who occupy specific offices or positions within the church and are listed in Ephesians chapter four that says-
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?
He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:1-16
I would also draw your attention to something else Paul said about various gifts-
Now you are the body of Christ, and every one of you the separate parts of it.
And God has put some in the church, first, Apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then those with wonder-working powers, then those with the power of taking away disease, helpers, wise guides, users of strange tongues.
Are all Apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? have all the power of working wonders?
Are all able to take away disease? have all the power of tongues? are all able to give their sense?
But let your desires be turned to the more important things given by the Spirit. And now I am pointing out to you an even better way. 1 Corinthians 12:27-31
There are many and various gifts or enablements that have been given to the church. I liken them to tools with which we can do the job. In Paul's letter to the church at Corinth, portion of which is listed above, he taught on the gifts that the Holy Spirit bestows on us. I deal with them in the page titled The Holy Spirit and His Gifts (click to visit) and recommend you visit that and associated pages. But now to what is known as the Five ascension gift ministries that Jesus gave to His Church.
The Gospel accounts of Matthew 3:1-3 chapter three and Luke chapter three describe the appearance of John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for Jesus. John preached about the coming kingdom (that is God’s way of doing things).
John baptized Jesus upon whom the Holy Spirit descended and Jesus went into the wilderness for forty day and forty nights of fasting. During that time, the devil tempted him, appealing to the three main areas in which he tempts us all, namely the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
Jesus responded at all times by replying, “It is written…” quoting the word of God and emerged victorious to start His ministry. Throughout His ministry, Jesus told everyone that the Father had sent Him (John 5:30-37, 6:44,57; 8:29; 17:25; 20:21). The writer to the book of Hebrews said of Jesus-
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. Hebrews 3:1-2.
The word used for Apostle here is apostolos. It comes form the word apostellō. It talks about someone who has been specifically chosen or set apart for a specific mission. This person is a delegate, ambassador or representative of the one who chose him. He or she is the person who has been sent on an assignment.
Jesus therefore was called or chosen by God and set apart for a specific assignment.
The Lord then started His ministry and then began choosing others to assist Him. Matthew 4:18-22 states that Jesus called Simon called Peter, Andrew, James and John, telling them to follow Him. Luke says in Luke 5:27 that Jesus called Levi, telling Him to follow also.
In Luke 6:1, we see reference to Jesus and His disciples. Some time later, He healed the man with the withered hand and prayed during the night. What happened next is interesting.
One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles. Here are their names: Simon (whom he named Peter), Andrew (Peter’s brother), James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (who was called the zealot), Judas (son of James), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him). Luke 6:12-16.
We tend to think that Jesus only had 12 disciples, but this is not true. This account shows that He had a group of disciples and from this group He chose 12 for specific purposes.
- In Luke 10:1, Jesus sent an additional 70 on specific ministry assignments.
- When Jesus talked about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, many of His disciples left him (John 6:66).
- In Acts 1:15, Peter addressed 120 followers of Jesus, two of whom were specifically named in Acts 1:20-26 and one choses to replace Judas.Those 120 were attending the prayer meeting on the Day of Pentecost.
- In 1 Corinthians 15:6, Paul said that 500 brethren saw Jesus.
Obviously therefore, Jesus had many more followers than the 12. Out of this group of people, Jesus picked a special group of people for specific roles.
What we can see here is a principle in that God calls certain people for certain tasks. He calls everyone of us of course, but in this context there is a specific “call” on “chosen people” who are set apart for His purpose. The ministry in the church today is not a vocation or a career as some have made it, but a Divine call.
Hebrews 13:8 states-
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
God’s word does not change. See Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 5:18; Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter1:25.
We know where we stand with God at all times. He does not change. His principles remain consistent.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:17
With such things in mind, the way Jesus does things in building His Church, including choice, selection, ordaining and equipping the saints for His tasks has not changed. The only thing that has changed is how we go about it. We have modern day technology now to help us, but the task or objective remains the same.
It has been said that such gifts were only “temporary” and thus given to help get the church started. It is also stated that once the original apostles died out, they had completed their tasks and got the church started. It is also said that we now have the bible and so do not need such things any longer.
These folk had the word of God then. Admittedly, it was what we have the Old Testament, but they did minister just like Jesus did with what they had then, with much opposition and persecution. Some churchgoers rarely open the bible and opposition and persecution is still with us. If the bible is, as they say already here, why are we still getting new translations or versions today? My own personal library contains scores of original texts and translations. These arguments are meaningless.
The scriptures themselves tell us the truth.
Furthermore, he gave some people as emissaries, some as prophets, some as proclaimers of the Good News, and some as shepherds and teachers. Their task is to equip God’s people for the work of service that builds the body of the Messiah, until we all arrive at the unity implied by trusting and knowing the Son of God, at full manhood, at the standard of maturity set by the Messiah’s perfection.
We will then no longer be infants tossed about by the waves and blown along by every wind of teaching, at the mercy of people clever in devising ways to deceive. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in every respect grow up into him who is the head, the Messiah. Under his control, the whole body is being fitted and held together by the support of every joint, with each part working to fulfill its function; this is how the body grows and builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:11-16
The purpose is to-
- Equip God’s people for the ministry. The various gifts equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. Pastors, as I often say, are the shepherds of the Lord’s sheep. Pastors are to love and care for them in all ways, to protect and nurture the lambs and feed them so that they grow into sheep. It is the sheep who bear the lambs. Pastors don’t!
- Build the body of Christ. The church is not a denomination or a building, but people, or the body of Christ. The ministry gifts are designed to help build us all up, to train us, to equip us, to lead us.
- Help us arrive at the destination. These gifts are here to help us all arrive in unity at the same place. They teach us how to intimately know the Lord and how to trust and follow Him. He is the good shepherd and we are His sheep. The fivefold ministries help us to hear the Shepherd’s voice and follow Him.
- The Lord wants us all to be one as He and the Father are one.
- Help us to grow up. These gifts are designed to hemp us as little children to grow up to maturity. They are here to show us the standards of Jesus and to help us reach this stage of perfection. This perfection does not mean we do not make mistakes or be “perfect”, but that we will grow up to be mature, or to reach spiritual maturity.
- Give us stability. There are many voices out there, all clamouring for your attention. Some teach this; others teach that and deceivers are constantly seeking ways to come up with a new fad or a new something or another. If you do not know the truth, you can be tossed around from one wave to another and never come to a complete knowledge of the Messiah. These gifts constantly point the way to Jesus. They always try to bless and encourage the believer to know all there is to know about God through Jesus and to enjoy the fullness of everything that God has for them. They avoid denominationalism and are designed to draw attention, not to themselves, but to the Lord. They may at times allow themselves to be seen as role models, but in the process make sure that they in turn are role models of Messiah!
- Promote the love factor. Love is not sloppy, sentimental emotionalism. Love took Jesus to the cross. These ministry gifts teach and show by example the love of Christ in us, as they work towards getting God’s people, irrespective of denominational ties, grow up in Christ.
These ministries long to see each and every individual member of the body fit into its place and function as designed to fulfil their functions. A classic example is the human body itself. An eye cannot do what the ear does and vice-versa. The leg may take us places, but everything has to rest on the foot or the body will perhaps fall over.
With such illustrations, you may see that the gift ministries have a definite purpose and are here for the duration. Nowhere in scripture is a statement that says that God took these offices out of the Church and that the Church no longer needs them. In the twenty-first century, we need them more than ever
Let us now see what is meant by perfecting the saints.
His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints (His consecrated people), [that they should do] the work of ministering toward building up Christ's body (the church), [That it might develop] until we all attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the [full and accurate] knowledge of the Son of God, that [we might arrive] at really mature manhood (the completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard height of Christ's own perfection), the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ and the completeness found in Him.
So then, we may no longer be children, tossed [like ships] to and fro between chance gusts of teaching and wavering with every changing wind of doctrine, [the prey of] the cunning and cleverness of unscrupulous men, [gamblers engaged] in every shifting form of trickery in inventing errors to mislead. Ephesians 4:12-14.
When we receive Jesus as our Saviour, it is by a conscious decision. The preaching of the Cross is the vehicle. The Holy Spirit takes the preaching of the word of God and convicts the listener in some way that he or she must act on that preaching.
Salvation is a free gift.
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)
For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.
So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:1-10.
After our conversion, God calls us saints. The Greek word is hagios and it refers to being made holy or righteous. No human being has this right or ability to declare us a saint—God does!
In simple terms before our conversion experience we lived in the world. Once we met Jesus, our lives are changed forever. Paul says that we go through a change process that I liken to the change that turns an ugly grub into a beautiful butterfly.
… Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.
He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.
So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:14-21.
This born again experience (see John 3:3-8) means that we start afresh and, just like a newborn baby does, we need to be fed and nurtured as if at mother’s breast. Peter puts is this way-
Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness. 1 Peter 2:2-3. See also Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; Galatians 4:1-2; Ephesians 4:14; 1 Timothy 4:15; Hebrews 5:12. The Old Testament gives similar exhortation in Job 187:9; Psalm 84:7; 92:12; Proverbs 4:18.
What we need to understand is that we have started a new way of life and have to learn new things just as someone has to reprogram a computer. We were programmed in that old life and now have to adapt and God has provided the resources such as illustrated above with which we can do this.
It is understandable therefore that many believers will be at different stages of development in their lives with the Lord. Some have just been born again whilst others have been saved for a longer period of time. We are all therefore at differing stages of growth and development.
When it comes to the perfecting of the saints in our core text, the scriptures talk about spiritual maturity. The five ascension gift ministries have been given to us to help us grow more and more in Christ each day. In so doing the believer gains better understanding of the things of God and grows up into adulthood so that he or she can I turn be fruitful and able to reproduce and become a parent to new converts and so the cycle goes on.
It is often stated that the Gifts of the Spirit as listed in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 to 14 and the Ministry Gifts that we are discussing now were temporary only, given the help establish the church and that when the foundational apostles eventually died, they were no longer available.
The phrase “until that which is perfect is come” as seen in 1 Corinthians 13:10, is used to substantiate such claims, but when we look at the very intent and purpose of the ministry gifts, Paul clearly reveals that they have been given for definite purposes-
- for the perfecting of the saints
- for the work of the ministry
- for the edifying of the Body of Christ.
Obviously, if the last purpose is taken out of the equation, the Body of Christ cannot be edified. This alone is sufficient reason for their validity because every one of us needs to be edified, encouraged and built up on occasions.
The second purpose as listed is to facilitate or help equip every believer so that they can all do the work of the ministry, which leads into the edification of the Body of Christ. One translation says that the five-fold ministry gifts were given “In order to get His holy people ready too serve as workers.”
The words perfect and perfecting might seem confusing, when we think in the natural as if we will be literally perfect. We are not “perfect” in that sense in the flesh whilst we are in our mortal bodies. What it means is that we will be become mature, or brought to full manhood. It relates to spiritual maturity.
Paul tells us how long they are to remain operational, when telling us about these gifts, saying-
Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
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. Ephesians 4:12-14
The church as most people see it, is far from such a state. For this reason, of for no other, they will remain in operation until Jesus returns.
In Ephesians 4:11, we see that Jesus gave these ministry gifts to The Church.
In 1 Corinthians 12:28 we see that God set gifts into The Church.
Two things immediately stand out. The first is that God is the one who has done the choosing, not man. No man can enter any phase of genuine ministry of his own volition. It is not a vocaton one can choose, but a Divine calling one enters into. It is a Divine call.
No one can choose to become one of these ministry gifts just because someone "had a word" for you. No church, denomination or organization can thus appoint anyone to any of those positions. They are gifts from above.
God alone sets men and women into ministry gift offices and He anoints and equips those He calls. Just as Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, one is called into a ministry office and such a person is then spiritually equipped for that office.
The second point to see is that they are set into The church. They are here until Jesus returns.
When God calls such a person into service, He ordains them for that office.
Ordination is not to be a ceremony, or issuing a license to preach, conduct weddings and the like as it often is in many places. In such instances it is all man-made.
No one should try to intrude into any ministry office unless they have been first called by God. Paul teaches about "proving" one's ministry and calling, or providing the fruit thereof in places like 1 Timothy 5:22; 2 Timothy 2:15-16, 4:1-5. Unfortunately, we have seen a decline in certain biblical standards so that many people are occupying offices, such as that of a pastor, when the Lord never called them to do that. I call them "went ones" and not "sent ones".
Jesus spoke along such lines in serious terms, calling those who do things that He did not ask them to do as workers of iniquity.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither cana corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matthew 7:15-23
In the Old Testament, we see how serious such a matter is and how such phrases as offering "strange fire" and it cost the lives of those involved.
We recognize God's hand on another of course and when they are ready to enter their ministry, we can "ordain" them, lay hands on them and pray for them as we see in the New Testament...on the proviso that it is merely witnessing what the Lord has done in His choice making processes and "ordination" is acknowledgment of that fact.
We deal with this in other places, but it is important to lay a proper foundation for all that we are and attempt to "do for God".
Every believer is a priest and a saint in God's eyes. Scriptures like Revelation 1:6, 5:10 and 1 Peter 2:4-9 where we see that we are all His holy priests, royal people a holy nation and God's very own possession. Without become proud and egotistical, you and I are all "special people". Paul told us not to have too high an opinion of ourselves in Romans 12:1-3. Conversely, we are not to have too low an opinion of who we are.
Some people believe that they do not have any call of God on their lives, especially in regard entering the ministry, but love the Lord nevertheless and when they "see a need" want to fill that need.
In the general sense, every Christian is a preacher. We are all to proclaim the good news and share what God has done in our lives, but we are not all especially called, set apart, equipped and ordained for the ministry of which we are speaking.
God gives the Divine call. He bestows the spiritual giftings or equipment for that ministry as we often see. Aaron and his sons were chosen for the priesthood and no one else could minister in that capacity as seen in Exodus chapter 28. There were strict qualifications for the priesthood. We deal with this in the page Qualifications for Priesthood (click to visit) that are seen in Leviticus 21.
When God commanded Moses to build the Tabernacle, His instructions were very clear and precise. He chose Bezaleel to be the builder and we see this in Exodus 31:1-3. He also sent Aholiab to assist in the project.
God's principles do not altar. We certainly live in a different era, but His demands and requirements remain the same. Therefore, we must ensure that if we wish to enter the ministry, especially as a profession and if we desire to sit in the office of one of the Ascension Gift Ministries, we must meet God's requirements.
As we bring the introduction to a close before looking at each of the gifts in turn, it is important to avoid error. We need proper teaching to going to excess or to totally ignore them altogether.
We know that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) but it seems that there are “special ones”. The important thing to understand is that we maintain a correct balance, doctrinally speaking. There may be an element of truth in doctrinal error that occurs when someone pushes biblical truths to the extreme.
God had commanded the people how to live in the Old Testament Laws and many were down-to-earth and practical. The problems emerged when religious men pushed these truths to the extreme and made traditions and ceremonies out of them. Jesus often chided such people. They made a ritual out of washing their hands, but God did not ask that. The tithed to the ‘nth” degree and Jesus rebuked them for that also.
The point I wish to make is to avoid getting into extremes.
If you want to make sure you do not go off onto tangents, stay in the middle of the road.
Some of these errors exist in the area of the ministry gifts by deviating from the truth. One extreme is denying them completely. The other extreme is getting into excess.
Having aid that, I will know state that there are different “ranks” or “levels” involved.
Jesus is our role model. He is in a class of His own, as the first apostle in the light of the New Testament.
Therefore, holy brothers and companions in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession; He was faithful to the One who appointed Him, just as Moses was in all God’s household.
For Jesus is considered worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder has more honor than the house.
Now every house is built by someone, but the One who built everything is God.
Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said in the future. But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope. Hebrews 3:1-6
Jesus had a degree of anointing on Him that no one else could have. He is in a class by Himself in all of the ministry gifts. He was sent by God and so commissioned by the Father for a specific role. In turn, Jesus chose, called and commissioned others, starting with the disciples and now does likewise today to us. He was a prophet (Matthew 13:57) an evangelist (Luke 19:10) a pastor (John 10:11-16) and a teacher (Matthew 9:35).
One of the main facets of His ministry was teaching.
A genuine ministry gifted person will teach. I hasten to add that such teaching has to be Spirit led or inspired. It is not so much a matter as giving some "new revelation" but a revealing or opening up of what God has already given us. Be cautious if someone comes to you presenting a "new revelation".
We need to remind ourselves that although Jesus was Divine and sinless in origin, He came to earth as a human, manifest in the flesh. He never ceased being God, but laid His Divine traits aside. He did not function as one who was omniscient, but grew in wisdom (Luke 2:51). He never operated as one with omnipotence and function alone, but could of Himself do nothing and said so in John 5:19, 30. Neither did He function as an omnipresent God, but confined Himself to being in one place at one time.
He was therefore unique and functioned in each of the ministry gifts without peer.
There does however seem to be a distinct order amongst men, some of a higher ranking, or anointing than others. For example there are Apostles of the Lamb as seen in Revelation 21:14, where it clearly states that there are only 12. I believe that they were the original twelve.
They were unique in that they were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ early ministry. They were truly sent ones, who followed Jesus’ example of teaching, preaching, healing the sick, and more. They were the foundational apostles. See Acts 1:15-22.
We know of course that Judas betrayed Jesus and hung himself and this tells me that all these ministry gifts are not “perfect” but very much human and so can and do make mistakes.
Paul did not qualify to be one of those apostles, because he was not a first hand witness as the others had been. I believe that there is another rank of apostle, like Paul…a third level apostle who laid the foundations of The Church by means of the revelation given him by God.
The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above. By reading this you are able to understand my insight about the mystery of the Messiah. This was not made known to people in other generations as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit Ephesians 3:3-5. See also Ephesians 2:19-20.
It is upon these foundations that The Church is built and Jesus is the Master builder. We must ensure that we are building on such foundations, or risk facing the implications of Galatians 1:8 etc.
Paul explained in depth in 1 Corinthians 3:1-16 as a great example of why we need the ministry gifts today.
Brothers and sisters, when I was with you I found it impossible to speak to you as those who are spiritually mature people, for you are still dominated by the mind-set of the flesh. And because you are immature infants in Christ, I had to nurse you and feed you with “milk,” not with the solid food of more advanced teachings, because you weren’t ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready to be fed solid food, for you are living your lives dominated by the mindset of the flesh. Ask yourselves: Is there jealousy among you? Do you compare yourselves with others? Do you quarrel like children and end up taking sides? If so, this proves that you are living your lives centered on yourselves, dominated by the mind-set of the flesh, and behaving like unbelievers. For when you divide yourselves up in groups—a “Paul group” and an “Apollos group”—you’re acting like people without the Spirit’s influence.
Who is Apollos, really? Or who is Paul? Aren’t we both just servants through whom you believed our message? Aren’t each of us doing the ministry the Lord has assigned to us?
I was the one who planted the church and Apollos came and cared for it, but it was God who caused it to grow. This means the one who plants is not anybody special, nor the one who waters, for God is the one who brings the supernatural growth.
Now, the one who plants and the one who waters are equally important and on the same team, but each will be rewarded for his own work. We are coworkers with God and you are God’s cultivated garden, the house he is building.
God has given me unique gifts as a skilled master builder who lays a good foundation. Afterward another craftsman comes and builds on it. So builders beware! Let every builder do his work carefully, according to God’s standards.
For no one is empowered to lay an alternative foundation other than the good foundation that exists, which is Jesus Christ!
The quality of materials used by anyone building on this foundation will soon be made apparent, whether it has been built with gold, silver, and costly stones, or wood, hay, and straw. Their work will soon become evident, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by blazing fire! And the fire will test and prove the workmanship of each builder. If his work stands the test of fire, he will be rewarded. If his work is consumed by the fire, he will suffer great loss. Yet he himself will barely escape destruction, like one being rescued out of a burning house.
Because the church is still not at the stage of perfection and maturity seen in scripture, these ministry gifts are still valid and overmuch required.
This brings us now to the final level of these gifts.
There are no foundational apostles today. Nevertheless apostles and too the other gifts are with us.
Their role differs somewhat from the original roles because the foundations are already laid. Modern-day apostles and prophets are not laying down New Testament Doctrine and foundation because this has already been provided.
A common misconception is about governance. Apostles did not govern Churches, including those that had helped to establish. Paul for example had spiritual oversight only, as if in an advisory and mentoring capacity. As we see in Acts 20:28, once he had created a Church and moved on, oversight of that Church was given to others. Such local Churches were autonomous. There was no “central” governing body. Instead there was a general consensus of opinion on things that arose in the lives of the Churches.
We need to consider The Church as a whole, rather than a denominational structure and then the local Churches that exist everywhere. We are the Body of Christ.
Sometimes certain groups insist that these ministries much exist in their church. That is not necessarily so. As long as the exist in the area itself, or a region as we see (the Church at Berea, or the Church at Philippi and so on) the criteria is met.
Genuine Apostles, prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers should in all reality be “non-denominational”. All of The Church needs them.
What follows is an investigation of the individual key elements, or a discussion of the different gifts involved
Classes or Rankings
A big problem that exists today is the segregation of clergy from laity and in the creation of a hierarchical structure that Jesus never implemented. The denominational and church attitude that prevails is totally different.
Man has created a structure that is top heavy, with a “leader” of some kind, with subordinates below all based in a central office or headquarters. We have created national headquarters, state or regional headquarters, a local “central or main church and smaller regional churches, with one or more in a town city or local suburb.
We have the Papal system, the system that the Anglicans have adopted, a denomination that appoints a president or senior elder and the like.
The church board, or the annual general meeting of the organisation does the appointing, but the appointment is supposed to be made by Jesus.
The church Jesus has in mind is supposed to be structured differently. He is the head of course and we are all parts of His Body. We are all priests and kings, saints and co-workers with God in this thing.
Jesus came here as an apostle. He is the Chief Apostle. An apostle is someone who has been sent on assignment by God. Jesus chose the twelve who He called apostles (Luke 6:13). He chose them, called them by name, taught them and sent them out on various ministry assignments. This is an apostle. They merely did what He asked them and those men were the foundational apostles. No organisation gave them such a title, but we often try to do this today, putting someone into a position that they may never have been called by God to occupy.
Paul did not take it upon himself to become an apostle. Rather, he often downplayed the title mentioning that he was called by the Lord and made to be an apostle.
We are all the Temples of the Holy Spirit. Peter says-
You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor.
And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. 1 Peter 2:4-5
…You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.
Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.
We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.
Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22
Jesus’ Church may be then likened to a building of which He and He alone is the chief cornerstone. It is on this foundation alone that the early apostles started building.
We simply cannot start laying another cornerstone and lay new foundations.
The foundational apostles did their job and as Paul said here-
Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.
Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw.
But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.
If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.
Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:10-17
He further explained that one person can sow a seed, another can water it, another can fertilize it and yet another can reap, but it is God who gives the increase.
Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life.
I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?
When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?
After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.
I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.
It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.
For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
The early apostles’ roles was to lay the foundation upon which others like Paul built. One was not better than another. Each individual played his part.
As we have determined, these gifts are still present, because The Church is still a work in progress. We have not yet reached the state of maturity and perfection spoken of in the core text of these messages.
For such reasons, apostles are still being called, anointed and despatched on their various assignments…by the Lord! Man cannot do that!
In the New Testament description, apostles are listed first, not because they are more important that the other gifts, but because this is where Jesus started. There cannot be “two beginnings” or “two foundations” laid.
Any hierarchal level is based on the calling and dependent on that task, the enabling or anointing is provided. In plain terms, the bigger or more important the Job, the more “anointing” is bestowed. Accompanying this, more accountability and responsibility exists.
Now we all have the same Holy Spirit. We have all been given the same measure of faith (Romans 12:3) and the standard by which this is measured is Jesus. It depends on how much of the measure is required and actually used.
A newborn babe in Christ does not necessarily need to exercise the same degree of anointing a mature person has. Their task is to grown and mature in Christ, but when someone has been a believer for 20, 30 or 40 years, some measure of maturity is expected.
One person can thus be a relatively “new apostle” whereas another can be “more mature” and this is really the only distinction we need to be concerned about today.
Another analogy I could use if to answer the often asked question about which gift is best. Folk who do not believe that the Gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 to 14 are still needed today often ask that, incorrectly adding that the best gift is love, but love is not a gift. It is the fruit of the Spirit.
The best gift in that context would be the gift that is most appraise in a given situation and time. If for example someone is seriously ill, a gift of healing would be more appropriate that a kind word of prophecy.
Likening this now to the best or more important ministry gifts, the best one is the one that Jesus needs in that Church for that task on that occasion.
It does not matter who it is really, If the Lord initiates it all. What should be of importance is that all of the gifts are available in a given location. It could be in a local church, or in a suburb or in a hole city or region. That’s how we see it in operation in its and the Epistles. My prayer is that we will see a return to the original pattern
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men...
And he gave some, apostles...Ephesians 4:8-11
When Jesus started His ministry, the Gospel accounts say that He chose twelve men.
We may assume that there were only twelve disciples, but this is incorrect.
Luke 10:1 states that He appointed an additional 70 disciples.
Acts 1:15 describes the prayer meeting in that upper room stating that there were 120 disciples present, including His mother, Mary.
In John 6:60, we see that many of His disciples left him. We do not know the number.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:6 that there were at least 500 brethren who all say Jesus after His resurrection.
Clearly, Jesus had more than 12 followers and we could call them all disciples, but not all were apostles.
This opens up a whole new perspective to the traditional viewpoint of apostleship.
In Luke 6:13, we see that Jesus called His disciples and of them, He chose 12 and named them apostles. It certainly seems that He had a much larger gathering of disciples, to people who followed Him and it is from this (unnumbered) group of people, twelve were chosen and were called to be apostles.
It is logical therefore that there were many more followers of Jesus who we call call disciples, but not validly call them apostles. Of the scriptural accounts, Jesus had at least 582 followers, not including others like Paul, Timothy, Barnabus, Ananias and more. Then there were the 3000 souls added on the Day of Pentecost and those that according to Acts 2:47 were added daily.
This is an indication that apostles, as are all the ministry gifts, what I shall describe as a calling. No man can take it upon himself to call himself a prophet or an apostle or any other ministry gift, because by its very name “Gift” it is just that.
Jesus was and is still the chief apostle and our great high priest. He was called and ordained as a man, born of man through Mary and ordained by God the Father to be the first of the New Testament apostles. In other words, God chose Him, called Him, ordained Him and anointed Him by the Holy Spirit to sit in that office. This is why no man or organisation can do so. What we are to do is to recognize God’s appointment and acknowledge it.
Genuinely called and appointed Apostle (to any of the ministry gifts) need not and should not therefore boast about it or demand people call him with any such title.
All credit should go to the Lord.
What then is an apostle?
By the very nature and purpose, an Apostle is someone who has been called and chosen and ordained by the Lord and assigned specific tasks. Such a person has a unique anointing on them for that task. Their ministries are often accompanied with signs, wonders and miracles, just as we see in scripture and they often "pay the price" in various ways, especially in persecution and opposition (mostly by religious people) as the execute their office.
Apostles often have a loosely arranged "oversight" over parts of The Church, not in a governing role but more in an advisory capacity. They can often function in all of the ministry gifts and of course, I would expect to see them operating in the gifts of the Spirit.