November 12, 2014
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Let’s continue our study on Ephesians 4:11 through 15 with some observations about what the Lord has given us to accomplish the task of Maturing In Christ. Here again is our scripture:
…He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and
some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the
ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of
the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the mea-
sure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that we should no longer be child-
ren, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the
trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive,
but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the
head — Christ….
God’s goal for Christians is “…to be conformed to the image of His Son…” (Romans 8:29), to such an extent that Jesus Christ will again have a physical body upon this earth – us! We are to be His eyes, ears, mouth, arms and legs multiplied many times over because of the great number of obedient believers. “He is the head of the body, the church…” (Colossians 1:18) – the head housing the brain that contains the mind – and He being omniscient, controls His multiplied Body by means of the Holy Spirit given to indwell every believer. But to be properly led by our Lord, we are to “…grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ…” (verse 15). Only as Maturing Christians can we be used to fulfill God’s work in the world.
So what does our Lord give us to facilitate Maturing In Christ? “…He…gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…” (verses 11 and 12). These are ministry gifts – offices given to the church. They are not to be confused with the seven motivational gifts listed in Romans 12:6 through 8, or the nine manifestation gifts of I Corinthians 12:7 through 10. By the way, the best study I have found on Spiritual gifts – concentrating on the seven motivational gifts – is by Don and Katie Fortune in their book, Discover Your God-Given Gifts.
Here, in Ephesians 4, four offices or ministry gifts are named: “…apostles…prophets… evangelists, and pastors and teachers.” Some identify five gifts, but I agree with those who say the last gift mentioned is the combination of pastors and teachers, for pastors are also teachers!
• Apostles – From Strong’s Greek Dictionary Of The New Testament – “a delegate…an ambassador of the gospel…a commissioner of Christ…[translated] apostle, messenger, he that is sent.” Strong adds in parentheses, “…with miraculous powers….”
But according to Mark 16:17 and 18; John 14:12 and other scriptures, ‘miraculous powers’ are not limited to apostles! And the title of ‘apostle’ is not limited to twelve special disciples of Jesus! There are 19 people in the New Testament that are called apostles!
Examining the lives of the early disciples of Jesus Christ, apostles are much like missionaries today – chosen by God and sent out by other members of the Body of Christ to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth.
• Prophets – A prophet is both a fore-teller and a forth-teller. Chosen and endowed by God, a prophet in the Bible often predicted the future. But more often he or she spoke forth – or powerfully proclaimed – the Word of God.
In Deuteronomy 18:21 the question is asked, “How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken? ” The answer is in the next verse:
When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not hap-
pen, or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; but
the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
A true prophet of God – if he or she is predicting a future event – has to be 100% correct!
• Evangelists – Strong defines an evangelist as “a preacher of the gospel” or good news. The one occupying the office of evangelist concentrates on gospel proclamation.
• Pastors and teachers – a pastor/teacher certainly will preach. But I Peter 5:2 (KJV) says, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof… willingly…of a ready mind….” So a pastor/teacher is a shepherd to the flock. And like a Middle Eastern shepherd, he will love, lead, feed, care for and bring healing to the flock.
We will conclude this study on Maturing In Christ on Friday.