Saturday, 10 September 2016
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, Ephesians 4:11
This verse begins with an emphasis on the word “He.” Thus the NKJV says, “And He Himself gave some to be…” It refers back to “Christ” of verse 7. It is He and He alone who has made these designations. Though man may ordain, only Christ truly appoints. Each person is placed in their position within the church according to Christ’s choice and His designation.
In these selected positions, he begins with “apostles.” This category is to be taken in its stricter sense. The word “apostle” means “messenger,” and at times, the early church was said to send out “messengers” using the term “apostle.” However, the stricter sense is speaking of those designated specifically by the Lord and meeting certain qualifications. For example, one is that they had personally seen the Lord. Paul fits this requirement because of his unusual meeting with the Lord on the road to Damascus. This stricter sense of the designation of “apostle” no longer applies within the church. It ended with the last of the called apostles, and its need ceased with the final word “Amen” at the end of the book of Revelation.
Next he notes, “some prophets.” From the earliest times of the church, the office of prophet was separate and distinct from the other offices of the church. They were those who received special revelation from the Lord for the establishment and building of the early church. Such people stood and proclaimed what they had received under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As in the case of the office of apostle, this office of “prophet” has ceased. The history of the church shows us this. Only those who boastfully make unfounded assertions still claim this title. It is both unnecessary (we have the written word of God), and it is presumptuous because it makes a claim of special revelation received from the Lord that cannot be validated. The only prophesying that is truly relevant today is forth-telling, not foretelling. If one proclaims what has been written, it could be considered the work of a forth-telling prophet, but there are other titles which better describe this function. The term “prophet” is no longer needed within the church, despite boastful claims otherwise.
Paul next states, “some evangelists.” This word, euaggelistés, is used only three times in the New Testament; here, in Acts 21:8; and in 2 Timothy 4:5. HELPS Words Studies notes that it means “someone with a vocational calling from God to announce the good news of the Gospel.” … “Every Christian is called to share the Gospel, but ‘an evangelist’ does so as a vocation, which includes preaching the full message of Christ’s salvation (the whole Gospel).”
The verse concludes with, “some pastors and teachers.” These two offices are lumped together here just as they were noted under the single category of “teachers” in 1 Corinthians 12:28. These people preach the word, both to the unconverted and to the converted. They are to care for those under their charge in organization, instruction, proper explanation of the word now written, building up the body, counseling, etc. The office of pastor is possibly broader in scope than the teacher, but as both are noted under the one title of “teacher” in 1 Corinthians 12, they both are given for a united purpose.
Concerning the offices listed in this verse, and whether the first two are still relevant or not, Albert Barnes provides a wise and considered thought –
“On the question whether this celebrated passage describes the regular orders or the functions, ordinary and extraordinary, of the ministry, we may fairly say that while no doubt the very genius of the passage points to the latter alternative, yet the ultimate appeal must be made to history. It is clear, from the nature of the case, that none could inherit the direct and universal commission from Christ held by the Apostles; it is certain historically that the supernatural gifts of prophecy and miracle passed away; it is hardly less indisputable that the two functions of evangelism and pastorate were always shared among the three orders of bishops, priests, and deacons after the close of the Apostolic age.”
Life application: Although it sounds impressive for someone to claim the title of “apostle” or “prophet,” they are inappropriate titles to claim. Best to steer clear of such folks.
Lord God, it is certain that Your word is all-sufficient for our faith and practice. We have no need of further revelation from You other than from a sound interpretation of what You have already given us in the pages of the Holy Bible. And the secrets which continue to be revealed from it, even to this day, show us that this is so. Keep us from being duped by people who make extra-biblical claims to special revelation. Rather, give us hearts that are willing to do the hard work and actually pick up Your word, read it, and apply it to our lives. With this, You will surely be pleased. Amen.