A Word of Warning – Concluding Thoughts and Blurred Boundaries
I am of the opinion that only when the Five Fold Ministries of “Ephesians 4: 11” begin functioning as God intended – in the sphere of their own individual ministries and within Apostolic teams will the basic purpose that Jesus had in mind of their ministerial purpose be fulfilled, that being “…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”.
Individuals who have been called into an “Ephesians 4:11” ministry, often find that their gift in God is broader than that which would be defined in one of the ministry roles. In other words, their ministry is not limited to one area, but tends to over-lap into one or more other areas.
For example, a Leader with a predominately Pastoral or Prophetic ministry may find that he also has a strong Teaching ministry. It was true of the Apostles who as we have already seen seemed to have a range of gifting.
The Scriptures refer to the Apostle Paul as an Apostle, Evangelist, and Teacher “2 Timothy 1:11” – “for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher” New American Standard Version. There is no value in limiting to certain well defined areas the gift which God has given us, just because definitions suggest that we should. To do so is to limit God and the work we can do for Him. In fact, the Scriptures suggest that if we are faithful with little, we will be given more “Matthew 25:14-30” and “Luke 19:11-26”.
We need to operate in the full range of gifts that God has given to us and do this to the best of our ability with the strength God gives us.
Teachers because of the influential position they find themselves in (ministering to those who wish to be directed) should never encourage dependence on themselves by their teaching, in fact quite the contrary it should be dependence on God.
Teachers again should avoid the temptation to be coercive, manipulative or domineering when teaching or admonishing other people, because this tends to condemn or crush people. In teaching one likes to believe that the actual teaching matter will lead people on, but the Teachers role (unless brought into a situation to resolve an issue) is to simply present the Word of God and let it speak for itself. To cloud God’s word is to hinder people from truly understanding what God’s will is for their life, which, when discovered, is a great motivator to change.
If a Church is monopolised by the Ministry of a Teacher, the tendency is for the Church to become an audience, whereas whilst God wants His people to listen to their Teachers, He does not want people to rally to good communicators just for the sake of hearing something that is well presented or put together.
God wants people to hear His Word (in balance and in context) as it is expounded by His teachers and He wants both those who teach it and those who hear it to obey it.
Too often today in the Church, people commit themselves to a good teacher, rather than to a Church, and thus when the Teacher leaves, they leave.
Another danger that a Teacher faces is that because of the Anointing of the Spirit that rests upon them (especially when they are actually teaching) it is sometimes tempting for them to “coast” and not work hard to prepare themselves and their teachings. Feeling the energy of the Holy Spirit as he or she teaches, can lead the Teacher to be led into the false conclusion that the Lord likes the “free,” “spontaneous,” teaching style. Sure, it is true that Jesus will work with what he has in order to bless his people, and if an unprepared teacher is all he has, he will work with that.
However, this is not His desire. As a Teacher one needs to take the time to pray, think, study, and prepare beforehand, there will always be a “greater anointing” in doing this.
One of the other dangers also is that a Teacher in the Church can find themselves given in to the pressure of being accepted and/or keeping their jobs. A Teacher should not teach things that they do not themselves really believe simply because they do not want to risk losing their friends, their position, or their salary.
We have an Adversary who knows all too clearly what is at stake if a Teacher is really on the mark for God, and he is quick to provide all kinds of distractions. The Teacher needs to be sensitive to these and see them for what they are, Satanic ploys to derail God’s purposes. The teacher must remain disciplined to the work of God. He or she needs to read the Word, and also study other subjects that enable them to explain it clearly.
We have looked at now all the five Ministry Gifts that Christ gave to His Church. It is important to realise that no one Ministry shines forth unless he or she prepares themselves.
Whatever you discover is you’re “Gifting”, it will function only as well as you work to perfect what God has put inside you.
The first step is to walk in godliness and like any other Child of God carry out the basics that every Christian is supposed to do, “Pray, Give, Read the Word, Fellowship with others”, you may be a Ministry Gift but more important than that you are a Child of God and your relationship with Father is paramount.
It is in doing the basics that the Lord Jesus can work in us to reveal what our Ministry is.
The five ministries are just that – Ministry Gifts – and not titles. Therefore, in the end, the most important thing is not whether or not we officially recognise present day Apostles and Prophets e.t.c. Jesus wasn’t recognised by the main religious establishment of His day. But He just got on with what He was sent to do.
We in our “gifting’s” are called to grow in maturity ourselves, but also to bring the Church into a great degree of maturity, however, how do we measure this? Let me offer four measurement areas which are centred on “Verses 13, 14 & 15”.
- The First & Ultimate Measure of Maturity is the Standard of our Lord Jesus Christ
The measure of maturity is suggested by several standards in our text (Verse: 13). To be fully mature is to be Christ-like. The conclusion therefore is that complete maturity in this life although never fully attained is nevertheless to be sought after. We must always gauge our maturity by comparing ourselves not with others around us but only on the Lord.
- The Second Measure of Maturity is that of Stability
“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Verse: 14).
The stability to which Paul referred is being so well-grounded in doctrine that we can recognise and avoid those who teach out of impure motives and by questionable methods, and reject their teachings. Immaturity is equated with instability, wavering every time some new teaching is introduced.
- The Third measure of maturity is what we might call loving truthfulness
“… speaking the truth in Love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him” (Verse: 15).
The term rendered ‘speaking the truth’ is literally ‘truthing.’ It can mean “holding to the truth” or “walking in truth” as well as “speaking the truth”. We are surely to hold or adhere to what is truth in a loving way, just as we should speak the truth in love. Neither rendering can be completely isolated from the other, since both are true.
- One Forth Measure of Maturity is Unity
“Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God …” (Verse: 13a).
Our unity grows out of our mutual comprehension of those doctrines which constitute “the faith” and out of our ever-increasing intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ (Verse: 13).
Thus, the important thing is that we, as the body of Christ, get on with functioning Apostolically and Prophetically in this world, as well as Evangelistically, Pastorally and as Teachers of truth. That is our mandate in fulfilling the ministry of Christ.
God’s People in Their Apostolic Role
What is an apostle again? As I have emphasised before it is essentially a ‘sent one’. That’s what it means to be apostolic in its essence.
Thus, I think we all can recognise that God’s people have been sent into the world to be a mission-minded people. This is our Apostolic calling! We see this in the Great Commission of “Matthew 28: 18 – 20”and through the apostolic commission of “Acts 1: 8” in which we were sent to the ends of the earth.
God has called us to be “ministers of reconciliation” proclaiming that, in Christ, God is reconciling people to Himself “2 Corinthians 5: 18 – 20”. Therefore, we are to be a company of apostles with an apostolic mission in this world.
God’s People in Their Prophetic Role
I’m not sure I need to put too much here, we are a priesthood of believers. But we are also prophethood.
We can see this overall call to the Body of Christ through Peter’s quotation of Joel in his Pentecost sermon. After the Spirit had been poured out, this is what Peter says:-
“But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel, And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy” “Acts 2:16-18”
Peter has a revelation that, what Joel had prophesied long ago, it was being fulfilled right in their midst. Joel had said that, in the last days, the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh “Joel 2: 28 – 29”!
No longer would there be a gender divide of who is qualified to receive the Spirit – sons and daughters, males and females would both be included. And there would also be no more age barrier – young and old were both included. The Spirit was now available to all of God’s people, not just a select few.
What was the fruit of such an outpouring of the Spirit: – “and they shall prophesy” – “Acts 2:18”. Moses had made God’s heart clear long ago, but here was the fulfilment of those words uttered long ago: – “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them! – “Numbers 11:29”.
Thus, at Pentecost, we see the first fruits of the prophet hood of all believers. And for the past 2,000 years, God has continued to utilise his prophetic community in the earth.
God’s People in Their Evangelistic Role
We already touched on this somewhat in the Apostolic role of God’s people, but just as a reminder, we are a people who have been sent into the world with good news. That’s what Evangelists are – bearers of God news.
I would venture to say that the entire body of Christ, though maybe not each individual gifted as an Evangelist, has good news to share.
We are an evangelistic people who bear the gospel, looking to make disciples of those who respond.
God’s People in Their Shepherding Role
Sure, as with the rest of these five ministry gifts, Jesus gifts specific people as Pastor-Shepherds. We, as a community of God’s people, are also called together to care for one another.
With the Spirit in us, we can offer words of strength, encouragement and challenge as we sense God’s leading. What a great opportunity to care for those in our family, the body of Christ.
Below are just a couple of passages for consideration:
“But God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another – “1 Corinthians 12:24-25” .
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ – “Galatians 6:1-2”.
God’s People in Their Teaching Role
The new covenant declares the great truth that God’s people could know God themselves. There would be no need for the mediator work of a special group of people.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbour and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more – “Jeremiah 31:31-34”.
This does not mean we completely negate the role and function of Teachers, as other passages show the importance of such, especially the Scripture we have looked at in “Ephesians 4”. But we no longer need such a sacerdotal system to act as mediators, since we are all part of the royal and holy priesthood of God – “1 Peter 2:4-10”.
We are the ones who have been set free by the truth “John 8:31-32”. Thus, we are not called to solely study God’s Word so that we can be puffed up with great theological knowledge “1 Corinthians 8:1”. Such completely misses the point.
Rather, we study His God-breathed Word so that we can be used in helping others know God for themselves, being set free by the truth. This we can do in the strength of God’s Spirit.