Ephesians 4:11: And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
You have heard this verse quoted often and perhaps know it by memory. Let’s spend some time on this verse, and also the verses prior and following.
After sitting under the ministry of evangelicalism for a number of years, I acquired what I believe to be the most commonly held perception of the above verse, Ephesians 4:11. The perception is this….
God chose a relatively few from the ranks of hristians to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. (Some believe the day of the apostle and prophet is passed, but not so.) These few chosen ones are ‘in the ministry’ and have the responsibility of giving spiritual leadership to the majority. Is this also your assessment of Ephesians 4:11?
I learned of a different view while listening to a cassette tape (Derek Prince) about three years ago. It goes like this:
Every christian has been given at least one of the five ministry gifts. (Every christian has the calling of either apostle or prophet or evangelist or pastor or teacher.) That means you and me and every born-again believer. If this is so, it changes everything. Repeat: It changes everything.
In most evangelical denominations and local assemblies there are two groups of people: the very small group who are ‘in the ministry’ and the large group who are not. This may not be written or taught from the pulpit or even discussed in conversations, but it is an accepted concept nonetheless. This is evidenced by, if evidence is required, leadership meetings and conferences whereby one group is invited and the other is not.
More traditional denominations identify these groups as ‘clergy’ and ‘laity’. In evangelical realms the word “layman” is used but not the word “clergy”. However, the two groups in evangelicalism are equally distinct.
In this book I will call these factions “ministerial” and “laity” (for discussion purposes only).
The pastor is the most visual member of the ‘ministerial’. ‘Above’ him are officers of his denomination. Denominational leadership may refer to themselves as a board, or a presbytery or whatever. Their organization is arranged much like any business corporation, with a superintendent or president (or whatever) at the top. (Actually, the denomination is a business, a registered corporation with the province. As a registered society it receives certain tax exemptions and the legal right to marry. And there are obligations that must be honoured to avoid serious consequences.)
Is this division biblical? Are the factions of ‘ministerial’ and ‘laity’ God’s decree or man’s invention? It is a very important matter and we should check it out.
It seems Ephesians 4:11 is used more than any other verse to validate this division (‘ministerial’ and ‘laity’), the splitting of the body of Christ. I am of the opinion the latter perception of Ephesians 4:11 (the one I heard on the tape) is the true one, and I present logic, some my own and some from the tape, for your consideration.
I ask the reader to patiently consider and, if necessary, reconsider the following logic until you ‘get it’; it is most important you understand because it can be life changing. Let’s begin at Ephesians 4:7 and go verse by verse to Ephesians 4:16.
Ephesians 4:7: But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
“Each one of us” is every Christian. What is this grace that “each one of us” was given? The answer is in the following verse.
Ephesians 4:8: Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”
The “grace” mentioned in verse 7 is in the form of “gifts” mentioned in verse 8 (and is a fulfillment of a prophecy given in Psalms 68:16). Note the word “therefore” that not only links the two verses but also the words “grace” and “gifts”. Every christian has been given grace and, since grace is referring to gifts, every christian has been given a gift. What are these gifts everyone has been given?
The next two verses, 9 and 10, are in parenthesis because they are not in the flow of thought the writer is presenting. So we pick up the sequence of thought again in verse 11.
Ephesians 4:11: And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
The “gifts unto men” of verse 8 are the five ministries of verse 11 (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher). Since every believer has been given at least one of these ministry gifts, every christian is equally ‘in the ministry’. Not everyone, however, comes to this conclusion.
There is another line of reasoning, aside from the one I am presenting, that lends to the conjecture that only a few are chosen. It goes like this:
The “gifts” of verse Ephesians 4:11 are a relatively few men (and women) chosen by God (some being apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, etc.). This teaching states that the gifts to the church are not abilities (to establish churches, prophesy, evangelize, pastor and teach) but rather the gifts to the church are persons who have been given these abilities. The gifts are people! This line of reasoning is:
* Verse 7: all have been given grace.
* Verse 8: this grace is in the form of gifts.
* Verse 11: the gifts are (a relatively few) people.
This reasoning is the most accepted. But as we look at the ensuing verses it is so obvious this logic is not the glove that fits the hand, but rather a spurious justification for splitting the body of Christ into two parts. Let us continue to verse 12….
Ephesians 4:12: for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
This verse gives the purpose of the ministry gifts.
Who are “the saints” in verse 12? Obviously they are every christian person. What is “the work of ministry” they are to be equipped to do? It is the same “work of ministry” in Ephesians 4:11. (What other ministry is there?) If every christian is to be equipped to do the ministry of verse 11, verse 11 must include (must refer to) every christian.
Ephesians 4:13: till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
“We” in verse 13 is the body of Christ, “the saints” of verse 12. This verse explains why God gave the church the five ministry gifts.
Ephesians 4:14: that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,
This verse gives additional purposes for the five ministry gifts.
Ephesians 4:15: but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ –
Who speaks “the truth in love”? You can see that it is the “we” of verses 13 and 14 (every believer). Since the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers of verse 11 also speak “the truth in love” (what else would they speak?), they (the fivefold ministry and the “we” of verses 13 and 14) must be one and the same.
Ephesians 4:16: from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
How is “the whole body (the church) joined and knit together”? Is this done by a few? No, not a few, but “by what every joint (every christian) supplies, according to the effective working (proper functioning) by which every part (every christian) does its (his/her) share.” The “whole body” (not part of the body!) “causes growth of the body”.
If Ephesians 4:11 really does refer to a few, it is the only one of the 16 verses that does. Verse 1 refers to every Christian. As do verses 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 (remember verses 9 and 10 are in parenthesis and pertain to Jesus). Verses 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 also refer to every believer. It is most unreasonable to insist verse 11 is the only exception that refers to a few.
The book of Romans affirms that gifts refer to abilities, not men who have been given abilities.
Romans 12:6: Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy
The “gifts” of Romans 12:6 refer to abilities (such as the ability to prophesy, etc.), and not people who have been given these abilities. This confirms that the gifts of Ephesians 4:11 are in reference to abilities and not a few select christians.
It is not unreasonable to read Ephesians 4:11 in this manner: “And He Himself gave some (the gifting of) apostles, some (the gifting of) prophets, some (the gifting of) evangelists, and some (the gifting of) pastors and (the gifting of) teachers.”
We all have one of the five giftings! You can probably see this gifting in every christian you know. One has the desire to establish new works (apostle), some have words of knowledge and correction (prophet), some have a yearning to reach the lost (evangelist), others have an uncommon concern for young christians (pastor), and some love to teach (teacher).
2 Timothy 2:15: rightly dividing the word of truth.
Do you grasp the gravity of the controversy between every and few? If Ephesians 4:11 represents every christian, and not a few, it tears down the ‘laity/ministerial’ doctrine. It expands your perception of who you are and what God expects of you.
We have all been compartmentalized by That’s Just The Way It Is!. The mindset of religion has been stamped on each of us: “minister”, “laymen”. We have been tagged by others and we have tagged ourselves. We must confront this enemy of false perception with the truth of God’s Word.
If you are not yet convinced the “work of the ministry” is as much your work as anyone’s, then dig into the Word and check it out for yourself. You are responsible for you. Don’t trust anyone to “rightly (divide) the word of truth” for you.
Matthew 7:24: “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man
Jesus did not say that “a wise man” is the one who hears “these sayings of mine” and agrees with them. “A wise man” is the one who “does them”. If you are convinced you have one of the giftings of Ephesians 4:11 and are ‘in the ministry’ as much as any person, then you must live your life accordingly. Consider yourself to be what the Bible declares you to be. Walk that walk. Talk that talk. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (Jm.1:22)
Life is crossroads and life is choices. The value of life coincides with choices made when coming to a crossroad, when the way it is and God’s Bible point in opposite directions. Which will you follow?
It is an issue of lordship.
Perception is everything. A false self-perception can ruin a life. A true perception can set one free and spur trigger fruitfulness. Abundant, good fruit should be your goal. (“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.” Jn.15:8)
That which is in your heart will be manifested in your life. (“As he thinks in his heart, so is he.”) The graduate of a university is usually the one expected to graduate. The expectation passed from parents and others to him, and he simply followed after what had been placed “in his heart”. That is why it is so important to oversee a child’s heart, to protect him from crippling notions. And that’s why a christian must safeguard his own heart.
In catholicism much imagery has been contrived to give credibility to misconceptions and establish the way it is in that religion…. the priests’ cloaks, stained windows, decorated altars, golden chalices, symbolic gestures, etc.
Less glaring symbolisms are used in evangelicalism to fortify misconceptions. Some of these symbols are: the pastor’s ‘uniform’ (suit and tie), titles of “Pastor” and “Reverend”, professional posturing, teethier-than-yours smile, his constant visibility (sitting in the front facing the assembly, shaking hands as everyone leaves), his marked parking spot, the bulletin’s “Message From The Pastor”. Even the government sets him above other christians by giving him the right to perform marriage ceremonies.
Imageries make catholics catholic and evangelicals evangelical. The man behind the pulpit becomes increasingly bigger in people’s perception while those in the pews shrink. They are imprisoned by a defective expectation of themselves and of what God wants to do through their lives. This is fortified by the low spiritual estimation and expectation others have of them.
To both your advantage and disadvantage you are a product of evangelicalism. The perception you have of yourself is, in large part, because of this influence. That self-impression is somewhat true, somewhat distorted. While truth sets free, distortions restrict.
Because of the effects of evangelicalism you have accumulated “gold, silver, precious stones”. And because of evangelicalism you have collected “wood, hay, straw”. Of course your personal collection is determined by other things, mostly the choices you have made; but the effect of evangelicalism has been substantial nonetheless.
A typical evangelical gathering is a mixture of the Word of God and traditions. Both have power to forge lives, but only the Word for good. Because of the way it is (remember, in this book that term refers only to traditions that are contrary to the Bible) it is difficult to see yourself as the minister of God He called you to be. In truth, your potential is enormous. Repeat: Your potential is enormous.
False, non-biblical self-perceptions must be renounced if you want more “gold, silver, precious stones”, and less “wood, hay, straw”. You must see yourself as your Father sees you. In the sight of the Father you are not, never have been and never will be, a “layman”. You are God’s anointed, called by Him to be a preacher of His precious Word to the saved and unsaved. You are “in the ministry” (“full-time” ministry) as much as any person. You have the calling of apostle or prophet or evangelist or pastor or teacher (or a combination of two or more).
In the Father’s eyes you are not second-rate or second-class. No one is above you in rank; you are under no man’s authority. Your Lord is Jesus Christ; your Leader is the Holy Spirit. You have as much potential for service as any licensed ‘minister’. The value of that service is equal to the richness of your relationship with Jesus.
You may not be recognized by most, but Jesus doesn’t need most; He only needs your heart. Christ and you are an overwhelming majority. You will be surprised how much you will be used as you bow to His sole authority. Now, perhaps for the first time, you will be in a position whereby finishing your “course” (the commission God has placed on your life) is a strong possibility.
The fruit you bear will be relative to the quality of relationship with Jesus, the degree of surrender to the lordship of the Holy Spirit and the choices you make.
From this day forward will you see yourself through the Word or through the perceptions of others? Your self-image will determine your behaviour. If you behave to please man (the man behind the pulpit and the denomination he represents, the people sitting beside you in church, your family or friends, the company you keep), you are part of the problem. The power of the way it is is strengthened by your adherence. You will help lead others away from obedience to Christ and, therefore, Christ Himself.
If, however, you choose to disciple yourself after your Christ you must set yourself in agreement with His Word, in accord with what God says about you. All other perspectives will be your enemy. It won’t matter how others see you; your strength will not come from them.
It will not be easy. You will be swimming upstream, against the flow of established mentality. Repeatedly you will hear an adverse and stifling perspective, ambushing you from various sources, regarding your place (role, responsibility) in the body of Christ. The perspective of the way it is will be relentlessly conveyed, either directly or by implication. You must brace yourself to stand against public opinion.
To complicate matters, you must likewise see others as “the head of the church” sees them, and not as others may see them or even as they perceive themselves to be. Your Bible perception of them could turn them around.
And you cannot be silent. You have heard it said, “Practice what you preach!” Also, you should “Preach what you practice!” The way it is is not silent about its misconceptions; you cannot be silent about biblical truths. Jesus wouldn’t like that.
Do you want more, much more, fruit in your life, more “gold, silver, precious stones” to one day place at the feet of Jesus? Your solution is not more evangelicalism, but more of Jesus. Giving allegiance to the Word over the way it is is a way of turning to Him. Drink deeply of Jesus. Abide in His Word.
————————————————–A TRIBUTE TO JESUS CHRIST
“i determined not to know anything
… except jesus christ and him crucified” (1Cor.2:2)
and him despised
and him sweating blood
and him betrayed
and him arrested
and him abandoned
and him accused
and him blindfolded
and him mocked
and him spit upon
and him bruised
and him denied
and him bound
and him interrogated
and him scoffed
and him crowned
and him robed in purple
and him judged
and him whipped
and him rejected
and him condemned
and him carrying a cross
and him crucified