Tag Archive: Eph 4:11-12


Acts of the ApostlesThe term apostle is used throughout Scripture, but is it a role that is still found in the church today? To explore this possibility, let’s consider what the Scriptures have to say.

The Twelve

Generally we associate the term apostle with the twelve disciples that Jesus called apostles during His earthly ministry, see Luke 6:13. These men were with Jesus from the early days of His ministry witnessing all that He taught and did. As representatives, they were sent out during and after Jesus’ earthly ministry to testify of Him and His kingdom in word and power.

But, did the term apostle end with them?

Matthias

In Acts 1:15-26, Matthias is chosen to replace Judas, who was one of the twelve and who betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide.

Paul

Most of us,  without much thought, automatically associate Paul as an apostle. But, most of the evidence to Paul’s apostleship is by way of his own letters, where he calls himself an apostle, which alone could appear to be a dubious self-appointment.  However, Peter, one of the twelve, rather than take exception to Paul’s claim to apostleship, instead ratifies it when he called Paul’s letters “Scripture” in 2 Peter 3:15-16.

Also, although Luke’s account in Acts doesn’t directly refer to Paul as an apostle, it clearly shows Paul to be one by the call on his life, through his teaching and by the miracles associated with him. In fact, it appears that Luke purposed to show in his narrative that Paul’s apostleship was just like that of Peter’s by intentionally choosing to reflect on the similar miracles that each did.

The term apostle didn’t end with the selection of Paul.

Here is a list of persons who are also called apostles in the Bible:

Barnabas – Acts 14:14

Andronicus and Junia – Rom. 16:7: – they were shown to be apostles depending on whether the text is to mean “among” or “to” the apostles

Timothy & Silas – see 1 Thess. 2:6 in context to 1:1

Epaphroditus – Phil.2:25 -“messenger” is the same word translated apostle elsewhere

Apollos – 1 Cor. 4:9

Evidence for Today?

The above list from Scripture shows a continued and broader use of the term apostle outside of the twelve. So, clearly, along with the unique apostleship of the twelve, Jesus chose others as apostles after His ascension.

This goes hand in hand with Eph. 4:11-12 where it mentions certain role players in the body of Christ, namely, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers who were given as gifts to the churches “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…”

Can the list of names above, along with this scripture, be considered evidence for the role of apostle continuing to this day? Many, who are uncomfortable with persons being referred to as apostles in the church today, would have no problem with persons being referred to as an evangelist pastor, or teacher. But, for some reason, using the term “prophet” and “apostle” for someone today is considered anathema.  Why is this so?

Ignorance and Tradition

I believe that it’s because of ignorance and tradition that we sit with a narrow concept and use of the term apostle. And, also, out of ignorance and tradition we have incorrectly associated rank with this role and as such cannot imagine any regular person attaining the much elevated rank of apostle.

Now, although apostleship is a very significant role in the body of Christ that carries certain important responsibilities, it has no rank over anyone else in the body of Christ. The title or rather term apostle simply means “messenger” or “sent one” and as such describes a function or role in the Body of Christ.

Reverence and respect for an apostle should be no more than for anyone else in the body of Christ. Further reverence should be spared for the function and who the apostle is representing and not in a title of rank that we’ve created out of a title of function. This is hard for us to grasp, because in this world we typically associate rank with titles. However, Jesus taught his disciples differently, see my post, No Rank, Only Roles in the Body of Christ.

Jesus

It would be fitting to mention the most outstanding apostle, Jesus. Those preoccupied with the idea of rank might consider referring to Jesus as an apostle a demotion. Yet, in Heb. 3:1, He is called this, not as an inferior title, but rather as the description of His role as a messenger or sent one from heaven. However, unlike any other apostles, in this role Jesus does carry preeminence in rank and is certainly superior in its execution.

Today

I believe that to this day many have carried out the role of apostle, but have been referred to by other terms. Certainly, some have been among the leaders in missions. Yet, whether they have been known as such or not, the ministry of the apostle has lived on in Jesus’ Church to this day.

Look around in the body of Christ and perhaps you will notice an apostle or two among us. Don’t tell them though, as the false issue of rank associated with the role might make them giddy and fall :).

Rob

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Shepherds of the Flock

In one sense all elders are pastors, but not in every sense. The terms elder, bishop, overseer and shepherd are synonomous terms, and are synonomous with the term pastor. However, this is not always exactly true.  Context dictates a terms meaning.

Many in the church, because of their character, knowledge in the faith, life experience and ability to teach should be recognized as elders able to pastor or shepherd the flock (see 1 Tim 3:1-7). However, some of these elders are specially gifted as pastors, teachers, evangelists, prophets and apostles (see Eph 4:11-12).  These specially gifted elders don’t outrank the other elders; they just offer richness in their specialized area of gifting for the benefit of the flock. Like players in a team have different roles and specialize because of their abilities, so too should the elders in a church.

Perhaps you are an evangelist, apostle, or prophet or maybe you are none of the above. Perhaps some of us are trying to attain to something that we aren’t and some of us aren’t what we could be. Freedom and blessing comes from finding out who we are and living that out. Note rank has no place in the body of Christ. We are to accomplish the role or function that we are called to, not achieve or receive any rank. Rank is of this world. (Anyway, we are all Sons of God. What more could one want!)

All elders pastor in a general sense, but not in the specific way that some do in the church.  Many a modern day “pastor” is clearly not one at all, and many a “lay” person is so much more pastoral and more likely one of many who are gifted to the church in this role. Some modern day “pastors” are not the specific gift to the church spoken of in Eph 4:11-12, but are rather one of many elders called to shepherd (see 1 Peter 5:11-12 and Acts 20:17,28).  These “pastors” may be more of a gift to the church as administrators, helpers, etc., while others may are more likely teachers, prophets or evangelists.

It seems that the term pastor or shepherd has a more specialized meaning and expectation in Eph. 4:11-12 than the broader idea for all elders to “shepherd the flock that is among you” as used in 1 Peter 5:1-2. I propose that in one sense all elders (barring perhaps those who are aged, but yet still babes in Christ) are shepherds, see Acts 14:23; 15:4,6; 20:17 and 1 Peter 5:1-2, but that not all of these shepherds (elders/pastors) are the specific gift of pastor that Ephesians 4:11-12 speaks about.

Are you an elder who pastors in the general sense it’s expected of elders, or are you an elder gifted with special pastoral gifting with a more specific role as a pastor? Like the term apostle has more than one meaning, perhaps so too does the term shepherd or pastor. In a sense all elders are shepherds or pastors (see Peter’s expectation of elders to be shepherding in 1 Peter 5:1-2) however, I propose that it’s from among these elders that some will clearly emerge and be seen to be gifted as the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers as mentioned in Eph 4:11-12. Pastors are specially gifted Elders/Bishops/Shepherds.

From this, we can see that the same train of thought can be used for the term teacher, that is, all elders should be able to teach, but not all elders are gifted as a teacher in the sense it’s used in Eph 4:11-12. So, while all elders should pastor and teach (1 Peter 5:1-2 and 1Timothy 3:1-7) and in a sense are therefore pastors and teachers, this does not make them gifted as the pastors or teachers seen in Eph 4:11-12.

There are different roles, focuses and levels of gifting (I speak of levels as gift ability and frequency of use and not hierarchy) for pastoring and teaching. Every elder needs to be competent to teach and uphold the basics of our faith and guide and assist those around them. Yet, not every elder has the gifting to teach or pastor as well as others among them who have been set apart as gifts to the church, clearly gifted in teaching and pastoring seen in Eph 4:11-12.

Like prophesying once or twice doesn’t make you a prophet, so too the ability to teach may help qualify you to be an elder who teaches, but not have the gift of teaching as expressed in Eph 4:11-12. Similarly, all can and should be involved in evangelism, but try as I may the simple message Billy Graham spoke will never have the effect through me as it did through him unless I’m specially gifted as an evangelist.

To find out who you are in the body of Christ, and live that to the full, will be the best way to bless God, yourself and those around you. Who we are to the body emerges as we allow the Spirit of God to work in and through us. When this happens, those around may recognize your role and gifting more easily than you do. A church environment that allows one another to grow in their gifts is a great help to experiencing the fullness of what God wants to do in and through one’s life individually and together through the body corporately.

By Rob Morley

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