And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,Ephesians 4:11(NASB)
Having spent three glorious chapters outlining who we are in Christ, Paul turns His attention to grounds for unity within the Church. He reminds us that there is one Body of believers (the Body of Christ), one Holy Spirit Who indwells and seals each believer, one hope of our calling which is reserved for us in heaven, and one Lord - our Saviour Jesus Christ.
There is also one faith with a settled body of doctrine that is clearly laid out in Scriptures, one baptism into the Body of Christ at the moment of salvation, one God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one Holy Spirit Who gives spiritual gifts to all who are positioned in Christ. And having laid out our position in Christ, Paul gives details of four groups of believers that are given a particular role in the Church – apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers.
Jesus had many followers and disciples, but the role of apostle was an office that was divinely appointed by God. Apostles were a special group who, together with New Testament prophets, were specifically chosen to lay the foundation of the Church. In the early Church, the text of Scripture had not been written, and God used these foundational ministries to deliver the inerrant God-breathed Word to His Body, which is the Church, first verbally and then through the Word of God.
There were many false apostles in the early Church, just as there are today, but the Bible gives explicit credentials of a true apostle. 1) They were directly commissioned by God. 2) They were eye-witnesses to the resurrected Christ. 3) They were given power to perform many mighty signs, supernatural miracles, and great wonders, in order to authenticate their God-appointed ministry, message, and revelation. Most importantly, they were the ones who were to lay the doctrinal foundations of the Christian Church upon which our faith rests - for they were to author the Holy Scriptures.
In the early Church, the Scriptures were yet unwritten and foundational doctrine and spiritual truth were given by God through His appointed apostles and prophets. Today, we do not receive divine revelation directly from the Holy Spirit, as did the apostles and prophets of the early Church. The truth has already been given to us mediately i.e. through the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit by means of His holy Word.
In a very broad sense, all have a form of 'apostolic' ministry, for we are all called to: "preach the Word," not only in what we say but in how we live. Similarly, we all have a form of 'prophetic' ministry, for Paul tells us: "The one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation." But the blatant abuse of these two foundational ministries is very prevalent in the Church today and should be treated with much suspicion. We would do well to know what Scripture says about false prophets, false apostles, and false doctrine - for wrongful use is very dangerous.
Although the foundational role of apostle and prophet was ended with the completion of the text of Scripture, the other two roles of evangelist and pastor-teachers are very important in the Church today. And although we are all called to "do the work of an evangelist," by winning lost souls to Christ, there are those that are specifically called into this ministry who are wonderfully equipped to preach Christ Crucified to a lost world.
Christ is the Good Shepherd. He is the Great Shepherd. He is the Chief Shepherd of the sheep, and pastor-teachers are called to be under- shepherds; to care for the flock of God, to protect the people of God, to guide, to discipline, and to teach the whole counsel of God to the Church, and this is carried out through the systematic and clear teaching of the God-breathed Scriptures
Praise God for the Bible which is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, and for the unshakable foundation of sound doctrine. Praise God for the Scripture which is unchanging and unchangeable - and praise God for the men today, whom He has called to teach these truths to the Body of Christ.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the wonderful way that You have protected Your Word through the foundation of the apostles and prophets, where Christ Himself is the chief Cornerstone. Thank You also, for those that are called to be evangelists and pastor-teachers. I pray that You would equip each one for the service to which they are called, and may their lives and ministries bring glory to You. In Jesus' name, AMEN.