But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. … And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Eph 4:7.11-12
When we are born again, we are born into a family. I will establish this in a future post, but for now just trust me. We are not born into a franchise, nor into a business, nor a club. It is not about copying, performance, socializing. It is not about paying for the rights to look like somebody else, hierarchy based on investment or abilities, or being with like minded, even people equal to myself.
It is all about fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, grandchildren, uncles, aunts … you name it.
Today I want to take a look at the father’s role, the fivefold ministry. Like always, I do not talk gender, but role. And I am aware that there are not only those fathers in fivefold ministry, but this is where it begins.
We all know the gifts of the Spirit. Who gives those gifts? Derived from their name, it is the Holy Spirit. Not very deep. But important to see.
The Holy Spirit lives in all of us. Therefore, all of us can flow in the gifts of the Spirit. They are available to us at any time. Which one? The one that fits the situation, the one that the Spirit chooses to work through right now. Maybe it is tongues and interpretation, just to show the working together of the saints. Maybe it is the word of knowledge, speaking what I cannot know about the person I speak to to open up his or her heart. Maybe it is the gift of healings because somebody is sick.
That show us an important truth about the gifts of the Spirit. They are for somebody else. Granted, I can train my gifts on myself. I can speak words of wisdom over myself as much as I can lay hands on myself for healing. But they are given for the saints to minister to other saints and other people. Even in the department store.
Follow after love; yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts. 1Co 14:1
These gifts are to be earnestly desired. I think, we not only disobey God’s command if we do not desire them, but people in our surroundings go lacking. Somebody needs healing close to you, so you better be ready. Just a thought.
But in our verse we learn that there are other gifts as well. Christ’s gifts. Jesus gave us gifts upon his ascension.
The first thing we learn about those gifts is that everybody depends on them. For each and every Christian only gets grace according to the measure of Christ’s gifts in their lives.
Grace is the acting power of God. It acts where we do not deserve it. It saves. It changes situations and circumstances. It grants us favor with God and men. It is the answer to faith. It sometimes flows directly from God into our lives. It flows from saint to saint or from saint to heathen. And some grace, according to our reading, can only be obtained through the gifts of Christ.
Now, verse 11 tells us what the gifts of Christ are: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers.
The gifts of the Spirit are things we do. We speak words of wisdom, knowledge, prophecy, tongues, interpretation. We apply supernatural faith, bring healing through the laying on of hands, and so forth.
But the gifts of Christ are people. It is who they are.
What now is their purpose? To distribute grace. What for? to equip the saints for ministry, so the saints can build up the body of Christ.
Who now builds up the body of Christ? Who is there if a member of the church has a problem? If somebody needs a hand? If somebody needs a prophetic word? According to this verse: another saint.
It is not the fivefold minister that builds up the body of Christ. At least not in his office and calling as a gift of Christ. But of course each fivefold minister is a saint in the first place. Thus, our verse does not exclude the fivefold ministers from building the body, but includes each and every saint in exactly that ministry! What a grant concept!
But a saint can only help another saint if equipped accordingly. And the equipping is done by the fivefold ministry. May I dare say that we therefore cannot build the body of Christ without the fivefold ministry? Oh, we can build the church – as a franchise, business, club. But that never was our assignment nor will it ever be. Jesus builds the church on the foundation of the revelation that he is the Christ, the Son of God.
Why are there five in the fivefold ministry? Not because it is called the fivefold ministry – that would be a circular definition. I do not know why Jesus chose to distribute his character and office on five distinct functions. But then again, five stands for grace in the bible, and the fivefold ministry is to distribute grace.
Let me give you a short description of the five flavors of ministry with a feature theme or sentence each might utter.
- It is written – teacher.
- God says – prophet.
- I love the people in the church – pastor.
- There are people out there that do not know Jesus – evangelist.
- OK, this is where we are going – apostle.
I have changed the order of the offices to bring forth how they complement each other. A prophet’s word has to align with scripture, while a teachers teaching has to be applied to the now. A pastor is inward focused, while an evangelist looks into the world. And the apostle gives direction to all of them.
But what distinguishes a prophet from a person that flows in the gift of prophecy? And as we all can prophecy, can everybody be a prophet?
Well, a prophet’s main assignment is not to prophecy. That really is – as we have shown – the assignment to all of the saints. A prophet is to equip the saints. To multiply himself, bringing forth other prophets. And to teach the church to be a prophetic people.
Imagine 5 flavors of ice cream. Vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, pistachio, walnut.
All of them are made with rich cream. All of them distribute grace.
But you have to get a pistachio ice cream to get pistachio flavor. A chocolate ice cream just can’t give it to you.
I have to be connected to an apostle to be apostolic, to have a sense of vision and direction both in my life and to pass on for others. Yes, we even need the teacher. Even though the bible tells us that we need nobody to teach us – we can all receive revelation from the Spirit, when we read the bible or communicate with God – Christ gave us the teacher so we can learn to teach others.
And just like ice cream, the gifts are to be consumed, enjoyed, loved, cherished. They are to be honored (to big a word for ice cream. but no analogy is perfect). The gifts implement no hierarchy, but serving. Each gift can, will, and should impart a flavor of God’s grace into the saints. Through the laying on of hands, but even more through the tedious, time eating, intense act of intimate relationship and communication. Just as God gives us certain things very easily, others are gained while we just have relationship with him. Commune. Pray. Spend time.
Personally, I function in the gift of a teacher. People tell me that my teaching at times is prophetic. Why is that? Because I am connected to prophets in my live, so I can walk out a prophet’s gift and grace to a degree. I even can be pastoral. Not because I am a pastor, not even because I am pastoral. There is not one pastoral bone in my body. But I am connected to pastors and live and work in and under their anointing.
Many flow mightily in a grace through the relationship they have, let’s say, with their spiritual father. If they now think that they have received what was in the relationship for them and cut it off, soon it will become apparent that the grace is gone. It was never theirs. It was in the relationship with the gift of Christ in their lives.
God decided to work in manyfold ways. Each person of the trinity gave us gifts. The father gave us his Son. The Son gave us the fivefold. The Son sent the Spirit to dwell in us. And the Spirit gave us his own set of gifts. It is in the relationship, in the intimate relationship of the Hebrew word yada, with these gifts and the givers that we grow.
It is important that we strive for the gifts of the Spirit. But nowhere in the bible is there a command to strive for an office of the fivefold ministry. On the contrary:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, since you know that we will be judged more severely Jam 3:1
Why should they be judged more severely? Because if they do not live up to their calling, the saints are not equipped, and the church goes unbuilt. Quite a responsibility. But then there is grace. From this follows: a fivefold minister needs somebody from the fivefold to receive the grace he needs. A spiritual father.
And saints need the gifts of Christ in their lives. To fulfill their purpose.
And we all need to communicate. With God, with the gifts of Christ in our lives, with each other. This is how grace is applied.