Gifts of the Ascended Christ1
- The four-fold ministry that secures the Church has everything to do with (1) equipping the saints to do ministry (2) edifying the body of Christ and (3) growth in Christ’s direction in all things. In a three-handed gifting Christ builds on the foundation of the apostles. The apostles on the one hand, and three other “hands”; thus our Lord gave four classes of workers: (the construction is men = one the one hand … de =on the other hand, )
- τους μεν αποστολους. On the one hand some APOSTLES (tous men apostolous)
- τους δε προφητας, on the other hand some PROPHETS (tous de profetas)
- τους δε ευαγγελιστας, on the other hand some EVANGELISTS (tous de euaggelistas)
- τους δε ποιμενας και διδασκαλους , on the other hand some SHEPHERDS and TEACHERS (tous de poimenas kai didaskalous) Ephesians 4:11-12 (Wescott-Hort)
Close examination of the terms shepherd (poimen), elder (presbuteros), and bishop (episkopos), shows that the fourth class is a composite of those who guard and feed the flock (Acts 20:17, 28, Titus. 1:9, 1 Tim 3:2, 2 Tim 2:24, 1 Pet. 5:2).2 A shepherd=pastor=elder=bishop.
The purpose for this gifting is the equipping of the saints, for the work of service. When this service orientation is kept on the periphery of Christian work the Church’s likeness to Christ and the apostles is hard to see.
The gifting provides for:
- unity of [the] faith
- unity of knowledge of God’s Son
- mature (fully-formed) maleness
- the [appointed] measure of Messiah’s fullness
A common and popular line of thinking equates the disciples with the Lord, but it should be obvious that the new creation is still a process of creating His likeness and image in those who believe. Christ is the new template, which brings the human within reach of a likeness to Him. Adam was not created a “god”; disciples are not converted into “christs”.
In many ministries the baby is in the sewer with the bathwater, because equipping the saints to do ministry, edifying the body of Christ, and growth in Christ’s direction in all things are quite obviously not the priority. Christ will however have the final say, and it is highly probable that miracle workers will face an interrogation which will reveal that they did not really know Christ. They were more motivated with showing power over this world instead of becoming disciples and growing in grace. It is not enough to name Christ as “Lord”.
One can be a front-line witness to or operator of miracles, mouth impressive prophecy, and perform exorcisms and still receive no commendation from the Lord. If one is not equipping the saints to do ministry the pastorate is in denial. Instead of a welcome and commendation, the Lord will give them a strong, appropriate, uncomfortable, and truthful disapproval: ‘I tell you that you are no friends of mine. Begone from me, all of you, wrongdoers that you are.’ Luke 13:27 (Weymouth Translation)
1From an essay The Equipping and Edifying of the Saints
2It is highly recommended that the fourth entry in the list, pastors and teachers, be treated as in indivisible class, due to (1) the practical hazards of a teacher who is not cooperative with the pastoral ministry, or a pastor who is ill-equipped to teach or who neglects the practice of teaching (2) The grammatical structure points in this direction. Compare the grammatical structure of Eph. 2:20, where the article is not repeated with “prophets”, εποικοδομηθεντες επι τω θεμελιω των αποστολων και προφητων. (Wescott-Hort), epoikodomethentes epi to themelio ton apostolon kai profeton.