Monday, July 23, 2012

Hoping for an Ephesians 4:11-12 Balance

"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..." Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV)

In Ephesians 4:11-12 we see wonderful gifts that Christ has given to his church for its maturity. He has given apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds-teachers. Although some Christians believe that apostles and prophets no longer exist, there simply isn't biblical warrant for this idea. Rather, the above passage indicates that God both gave (at the writing of Ephesians) and continues to give these gifts.

In the church today the above gifts are out of balance. Apostles and prophets are not very common, evangelists exist here and there, and pastors are everywhere. This is not healthy for the body of Christ.

I'm hoping for a return to a balance within the church. Specifically, I'd love to see more apostles, more prophets, and more evangelists. I'd also like to see more shepherds-teachers functioning within the biblical perspective (as opposed to what we generally see today). What might this look like? We'd have many more active church planters (apostles) moving from place to place where the gospel is most needed. We'd have more of a prophetic voice within the body, speaking what God has told them. We'd see much more evangelism taking place. Of course, anyone in the body can and may do all these things, but those with the giftings will likely be most effective.

We'd also see shepherds within the church acting like shepherds. They would be part of the body as opposed to something different (I've written about this before so I'll say no more here).

What can we do to help bring about more of a balance? First, we can pray that God will continue to liberally bestow these giftings on his children. Second, we can teach that these gifts are alive within the church and meant to be cultivated. Third, we can encourage young people in particular to ask God whether or not they are gifted as apostles, prophets, or evangelists. The subject of pastors-to-be is often raised in churches, but the others are rarely talked about.

God is not the one with the problem. He has said that he gives these gifts and will be faithful to do so. The fault lies with us. We have not recognized all these gifts in the same way. While the church generally scours the landscape for the next pastors, it generally ignores, to its own detriment, the other gifts from Ephesians 4:11-12.

God desires to bless his church and bring about her maturity in his son, Jesus Christ. Let's be a more active part of this by encouraging and recognizing the gifts of apostle, prophet, and evangelist.

Have you seen these gifts be used for the good of the body? What was the outcome? How were they recognized? What was the end result?

I'm curious about this because I've seen little of it. I hope to see much more in the future.


Steve Scott said...


Cessationism has ruled the day for quite a long time. The belief that miracles and sign gifts as we see in the book of Acts were special and no longer apply today has been blanketed over these offices as well.

In fact - and I'm giving you a homework assignment here - I believe this mindset has had such an affect on the church that the pattern for NT assembly as we see in 1 Corinthians 11-14 (you know, the one that you, me, Alan, Arthur, Lew, Jon, etc.) has been negated. Here's your homework assignment: look at all the gifts (even if they are singing) in 1 Cor 11-14 and see how many of them can be negated out due to "guilt by association" - i.e. these are listed in groups of gifts like tongues, etc., that many of us negate anyway.

So our participatory, all inclusive assemblies are wiped away because we don't believe the wild miracles are happening anymore. And if you care to take a blog comment as prophetic, I'm okay with that.

Aussie John said...


Thinking! Thinking! :)

And, all the rest of the gifts of God's great grace, including "....the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable...."

Only then will there be balance!

APES without the rest can not function biblically.

Eric said...


No time here for homework assignments, but I agree with what you are saying. Many gifts have been ruled out by church authorities simply because they cannot control them.

Eric said...


Agreed! We all need all of us for maturation in our Head.

Marshall said...

both cessationism and neo-pentecostalism grew out of "Christianity lite", where hearts and minds were divided; every man for himself in the assembly, leading many to engage poor copies of the real grace gifts.

Norm M. said...

I've recently been questioning what an apostle is (or was). I've been studying the Biblical passages dealing with apostles and had been actually leaning toward the opinion that apostles existed for a limited time only. Whether this is the case or not, I sometimes wonder if we place too much emphasis on spiritual gifts.

I do think that there is much confusion of terminology these days that clouds the argument. Is an apostle simply a "church planter"? Is a prophet one who predicts the future or one who pointedly applies Scripture to a practical matter? Is a missionary an apostle or an evangelist or perhaps both?

I wonder if we sometimes collectively place too much emphasis on spiritual gifts rather than on the work at hand. I think that if we saw a job that needed to be done, applied ourselves to it, and trusted God to grant us the "spiritual gift(s)" necessary to accomplish it, then we'd spend more time laboring in the work than trying to pigeonhole ourselves into a narrow spiritual gift category that will forever define the limits of our service.

Eric, I realize I've strayed far off the point of your original article, and I agree with your general premise. I guess I just don't want my lack of knowledge about spiritual gifts keep me from service.

Eric said...


Well said. Service is stressed much more than in the NT than spiritual gifts are. Also, we're never told in the bible to avoid serving because we may not feel gifted in a certain area.

As for what an apostle is, I believe it is a missionary/church planter who takes the gospel where it has little to no presence. This is what the apostles did in scripture, so I leave my definition with that.

Our problem today is that terms such as apostle and prophet have been routinely abused and/or misused. We've probably all seen billboards announcing some church with "The Apostle so-and-so" as their leader. All that really is is a professional pastor.

Just keep serving brother! Gifts are secondary.