THE GIFTS OF CHRIST TO THE CHURCH
Jesus Christ is God's provision for the world, and the Lord Jesus Christ made two provisions for the church: 1) the gift of the various ministries, and
2) the gift of the Holy Spirit. First, let us consider the various ministries that Jesus gave to the church, for it is through these ministries that all of the provisions of Christ and the Spirit are made available to the church.
THE MINISTRY GIFTS OF CHRIST
And there are differences of administrations
[ministries], but the same Lord (I Cor. 12:5).
The Apostle Paul speaks of these ministry gifts in various places, in various configurations: Ephesians 4:7-13, Romans 12:3-8, and I Corinthians 12:27-28. Some believe that all of these gifts are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, I make a distinction between the gifts of the Spirit, which are manifestations in which the Spirit manifests Himself--a word of wisdom, a word of knowledge, discerning of spirits, utterances in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, faith, miracles, or healings, and the ministry gifts of Christ--apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, or teachers, which are offices, or persons, or functions set in the church. The spiritual manifestations appear and disappear momentarily; however, the ministry gifts of Christ are permanent.
In the letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul writes concerning the gifts of Jesus Christ to the church:
Wherefore, he saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and
teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:8,11,12).
When Jesus ascended up on high, He gave gifts to men. The gifts that He gave are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Paul states that the purpose of the gifts was for
the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the fulness of the stature of Christ (Eph. 4:12-13).
The immediate purpose of the gifts is "for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ"; however, the ultimate purpose is to bring each of us "unto the measure of the fulness of the stature of Christ," to edify the body of Christ in love.
In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul combines the ministry gifts and spiritual gifts as he asks certain questions concerning the spirituals:
And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers. After that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues (I Cor. 12:28).
In this passage Paul adds the gifts of helps and governments to the ministry gifts that we found in Ephesians.
In the letter to the Romans, Paul gives us another schedule, another listing of the ministry gifts:
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office....Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: Or he that teacheth on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: Or he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness (Rom. 12-4-8).
In this passage Paul adds other gifts to those he set forth in his writings to the Ephesians and the Corinthians: prophecy, teaching, exhortation, giving, ministry, ruling, and showing mercy. Some of these, however, we could cross-reference with the gifts listed in other scriptures: prophecy to the prophet; teaching to the teacher; ministering or deaconing to government; showing mercy
as one of the helps; ruling also to government; and giving as a separate gift. This is how I developed the "Spirituals" outline that I am sharing with you.
Since the purpose of all gifts (spiritual and ministry) is to equip the saints for a work of ministry, I have placed the armor of God (the equipment of the saints) in the outline, showing that the gifts of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, and the ministry gifts of Christ, all contribute to equipping the saints for a work of ministry that they may be able to edify the body of Christ in love.
The apostle is one sent forth. The twelve apostles are the twelve foundation stones of the church; therefore, they are unique. However, the twelve apostles were not the only apostles that were given to the early church. For we find that God has set others in the church as apostles besides Peter, James, John, Matthew, Andrew, Judas, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, James, Simon, and Judas, the brother of James. When Judas fell from his apostleship, Mathias was chosen to take his office. One of the requirements of the early church for an apostle was that the person should have seen the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul laid claim to apostolic authority saying that he was an apostle because he had seen the Lord (I Cor. 9:1) as one born out of due time
(I Cor. 15:8). The Apostle Paul met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, and so he lay his claim to being an apostle as one born out of due time, but as one having seen the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul speaks of other apostles. He tells the Romans to
Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles (Rom. 16:7).
He tells the Thessalonians that he and Sylvanius and Timotheus had not been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ" (I Thess. 1:1 and 2:6). So it appears that there were others who were called apostles besides the twelve. An apostle is one who has been sent forth on a special mission, and, therefore, is endued by the Spirit with apostolic power and authority. Some would ask, "Are there apostles today?" Yes, I believe there are apostles today, individuals whom God has sent forth for a special ministry with apostolic authority and power. One of the difficulties is that the church has been reluctant to recognize persons as apostles. Oral Roberts is recognized by many as an apostle, a man endued with apostolic power and authority to fulfill a special calling in life.
I make a distinction between the prophet and the simple gift of prophecy. The simple gift of prophecy is for edification, exhortation, and comfort (I Cor. 14:3), and all may prophesy (I Cor. 14:31). But the ministry of the prophet is to speak forth the counsel of God. He reveals the will and the purpose of God contained in the mind of God for a specific situation. He declares what may not be known through the intellect, for He speaks by direct revelation from God. He speaks the mind of God. He speaks for God through the direct revelation of the Spirit, giving what is in the mind of God for that time. Luke tells us that there were certain prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch, and
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them
The prophets signified by the Spirit that it was time for Barnabas and Saul to do that which God had called them to do.
Luke records another incident at Antioch when the prophets, Judas and Silas,
exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them (Acts 15:32).
These prophecies confirmed that which God had already revealed. The word "confirmed" here is a very important word. Oral Roberts, in his discussion of the gift of prophecy, says that prophecy is more confirmational than it is directional. God confirms through the prophet what God has spoken to His people. Therefore, if someone should prophesy over you and give you a direction, it should be confirmational. God reveals His will to you and then He confirms it by speaking through others to you. So, always accept the fact that God will confirm any prophecy given to you. Judas and Silas confirmed the brethren. They confirmed them in that which God had already spoken to them.
Many times, the prophet speaks with a word of knowledge. But in the prophecies given by Judas and Silas, I do not think there was a word of know-ledge. The prophets did not tell them what the work was; they only confirmed what God had already revealed to Barnabas and Saul. However, Agabus the prophet gave a prophecy at Antioch that contained a word of knowledge. He signified by the Spirit that
There should be a great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar (Acts 11:28).
His prophecy had a word of knowledge in it--there is coming a great dearth. Later, at Caesarea, Agabus
Took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles (Acts 21:8-11).
This prophecy also contained a word of knowledge.
These are the ministries of the apostles and the prophets. Paul said that the church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, and Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20).
The evangelist is the bringer of good tidings. The most notable evangelist in the Bible was Philip, who went down to Samaria, preached Christ, and turned the whole city upside down. It was in Philip's house that Agabus gave his prophecy concerning Paul's being bound in Jerusalem (Acts 21:8). Even though Philip preaching the word with signs and wonders turned the city of Samaria to God, he did not seem to have apostolic power and authority. The apostles sent Peter and John to the city in order for the Samaritans to receive the fulness of the Spirit (Acts 8:14-15).
Paul told Timothy--a pastor, elder, and an apostle--to do the work of the evangelist (II Tim. 4:5). There is a difference between the message of the evangelist and the message of the pastor. Sometimes we fail to recognize this difference. The message of the evangelist is the good news; the message of the pastor is consecration, dedication, and sacrifice. The evangelist comes to tell us about all of the blessings that God has provided for us, all that God has given us in the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes people have difficulties with the message of the evangelist, especially the message of prosperity. Years ago when I was pastoring here in the city, many of Oral Roberts' associates came to my church. Oral Roberts preached the message of the evangelist and I preached the message of the pastor. Oral Roberts preached that God is a good God. If you serve God, He will give you abundant life. I preached that if you serve God, the love of God shed abroad in your heart will demand an entire consecration of everything you have. These concepts seemed to be contradictory. Finally, I realized that these are two sides of the love of God. God's love in God's heart caused God to give me all that He has in Christ Jesus. When God's love is shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Spirit, I will give everything I have to God. I will act as God acts. So, there is no real conflict.
Paul said to the Romans that if God, acting from the love in His heart,
spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things" (Rom. 8:32).
All that God has He has given to us in Jesus Christ. God can create worlds, but He can not create another Son. He can create universes, but God only has one Son. When He gave us His Son, He gave us the best that He had, and He has given us all that He has in Him. This is the message of the evangelist. That same love, shed abroad in our hearts, will bring the same response. We will give our best to God.
These are the two sides to the gospel: the evangelist's side and the pastor's side. The evangelist talks about the goodness of God, the love of God, the blessing of God, the prosperity of God, and the joy of the Lord, while the pastor emphasizes the other side of the gospel--that when we have the love of God, we want to give up everything for Him, consecrate it all to Him, make a complete dedication of our lives to Him. Therefore, we must allow the evangelist to preach his message of blessing and prosperity and let the pastor preach his message of consecration, sacrifice, and dedication.
The pastor is the one who tends the flock of God. He is the shepherd or the pastor of the church and his most important role is the constant guiding and feeding of the flock with the Word. Paul, on his way to Jerusalem where he would be imprisoned, called the elders of the church at Ephesus and told them to
Take heed therefore to yourselves, and all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
The pastor is the shepherd, the one who takes care of the church. Peter called himself a pastor. He was a shepherd. He spoke to the elders and said,
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder...Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away
(I Peter 5:1-4).
I believe these admonitions set forth very graphically the ministry of the pastor. Many elders were pastors who labored in work and doctrine; however, some elders did not seem to have a preaching ministry (I Tim. 5:17). I will have more to say about this when I discuss the role of the elder in the church.
The teacher is the instructor in the Word. Some combine the two functions calling the person a "teaching pastor" or "pastoring teacher." The message of the teacher is gathered from the completed revelation of God which is contained in the Scripture. The prophet speaks by revelation, direct revelation. The teacher speaks from the completed revelation, the Word of God, with knowledge gained through study and with wisdom gained through experience. He reveals what may be known of God through the intellect. While the prophet speaks from the Spirit, bypassing the intellect, the teacher, inspired by the Spirit, speaks from the intellect, revealing that which may be known of God through study, through experience, and through the Word of God.
Therefore, as revelation is the foundation of the prophet, so knowledge is the foundation for the teacher. Luke tells us that there were certain teachers with the prophets in Antioch (Acts 13:1). Paul refers to himself as a "teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity" (I Tim. 2:7) and as a "preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles" (II Tim. 1:11).
We have discussed the five ministry gifts spoken of by Paul to the church at Ephesus. In the Book of Romans, Paul adds other ministries to these: ruling, giving, and showing mercy. He tells us
For I say through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith....Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness
The three offices he includes here that were not in his letter to the Ephesians are giving, ruling, and showing mercy.
Giving means to share or to impart. Paul exhorts those who minister in earthly things or temporal things to do so as if they are sharing and to do that very generously. God has set certain persons in the church who prosper, who are blessed with material things, in order that they may share those blessings with the whole church. There are two ways to give: 1) we can give by saying that this is mine, but I am going to give it to you because you are in need, or 2) we can share by saying that this is what God has provided in order that I may share it with God's people. Paul said we are to share by saying that God has prospered me and as a good steward of His abundance, I am sharing it with you. I am not giving it to you, I am sharing it with you. It belongs to God and I am his steward. I am the channel through which God would share what He has. Paul said he that he who gives (shares) must do it with simplicity, or, literally, with liberality. Let him do it bountifully. Thus, God sets givers in the church, those who have the function of giving, and He blesses them with material things. Paul said that they who have this gift should share liberally and bountifully.
The gift of ruling may be the same as the gift of governments (I Corinthians 12:28). These gifts refer to those who guide or take the lead in the church. The leaders in the early church were bishops, or elders, and deacons. Bishop, or elder, refers to the same function. The term Elder (presbuteros--an older, mature person) speaks of the spiritual maturity of the individual; the term bishop (episkopos--to watch over) speaks of the function of the office, that is, one who watches over or oversees the spiritual concerns of the house of God.
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in word and doctrine (I Tim 5:17).
There were elders who taught or preached the word, and there were elders who just exercised spiritual oversight. So "bishop" describes the nature of the work, and "elder" reveals the maturity of that individual's spiritual experience.
In I Timothy 3:2-13 and in Titus 1:6-9, Paul has set forth the qualifications of the bishops and elders--their personal characteristics, their spiritual qualities, and their family relationships.
The word "deacon" (diakonos) designates the office of the deacon and the word "ministry" (diakonia) designates his function. The deacons were set over the material things of the church. In the early church the people sold all their possessions and had all things in common (Acts 4:32-35). However, some of the Grecians felt that their widows were neglected. The apostles, who did not believe that they should leave the preaching of the word to wait on tables, asked the disciples to choose seven men to minister the material things of the church
(Acts 6:1-7). Among the seven who were chosen were Stephen and Philip.
The early church appointed both deacons and deaconesses. Phoebe was a deaconess in the church at Rome (Rom. 16:1-2). Both the deacons and deaconesses, who are a part of the government or the ruling element in the church, minister in the material affairs of the church. The positions of leadership or government in the early church, then, included bishops or elders, deacons, and deaconesses.
HELPSor SHEWING MERCY
The ministry of helps or shewing mercy in the local church renders assistance to the weak, to the poor, and to those individuals in need. Paul encourages those who are called to this ministry to perform their services with cheerfulness
or with a readiness of mind. The household of Stephanas devoted themselves to this ministry to the saints:
Ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first-fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints (I Cor. 16:15).
We know persons who have had a special ministry in helps or showing mercy--Mother Teresa in India, Mother Tucker in Tulsa, a French nun among the garbage people of France--various individuals who devote their lives to caring for the poor, the needy, the destitute, and the suffering. This is a special gift, a direct and special calling.
These are the ministry gifts that were emphasized by the Apostle Paul in his writings. There may be others. The purpose of all gifts, both those given by Christ and those given by the Holy Spirit, is to equip the saints so that each of them may have a ministry. The equipment of the saints will be considered under the concept of the armor of God.
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