Ephesians 4:11-12a

In Ephesians 4:11-12a Paul begins to detail the gifts that God gives to us as Christ Followers. It’s important to note that the gifts are given to us (“he gave”), they are not something we can earn or get on our own. So spiritual gifts are divine in their giving and not something we can invent or manipulate on our own. Paul shares four ‘offices’ of the church that are critical for us to understand. “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers….”. His list is:

  • Apostles
  • Prophets
  • Evangelists
  • Shepherds (pastors) and teachers

These are critical functions of the church and ultimately the Body of Christ. So what are the practical outcomes of each?

  • Apostles – special ambassadors of God’s work
  • Prophets – speak words from God in complete consistency and alignment with the Bible in every way.
  • Evangelists – gifted speakers that preach the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ
  • Shepherds and teachers – cares for the flock of God’s church through teaching the Word of God.

Bruce explains that the two words are not two different offices, but one in the same. “Teaching is an essential part of the pastoral ministry; it is appropriate, therefore, that the two terms, pastors and teachers, should be joined together to denote one order of ministry.”

These gifts are given at the discretion of Jesus, working through the Holy Spirit. The importance of having “all four in operation” in any church body is up to Jesus who appoints the offices. The job of responsible church leadership is to not hinder or prevent such ministry, but also never to create its existence by their own manipulation or human efforts. Contrary to what many church members believe, these four offices have one purpose: “….to equip the saints for the work of ministry….”. While often the people whom God bestows these gifts on are paid staff or at least paid as part of their work, God’s design is not for them to carry the load of ministry.

The purpose of these gifts of leadership is also clear. It is that the church filled by God’s people are equipped for the work of ministry or serving people so that the body of Christ is built up. That’s contrary to what many think. They believe it’s the pastors job to share the gospel or teach the kids or visit the sick. After all, they are paid to do so. But that is not God’s design for the church. It is the responsibility of God’s people to do the work of the ministry. The pastors job is to equip people to serve. Smith says it this way: “The primary purpose of the Church isn’t to convert sinners to Christianity, but to perfect (complete and mature) the saints for the ministry and edification of the Body.” Are you prepared to serve? It’s our job to do the ministry!

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