When I write or teach, I tend to speak quite a bit of theo-babble while forgetting to consider many practical matters. And we should remember that theological talk (or babble) without practical application really doesn’t serve the body of Christ.
So I’m aware of my tendencies.
In the midst of this series on the ministry gifts spoken of in Eph 4:11-16, some might ask, “What’s the point? Why does it all matter?”
Really, why does it matter? Is it really that important whether or not we believe apostles or prophets still exist today? Not to mention, if we want to hold to such a belief, we’ve got a lot of Christianity standing against such a belief.
But here’s the thing: It’s not just about whether one believes apostles and prophets still exist today. It comes down to what I have emphasized from the first article: Jesus was the great apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher, and his great desire is that his body, his representation on the earth, continue in those same ministries. As I keep reiterating, we are to be all of Christ in all of the earth.
The broken record is still turning, still repeating, I know. But I cannot emphasize these things enough. Matter of fact, if we lay aside the ministry of apostle and prophet, I believe we will be missing a large portion of the ministry of Christ (two-fifths by mathematical calculation, if that’s important). That’s quite a lot to sever from the ministry of Christ.
Now, having said that, I find much comfort in the reality that God doesn’t need our permission in regards to outworking his purposes. Whether or not people recognize apostles and prophets, he will get on with his work in his world. I’ve met people in my life that might not be recognized as having an apostolic ministry, but there are pointers in many ways to the ministry in their lives.
This isn’t too different from other gifts amongst the body. There are plenty of folk who haven’t been identified as evangelists, but they still carry an important role of bearing good news and drawing people to the aroma of Christ. The same with shepherds and teachers.
So God will be God in accomplishing his purposes.
However, I would say there is a benefit with identifying these two needed ministries of apostle and prophet today. They will help equip and prepare the community of Christ to be apostolic and prophetic. They will because that is one of the major points within the life of these two gifts to the church.
Do you remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians in regards to spiritual gifts: I do not want you to be uninformed (1 Cor 12:1). And I assume the same would stand true with apostolic ministry. Many will wonder what an apostle or prophet is. Aren’t they the blokes that wrote Scripture – and we don’t do that anymore? Well, that’s just it. That really wasn’t their primary focus, all though some of them had such an important task.
So it might be worth taking some time to be informed, diving in a bit more to determine what it means to be apostolic and prophetic.
Yet, on the other hand, I’m personally not bothered about titles. Well, matter of fact, I’m not sure we can find precedence for these five ministry gifts in Eph 4 being labelled as “titles”. They are ministries, meaning they are serving gifts. That is of utmost importance here! They are given to the help equip and prepare the body of Christ for serving the body and the world. And as they equip and prepare us, we will move towards unity and maturity, which is the goal offered forth in Eph 4:11-16. The mandate is quite clear.
So, this really does matter – again, not the title, but the ministry function. We really want to be all that Christ has called us to be. And so, if one is not interested in recognizing present-day apostolic and prophetic ministries, I don’t think it would be the end of the world. But, in all, we must get on with being an apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching community. That is our call as the body of Christ, since he, himself, lived and breathed the call of these five ministry gifts.
Lastly, Paul tells us that these gifts were given: “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
I think we can all agree we are not there yet, which is one great pointer as to the deep-seated need for these ministries today. How are we going to get there without two-fifths of the ministry of Christ? Can we get there?
Those are questions I’ll leave you to ponder.
But let us be challenged as to why this really does matter.