Have you ever heard of the “five-fold” Ministry? This is where it comes from – Ephesians 4:11-16. In Ephesians 4:1 we read, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers…” With only one exception, we readily identify the mentioned gifts and their holders. There are many who feel that the Apostolic Age came to a close after Paul, born out of due season, was commissioned by Jesus to be an Apostle. There are others who maintain that both the gift and the office are still relevant today, and that in the same way that God appoints Elders and Pastors today, He also appoints Apostles. To the extent that an Apostle is primarily a Church-Planter, it should not be difficult to validate those who wear the title “Apostle” today. Perhaps it is also worthy of note that all the Apostles were murdered for their faith in Jesus and for the public stand they took. Of interest is the fact that the only one who was not persecuted and killed by one means or another, committed suicide – Apostle Judas. Does this mean that an Apostle can also be the Son of perdition? Or does it mean that an Apostle can be relieved of his Apostleship?
But what is without controversy, and is clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 12:1-31, is that God gives gifts to men and women in the Church for a single purpose, although the gifts are varied. And although on the surface it could appear that the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are not duplicated, and fall into a different category from those in Ephesians 4, there are two unifying similarities. The first is that they are given by God, and as 1 Corinthians 12:7 states, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
The first purpose is in part 1 of Ephesians 4:12 – “to equip his people for works of service…” Gifts are tools, but lie every other tool, can become a dangerous weapon in the hand of a fool. Let us all be wise in the handling of the gift and talent and ability that God has given us. Let us all remind ourselves that it is God who gave it to us. And whereas the Bible suggests that God will not recall the gift He has given us, we also know that without the anointing of the Holy Spirit through whom the Gift, our lives and perhaps even our ministries can be miserable and even counter-productive.
Part 2 of Ephesians 4:12 says, “…so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Just as a tradesman, naturally skilled or otherwise, must learn to use his tools and perfect his skill, so each Believer must identify his gift, learn to use it, and under the direction of God’s Holy Spirit (the foremen, building contractor, boss), perform the task to which we are assigned. (2 Timothy 1:6-7) It is worthy of note that buildings are not erected overnight. Also note that if a workman is out of line with the master plan and performs a valuable work, but that is out of line with the architect’s plan, that work has to be pulled down, regardless of how attractive it may be. Please also note that very few workers enjoy the privilege of being the only person working on even a small section of the building from start to finish. Usually, even the smallest section of a building requires the combined input of several workers, each with different skills, and all under the guidance of the foreman, or building contractor. So it is with the Body of Christ. The work that I do may seem insignificant in itself. But under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, it falls in line with His master plan and contributes to the perfected finished product. On the other side, the work that another worker does may seem monumental and imposing… And yet that contribution has the support of many in the background, and especially the prayer warriors and the infrastructural support team, without whom the work of a Billy Graham or a Paul and Jan Crouch would have been impossible.
Ephesians 4:13 provides us with the end goal of the provision of the gifts, and two significant factors are highlighted. The first is “unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God”. The second is maturity, evidenced by the attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Interestingly enough, the first is achieved after the second. Unity is not something that we do. It is something that we become. An army marching impressively in step with knees lifted high and left and right feet touching the ground in unison, and arms swinging to just the right distance, is not achieved by hard work and looking at each other. It is achieved by every soldier focusing on a single sound or sight. In the army of the Lord, that sound and sight, audio-visual reference point is Jesus. The more we mature and become like Him, the more we will have more and more in common with each other while maintaining our relatively minor personality differences. That is what Christian unity is all about.
Ephesians 4:14 presents us with the opposite to unity and maturity. It is called infancy. “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” And just as we are provided with the characteristics of unity and maturity, so we are provided with the characteristics of infancy. But only one verse is dedicated to the negative. Ephesians 4:15 complements Ephesians 4:11-13, and provides the characteristics that counter those of infancy…” Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
The fitting summation is found in Ephesians 4:16 – “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
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