In this passage, Paul speaks about the gifts that he has given to each one of us according to his grace. We are one body, but each of us has a different part to play in that body and spiritual gifts to use for the good of the whole. This is supported by a quotation from Psalm 68 that speaks of him giving gifts to men.
A list of four particular offices in the church is then given, and these are roles that have a particular equipping function in the body of Christ. These are:
- Apostles – Apostles are foundation-builders in the church. They oversee the advance of the church into new communities, ensure key doctrines and values are understood in new churches, and support local church leaders with fathering relationships.
- Prophets – All God’s people can hear his voice, but prophets are people with a recognised gift and relationship to use that gift in a particular local setting to bring clarity over what God is saying at a particular time.
- Evangelists – Evangelists are gifted at sharing the gospel with the lost. They ensure that the church does not become insular and stays on course with the mission.
- Pastor-Teachers – The passage does not separate the role of pastor and teacher. Those who shepherd the flock are to do so through instructing them in the word, and Bible teaching is never designed to be in a vacuum, but rather to pastorally serve the people of God.
The fascinating thing about how the passage describes these roles is that they are not themselves thought of as ‘the work of ministry,’ but are to equip the saints for that work. Ministry is not for specialists but for the whole church, and so the role of those in particular offices is a serving role that is designed to train, resource and equip the priesthood of all believers to live out their calling.
The purpose of the ministry of the body is to help us attain the unity that Christ won for us on the cross and grow in knowledge of him. It is also that we hold firm when false doctrine is presented and stick firm to the truth, spoken to one another in love.
Some Key Points:
- God gives all believers spiritual gifts according to his grace.
- There are particular offices that are given to serve – apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers.
- The role of these offices is not to do the ministry themselves but to equip the whole church to minister.
- Use Your Gifts – God has given spiritual gifts to all believers. This is a good moment to invite the congregation to think about what gifts God has given to them and to consider how they could use those gifts.
- Receive From Those Given Particular Responsibilities – God has appointed people to the roles of apostle, prophet, evangelist and pastor-teacher for the benefit of us all. If we are not receiving from these people we are missing out. Think through who are the people in these roles that you can receive from in your own church context.
- Invest in the Priesthood of All Believers – So often we lean towards ways of thinking of church where specialists and leaders do the work of ministry for everyone, but ministry is for us all! How can we make sure we are doing things in a way that emphasise the serving and ministry of all believers rather than just a select few?