Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Ephesians | Session 19 | 4:11

Today we find ourselves in Ephesians 4:11 where Paul is talking about the ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

Five-Fold Ministry Gifts
Verse 11: And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  These are some of the gifts that were given unto men. Some are quick to point out that these are not gifts, but positions that were given to administer the gifts. By definition, apostles laid the foundation, prophets foretold and forthtold, evangelists had the gift of evangelism, pastors oversaw a flock, and teachers taught the Word. 

The question is, "Who were these people?" Is he referring to the apostles and prophets of the Old Testament? To answer this, we need to remember what we studied in Ephesians 2:19-20 where it says, Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;  Like I said earlier, this is either saying that the church was built upon the foundation that was laid by the Old Testament prophets and the teachings of the Twelve like most in the church believe or it means that the church was built upon the foundation of some other prophets and apostles.

Well Ephesians 3:1-5 says clearly that the Old Testament prophets and apostles did not know what Paul knew regarding the mystery. So, how could the church, the Body of Christ, be built on them? Paul also mentioned these guys in 1 Corinthians 12:28 when he said, 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. If they are truly indeed not the same, who were these prophets and apostles that Paul was talking about? Whoever they were, it would seem they were the same ones he was speaking of here in Ephesians 4:11. 

Apostles just means sent ones and they are mentioned in Ephesians 2:20 and Ephesians 3:5. Prophets are seen throughout the early church (Acts 13:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1Corinthians 14:29-32). Again, it would seem that he could not be speaking about Old Testament prophets and apostles. If indeed not, these were some new type of grace apostles and prophets, who according to the verse 13 were appointed until we all come to the unity of faith

So, the next question is are they still around today? I am of the mind at the moment that these offices were discontinued after the completion of the Paulene epistles which is what Paul was referring to when he said until we all come to the unity of the faith in verse 13. One writer says regarding this, "Jesus gave gifts for a while unto the Body of Christ during its infancy to take it to full maturity. When the word of God was completed then that which was in part were done away with just like he said in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13." 

He is referring to what Paul wrote when he said to the Corinthians that Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 

His point about that which is perfect, which has always been controversial, is that when it does come, the gifts would be done away with because they will no longer be needed. I've heard that it is a reference to the Second Coming. Of course, when Jesus comes those positions or offices will no longer by needed. I have heard that it is a reference to the eternal state and, of course, at that time they will not be needed either. And I have heard that it is a reference to the completion of the Scriptures. Of course, while the first two are still yet future. we already have the Scriptures. The word perfect actually means having reached its end or complete. It is the Greek word teleios

With that said, that can't be referring to the actual canonization of Scripture which happened between AD 393 and AD 397at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage. That was merely when the twenty-seven books of our New Testament were deemed authoritative by the church. Instead, the completion of Scripture occurred when the last Paulene letter was penned by the apostle in AD 66-67. That would have been 2 Timothy. Of course, most say that the Epistles of John and Revelation were the last to be written. I disagree with a late date for those books due to their purpose and content. They had to have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. That is another study for another day.   

Back to these ministry gifts, there is disagreement all around. Some contend that all of them ceased because Paul says that the only positions in the church are elders and deacons in Timothy and Titus. They also point to the word gave as past tense and therefore transitory. 2. Some contend that only the first two ceased because once the entire revelation was completed, there was no longer any need for the apostles and prophets.

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