A Mini Commentary, Pt 10 (Ephesians 4:11)

4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

And he gave

            It is important to note that what follows in this verse through the rest of this section are gifts and their purposes. Often, we fail to remember that our pastors, for example, are not hired servants with nothing more special about them than their defined roles; they are gifts from God! God did not have to, nor was he obligated to give the church, and by extension the individual member, such wonderful, encouraging, and strengthening gifts; He did it because of grace.

            It is also important to understand that not all the gifts were given to everyone equally. Now, in many situations the person, such as the pastor, has more than one of these gifts represented in him, but that is not always the case. This implies that at any given time within the Body of Christ there are different needs, different seasons, for which different gifts are deemed needed for the purpose of edifying and equipping.

            Key words to look for in verses 12-14 are for, till, unto, of, and that. With these words Paul explains the reasoning for the gifts/graces (v. 7) and the purposes for which they should be used.

            Christ gives us the following “grace” gifts as He sees fit:

He GAVE:

  • Apostles: root word is: ἀπόστολοςapostolos (Strong’s G652)

The Apostles were a distinct group of men who were not only disciples of Jesus Christ, but had actually been with Him from the beginning of His ministry and had witnessed Jesus in His resurrected body. These men, more often than not, had nearly all the following graces in that they were also prophetic in their writings, evangelistic in their outreach, shepherds of churches they planted, and, especially in the case of Paul, prolific teachers.

Unfortunately, there are many of various Christian denominations (not to mention cults) who claim the role of apostle. The same can be said about the role of prophet. However, both the roles of apostle and prophet are no longer needed, or as in the case of apostles, even possible. Scripture clearly delineated the requirements for apostleship in Acts 1:21-22.

21Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. – Acts 1:21-22 KJV

  • Prophets: root word is: προφήτηςprophētēs (Strong’s G4396)
      There was a time when prophets were more common in the Church. And depending on how one is defined, they should be as rare as apostles. But of the role of prophets in the Church today there is much confusion and debate. How ironic considering one of the purposes of the gift of the prophet was to bring unity. It must be understood, however, that the purpose of a biblical prophet, especially in the Old Testament (yet carried over in a few recorded cases in the New Testament, aside from the Apostles) was to not only “forthtell,” but to foretell. Legitimate prophets “are forthtellers (declaring the truth about God) by being foretellers (predicting what God will do).”[1]
  • Evangelists: root word is: εὐαγγελιστήςeuangelistēs (Strong’s G2099)
       Strong’s defines this as a “bringer of good tidings” (G2099). And what else are “good tidings” in Scripture other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Actually, an evangelist could be one who brings good tidings of victory in battle, or the news of a new king, but in this passage εὐαγγελιστής refers to one who encourages congregations of believers with the good news of the redemptive and restorative work of the Cross. He is also one who brings with his message encouragement and challenges for the Christian walk.

   No doubt, there is always a need for evangelists, today. This is not a gift which one could argue has been done away with or lessened. It is even likely that many pastors are also, to one degree or another, graced with the gift of evangelism. It is certainly from the evangelistic heart that flows the fervent desire to see the lost come to Christ.  

  • Pastors and Teachers: root words are: ποιμήν – poimēn (Strong’s G4166) and διδάσκαλος didaskalos (Strong’s G1330)
    • Pastors. It is often argued that because of the way the Apostle Paul linked these two offices together, the office of Pastor and the office of Teacher are one in the same. How can one be an effective senior Pastor if he is not also able to teach? Instructing in the way of truth, expositing Scripture, and expounding upon particular passages is what if not the outworking of the gift to teach the hearer? Yet, there is something distinct that defines a pastor, and not a teach who is not a pastor. A pastor can be a teacher, but a teacher can be a teacher without being a pastor. And if it is not too confusing, there are pastors who are more pastors than they are teachers. What is the difference?
         A pastor is a shepherd. Of the eighteen times ποιμήν (G4166) is translated in English in the King James Version of the Bible (KJV), seventeen of those times it is translated as “shepherd,” two times of which the word is capitalized because it is referencing Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd. Only once is the word translated as “pastor,” and that is in Ephesians 4:11. A pastor is therefore an “undershepherd,” one who tends the Flock for the owner, the Chief Shepherd, Jesus. And what a gift a pastor is to the local church! If he is a good one, he will watch out for thieves, wolves in sheep’s clothing, false teaching, and worldliness. He will feed the flock a steady diet of nourishing spiritual food from the silos of Scripture; lay down his own life, both literally and figuratively, for the sheep in his care; and answer to God for the souls of those entrusted to him (Hebrews 13:17). One can be gifted to teach, yet not bear this grave responsibility.
    • Teachers. It is this author’s contention, as mentioned earlier, that Paul did not intend to inseparably link pastor and teacher together in the same gift Jesus has given to the Church. Even though there are very few pastors who aren’t didaskalos (instructors who teach concerning the things of God, and the duties of man), there are many, many gifted “gifts” to the Church who teach, instruct, and give godly advice regarding everything from Bible questions to marriage counseling.

[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Prophet, Prophetess,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1782.

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