and he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,
(Ephesians 4:11 ESV)
In today’s passage Paul lists four offices that God has created within the church (His family). The spiritual gifts that allow someone to function in one of these roles was given by Jesus; the “he” in today’s passage refers back to the previous verse. Jesus distributes these gifts to His people as He sees fit and He does so through the power of the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:11].
Apostles: These include the original 12 called by Jesus to follow Him for three years. It also includes Paul who was called by Jesus along the Damascus Road [Acts 9]. The Greek word for apostle means “one sent forth with a message”. The apostles were given divine revelation directly from Jesus and were tasked with telling others about it.
Prophets: These are people who spoke for God in a predictive sense. They would receive information from God about future events and tell others what action should be taken.
Most scholars do not believe these two offices exist any longer. These offices were probably foundational – they existed only until the church could get started and until the New Testament was written. After that, there was no more need for apostles and prophets.
Evangelists: These are those who have the desire and ability to tell others of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Greek word is ευαγγελιστεσ (pronounced: yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace’) and means one who brings good news. Although all believers are commanded to tell others about Jesus, there are others, like missionaries, who are called to do this full-time.
Shepherd and teachers: In the original Greek these two words describe one office, not two. That office is the pastor of a local church who leads people (shepherds them) by teaching them the meaning of God’s word and how to apply it to their lives.
This list is not exhaustive of all the spiritual gifts that Jesus gives out. It only covers those that are applicable to church leaders. There are approximately 20 spiritual gifts listed in the New Testament. The others can be found in Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12.
Since these gifts were given by Jesus, they need to be taken seriously by the people to whom He has given them. They should also be respected by those of us under the care of those to whom they are given.
Sometimes we expect things from our pastors that we really have no right to expect. We need to remember that they are created human beings just like the rest of us. They are sinners too.
Our pastors and other church leaders are doing the work that God has called them to do. They didn’t choose their calling. God chose it for them.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.