Summary: The leader’s responsibility is to bring out the best in people.
Allow me to thank all of you who lovingly prayed that my surgery would be successful. Thank you also for helping us one way or the other. Our family felt so encouraged. I remember some of you assuring me not to worry for they will take care of the church. Those are words that pastors would love to hear. Let’s have more of that. Not the surgery, of course. Seriously, let’s have more of the pursuit to follow the Biblical pattern for the church, which is spelled out in Ephesians 4:11-13 as we continue our series on spiritual gifts. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” There are three categories of gifts; the support gifts, the service gifts and the sign gifts. This morning we will look at the support gifts. Let us pray…
If we look at the context, our Lord is described here as a victorious king who conquered another kingdom. In his victory parade, the king gives away to people the treasures. Ephesians 4:7 tell us, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” Among the gifts that He gave us are gifted men. Verse 11 goes like this: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers”. Note the words “It was he”. God chose these men out of His grace, not because of any merit or any superior qualities on their part. It was His sovereign choice, just as it was His wise decision to give each one of us at least one spiritual gift so we can effectively serve our place in the body of Christ. No one can boast about it. It was all by His grace. The gifts that Ephesians 4:11 tell us are called support gifts. These are gifted men strategically positioned for leadership to equip or train believers for ministry. Let’s look at them one by one.
Let’s take the first two, the apostles and prophets. I would try not to be too technical. But there’s a lot of controversial claims nowadays that we have to deal with it. We have to defend you from error and make sure we remain in the truth. There is a sense that the apostles and prophets belong to the early stages of the church. Why? In Ephesians 2:20 it says that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Note the word “foundation.” When do we lay down the foundation of a building? When it is half-finished? When it is already finished? Or, before we even build anything? We lay down the foundation at the beginning, not in the middle or the end of the construction.
The word “apostle” literally means “one who is sent” or “a messenger.” Our Lord Jesus chose the original apostles to bear witness for Him, sending them as His representatives. In fact, when they replaced Judas, look at the qualification that Peter had set in Acts 1:21-22: “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” Anyone who would claim to be a modern-day apostle would find it impossible, not just difficult, to meet that criteria. By the way, that’s the only time in the Bible that they replaced an apostle. There is no such a thing as apostolic succession. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the popes succeeded Peter as the chief apostle. But, if we follow that logic, then they should have twelve popes at the same time and not just one at a time.
The word “prophet” literally means “one who speaks before”. Somebody asked me yesterday, “Does God give the gift of prophecy until today?” Do we have modern-day prophets? My answer would be yes and no. It depends on what kind of prophecy we are talking about. If we are talking about foretelling or giving predictions about the future, then my answer would be “no.” God gave us sufficient prophecies about the future. The Bible is already complete, nothing to add to or subtract from the word of God. The prophets proclaimed the words of God when the Bible was not yet completed. If the prophecy we are talking about is forthtelling or proclaiming what is already revealed, then my answer would be “yes,” we still have prophets today.