Summary: This message introduces and explains the Ephesians 4 equipping gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher.
The Equipping Gifts (Ephesians Chapter 4)
Pastor Eric J. Hanson
Introduction: God Wants Us All to Become Mature.
The plan of God, as revealed in His word, the Bible, is for every believer in Jesus Christ to grow up spiritually and become more and more like Jesus as time goes by. I Peter 2:2 says to new believers: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby.” The desire of our Father in Heaven is that we all grow on the good nourishment of spiritual milk and then also receive and digest spiritual meat. There have always been problems in this process however. Let’s highlight a few, as recorded in the Bible.
• The writer of Hebrews was distressed about the fact that his readers, who should have been teachers of God’s truth by that time, instead had need for the foundations of the Faith to be laid once more in their lives.
• Paul, writing in I Corinthians 3 commented on his displeasure in not being able to bring spiritual meat to the Corinthian believers at that time. Their carnal pride, divisions, and sinful practices meant that they could not receive strong spiritual food, and could not become mature.
It has always been the desire of people who are attuned to the Holy Spirit, to see all Christian believers become mature in the Lord, growing up into the Head of the Body, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Gifts to Grow Us Up
Let’s now look at the gifts the Lord gave to His church, in order to facilitate our growing up into Him. Please now read Ephesians 4:8-15.
The gifts spoken of in this passage are in the form of people God gives to help us. The Lord raises up certain people, whom He then uses to strengthen, lead, spiritually protect, and spiritually equip others in His family. These people, as we just read, are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, & teachers. Here are some introductory truths to help you understand these people gifts who equip others in the Lord.
Duration of these Giftings
The duration of these gifts is described in verse 13. They are needed until such time as all of us are walking in the following: unity in the faith and in our Knowledge of the Lord, and until we reach the level of perfect growth into the stature of the Lord. That day, my friends, has not come. Therefore these gifts are still needed and are still valid.
When will we all reach perfect unity and total growth to be like Jesus?
I Corinthians promises that this will happen for us fully when we stand face to face with the Lord. (I Corinthians 13:12)
This means that after you die, or upon the Lord’s literal bodily return to Earth, the glorification of your body and mind will take place. Then you will no longer need the work of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, or teachers. Until that day, they are needed by us all.
This list of equipping gifts is one unified list. It cannot be torn in half without tearing the fabric of scripture, thus injuring it.
Why do I even mention something that seems so obvious? Unfortunately, the reason is this. There are Bible teachers today who try to tear this list in half and say that Apostles and Prophets no longer exist. These teachers then say that evangelists, pastors, and teachers do still exist. They justify this claim through spiritual gymnastics such as tying apostleship to the writing of scripture. Of course scripture is no longer being written. This line of reasoning is full of holes however, as there are several apostles named in the Gospels, who never wrote any scripture. Therefore such an assertion is doubly baseless, (a) because scripture does not tie apostleship to Bible writing, and (b) because several first generation Apostles were not Bible writers anyway.
These theologians add other extra qualifications to the Ephesians 4 giftings and callings: qualifications which the Bible does not add to them. One such added thing which is taught by dispensationalist professors is the claim that one must have seen Jesus in person, and been taught by him in person, in order to be called to be an apostle. This is not taught by the Bible. It is taught by dispensationalist Bible teachers.
Actual Bible List of Qualifications
The Bible contains two lists of character and reputation qualifications which must be met for any man to qualify to be a church elder. There is also one list like this for those who would serve as deacons. These are found in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. There are no other such lists. Notice that the qualifications for elders and deacons have to do with proven character and servanthood within giftedness, not with living in a certain era or having seen certain things.