Summary: What is required to prepare God's people for His work? Mending the holes.
Ephesians 4: The Gift
Do you like to get a gift? Sure you do, everyone loves to get gifts. Well most people, remember this from our series last Christmas. (Clip from Big Bang Theory)
Often when we think of gifts in a church setting we think of the gift of grace, or the gift of salvation or maybe spiritual gifts but in the scripture that read this morning there was a different set of gifts that was spoken about. Ephesians 4:11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.
Seriously have you ever thought of me as a gift? So who are these people the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers? Well apostles were the apostles. An apostles position and qualifications are outlined in the book of Acts when the remaining 11 were seeking a replacement for Judas. Acts 1:21-22 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus— from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.” And when Paul was claiming his right to Apostleship he said 1 Corinthians 9:1 Am I not as free as anyone else? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes? Isn’t it because of my work that you belong to the Lord? So the topic of Apostles is moot now.
Often when we think of prophets we think of those who foretell the future. The whole Tarot cards or crystal ball thing, but that isn’t how the bible uses the term prophet. Biblical prophets weren’t into foretelling they were into forthtelling. And they is a difference, fore-telling is where you say “this will happen at a particular time in the future.” Forth-telling is more of a warning, “If you continue on this path this will be your destination.” So in the popular sense a prophet would say “on December 3rd you will be in Toronto” where a biblical prophet would say “If you continue west on the trans-Canada you will wind up in Toronto.” Or more accurately a prophet would state: “This type of behaviour will result in these consequences.” I have said different times that that the message of the Old Testament prophets was “Turn or Burn”, other words if you continue in the destination you are travelling, this will be your final destination. And these guys were not local church pastors in any stretch of the imagination, they were itinerant preacher, and that continued into the New Testament, prophets travelled to different areas with their message.
To a certain extent that is still part of my job as today, when I warn you of the consequences of your behaviour or choices, when I caution you about the end result of not following Jesus, I am simply forth telling the future.
The evangelists that are mentioned here would be those that we think of as church planters or missionaries. They took the good news somewhere else. I have met guys who have started a half a dozen churches in their careers; and others who have travelled overseas doing the same thing those are the type of people that are spoken of here. When I was preparing to start Cornerstone I had a coach by the name of Jim Griffith and he had planted several churches in the States, he would fit into that category.
And then there were the Pastors and Teachers and many of the commentators felt that this was a twin role for those who oversaw the local church in the New Testament. The word pastor sounds a lot like pasture and there is probably a good reason for that. Pastor comes from the Latin word that meant shepherd. And the shepherd’s main responsibility was to take care of and protect the sheep. You might recall that Jesus referred to himself as the good shepherd and when he confirmed Peter’s calling on the beach of the Sea of Galilee he told him John 21:17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
So the pastor was to take care of the people of God, protecting them and guiding them, but it went further than that. Remember this was long before the printing press was invented so there were very few books to be had and those there were available were incredibly expensive, a book the size of our New Testament would cost a year’s wage for the average person, and so most of what was taught to the masses was taught orally. The story of Jesus was told long before it was written, and sometimes I still refer to myself as a story teller.