“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…” Ephesians 4:11-12.
This post will only concern the first phrase in Ephesians 4:11 due to the complexity of the five gifts mentioned above and their place among all of the gifts. The balance of Ephesians 4:11-12 will be covered in the next post.
Ephesians 4:11-16 are all one long sentence which covers a number of things that need careful consideration.
Since this is the case it has been necessary to separate this sentence into several parts in order to do it justice, my apologies for any confusion which may arise from breaking this up.
There are three different kinds of gifts given to the believer; those given by God the Father, Romans 12:3-16; gifts given by the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; and the gifts of God the Son Jesus, Ephesians 4:11. These will be covered to some extent as we go along.
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles…” Ephesians 4:11a.
The word apostle means messenger, as does the word angel who are messengers from God. The important thing to hold on to is that these messengers are from God and tell us God’s message to us. If they tell us things that are not Scriptural they are not from God.
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.
This is why Christians must have at least a fair knowledge of the Bible, not just what the pastor says, but with your own eyes study.
There are two kinds of apostles, Christ’s apostles, and those sent by Christ after His ascension. There are also two very important distinctions between the two groups.
The twelve apostles of Jesus Christ were selected by Him from His many disciples, so they had to have seen Him with their own eyes.
“Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.” Matthew 10:2-4.
Judas Iscariot having opted out of this exalted position by betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (see Matthew 27:1-10) was eventually replaced by the Apostle Paul.
The Apostle Peter had, along with a small group of about 120 disciples, decided to pick a new apostle to replace Judas to join the original eleven. This was done by selecting two names and casting lots between them. The lot fell to Matthias.
Please read this interesting account which takes place shortly after Jesus’ ascension into heaven in Acts 1:15-26
This was done presumptuously I believe since the Lord Jesus surely had Paul, a Pharisee before he was converted in mind all along. It is significant that the selection of Matthias by the group was done before the Holy Spirit had come upon them (see Acts 2).
It is also significant that Matthias’ name is only mentioned twice in the New Testament, right here in Acts 1:23, 26, while the Apostle Paul went on to write most of the New Testament.
The apostles selected by the Lord Jesus were given the primary job of establishing the church, Christ’s representative on earth, giving its format, and spreading the gospel. It is the task of the church, the body of Christ, to adhere to the format given by the apostles, and to continue to spread the gospel.
So then, we find that the distinctions between the 12 apostles selected by Jesus, and the ones who followed are that the twelve were handpicked by Him alone and that they were to build the church which was begun at Pentecost, and to lay the foundation which is Christ Jesus and Him crucified.
“Now, therefore, you [Gentiles] are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22.
The apostles here have laid the foundation of this building which is Christ only, nothing, or no one else. The verse says, “the apostles and prophets”, the apostles have laid the foundation, and the prophets, the Old Testament prophets, have confirmed by their prophecies that Jesus is the Christ spoken of in the Old Testament.
As a result, there are only twelve apostles, these men are the only ones sent by Jesus to set up the church. There is absolutely no one with the authority to change it from the New Testament format given by the apostles who wrote it.
However, we now come to the apostles mentioned in Ephesians 4:11, these apostles do not have the authority of the original twelve. Scripture though shows them as having first place in the church.
“Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:27-28.
So these are first in care of the church and their job is not unlike the original twelve apostles in that it is up to them to assure that the church continues to conform to the format which Christ’s apostles set up.
Those who go into a region which has no church and lay the groundwork might also be named as apostles.
The groundwork would include setting the sure foundation of Christ Jesus and Him crucified, because there is no other foundation to be laid. The apostle would also help to name the elders for that church, train and raise up teachers, pastors, and give the format for worship.
Somewhere along the way the apostles lost their job; whether it was because the men who were called to do the work of an apostle did not step up and do it, or because ungodly men began to dominate the church and took over is the question.
There is actually an example of a man who imposed his will over the local church in one of the Apostle John’s letters. This is the manner in which Christ’s church has been corrupted over the centuries in man’s attempt to make it conform to his own image.
“I [Apostle John] wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.” 3 John 1:9-11.
Christ’s church as the twelve apostles set it up nearly two thousand years ago was organized into local bodies, with each one ruled by Christ through the Holy Spirit. And with each church responsible to abide by the bylaws set out in the New Testament.
While Christian Bible schools, Sunday schools, colleges and seminaries have done much good, Jesus Christ never designed the church, His body on earth, to be an organized religion, with synods and ministers answering to a central body. Christianity is not intended as an organized religion.
On the whole, if churchmen are asked if apostles exist today, they will tell you that there were only twelve apostles, no more.
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelist, and some pastors and teachers…” Ephesians 4:11.
In the next post we will begin with the gift of prophets in the above passage.
Christ’s Church, Ephesians 4:11a taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 2-27-16, updated on 6-9-21.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.