Our God is a ‘giving’ God. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave….” (John 3:16) used to be the ‘best known’ verse in the entire Bible. Now, as a recent Heritage College & Seminary chapel speaker noted, the best known verse is ‘Judge not that you be not judged.’ (Matt. 7:1) Times and perspectives have changed!
In Ephesians 4, as Paul unpacks Christ’s plan for the church He has designed, he speaks of the gifted leaders whom Christ provided to ‘prepare God’s people for works of service.’
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers…”
a) ‘some‘ – not all – Not every leader is gifted by Christ identically. In the foundation (compare Ephesians 2:20), apostles and prophets function as they establish the scriptural framework upon which the church in every place and in every culture will build. I interpret this as signifying the place assigned by these leaders in writing scripture (Old Testament = prophets, New Testament = apostles). We don’t need a new foundation…one has already been installed with its cornerstone being Christ.
b) apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors-teachers – 4 gifted offices to evangelize and then edify those reached with the gospel message. Though there is diversity in the group, there is unity as they collectively are given to the universal church for its establishment.
c) he gave – These leaders did not just choose their vocational service, though as I Timothy 3 explains, an internal ‘desire’ to serve would be expected as confirmation that Christ has called them. Noone should be ‘talked’ into leadership, though Scripture is replete with reluctant recruits. Consider the resistance of Moses, at the age of 80, beside the burning bush or Jeremiah’s protest that he is ‘only a child.’
Why did Christ distribute gifted leaders to the church?
“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.”
The Christ who descended from heaven and ascended back into a place ‘higher than the heavens’ (v.10) will fill the whole universe. He is God incarnate (in the flesh) and His omnipresence is but one aspect of His deity depicted for us here. The exalted Christ, now at the Father’s right hand, leads and guides His body on earth (the church) with gifted leaders in place to equip or prepare God’s people with the divine resources to accomplish the will of God in their speaking and serving (compare I Peter 4:10,11 – one of my favourite, succinct texts on standards for ministry).
As the apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers function, God’s people serve, and the body of Christ (the church) is built up in unity and knowledge. Where a local body of believers lacks unity and increasing knowledge of the Son of God, and where immaturity is more evident that maturity, is this not an indictment on the leadership and how they have functioned? Surely the lack of edification and evangelistic fruit does not reflect Christ’s well-designed plan!
If we are ‘God’s people’ we should thank Christ for the leaders He has supplied. We should rejoice when these same leaders mobilize us, challenging us to greater service of the Master and calling us away from self-serving, time-wasting activities to investments in works of service with eternal consequences. Though ‘pastor appreciation’ month is officially over, I thank God for those who have grasped this plan and are functioning accordingly. My privileged role, called my ‘job,’ is to come alongside a variety of leaders, here in Ontario, and encourage them in this process. Many times I leave appointments rejoicing at the intentional ministry plan being followed. I’m slowly catching a fresh glimpse, from many angles, of what Jesus Christ is accomplishing in villages, towns, cities and regions of our own country, and through the ‘adventures-with-God’ mission trips I’ve been allowed to take, His great work in other parts of this planet we call earth.