There are 32 verses in Ephesians Chapter 4 and yet at times it feels that we can pay particular attention to just one. I and I am sure many other leaders are frequently asked, “what is your view of the five-fold?”
There is I believe just this one verse in the bible which lists the five-fold all together:
Apostle – Prophet – Evangelist – Pastor – Teacher.
And yet it attracts so many questions: are there just 5 gifts of Christ, are there more, what are they, what does it mean for us in leading the church 2000 years later, to list a few.
Some reach conclusions about the structure of the church from this one verse and to be sure there is much to be gained of course and it should not be overlooked as there is clearly great guidance. But as is often the case it is dangerous to be too rigid in our understanding, interpretation and application. It is as many have heard foolish to worship angels, but it is also foolish to ignore them! Likewise I suggest it is foolish to place all of our ‘churchmanship’ around one verse, but it is equally foolish to ignore it.
I am certain that the verse is vital for the church and that a healthy application of the five gifts is essential, we need it for certain, but don’t use it to build a church with 5 offices, that goal is potentially as distracting as ignoring the apostolic & prophetic in our ministries.
I would suggest that importantly we must ensure in our desire to embrace all of the 5 gifts listed that we don’t overlook the purpose and outcome of this portion of scripture and the context in which the five gifts are listed.
This series of articles which you are reading is about the apostolic. It as a mindset, beliefs and behaviours which become a lens through which we can live and view other aspects of the christian life and the advancement of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Ephesian 4:11, expands that lens.
I can say, the scribbles in my bible confirming it that in recent years I have fallen in love with Ephesians 4 in a way which makes it a chapter which keeps on giving. Of course chapters weren’t in the original letters but you know what I mean.
The context of 4:11 is to say the least extraordinary.
v 1-3 The Unity of the Spirit
“being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3
v 4 – 6 The singleness of the body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, and baptism
v 7 – 11 The gifts of Christ
v 12 The purpose of equipping the saints
v 13 The resulting unity of faith, knowledge of the Son of God, maturity of believers
v 14 The outcome to be no longer tossed around, tricked or deceived
v 15 Growing up to be like Jesus, the head
v 16 The whole body working efficiently and in the excellence of love.
Not to mention the remaining 16 verses of this rich chapter.
We need the five- fold because we need the outcomes. If we pursue the structure or the five ‘offices’ and do not see or expect to see the outcomes then I suggest that we have missed something very important in our lives, within and outside of the church.
The purpose of the ‘five – fold’ is to equip the saints, and therefore the challenge for us all, whether leaders in the church or outside of the church is in what ways are we being equipped and what fruit are we expecting to see. A five-fold approach which doesn’t expect to see unity, maturity, Christlikeness, lack of deceived believers, and a body built up in love is I suggest greatly missing the mark.
Ephesians.4:11 is leading us to embrace these gifts and to see through heaven’s ministerial eyes, and be equipped accordingly: To see the world from the apostolic lens of being sent to bring change, the prophetic lens of bringing tomorrow into today and valuing the unseen world, the lens of the good news of Jesus and the needs of mankind, the lens of the word and the spirit and the lens of caring for each other.
But all for the purpose of a body walking in unity and love.