11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 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.
As I noted in my first article, Paul makes it quite clear as to the purpose of these five (or four) ministry gifts:
- To prepare and equip God’s people for works of service, or ministry, since the Greek word could be translated either way (vs12).
- So that the body of Christ might be built up (vs12).
- To help Christ’s body reach unity in the faith and knowledge of Christ, becoming mature and grown up into the fullness of Christ (vs13).
Yet, I also noted some practical reasons as to why these giftings are needed in the church today, though these are not specifically found in the Ephesians text:
- Jesus, Himself, functioned in all five of these ministries.
- The Holy Spirit also functions in all five of these ministries
- The body of Christ, empowered by the Spirit of Christ, is now called to be all of Christ in all of the earth.
- Therefore, Christ’s desire is to continue to gift people in such ministry roles.
I know that is a loaded statement, of which many will want me to give more explanation. But suffice to say now, those three points above are my conclusion from reading the New Testament text. But the next weeks (and maybe a little longer) will be spent laying out a further understanding of how I have come to such a conclusion.
But moving on…Here is one of the most important things to remember before jumping into Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:11-13 – Jesus was the greatest apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher that has ever existed. That is where we have to start. When considering anything in Scripture, our starting points as new covenant believers is how did Christ fulfil such.
And, though, I plan to look at how Jesus functioned in all five of these ministries, in this post I particularly want to consider how Jesus was the great apostle. Again, one might have never thought of Jesus as an apostle. Most think of Paul in regards to an apostolic ministry. But Jesus was truly an apostle and, again, He was the greatest apostle that ever walked the earth.
Consider these words from the writer to the Hebrews:
Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession. (Hebrews 3:1)
Here we see the writer to the Hebrews identifying Jesus as an apostle. But, for many, this passage will not necessarily mean much. It might simply point out that Jesus had some ‘office’ or ‘position’ as apostle.
But what we really want to know is what practically made Jesus an apostle? He did not just walk around with a business card with the title, ‘apostle’, written on it. So what is an apostle?
The word apostle (Greek apostolos) simply means ‘sent one’. Though so many people have so many conceptions of what an apostle is (of which I hope to address at least most ideas), in its essence, the word simply means ‘sent one’. And the verb for sent, in the Greek, is apostello.
Yet, what is also interesting to note is that the Greek word, apostolos, and the Latin word, missum (where we get our word missionary), mean exactly the same thing. They both mean ‘sent one’. In a most simple understanding, apostle = missionary and missionary = apostle. That doesn’t mean every missionary functions in an apostolic ministry. Of course not. Still, in their essence, they are synonyms. But I am probably getting a little ahead of myself.
Therefore, knowing what the word apostle means (sent one), we can definitely concur that Jesus was an apostle. Remember? He was sent by the Father with a specific mission to accomplish. I mean, I really don’t need to quote Scripture to show this, but let’s consider a few passages.
In Nazareth, Jesus announced He had be sent with this mission:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent [apostello] me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18-19)
We see other Scriptures pointing to the fact that Christ had been sent by the Father:
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent [apostello] me. (Mark 9:37)
But he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent [apostello] for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43)
For he whom God has sent [apostello] utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. (John 3:34)
Again, I cannot emphasise enough that Paul or Peter were not the greatest apostles to ever live. That’s one mistake we regularly make. Jesus and Jesus alone stands as the great apostle, for He completely fulfilled the mission for which He was sent by the Father.
Therefore, it must be duly noted that an apostle, any apostle, is only able to function as an apostle because Jesus was the first and greatest apostle. This will have important ramifications later on as we consider the ministry of an apostle.
Still, I must say that I am truly glad that Christ is the great and faithful apostle of our confession (Hebrews 3:1). I think you would all agree as well.