I’m in the early days of a series on the ministry gifts of Ephesians 4. In my own studies of Scripture, I am convinced of the necessity of all five of these giftings to help equip the body of Christ to accomplish all that God desires. Yes, that means I believe both the ministries of apostle and prophet still exist today, actually are needed today.
Now, I do realise such is a loaded proposition (I am already beginning to dodge the stones left and right). But I am slowly working my way forward as I share why I believe Jesus still desires to gift people in these ministries. In simple form, I listed these 4 points:
- 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 also put forth the important point that, when we consider these five ministry roles, the best person to start with is Jesus. We don’t start with Paul or Peter or John, nor even your favourite pastor. We start with Jesus, since He was the greatest apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher.
In my last article, I specifically considered how Christ was the great apostle. We might not usually think of Jesus as an apostle. But he was the greatest ‘sent one’ in the history of mankind. And he was faithful to the Father’s mission (missionary and apostle are very synonymous in meaning).
So, in this article, I want to finish out considering how Jesus was not only the great apostle, but also the great prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher.
Jesus As Prophet
When we speak of Jesus as a prophet, we can possibly think of other religions (Islam, etc.) that would only consider Jesus as a ‘good prophet’, but would not consider him the divine Son. Thus, to refer to Jesus as a prophet can sound derogatory to some Christians.
But, while we most assuredly would affirm Christ’s divinity as part of our Triune God, we also must recognise Christ as the greatest prophet who ever walked the earth. And, if we think about it, that’s not too difficult of a proposition. We see some references in the New Testament to Jesus as prophet, though many rejected him as such:
And though he [Herod the tetrarch] wanted to put him [Jesus] to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. (Matthew 14:5)
10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” (Matthew 21:10-11)
17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.” (Luke 24:17-20)
We recognise Jesus as a prophet because he spoke the very words of God (see John 3:34). And, even more, we see Jesus was the very Word of God made flesh (John 1:1). Thus, I think we can all pretty much agree Jesus was the great prophet that was to come.
Jesus As Evangelist
Not only was Jesus an apostle and a prophet, but he was also an evangelist. The word evangelist (Greek euaggelistes) simply means ‘a bearer of good news’. And, it is the word gospel (Greek euaggelion) that means ‘good news’. So, yes, Jesus was definitely the great evangelist bringing good news to humanity:
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent 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)
Jesus As Shepherd
Again, we might not have ever realised Jesus was a pastor, but that’s because the word can somewhat throw us off.
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the word pastor. Now, it is a sufficient word. But so many people have such unhelpful ideas about this word that I prefer a better word – shepherd. And that’s what the Greek word (poimen) literally means. In our English versions of the Bible, the Greek word only gets translated as pastor one time, and that is in the passage being discussed from Ephesians 4. Everywhere else, it gets translated as shepherd.
Therefore, noting that poimen literally means shepherd, we can definitely note how Christ is the great shepherd, or pastor, of God’s people:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25)
In its essence, a shepherd is called to care for, feed and lead the sheep. And, as the good shepherd, that is exactly what Jesus did and still does today. God, Himself, is shepherding His people through Christ (see Ezekiel 34:11-16).
Jesus As Teacher
We know that Jesus was the greatest teacher of all time. Again, he taught the very words of God (again, see John 3:34), even being the Word incarnate himself. You’d expect the Word incarnate to be able to teach the truth of God with accuracy, authority and power. Hey, Jesus is even the truth (see John 14:6).
The Hebrew/Aramaic word many times used to describe Christ was Rabbi, which literally means teacher. We see this in such passages as these:
Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” (John 1:38)
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” (John 3:1-2)
Many times, when Jesus had finished teaching, the crowds would respond with awe at the authority and wisdom by which He taught (see Matthew 13:54; Mark 1:22). Therefore, Jesus was definitely a teacher par excellence, being himself the Word and the Truth.
So, my main point at this point is to show how Jesus fulfilled all five of these ministries mentioned in Eph 4:11. Not only that, but he was the greatest to ever walk out these five ministries. And as I stated with apostles, I state again here – one can only fulfil the ministry of prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher because Jesus himself fulfilled those roles. He, and no one else, stands as our great model and the one who will gift us in these ministries.
In my next couple of articles, I will take up looking at the person who came in the stead of Jesus to make sure the ministry (and ministries) of Jesus continued on earth – the Holy Spirit.