Answers 09 – What Is The Fivefold Ministry? – David Hibbert.
In this series called “Answers”, my goal is to help you, by sharing with you short, Biblical answers to questions that people have been asking me. Today’s question:
What is the five-fold ministry?
The phrase “five-fold ministry” is based on a few verses in the Epistle to the Ephesians.
Ephesians 4:8,11-16, NIV – (8) … “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” … (11) It was he [Himself] 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. (14) Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. (15) Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (16) From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
We don’t have time to do a thorough teaching on the five-fold ministry, so I’m just going to share a few short clarifications.
- What Are The Five Different Ministries?
The five ministries in this passage are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Some theologians argue that, because of the form of the Greek text, that “pastors and teachers” should be translated as Pastor-Teachers, but in my experience, I know many Pastors who can’t teach, and teachers who can’t pastor, so I believe that the traditional translation of “pastors AND teachers” is correct.
- Where Do The Five Ministries Come From?
Verse 8 says that the Ascended Jesus gave five gifts, and that’s why they are sometimes called “the Ascension Gifts”. And these five gifts become five expressions of ministry.
They are not “gifts or manifestations of the Spirit”, they are gifts of the Son. The word “he” in verse 11 should read as “He Himself”. It emphasizes the fact that Jesus didn’t come up with 5 gifts to give to people. The five gifts or empowerments came out of who Jesus is. The five gifts are the outflow and expression of the ministry of Jesus.
Their source is Jesus, their expression is Jesus, and their empowerment is Jesus.
If we had the time, we could study the fact that Jesus functioned in all five of these ministries.
Jesus was called the Apostle (Hebrews 3:1).
Jesus was called a Prophet (Matthew 13:57; Luke 7:16; 13:33; 24:19; John 4:19; 9:17).
Jesus certainly did the work of an Evangelist, a proclaimer of the Gospel (Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 11:5; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:19, 7:22, 9:6, 20:1).
Jesus was called a Pastor or Shepherd (Matthew 2:6, 25:32, 26:31; Mark 6:34, 14:27; John 10:2, 10:11, 10:14, 10:16; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25, 5:4; Revelation 7:17).
And Jesus was called a Teacher (Matthew 8:19, 9:11, 12:38, 17:24, 19:16, 22:16,24,36, 23:8,10, 26:18; Mark 4:38, 5:35, 9:17,38, 10:17,20,35, 12:14,19,32, 13:1, 14:14; Luke 3:12, 7:40, 8:49, 9:38, 10:25, 11:45, 12:13, 18:18, 19:39, 20:21,28,39, 21:7, 22:11; John 1:38, 3:2,10, 8:4, 11:28, 13:13,14, 20:16).
- The Purpose of the Five Gifts or Ministries.
According to Ephesians 4:12 to 16, there are a number of purposes of the five-fold gifts.
First, to prepare God’s people for works of service. That word “prepare” (Strong’s G2677 = καταρτισμός [katartismos]) means “to perfect, to mend, to completely furnish”. So the fivefold ministry is to train Christians with everything they need, so that they can do the work of ministry.
Second, to build up the body of Christ – which is the church. That word “build up” (Strong’s G3619 = οἰκοδομή [oikodomē]) literally means “to build a house”. So the fivefold ministry is also to form the church into a healthy and fully functioning organism.
Third, to bring us all into unity around a common faith based on a full knowledge and revelation of who Jesus, the Son of God is.
Fourth, to mature us into Christlikeness – into His character and His heart.
Fifth, to help us become firm in the faith and not influenced by bad doctrine, trickery or deceitfulness.
And Sixth, to empower us to work together, and be fully functioning in our purpose and our assignments from God.
- How They Function.
The fivefold ministries are not positions of authority, they are expressions of service. A person doesn’t get voted in as an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher. Instead, a person receives the gift or grace from Jesus, and they function in their ministry expression, whether they are ever given a position or not.
The fivefold ministries are not leadership functions, they are training functions. An apostle is not an apostle if someone calls him or her an apostle. They are an apostle if they function as an apostle, which includes the function of equipping people for works of ministry. A person who believes that they are a fivefold minister, but are not equipping anyone, is really not a fivefold minister.
A pastor is not just someone who leads a church, a pastor is someone who is training other to care for people.
An evangelist is not just someone who witnesses to the lost, an evangelist is someone who trains others to evangelize.
A prophet is not just someone who prophecies, a prophet is someone who trains others to prophesy.
A teacher is not just someone who teaches, a teacher is someone who teaches others how to minister to people.
An apostle is not just someone who “apostles”, an apostle is someone who trains others to minister as a fivefold minister.
The fivefold ministries are not titles to be conferred, they are ministries to be recognized. Because the fivefold ministries are given from Jesus, they are not to be conferred by men, but instead, they are to be recognized by other people.
The fivefold ministry is all about preparing Christians for works of service. The gifts come from Jesus, represent a ministry function of Jesus, should reflect Jesus, and should point people to Jesus. They are not titles to wear, but expressions of training that continue to do the work that Jesus began while He was on the earth, and that Jesus continues to do through His fivefold servants.