Is the following verse enough for establishing a five-fold ministry doctrine (as suggested by proponents of the New Apostolic Reformation)?
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
– Source: Ephesians 4:11 NASB
We should first note that a comparison of Paul’s listings of gifts and functionaries (types of gifted ministers) are not exhaustive but illustrative. Most commentators agree that Paul gives no clue here that he meant “these and no more.” The same reasoning that develops a five-fold ministry doctrine could develop an eight-fold ministry doctrine from 1 Corinthians 12:28:
And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. — 1 Corinthians 12:28 NASB
We could similarly develop a seven-fold ministry doctrine from Romans 12:6-8:
“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
– Source: Romans 12:6-8 NASB
Thus, many commentators have suggested we preface this list in Ephesians 4:11 with something like “these are some of the gifts that he gave.”
Furthermore, many Greek scholars join the last two items in the verse and consider this a dual-reference to just one functionary:
kai autos didōmi ho apostolos, ho de prophētēs, ho de euangelistēs, ho de poimēn kai didaskalos,
There are particles before each of the functionaries listed, but none before didaskalos (teacher). With “pastor” joined to “teacher” by the conjunction kai, every scholar I have read on the topic insists that there is a joining of the two functions in one person — the teaching shepherd (what we would call pastor [the overseer who must be able to teach — 1 Timothy 3:2]).
The NASB, perhaps the most reliable, literal translation, shows the two as united by placing an “and” just before “some as pastors and teachers.” This first “and” is unnecessary if one is to see the last two functionaries as separate items in a list.
Thus, in Ephesians 4:11, it seems we have a listing of four functionaries that is not meant to be exhaustive — not the establishing of a five-fold ministry doctrine.
[A lengthy addition to the above thoughts can be found in the comments below]
© Copyright 2019, David Kowalski. All rights reserved. Links to this post are encouraged. Do not repost or republish without permission.
First published (or major update) on Friday, October 15, 2021.
Last updated on June 13, 2022. Original content is © Copyright Apologetics Index. All Rights Reserved. For usage guidelines see link at the bottom.
The thing is, David, that Ephesians 4:11 on specifies the role of the five mentioned ascension gifts, being ‘for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ’, and the rest that follows. Whether there are four or five ascension gifts is worthy of discussion, but you can’t go adding words to back your own context when another could be just as easily meant. The actual context is to Christ’s ascension and His intention to present these gifts to the Church to assist with their growth. The question we should ask, then, is were these gifts evident in the Book of Acts, or mentioned in the Epistles? The answer is squarely yes.
I am glad to read that you agree with me and all orthodox Christians that after His ascension, Christ poured out the gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 for the equipping and edifying of believers. I must admit, however, that I do not understand your intent when you say that I have “added back words to my own context” since you do not specify what context it is to which you refer nor the exact words that have supposedly been “added back” to that context. You seem to imply that I do not believe that the gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 were actually given to the Church as the verse says. Let me assure you that I believe what the Holy Spirit inerrantly inspired the Apostle Paul to write in Ephesians 4:11.
If that assurance does not satisfy you, it might be that you hold to the specific, aberrant teachings of the New Apostolic Reformation. Unfortunately, most aberrant teachers within Christendom use divinely-inspired Scripture to support their erroneous assertions. With this possibility in mind, allow me to paste below a segment from an email I once sent to someone who had questions about the application of Ephesians 4:11 within the NAR:
The question of the continuing office of apostle is a complex one but I believe the case is strong to at
least say that Apostle with a capital A, as in the sense of the original apostles is a closed category. Paul
considered himself to be the last of these (1 Corinthians 15:8). The following article by Bob DeWaay
argues for this http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue66.htm. DeWaay addresses the “until” in verse 13 (some who argue for modern-day Apostles say that no one can answer this “until” but I have read several authors who do so quite well). Essentially, DeWaay says though that category no longer exists, the benefit we receive from it lasts until Christ returns.
” for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we
all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the
measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” â€“ Ephesians 4:12-13
The Assemblies of God has published a thoughtful position paper on the topic that I recommend: http://ag.org/top/Beliefs/Position_Papers/pp_downloads/pp_4195_apostles_prophets.pdf After reading these two works it should seem clear that there are requirements for Apostleship that modern people cannot meet. Citing any similarities between a modern person and the biblical Apostles does not establish sameness. I am similar to President Trump in that I am a married man with two daughters and I sometimes say things I should not. Those similarities do not make me the president of The United States, however. I do not occupy the same office that Donald Trump does just because I am similar to him in some ways. As long as there remain significant factors that distinguish between me and the president I cannot claim to have the same office he has.
Another thing we should note is that “apostle” (apostolos) was a common word in NT times and is used in various ways in the NT itself. Not everyone called an apostle in the NT was an apostle in the same sense as the twelve and Paul. Regardless of what questions might remain in our minds, it is helpful to see how the early Church fathers approached this issue. They spoke of the apostolic era as something that was over:
“No doubt, after the time of the apostles, the truth respecting the belief of God suffered corruption,
but it is equally certain that during the life of the apostles their teaching on this great article did not
suffer at all; so that no other teaching will have the right of being received as apostolic than that which
is at the present day proclaimed in the churches of apostolic foundation.” â€“ Tertullian (c. 155â€“230), The
Five Books Against Marcion (chapter 21)
“I do not issue commands on these points as if I were an apostle; but, as your fellow-servant, I put you
in mind of them” â€“ Ignatius, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Antiochians, 11
They considered themselves the “disciples of the apostles” â€“ (The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus,
11; Fragments of Papias, 5; cf. The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, 6; Ignatius, Against Heresies,
Justin Martyr (early second century) seemed to clearly place the biblical Apostles in a distinct category:
“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place,
and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then,
when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good
things.” (Justin Martyr, The First Apology of Justin, 67)
Someone may object that we should disregard the testimony of the early fathers but the only ground
upon which they could do so would be that they spoke with no apostolic authority (thus defeating their
own argument)! The church fathers clearly believed in the perpetuity of the spiritual gifts (I could provide a large number of quotes to show this) but they did not believe in the perpetuity of the Apostolic office.
The Didache (variously dated by scholars from the late first to early second century) is the only early
work of which I am aware in which apostles are mentioned:
11:4 “But concerning the apostles and prophets, so do ye according to the ordinance of the Gospel.”
11:5 “Let every apostle, when he cometh to you, be received as the Lord;”
11:6 “but he shall not abide more than a single day, or if there be need, a 11:7 but if he abide three days,
he is a false prophet.”
11:8 “And when he departeth let the apostle receive nothing save bread, until he findeth shelter;”
11:9 “but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.”
Within the context of the entire writing, I think it is most reasonable to conclude that “apostle” is meant in the more common Greek usage as a messenger/minister. The work as a whole has much to say regarding the issue of itinerant ministers and how to evaluate them.
I conclude that we do not have Apostles today who function in the same category as Peter and Paul. The
issue of whether one can legitimately claim to be an “apostle” in some lesser sense is a less significant
one I’ll leave on the table though I would not argue against such a position.
First, this is a bit slippery since the term “prophet” can be used variously and those who say it translates to modern preaching are partly right. A modern preacher should have a word from God to preach. Still, we have Agabus and the daughters of Phillip mentioned in a different sense â€“ one that includes shorter verbalizations and was not limited to forthtelling (foretelling was accepted in NT practice). It is not nearly so easy to say that functionaries of this kind ended with the apostolic era.
The biggest problem for us today is that many who claim to be prophets today have repeatedly prophesied falsely. Things they have predicted failed to come to pass. I would sadly add that this is true of many of the predictions made by ministers in the twentieth century. Prophets in the New Apostolic Reformation, however, are particularly notorious for having their predictions fail. No one seems to notice that these people are false prophets and they never skip a beat in their prophesying.
Some of these “prophets” have been exposed for living in unrepentant, egregious sin (see this article by Dr. Orrel
Steinkamp (a Pentecostal scholar â€“ former A/G Bible College professor but no longer with the A/G) —
http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/orrel19.html. It documents the highly touted Paul Cain’s practicing homosexuality during the time of his “ministry.” I could give other examples. Furthermore, these teachers promote a wide range of serious heresies. See, for example, this article by Keith Gibson titled “The Apostolic and Prophetic Movement” — http://www.arcapologetics.org/articles/article22.htm
I would not deny that God continues to give us people who function as prophets but I would insist that we judge prophecy, not just by how we feel when we hear it but by whether what is said is Scriptural and by whether or not it promotes a biblical ministry. False prophets can make accurate predictions and work miracles but they must still be rejected:
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or
the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom
you have not known) and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that
dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all
your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him, and you shall keep
His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of
dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who
brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from
the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among
you.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)
“And the prophet who teaches falsehood is the tail.
For those who guide this people are leading them astray;
And those who are guided by them are brought to confusion.” (Isaiah 9:15-16)
“An appalling and horrible thing
Has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority;
And My people love it so!
But what will you do at the end of it?” (Jeremiah 5:30-31)
“For from the least of them even to the greatest of them,
Everyone is greedy for gain,
And from the prophet even to the priest
Everyone deals falsely.” (Jeremiah 6:13)
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves”
“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance.” (Matthew 24:24-25)
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:1-2)
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will
of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not
prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'” (Matthew 7:21-23)
In conclusion, I would say that Ephesians 4:11 does not support the five-fold ministry doctrine. Apostles of the same category as Peter and Paul do not exist in our day, and we need to do a much better job than we currently are with regard to testing so-called prophets.
I hope you have found this response to your comment helpful, Gordon.
John 16: 7-14 lays out genuine Christian Spirit filled life succintly.
The passage you cite is a wonderful one, believed by both cessationists and continuationists, though your comment is too brief to reveal your position on this doctrinal matter. I am a classic Pentecostal (ordained for many years with the Assemblies of God) who believes in the perpetuity of the spiritual gifts, including the much-debated revelatory ones. It is classic Pentecostals, however, who most vigorously challenged the aberrant teachings of the Latter Rain Movement in the mid-20th century. The Latter Rain Movement never fully died but eventually resurfaced and changed its name to the New Apostolic Reformation. It is this, particular movement that most often teaches the doctrine of the five-fold ministry in our time. There are many other issues in the New Apostolic Reformation that I consider unscriptural, but I think the Apologetics Index site already has many good articles on it that speak to these. With that said, I heartily approve of your reference to John 16:7-14 and would encourage all believers to seek a Spirit-filled life!
The amazing thing about the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is that it is beautifully simple. The major doctrinal points are also simply put forth by the original apostles of Jesus in the epistles. If there was to be a cessation of the spiritual gifts and church offices then Jesus would have clearly stated it and the apostles would have elaborated it. It’s that simple. The Gospel of the Lord is beautifully simple and unfortunately we men make it complicated! Lol! God bless!
I am a Pentecostal minister who has long taught the perpetuity of the spiritual gifts. I believe the major doctrinal point of continuationism is quite simply put forth in Scripture, though I have wonderful fellowship with cessationists. The complication that men have added to the simple teaching of Scripture is to create an unwarranted theology of a five-fold ministry when this theology is not taught in the Bible. The only real complication comes with unravelling false teachings of this kind so we can keep to the pure and simple teaching of the Word.