Over the next few weeks I will be writing about the five-fold ministry. If you are not familiar with this term, I am referring to the five gifts described in Ephesians 4: 7-13.
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (NKJV)
The five-fold ministry, also sometimes referred to as the ‘grace gifts’, or ‘ascension gifts’, are the foundation of biblical New Testament ministry to the church. These ministries were given to us by Jesus specifically for the purpose of equipping the saints (all believers). The goal is to become effective witnesses of the gospel, and to edify (strengthen; build up) the Church unto the realities of unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God.
This section in Ephesians also touches on the goal of perfection, which we see in the context of unity and knowledge. It seems a very high and unattainable goal to become a perfect people who attain to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Nevertheless, it is this goal to which we are called. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus prophesies, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (NKJV)
Beloved, it is obvious we are not yet perfect. In fact, true perfection does not fully come until Jesus returns. The pursuit of perfection, which I remind you is unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, is the vehicle by which we press on toward the day of Christ’s appearing. When we ardently pursue perfection in this context, we begin to see why Jesus emphasized the great commandment, which is to “Love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength; and likewise love our neighbor as ourself.” The goal is love, but love absent a proper understanding (knowledge and personal experience) of the character, nature, and personhood of Jesus Christ will leave us with nothing of substance upon which to be unified. If we lack the substance of the knowledge of Christ, our foundation is likened unto a house built upon sand, and we will quickly abandon the goal of perfection, which is union with Christ at His appearing.
The day of His appearing (the physical and imminent return of Jesus Christ) should be the focal point of all ministry within the Church. He is our goal and our prize, and we are His. All ministries of the church should function as a result of our fixation upon Jesus. It is in this context that we are most effective in partnering with God’s plans. The five-fold ministry was given to us to equip us in this reality, but to also root us and keep us grounded upon the revelation of Jesus Christ, and the hastening of the day of the Lord.
Let’s now revisit the verse in Ephesians. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” I love this revelation of Jesus’ power. He took captivity itself captive! This means that everything that can possibly bind us and prevent us from walking out the will of God is already held captive by Jesus Christ. Not only that, but He also gave us grace. The particular grace given to us in this instance is the five-fold ministry for our equipping.
To effectively pursue our goal, we must have all five of these ministries in place, and well represented within the Church. Without these ministries, the Church will not be fully equipped to live out faith and the knowledge of Christ. While our Lord holds captive everything that can possibly bind us, He also made it impossible to be fully pleasing to Him if we neglect Christian community and ministry. We cannot have unity of the faith if we do not actually pursue unity. Our faith is intertwined, as Hebrews 11 makes obvious. The five-fold ministry is Jesus’ method of governing our unity, that He Himself would remain the head of the Church.
In the coming days and weeks I will take a deeper look into the ministries of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. We will examine what each ministry reveals about God’s character, its importance to the body of Christ, its particular function and goal, and also how we embrace these ministries in a biblical manner. My goal is that these articles can be a source of encouragement, as well as a launching pad for deeper study, that we might better embrace and use every gift and ministry given to the Church.
Blessings to you, and grace through Christ Jesus our Lord,
-J. S. Marek