OF THE CHURCH
1 Peter 4:10-11, Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 are Scriptures
that are parallel in meaning and are best understood by studying them in
conjunction with one another. Comparing different translations of these
references can be helpful in understanding them better. They deal with
the work and ministry of the church from the more formalized positions
of leadership to the involvement of each and every member of the body of
Christ. Those involved in ministry are spoken of as receiving grace, as
having gifts and exercising faith. Here supernatural gifts are mentioned,
along with natural gifts, and more formalized positions of ministry in
the church. Even the ability to do simple acts of service is not left out,
whatever one’s aptness might be.
Work and Ministry of Christ
Before making a study of these highly interesting
and informative Scriptures, it would be well for us to look at the work
of Christ while he was here. His whole life was underscored by the concept
of ministry. He asserted that "the Son of man came not to be ministered
unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).
Read John 13:1-17. Christians are people who are like Christ. The church
is the spiritual body of Christ in the world today, and in a very real
sense should be engaged in the work he did. Paul says that we ought to
be "always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58). The
"work of the Lord" can be seen in what the Lord did while he was here and
that which he has laid out for us to do. Jesus declared that "the Son of
man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10; Matthew
18:11). Peter declared that Jesus "went about doing good, and healing all
that were oppressed of the devil" (Acts 10:38). Notice Matthew 9:35-38
and 11:28-30. Then having accomplished the mission for which he came into
the world (Matthew 1:21; John 4:34; 9:4; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4), the Lord
laid out in the Great Commission the work his followers were to do. It
likewise involves salvation of the lost, making disciples and teaching
men to observe all things that he has commanded, as we live the good life
(Matthew 28:18-20). Even as Jesus "went about doing good," we are always
ready to respond with compassion and benevolence to those in need. Evangelism,
edification and "doing good" constitute the work of the Lord. In fact,
anything and everything we do should be the Lord’s work, doing it as unto
the Lord (Colossians 3:17,23). His teachings permeate our lives.
With this in mind, let us notice the work and
ministry of the church beginning with Ephesians 4:7-16. Paul states that
"unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift
of Christ" (4:7). In the gifts that were given to the church, he logically
starts with men of inspiration (apostles and prophets, the fountainhead
through which the truth came) and moves on down to the continuing "offices"
in the church, with the rank and file "membership." It reads, "And
He Himself [Christ] 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; that
we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with
every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness
of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in
all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined
and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective
working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for
the edifying of itself in love" (4:11,12,15,16, NKJV).
Apostles and prophets are listed first as the
impelling instruments of equipping, or "perfecting," the saints for the
work of ministry. They were the source of the gospel message. Earlier in
this epistle to the Ephesians, Paul lets us know that truths of the gospel
before unknown, were now being "revealed unto his [Christ’s] holy apostles
and prophets by the Spirit" (3:5). And consequently, as we learn and incorporate
these truths into our lives, we "are built upon the foundation of the apostles
and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (2:20).
Paul asserts in 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17, "All Scripture is given by inspiration
of God…That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all
good works." The Word of God, first coming from these inspired apostles
and prophets, is the basic component in equipping the saints (every Christian)
for the work of ministry.
Pastors and Teachers"
In Ephesians 4:11, we next read that He gave
"some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers." Evangelists are those
who spearhead the work of evangelism as they carry out the Great Commission.
The "some," following the reference to evangelists, is spoken of as being
"pastors and teachers." The "some" refers to the elders in the local church,
"pastor" and "teacher" being two facets of their work.
Equipping of the
for the Work of Ministry"
The ministries of all of these formalized positions
of leadership are moving in the direction of "the equipping of the saints
for the work of ministry." Aside from the work of the deacon (Philippians
1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-13; "deacon" means minister in a technical sense), it
is improper to speak of "the minister" or "minister" as the name of an
"office" in the church (this is a generic term). The modern church with
its specialized staff emphasizes the ministries available to its membership,
that passively (too many times) occupy the pews waiting to be ministered
unto. People look for the church that has the most services available to
them. This concept is just the opposite of the Scriptures. It is not New
Testament Christianity. All are to be involved in ministry.
Part" Doing Its Part
Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 4:16 that
"the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every
joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every
part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
Every member, every part of the body, is involved in the body making increase
of itself. This should be true in reference to the body (the church) growing
through soul winning or the body growing to maturity spiritually. God’s
plan is that every Christian be involved in the work and ministry of the
1 PETER 4:10-11
The content of 1 Peter 4:10-11 is more brief
than the other parallel references that we are considering in this article
on ministry, taking more of a form as summary statement. It reads, "As
each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards
of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles
of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God
supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ,
to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" (NKJV).
This admonition is more general as to the identity of the gifts, but more
specific in reference to them being exercised ("as each one has received
a gift," it was to be put to use). But he does give two illustrations as
to the gifts, that of speaking and ministering. In exercising their gifts,
their responsibility was according to their ability. They were to minister
"to one another." Although they had leaders, this reasserts the priesthood
of all believers that Peter had spoken of earlier in his epistle (1 Peter
2:5,9). All are to be involved in ministry. And the end result is the glory
to Be Good Stewards
Each was to minister, according to his ability,
"as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." Yes, God looks upon us
as stewards of our gifts and abilities. In reference to the concept of
stewards, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 4:2, "Moreover it is required in
stewards, that a man be found faithful." Stewards must be faithful. According
to other Scripture, they are accountable and must give an account (Luke
16:1,2; Matthew 25:14-30). Let us not take this matter of ministry lightly.
In Romans 12:3-8, starting off with himself
and his gift as an apostle (which he calls "grace given to me"), Paul writes
of various ministers and ministries in the church." Notice: "For
I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not
to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly,
as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members
in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we,
being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us,
let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;
or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching;
he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads,
with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness" (NKJV).
Varied gifts are given to all. These gifts or abilities should not be possessed
with conceit but should be an impetus to unselfish service, each recipient
humbly putting his or her heart into that which he or she is apt at doing.
The exercise of the gift of prophecy may well refer to the supernatural
gift of the Spirit, but most of these functions mentioned here are to be
looked upon as natural endowments in doing the work of the Lord. This is
especially true in the last two things listed. Paul’s admonition becomes
more generalized, as all are included in ministry, when he says, "he who
gives," it is to be done "with diligence [sincerity]," and "he who shows
mercy, with cheerfulness."
"Son of Consolation"
Besides his "office" as a preacher of the gospel
in the early church, it seems that Barnabas was a man endowed with natural
gifts that were a blessing to all. Early in the book of Acts, perhaps written
as foreshadowing by Luke, we are told that the name Barnabas meant "son
of consolation" (or encouragement) (Acts 4:36). That was not his original
name, but one that the apostles had fittingly nicknamed him. He evidently
was gifted at encouraging others. When the Jerusalem church heard of the
great response to the gospel among the Gentiles at Antioch, they immediately
sent Barnabas to encourage these new Christians (Acts 11:19-24). And it
was not without the desired results. We read of Barnabas, "Who, when he
came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that
with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good
man, and full of the Holy Ghost [Spirit] and of faith: and much people
was added unto the Lord" (11:23,24). And from here Barnabas went on over
to Tarsus and brought Saul (Paul) back to Antioch (11:25,26). This encouraging
gesture on the part of Barnabas, no doubt, was just what Paul needed in
this early stage of moving on more aggressively into his apostleship. Sometime
earlier after Paul’s initial conversion and coming to Jerusalem, before
he had gone to Tarsus, Barnabas had reassuringly stood by him (Acts 9:26-31).
The apostles were reluctant to accept Paul’s conversion at face value,
and, no doubt, what Barnabas did meant a lot to Paul.
Barnabas had a simple gift, but it was a blessing
to all. Even today there are those who have such a gift. His or her simple,
but radiating smile can make someone’s day. You count for God.
Household of Stephanas,
to the Ministry of the Saints
As a matter of further interest, the household
of Stephanas at Corinth is a good example of informal ministry. They had
especially devoted themselves to the "ministry of the saints," which could
include many things, and Paul urges the church to be aware of and recognize
them in their diligence for the Lord. He said, "I urge you, brethren—you
know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia,
and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints—that
you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us"
(1 Corinthians 16:15,16, NKJV). You don’t have to occupy an "office" in
the church to be engaged in its work and ministry. Like the Lord, go "about
1 CORINTHIANS 12
Read the whole 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians,
and even chapters 13 and 14, to get a picture primarily of the exercise
of supernatural spiritual gifts in the work and ministry of the early church.
Here again the church is looked upon as the body of Christ with each member
having his or her distinctive function. Although the church at Corinth
was abundantly blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians
1:4-7; nine are listed in chapter 12:7-11), they seemed to have been sadly
lacking in that which came as a result of the basic gift of the Spirit
Himself, that being the fruit of the Spirit (of which love is predominate)
(Galatians 5:22,23). They were "puffed up" about who had the best spiritual
gifts. This prompted Paul to write his great chapter on love, 1 Corinthians
13. Without love, even with supernatural gifts, they were nothing. But
in his application of these truths to the body of Christ, the church, he
reaches beyond supernatural spiritual gifts. All being part of the same
body, they were made aware that "whether one member suffer, all the members
suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with
As this chapter is brought to a conclusion,
Paul sort of summarizes what he has been saying. "Now ye are the
body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in
the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that
miracles, then gifts of heal ing, helps, administrations, varieties of
tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all
workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues?
Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you
a more excellent way" (12:27-31, NKJV). This summary seems to be
talking about the supernatural gifts of the Spirit with the possible exception
of "helps" and "administrations." With their fixation on gifts, Paul admonishes
them to desire the "best gifts." Then he points them to something even
better, love. It is the "more excellent way."
In passing, perhaps we should say something
about the passing of the supernatural spiritual gifts. They served their
special purpose and became history. This is intimated in the 13th chapter
of 1 Corinthians when Paul highlights the superiority of love over spiritual
gifts. What a paradox! The Corinthians had a fleshly preoccupation with
spiritual gifts, while neglecting love. They were all wrapped up in a passing
phenomenon that was soon to be done away with. Paul tells them that love
"never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether
there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall
vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that
which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away"
(13:8-10). These, representative of the extraordinary gifts, would soon
be past tense in the life of the church. The end toward which all of them
moved was "that which is perfect [complete]." This has reference to God’s
and Miraculously Confirmed
Even the miraculous in the ministry of the
Lord Jesus Christ served a higher purpose beyond the accomplishment of
the miracle. John asserts, "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the
presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these
are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of
God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (John 20:30,31).
This was likewise true involving the miraculous in the ministry of the
apostles. The writer of the book of Hebrews speaks of the "so great salvation;
which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto
us by them that heard him [the apostles]; God also bearing them witness,
both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts [distributions]
of the Holy Ghost [Spirit], according to his will" (Hebrews 2:3,4).
All of this, including the distribution of
miraculous gifts in the early church, served its extraordinary purpose
and moved on with the goal of God in mind. His goal was His completed and
miraculously confirmed revelation, "That the man of God may be perfect
[complete], throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
Elders and Deacons
Today we look upon the evangelist, elder and
deacon as the continuing and permanent "offices" in the ongoing work of
the church. That being the case, the more formalized focus of the evangelist
is evangelism, winning the lost, and setting churches in order. The thrust
of the elders’ work, who are also called "pastors" and "bishops [overseers]"
in the New Testament, is teaching, edification and being pastors to the
church. And the work of a deacon, among other things, involves benevolence
(the compassionate arm of the church reaching out to the needy). This could
be enlarged upon, but this pretty much covers their function.
While all of this is true in more of a narrow,
specialized and concentrated scale with these men, there is a sense in
which each should be involved in the work of the others and in which the
whole "membership" of the church should be involved in the work associated
with the evangelist, elder and deacon. In other words, every Christian
personally should be a soul winner and do his or her part in helping the
church be what it ought to be. Every Christian personally should be concerned
about the well being of every other Christian. There should be mutual edification
and encouragement. Every Christian personally should be involved with benevolence.
All of this is just part of being a Christian. It is all part of the work
and ministry of the church as a whole. Those in formalized positions of
leadership, are just that (or should be), leaders. Leaders go before
in ways that others should follow. Paul said, "Be ye followers of me, even
as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). It is that simple.
Although much of what we have written in this
article may not set well with many in the ranks of the modern day clergy,
we believe it is the truth of God. Although what we have said may run counter
to all of the non-spiritual activities passed off as the work and ministry
of the church, we stand behind what we have written. The work and mission
of the church is primarily spiritual. There may be a lot going on in some
places, but is it of God? We are afraid that it caters to the flesh. What
can be said about entertainment and play programs? It was said of Sardis,
one of the seven churches in Asia, in Revelation 3:1, "I know thy works,
that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead."
How we need to get the message that all are
to be involved in the work and ministry of the church. Until we do, the
concept of the church of the New Testament in its purity and simplicity
has not been restored. The cause of Christ goes unfulfilled.