My Question: Five Fold Ministry

Hi everyone,

Recently, I was communicating with another believer who attends a church that has a five-fold ministry structure. His church’s structure is modeled after Ephesians 4:11-13 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (English Standard Version).

His church has people appointed to each one of these positions and explained the five-fold ministry this way. We see the thumb (the Apostle); the pointing finger (the Prophet); the middle finger (the Evangelist); the ring finger (the Pastor); and the pinky finger (the Teacher), and each has a role in the Church (The Body of Christ). The Apostle (set the government of the church in order), The Prophet (is thus saith the Lord; the pointer), The Evangelist (can reach more people than any of the ministries), The Pastor ( is gentle, and an exhorter), and The Teacher (reaches down into the deep places).

He recently quoted a “prophet” that claims to hear from God and reveals that the prophecy has been fulfilled. I have been taught that if someone claims to be a prophet that I need to check his words with Gods written word. So, I questioned his source.

This leads me to my question.

There are different views and opinions on if the position of the Apostle and the prophet are still active today. Are they?

My understanding is that God has already revealed to us everything we need to know in his word. God has his revealed will in Scripture, and a individual will for each one of us.

If a prophet is still an active role today then what would be his true purpose?

Thank You,
Jason

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Excellent question, @Jason.Paul.

If you back up two chapters to the end of Ephesians 2, you’ll see in verses 20-22 that the apostles and prophets, along with Jesus Christ, were foundational roles in the Church. As such, they were never intended to continue throughout the entire Church Age. They were meant to be built upon by the evangelists and pastor/teachers.

Of course, a foundation once laid continues to uphold the house ever afterward - it has a continuing effect. And the New Testament writings, which are now finished, are a part of that foundation - along with the ongoing power of Christ’s saving blood and sanctifying intercession. So through their writings, the apostles and prophets do continue as an ongoing ministry to the church. But no one today needs to keep adding to their ministry.

But evangelists like Paul, who we now call missionaries, do continue to plant churches around the world. And pastors, who must be apt to teach (I Timothy 3:2), continue to deliver those writings of the apostles and prophets to the flock.

I hope this will help you!

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Hello @Jason.Paul, I see your dilemma but I believe all scripture was written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and no title of it can be refuted or should be misunderstood. I beg to disagree with @jlyons on the interpretation of Ephesians 2:20-22. I appeal that a better contextual understanding be derived from that scripture to avoid conflicting it with Ephesians 4:11.

If we look carefully Paul was an apostle to the gentile and other apostles still exist. If we must argue that they five fold ministry ends in the records of scripture and still do not apply today, that will be a false dilemma. We still do have the five fold gift of Christ in the church today and denying that fact is subjective and not objective.

We need to first ask ourselves, what role do these Five gifts have that is not needed or is needed today. Paul wasn’t implying that because the Ephesian church have been built on the leadership of Apostles and Prophets and Jesus Christ, the chief corner stone, hence for them the wouldn’t be a need for the Apostle and Prophet anymore. From what Sir James implied

Rather he was appealing to the Ephesian church in reasoning that they were to see themselves in the eyes of God as common members of the household of God who are interdependent and not self sufficient. They were to now understand that none was above the other but each person was necessary for the other to grow. Look at the intent of the five fold as Paul lays forth in Ephesians 4:7-16.

Still in the New Testament Church we see John the Beloved being an Apostle and a Prophet at the same time, so then it was even possible for one to be both of the Gifts given by Christ. We see Phillips Daughters all prophesying, with a known prophet Agabus in scripture as well. So then, we should not judge scripture based on a subjective reasoning but as the Holy Spirit grants revelation. I live in Nigeria and I have been among many Apostles and Prophets and Evangelists and Pastors and Teachers. I do have an experience of these ministries and attest that the scriptures are true as to their purpose and do not deny the glaring fact that they do exist in today’s church age and will still do.

I’ll like to state the obvious. If there is no real thing, they can’t be a false or counterfeit that would want to usurp the place of the original. If we say that there will be false Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers in the last days as scripture signify, it also mean that they will also be those who are true and not false. We are the body of Christ and if looked into closely each person do function in one or more of these five gifts and edify one another into maturity in Christ. Please I hope I wasn’t offensive :sweat_smile:

Join Dr. Jim Feeney in this study below too. It’ll help. I wish you guys were in Nigeria.
https://www.jimfeeney.org/apostlesandprophets.html

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Hi @Jason.Paul thank you for asking this question. I spent many years in a church that teaches the five-fold ministry is important for healthy leadership of the church. The roles of prophet and apostle were part of this but not made into a massive deal - the people who fulfilled prophet and apostle roles were not lifted up onto any pedestal from what I noticed, and I never experienced an abuse of these roles. I would agree that when a church leadership team takes these roles seriously in the light of scripture, it can be an effective leadership model for the rest of the body to follow.

I have also spent time in a church that took the prophetic role a bit too far - the approach to calling people and words of knowledge ‘prophetic’ was perhaps too casually flung around, without a healthy respect for accurate prophecy. I know there are influences in the global church today that bring questionable approaches in prophecy and apostolic leadership to the table. Upon realising how the prophetic and apostolic roles can be abused in a church setting, and how susceptible individual churches are to this when it is by respected public pastors, it caused me to step back and ask the very same questions you are doing.

I have spent time looking into some of this, and found a range of resources helpful as I weighed up what I believe the Bible teaches on this, especially with regard to the scriptures you have referred to. I’ll share a few with you in the hope it helps.

I found John Piper helpful in weighing up both arguments for and against prophets and apostles in the church today. In his article, ‘Using our gifts in proportion to our faith, Part 1’, Piper concluded about prophecy:

“So for these reasons I am persuaded that the gift of prophecy is valid for today and is not equal with Scripture in authority but is valuable as a Spirit-guided expression of something we otherwise would not know or say, which is powerful for that particular moment and brings conviction or exhortation or consolation for the awakening or upbuilding of faith. It should not spook us as something uncontrollable, but should be treated as any claim to insight. It is fallible. It may prove true and it may not because the human channel is sinful and fallible and finite.”

In considering objections to apostles and prophets today, he writes:

“The second objection comes from Ephesians 2:20. There Paul says that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.” This verse doesn’t refer to Old Testament prophets, because Paul uses the same phrase a few verses later like this: “[The mystery of Christ] was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (3:5). So he seems to be saying that the authoritative foundation of the church is the apostles and prophets. That would seem to put the New Testament gift of prophecy into the category of authoritative, foundational speech, not the category of helpful, valuable, but fallible speech.

My answer would be to suggest, with Graham Houston and Wayne Grudem, that the term “apostles and prophets” may refer to one group not two; namely, apostles who are also prophets. Like we say, Noël is wife and mother. Not two Noël’s, but two ways of describing the one Noël. Or another example is the way Ephesians 4:11 uses the term “pastors and teachers” — not two groups but one. One group is both pastors and teachers. The upshot, then, from Ephesians 2:20 would be that the apostles who are prophets are the teaching founders of the church, with Christ himself as the cornerstone.”

Absolutely! One of the things I learned was that there are different types of prophecy. The prophets of the Old Testament fulfilled a very different role to the types of prophet seen in the New Testament. Steven J. Cole wrote this article, ‘Humility- exercising our gifts’, where he demonstrates a cautious acceptance of prophecy and tongues in use today. I think caution is good to have when we approach claims of prophecy.

In his reasoning that there are two types of prophecy, he says:

“Wayne Grudem has written a book, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament & Today [Crossway, 1988], arguing that this gift, properly defined, is valid for the church today. He distinguishes between the apostolic gift of prophecy, which transmitted authoritative revelation to the church and this spiritual gift, which required evaluation and discernment to determine its application and validity. He defines it (Systematic Theology, p. 1049, italics his) as “telling something that God has spontaneously brought to mind.” But many argue that this gift only functioned in apostolic times and is not valid today. I think that Dr. Grudem’s arguments are largely convincing.”

https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-80-humility-exercising-our-gifts-romans-126-8

I apologise, the link I had for an article by Andrew Wilson called ‘Prophecy and prophets in the church’ on the New Frontiers website isn’t working right now, but in it, he affirms the role of prophet and apostle for today, with a healthy respect for what the prophetic role does and, importantly, does not involve. When discussing prophecy, and the role of prophets and apostles, he says:

“This foundational truth comes by the revelation the Holy Spirit brings, and will always be consistent with, and based upon, the revelation of the Scripture. According to Paul, apostles and prophets are especially graced to lay this foundation in every church. They are foundational men. They will function within their unique gifting in this work, yet it is the same foundation that they lay. It is of great value that apostles and prophets work together because they tend to confirm one another in the revelation that they bring.

Prophets will often come with a prophetic “now word” which helps the church give application of this foundation in some immediate situation. For example, when the prophet Agabus and his team came to the church in Antioch, his prophecy led to a practical demonstration of the foundational truth that racial barriers are broken down in Christ. Gentile believers began to help and serve their brothers in Christ from a Jewish background who were deeply affected by famine. What a wonderful expression of the church being one new man in Christ!”

https://newfrontierstogether.org/prophecy-prophets-church/

I think that those who hold that the role of prophet and apostle are for churches today are clear that all doctrine is sealed and prophecy will never alter or add to established doctrine in the church. It can, however, be as Andrew Wilson described, a ‘now word’ where God is speaking to the church or individual in a particular way to edify and build up. This seems to be in line with what Steven J. Cole was getting at. I also think it’s worth mentioning that the role of Apostles in the New Testament is sealed, but that apostles (little a) can still be in place, who are those who are sent out - at least this is the understanding I’ve come to.

Andrew Wilson also held a very interesting debate with Simon Arscott about the continuation of the gifts in general, but you may find helpful points that help you understand why some churches teach on prophets and apostles in the church today as a scripturally sound standard.

Yes, I agree. His word is sufficient, and as I mentioned above, we can not add to or change doctrine. However, I believe there is room for God to lead us corporately and individually today by dropping words of prophecy into the body. This must always line up with scripture, never contradict the nature of Christ and be verified by a couple of other trusted Christians at least. It can be a way to edify and build up the body of Christ. I think this sits with the scriptures people have mentioned in this thread, but the roles must be treated respectfully with an understanding of the responsibility that goes with them. I believe this is one reason why in James 3, Christians are warned of the responsibility that goes with the role of teacher. I also feel this is why it is good to have a trusted Christian who oversees the prophetic aspect of the church (as role of Prophet), who is mature, discerning and wise enough to guard against abuses of prophecy and other gifts taking place in the body.

I know I haven’t answered everything in your post, but I hope this has given some food for thought. I’d also like to add that I’m still learning about all this too, so am more than happy to be shown alternative explanations of the scriptures you mentioned :slightly_smiling_face:.

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And we wish you were here! :slight_smile: Thank you for your post and your comments. I would like to tell you that I have read many of your posts on Connect and I am always encouraged by your deep respect and honor towards others. The way you adhere to the scripture’s mandate to be gentle and treat others with consideration really comes out in your communication. Well done.

Before launching into this post, please know I am on the same page as you

And I don’t want to be offensive either. I am still learning about the 5-fold ministry that it talks about in Ephesians so a lot of this is still very new to me. As always, my post is open for your or anyone else’s correction, rebuke, comments, scrutiny and anything else that it needs.

To state the obvious, prophets and apostles in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, were supposed to repeat the words that God had given them and give those same words to the people. Messengers with a message from God. They didn’t dare speak on their own authority, nor were they supposed to add or take away from any of the words the Lord had given them. We know that the words that come from God are always and without exception completely true, pure, righteous, affirm His nature, and confirm what He has said in the past. With those things in mind, this is where I am struggling:

According to what I have been studying from a book, A Hidden Path: Bethel Redding and Beyond a very well known prophet, Mr. Kris Vallotton, (or is he an apostle? - I am sorry, I don’t know which one) stated on his online blog from November 11, 2015 several of his viewpoints about eschatology (study of final or end time events). These are some of the things I would like to discuss. First I will write what this prophet / apostle wrote and then I will write what scripture the author of the book wrote. That will follow with additional verses found from personal Bible study and comments. (Mr. Vallotton makes 8 points in his blog. For the sake of time, I will cover 3)

Vallotton - “I will not embrace an end-time worldview that re-empowers a disempowered devil.”
Author - It was given unto him [the devil] to make war with the saints and to overcome them. Revelation 13.7
Mine - But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows his time is short. Revelation 12.12
Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5.8

Note: Christ absolutely conquered sin, death, hell, the devil, the flesh and the world on the cross. Christ has overcome, we are overcoming. The devil now has the title deed to the earth. We see this in his discussion with Jesus (Matthew 4) when the devil told Jesus if He would bow down and worship him, he would give Jesus the kingdoms of the world." He could not have offered this to Jesus if he did not possess it. Jesus did not dispute his statement. One day Jesus will rightfully take it back.

Vallotton- “I refuse to embrace any mindset that celebrates bad news as a sign of the times and a necessary requirement for the return of Jesus.”
Author - But when these things take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Luke 21.28
Mine The disciples asked Jesus, “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” Immediately after the distress of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, the heavenly bodies will be shaken. Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Matthew 24.4,29-30.

Note: If this is the mindset of Jesus in scripture, this should be our mindset as well. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2.5

Vallotton - “I don’t believe that the last days are a time of judgement, nor do I believe God gave the church the right to call for wrath for sinful cities.”
Author - When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under heaven the altar of the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God…“How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth? Revelation 6.9-10
Mine In the last days, perilous times shall come. 2 Timothy 3.1-5
Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand: A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness…” Joel 2.1-2,11

Note I would like to bring attention to Mr. Vallotton’s statement regarding whether or not it is God’s will for us to call out wrath upon cities that are sinful. I tend to agree with him on this point. That is something only the Lord can do and will do.

Can someone please help me navigate the points I have laid out in this post - the infallibility of the Word and the scriptural mandate of the apostle / prophet. They don’t seem to line up in this case. This post is not meant to be contentious in speech nor derogatory towards Mr. Vallotton. I am seeking to understand. There are other points I would like to raise and questions to ask when I have more time. Thank you!

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Thank you so much ma for your comments. I agree with you

However, I don’t think Mr. Vallatton is against having the mind of Christ and may not mean Judgement as we may understand it. I know that in the US a lot of people find people speaking against some issues as being judgemental (although in some cases but not all). For instance if I love a gay guy enough and want to warn him about being gay, that will be immediately spurned as being homophobic or judgemental around some american cultures but does that mean I was being judgemental? Certainly not. In my approach, I made sure I was condemning the act and not the person involved such that, he knows he is loved by God the most and by me.

So then, let’s consider a scripture that may be Mr Vallatton’s point in the positive - Isaiah 26:9.
So, Mr Vallatton in my own understanding is trying to convey a point that we are not the ones to bring down God’s judgement but God, on the other hand we are to speak life and warn people of God’s wrath and judgement. In the other aspect:

Here, I would also disagree with him, (based on the statement) but I should hold to the fact that I don’t know the reason for his statement. So, maybe a discussion with Him may allow me understand the reason for his statement. From scriptures the last days began since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and many things spoken of by the Prophets and Jesus himself were getting fulfilled and are still being fulfilled and of course God’s judgement will play out as due but that of the day of the Lord will not until the Church is removed from the earth which will be a post tribulation experience.

Note: Many of the post tribulation activities are fostered by the enemy and not God like we see in Revelation 11:1-13 and Revelation 13:1 down. So then, that may be Mr Vallatton’s reason that the happenings in the last days are not really God’s judgement but are consequences for sin accruing over the ages and that God’s judgement will only happen on the Great White Throne Judgement in Revelation 20:11 down.

I hope I do make sense :smile:
Thanks again @MaryBeth1

Soli Deo Gloria!

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