The Five-Fold Ministry, Part 1

This is the first of a two-part series on the five-fold ministry.

Ephesians 4:11-14
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 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; 14 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

For the body of Christ to reach its full potential, it is important to understand and receive the five-fold ministries and their gifts. The following are brief descriptions of the prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher:

Apostles: Literally “sent ones.” There are three levels of apostles:

  1. The “Sent One” from the Father: Jesus, the One and Only Apostle of the Father (see John 17:18a; Heb. 3:1).
  2. The “sent ones” from the son: The Twelve.  The twelve are in a class to themselves. There will never be another foundational (Eph. 2:20) apostle (See Rev. 21:14; John 17:18b).
  3. The “sent ones” from the Holy Spirit: Paul and the other apostles called after Christ’s ascension.  This would include modern day apostles.  These are termed “Body-building” apostles, rather than foundational.  Paul was the exception, being a foundational, Scripture writing apostle. According to Scriptural exactness, the twelve do not qualify as an Ephesian 4:11 apostle; these are post-ascension apostles; the twelve were pre-ascension apostles (See Acts 13:2-4; Eph. 4:8, 11).

Apostles are primarily involved in the pioneering and establishing of local churches.  Paul said in Romans 15:20: “And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel not where Christ was named lest I should build on another man’s foundation.”

Apostles are spiritual fathers to other ministries.  There is such a need for spiritual fathers and mentors in the Body of Christ.  Every Timothy reeds a Paul to take him under his wing and develop him.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (I Cor. 4:15).

Signs and wonders will accompany the apostle.  Paul said in II Corinthians 12:12: “Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.” Heaven’s validation of the apostolic gift is the miraculous in operation.  Not that miracles only occur through apostles.  But any claim to apostleship must be accompanied by a regular occurrence of signs and wonders.

An apostle’s ministry will include discipline and correction.  Apostles are especially concerned with areas of doctrine.  When a pastor or elder gets into error, the apostolic gift is greatly needed.

Apostles are involved in the training and ordination of ministries.  This can be seen in Paul’s continual references to imparting to those under him such as Timothy and Titus.  The training of ministries is the heartbeat of an apostle’s ministry.

Prophets: There are three major realms of prophecy:

  1. Prophecy of Scripture (I1 Pet. 1:20-21). This level of prophecy is complete. All other prophecy must be judged by the Prophecy of Scripture.
  2. The Office of the Prophet (I Cor. 12:28; Eph.  4:11). This is someone who operates in the ministry gift of the prophet.
  3. The Gift of Prophecy (I Cor. 12:10; 14:1, 3, 6). All believers are open to this manifestation.  The gift must be operated within the guidelines of Scripture (see I Cor. 14).

A prophet is used to give direction to the church. This is not a controlling directive, but a confirming one. At times, prophets will give direction to individuals, especially those in authority. The prophet Agabus is recorded as prophesying to both the corporate church and individuals:

  • The church, Acts 11:27-29
  • An individual (Paul), Acts 21:10-11.

A prophet’s ministry involves revelation, confirmation and warning.  The prophet’s ministry is especially valuable in identifying and confirming ministry gifts within a presbytery setting (see Acts 13:1-3; I Tim. 4:14).

A prophet will operate in the gift of prophecy, as well as the word of knowledge, word of wisdom, and discerning of spirits. Simply operating in the gift of prophecy does not make one a prophet.

A genuine prophet’s words will come to pass. There are many self-proclaimed prophets in the land who do not wish their words to be judged for accuracy.  However, the Bible mandate is: “Let two or three prophets speak and let the others judge” (I Cor. 14:29). A prophet who will not submit to authority and be accountable for his words is not to be heeded (see Deuteronomy 18:22).

Tomorrow, we will discuss Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers.


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