“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry.”
— Ephesians 4:11-13
Paul warns us about those who, whether wittingly or unwittingly, would spread unsound doctrine among us. We are living in a time when some of the brethren seem to deem it important to find something new. Of course, it is not our intent to discourage anyone in regard to exercising the “Berean spirit.” However, care should be taken not to undermine the foundation upon which our faith rests. We do well to remember that the “Doctrinal Statement” our forefathers forged for us was a product of intense debate with the denominational leaders of their day. Each plank of the statement was carefully crafted as a defense and confirmation of the Fundamentals of the faith and Paul’s gospel. Therefore, let us not be too quick to challenge those things which are “tried and true.”
At this late hour, there are those who tell us that the “gifts” of evangelists, pastors and teachers or pastor-teachers are no longer in operation today. Some have even gone as far to say that the enabling “gifts” have also passed. This flies in the face of our “Doctrinal Statement,” which has served us well for over fifty years. It states:
“The gifts necessary for the ministry of the Body of Christ are those enumerated in Eph. 4:7-16. Of these, only the gifts of evangelists and pastor-teachers are in operation today. All the sign gifts of the Acts period, such as tongues, prophecy and healing (I Cor. 12:1-31), being temporary in character, have ceased (I Cor. 13:8-11).”
Here in Ephesians, one of Paul’s later epistles, the apostle sets the tone for the course of this dispensation. Clearly, the context of this portion concerns itself with the gifts God has given to His Church. It is true that the gifts of “apostles” and “prophets” passed with the completion of the Word of God (I Cor. 13:8-13 cf. Col. 1:25). Once the Word of God was dispensed, these two offices and the gifted men who held them were nonessential. We now have something far better, the written revelation that they handed down to us, which is to be obeyed in matters of faith and practice.
There is no indication, whatsoever, that the gifts of evangelists, pastors and teachers have ever been withdrawn. In fact, Paul plainly states their purpose: “For the perfecting [maturing] of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying [building up] of the Body of Christ.” And how long shall this continue? “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge [Gr. epignosis — full knowledge] of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:13).
Surely, it could not be said there has ever been a period in Church history, past or present, that the “unity of the faith” has been attained, much less a “full knowledge” of the Son of God. But this is exactly what we are being asked to believe; that is, the unity of the faith has been attained. Perhaps, we should put this to the Berean test.
Creation: Some believe God created all things in six literal twenty- four hour days. Others teach the “ruin and reconstruction theory” that God created, destroyed and re-created. This is commonly called the “gap theory” which places millions or billions of years between the original creation and the re-creation.
Redemption: The battle has raged for centuries over whether Christ died for the sins of all mankind or merely for the sins of the elect. Which do you believe?
Things to Come: It is well known there are those who believe the events covered in the Book of Revelation are entirely futuristic. Many would challenge this assertion as absurd. They teach that the early chapters of the Apocalypse describe the various stages of Church history up to the present “Laodicean” age. If we agree that there are two camps of interpretation on any Biblical subject, then we have yet to come into the unity of the faith.
There is not one scintilla of evidence that the “unity of the faith” has ever been attained by all. Even in Paul’s day, the saints were wielding the sword of the Spirit against one another (II Tim. 1:15 cf. 2:17-19). In addition, we must inquire: Has the Church come to a full knowledge of the Son of God? That is, of His person, work and present heavenly ministry. We shall answer this question with a question: Has the Church, which is His Body, acknowledged the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the Mystery?
The “unity of the faith” and a “full knowledge” of Christ is a goal set before us that will never be fully attained until the Rapture. Thus, the responsibility of Gods gifts to His Church is to proclaim the whole counsel of God in light of the Pauline epistles. Why? that the saints might be established in the faith!
There is also an experiential side to this truth as well. When God called me into the ministry nearly thirty years ago, it was definitive. Other pastors have testified of similar experiences, which confirms that the “gifts and callings of God are without repentance” (Rom. 11:29). Beware of those who would rob you of this precious truth!
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.