People Are Gifts Too: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and Pastors

[fa icon="calendar"] September 14, 2018 / by Ray Van Gilst

church congregationA bricklayer whose brother was a famous violinist was talking with his boss one day. His boss said, “It must be great to have a brother who is known around the world.” Then, not thinking that he might have offended his worker’s pride, he continued, “Of course, we must accept the fact that talent isn’t equally distributed – even in the same family.”

“That’s right,” came the bricklayer’s reply. “My brother doesn’t know the first thing about bricklaying. It’s a good thing he can afford to pay others to build a house for him.”

One of the things I want to continue to stress in this study of the gifts, is how important we ALL are.

Let’s take a look at I Corinthians 12:28 – people who are gifts, “and God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers.”

What is an apostle? 

The office of apostle was not a person who had the gift of apostleship. An apostle was a gift from Christ to the church to build the church. An apostle was to build the foundation. The apostles built the foundation of doctrine and revelation for the church. They were authoritative. They received direct revelation from God.  They wrote the scriptures, specifically the New Testament. They also were affirmed by miraculous works as told to us in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “To another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.”

Some of the questions you hear today are, “Is there the office of apostle today? Is there apostolic succession? Are there capital ‘A’ apostles today?”

Eusebius was an early church historian who said this, “The early church believed that evangelists are the successors of the apostles who died.” So, if the historian is correct, the early church itself didn’t even believe in apostolic succession. What it believed was that the apostles declared the word of the Lord. They got direct revelation and established the foundation.

Then the evangelists basically did the same work as the apostles, but they built on the apostle’s revelation. They were no longer given revelation from God – as far as the canon of scripture.

What is a prophet? 

We need to make a distinction between the gift of prophecy and the office of prophet. I believe the gift of prophecy is still functioning in the church today, but the office of prophet, like the office of apostle is something that has been done away with.

There’s a difference between that gift of prophecy and the office of prophet.

I’m going to give you my perspective here. The office of prophet is much like that of apostle. The position of the prophet in the New Testament was one of receiving direct revelation. It was also foundational. Ephesians 2:20, “Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone…” building on the foundation of apostles and prophets. It was revelatory and foundational.

The difference between apostles and prophets

There was a difference between apostles and prophets. Apostles moved around, going from place to place. They had what you would call a world-wide ministry and a world-wide vision. Their whole mission was to go to places where the name of Christ hadn’t been heard and start churches. The longest time Paul ever stayed in a church was three years. 

They both had revelation, but apostolic revelation was doctrinal – doctrine from God. The prophets on the other hand, in a local congregation, had a practical revelation.

I believe today the office of prophet (not the gift of prophecy) has become the office of pastor. We don’t get revelation like they did. We take the apostle’s teaching and apply it and give it to our people and show how it needs to function in the local congregation. The prophets did not have the word of God in their hands at that time – it wasn’t written down for them yet. So, God revealed to them His word and its application to the church.

They were laying the foundation by teaching Bible principles and application in their local congregations.

What is an evangelist?

The third gift to the church was the office or person of evangelist. We find that in Ephesians 4:11, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.”

In the New Testament, the function of the evangelist was much the same as the apostle. But the difference was, they were not getting direct revelation from God, because they had that from the apostles.

An evangelist would also go into areas where Christ was not known, as God put a burden on their heart for the whole world, and they would become the missionary to other places and proclaim the name of Jesus Christ. They also would have been a church planter. Sometimes they would stay in a local area for an extended time.

Is the office of evangelist still in effect today? Evangelists are gifts to the church to establish churches, plant churches, go where Christ is not named, win people to Christ, and enable those people to reach others for Christ. 

What is a pastor?

The fourth person as a gift to the church is the pastor. I think the office of pastor is like the office of prophet that I described. One of the characteristics is that they aren’t itinerant – they have a local long-term ministry, or at least are meant to. 

The pastor is now building on the foundation that the apostles and prophets laid. Like the prophet, the pastor is local; but unlike the prophet, he does not get direct revelation. A pastor doesn’t need it because today we have the Bible. A pastor takes the revelation of God and makes it practical to a local congregation so that the congregation can be built by protecting and feeding the flock. In other words, teaching able men and women who can teach others. 

And that is without question, supernatural.

Related Articles:

Series: Gifts of the Spirit

Topics: Gifts of the Spirit