Friday, March 5, 2021

Christian Diversity

"It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists …" (Ephesians 4:11)

God is one, but God is also three. This is a mystery, and we can never understand it fully. God is one, but God is also a society. The image of God, which is restored humanity, is also one-and-many. There is a great diversity of talents and gifts in the kingdom, and the more we grow in grace, the more unique each of us will become, yet the more we will be united with all other believers. Each of us has a distinct part to play in the unity of the new community.

The ascended Christ has given gifts to His church. We are those gifts. We are first of all the captives that Jesus presents before the Father. After we ascend with Him, we are sent back as gifts to one another and to the world. The Spirit takes the talents God gave us and transforms them into gifts.

In other places, Paul mentions a number of kinds of people who are gifts. Here he focuses on those gift-people who are leaders in the church. That is because the concern of this passage is the building up of the church in true unity and community, and it is the task of the leaders to do this. In Ephesians 4:11 Paul mentions four such gifts.

First he mentions apostles. The apostles were the foundation stones of the new covenant church, and after the apostolic age they ceased to exist. With them stood the New Testament prophets, who helped write the New Testament. We don’t have such prophets today because the Bible has been completed. The unity and community of the church is built squarely on the Bible, and when the Bible (apostles and prophets) is ignored or slighted, the church suffers.

Then Paul mentions evangelists. Some argue that these were assistants to the apostles and ceased with them. Others argue that Paul refers to church planters here, those who initiate a new work in the world. Finally, Paul mentions pastors and teachers, linking them together. All pastors should be teachers, and all teachers should be pastors, though some will be more highly gifted in one area than in the other. These are the normal governors of the church, whose task it is to build her up.

As we shall see next week, Paul mentions the leader gifts because it is their job to cause all the other gift-people to flower and become productive. Pray for your pastors and elders, and make sure when you see them, you encourage them in the midst of their difficulties and hardships.