Gifted Persons of the Church
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bible, please, to Paul's first Corinthian letter, chapter 12. We are discussing a subject which is based in I Corinthians, chapters 12, 13 and 14. We are discussing the question, “What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?” As we suggested to you, this subject is referred to in numerous places in the Word of God, but the basic, fundamental teaching related to it is found in these three chapters. In the little time we have, it would be impossible for you to examine each verse in each one of these three chapters; so we have been presenting to you a summation of the material that is contained in these chapters relative to this particular question. We gave you three words which we said should summarize rather well what Paul had to say about the subject of the gifts of the Spirit.

One of the words was the word difficulties . We gave you that word because there is evidence in reading these three chapters that there were difficulties in the church at Corinth related to the exercise and bestowal of these gifts, just as there are difficulties today in the exercise of spiritual gifts.

Another word we gave you was the word distribution . We emphasized that according to these three chapters, the Holy Spirit distributes these gifts in a systematic, specific fashion in order that the needs of the Body of Christ might be met. We emphasized to you that the Holy Spirit is sovereign in the distribution of these gifts.

The third word that we gave you was the word diversity , indicating to you that there are diversities or differences in relation to these gifts of the Holy Spirit, gifts which number something like sixteen or more. The diversities related to these gifts could be summed up by the words permanent, passing, personal, and practical. We suggested to you that these words bring to our attention the fact that some of the gifts are permanent—that is, they were in evidence in the early days of the Church, and they are in evidence and will be in evidence for the entire history of the Body of Christ.

We passed over any mention in detail of those permanent gifts because we will be examining each such permanent gift individually, but we did consider what is found in this passage of Scripture concerning the fact that some of these gifts are passing—that is, they do not exist throughout the entire history of the Body of Christ. We said that some of the gifts are passing because they were meant to be an evidence to the apostolic ministry. When the apostolic ministry ceased, there was no longer any need for these particular gifts. We said that some of them could be considered passing because the exercise of these such gifts is not evident within the Church today; or if in some cases there is evidence, the evidence is debatable so that Christian people of good thinking are in dispute over the authenticity of some of the gifts which are considered passing. Then we said that some of the gifts could be considered passing because of the very clear explanation given in the Word of God that certain gifts come to a natural end when their usefulness has ceased.

Personal Gifts Of The Holy Spirit

Today we want to think with you briefly about the personal gifts of the Holy Spirit. We use this word personal for the sake of clarification, and we might refer to these personal gifts as gifted persons because not only has the Lord Jesus Christ, not only has the Holy Spirit, bestowed practical gifts upon the Church, He has bestowed gifted persons upon the Church. It is those gifted persons about whom we wish to think today. Will you turn, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 12, and notice verse 28:

I Corinthians 12:

28And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
29Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
31But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

For the purpose of our discussion today, we are interested in the first statement of verse 28: “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers.” I would ask you to turn to another passage of Scripture that we might have a basic foundation for our discussion today. In Ephesians, chapter 4, you will notice, beginning with verse 11:

Ephesians 4:

11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

We will stop our reading there, emphasizing verse 11 again:

Ephesians 4:

11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

If the passage in I Corinthians remains such in your mind, you will notice that the list in Ephesians, chapter 4, adds two words to the list of gifted individuals. One of them is the word evangelists , and the other is the word pastors. We suggest to you today that the gifted individuals whom the Holy Spirit, whom the Lord Jesus Christ, has bestowed upon the Church are the apostles and the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and the teachers.

Ministry Of Apostles And Prophets

Let us think for a moment about these gifted individuals and the order in which they are named. The apostles and the prophets are usually mentioned together, but that is not to be construed as indicating that they are one and the same office, for they are not. They are two different offices. The meaning of the word apostles and their ministry is indicated by the Greek word from which the word apostle comes. The English word apostle comes from the Greek word apostolos which comes from two Greek words. One of them is the word apo , which means “away,” and the word stello , which means “to send.”

An apostle is a man who is sent away. An apostle is a man who is set apart. An apostle is a man who is sent on a special mission. So the word apostle has come to mean “ambassadors.” We recognize from the Word of God that there were twelve ambassadors duly appointed for the Lord Jesus Christ in behalf of the Church of the living God. There was one other apostle or ambassador who referred to himself as an individual who was born out of due time, spiritually speaking. That individual was the Apostle Paul. So in the early days of the Church, God provided thirteen gifted individuals who were set apart in a very special way to lay the foundation of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The word prophet comes from the Greek word profetets , which very literally translated means “a foreteller of future events,” and “inspired speaker.” Now listen carefully. The prophet should not be misconstrued to be the same as an individual with the gift of prophecy. You will discover as we look at the practical gifts described in this chapter that individuals had the gift of prophecy, but that does not mean that they were a prophet because the prophets were a certain class of people as were the apostles. They were, as they were often mentioned together, associated in laying the foundation of the Church. If your Bibles are still opened to the book of Ephesians, glance across the page at Ephesians, chapter 2, and notice verse 19:

Ephesians 2:

19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

The Ministry Of Revelation

You will notice the two names associated together. The apostles and the prophets laid the foundation of the Church. Their ministry consisted of two things. One was the ministry of revelation. If you will look at Ephesians, chapter 3, you will notice the Apostle Paul speaks to what he refers to as the mystery of the Church . In verse 5, he said:

Ephesians 3:

5Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

The Bible from which we read today we believe to be the inspired Word of God. We believe that the Holy Spirit reveals to these gifted men, the apostles and the prophets, the truth in the Word of God. It is recorded for our benefit and blessing today. We believe in the providence of God that we have in the sixty-six books of the Bible the entire revelation of God as it was given through these gifted men.

Ministry Of Regulation

There was one other thing which was related to the ministry of the apostles and the prophets. That was a ministry that we are going to describe by the word regulation. Revelation was one of their ministries and regulation was another. I won't ask you to turn to Acts, chapter 15, but you might like to make note of it and read it when you have time because we would not have time to read the entire chapter today. When you read Acts, chapter 15, you will discover that there was a problem arising in the early church related to a matter of interpretations. Individuals who did not know how the question should be interpreted said, “The thing that we must do is go to Jerusalem and discuss this matter with the apostles and the elders, and the decisions of the apostles will be final.” You will remember that the council at Jerusalem recorded in Acts, chapter 15, settled the issue of whether or not Gentiles should observe Judaistic regulations. This sort of thing went on continuously though this is the primary record of these things in the Word of God. The apostles and the prophets, I repeat, were gifted men whom God provided in the early days of the Church for a specific purpose. We could call their gifts “passing gifts,” because there are no apostles in the Church today. There are no prophets in the Church today. I recognize that there are some groups who insist that they are fulfilling what is termed apostolic succession , and they are the natural heirs to these apostles. But I would suggest to you, in the light of the Word of God, that such a thing would contradict the plain teaching of the Scripture.

Would you turn with me in your Bible, please, to the book of Revelation, chapter 18, as I remind you once again that these were a special group of people who had a special ministry and purpose to perform. This chapter would emphasize that because in chapter 18 of the book of Revelation we have recorded the prophecy of the overthrow of the city of Babylon which was the center of all idolatry, the center of all of that which refuted the plain teaching of the Word of God. When that overthrow is prophesied, you will notice in verse 20 an exhortation.

Revelation 18:

20Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.

You will notice the special invitation to the holy apostles and prophets to rejoice in the victory over idolatry. If you will glance over just a page or two to Revelation, chapter 21, you will notice in verse 14 another memorial to these individuals to whom we have referred as the apostles and the prophets for describing the Holy City. In verse 14, we read:

Revelation 21:

14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

I suggest to you the gifted men whom God gave to the Church in its early days known as apostles and prophets fulfilled their ministry and are no longer needed in the Church today. I would like for you to keep that in mind because by and by—not now, but by and by—when we discuss the practical gifts of the Spirit, you would wonder if some of them are passing or permanent. We would suggest to you that gifted individuals could be passing in the history of the Church. Then certain practical or abstract gifts could be passing as well.

Ministry Of The Evangelist

Look at the list we read in your hearing at the very beginning of this discussion. If we follow that list as it is found in Ephesians, chapter 4, you will recall that the third gifted person which is mentioned is the evangelist. God gave first apostles, then prophets, and then the evangelist. While the apostle and the prophet laid the foundation of the Church and readied it for its super structure, it was the obligation of the evangelist to provide the living stones out of which this edifice was to be built because it is the business of the evangelist “to speak good.” That is the meaning of the Greek word euangelistes which is the word for evangelist—“to speak good.” The phrase, the good news , the gospel , comes from the Greek word euangelion , so that an evangelist has come to be known as one who declares the good news, an evangelist who preaches the Gospel. The ministry of the evangelist is primarily to the unsaved. I believe that one of the greatest hindrances to the growth of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a failure to recognize that the evangelist is a gifted individual whom God bestowed upon the Church. An evangelist is not a pastor. An evangelist is not an individual who pastors a church all year around and holds a spring revival for somebody. An evangelist is an individual who is gifted along the lines of preaching to the unsaved and appealing to them through a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I would have you recognize with me that there is only one evangelist mentioned in the Bible. I wouldn't leave the impression with you that he is the only one, but he certainly is the only one mentioned. He is mentioned in Acts, chapter 21, verse 8, and his name is Philip. He is Philip, the evangelist. If you follow the history of this man, you will find that everywhere he went, he held great mass meetings that we would term mass evangelistic meetings today. No, he didn't go and hold a spring revival in a church. He held mass evangelistic campaigns to which people responded in great numbers.

One other thing I would have you recognize before we pass on from this gifted individual called the evangelist , and that is though there is such a gifted individual, there is a sense in which every Christian should do the work of an evangelist. Timothy was a pastor, and yet it is recorded in II Timothy, chapter 4, verse 5, that he was encouraged to do the work of an evangelist, which simply emphasizes the fact that though there is a gifted individual called an evangelist whom God has bestowed upon the Church, the believers are not to sit back, so to speak, and let the evangelists do all of the soul-winning. Each individual believer has a responsibility of personally witnessing for Christ and bringing men to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ministry Of The Pastor Teacher

Now there is the fourth gifted individual. If we are following the list in Ephesians, chapter 4, notice what I said, the fourth gifted individual. There were the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, pastors and teachers. You may say, “Now wait, you said the fourth gifted individual, Don't you mean the fourth and the fifth gifted individuals?” No, I mean the fourth individual because in Ephesians, chapter 4, there are not two gifted individuals mentioned when the words pastors and teachers are used. There is only one, for that is one gifted individual. It may not and is not apparent in the English translation, but in the grammatical construction of the verse there is no question but what the Holy Spirit of God is speaking of one individual when He speaks of the pastor and the teacher. God has given to the Church, the Body of Christ, a gifted individual known as the pastor and teacher.

Recognize today, because we will be dealing with it when we get to the practical gifts, that it is possible to have the gift of teaching and yet not be the gifted individual of whom we speak today. Many of you have the gift of teaching, but you would be the first to admit that you are not the gifted individual whom God has bestowed upon the Church as the pastor and the teacher. This is one office, and we say to you that though it is possible to have the gift of teaching and not be a pastor, it is impossible to be a pastor and not be a teacher if you are the gifted individual whom God has bestowed upon the Church.

The word pastor comes from the Greek word poimen , which elsewhere is translated by the word “shepherd.” There is nothing in this word shepherd that would faintly suggest that the pastor should be an organizer, a mixer, a builder or a promoter. I don't know how many times I have been asked to recommend pastors to churches. Sometimes I am asked the question, “Is this man a builder?” When I say, “What do you mean by that?”, they will say, “Well, the man we had a while ago was a good preacher, but we need a builder this time if we are going to grow.” I always sit down with my Bible and show individuals that they are far afield in their search for a pastor because a pastor is a shepherd.

I would suggest to you that you meditate further on this word by thinking of all the duties and the obligations of a shepherd. When you have considered those duties and obligations, then you will know what the duties and the obligations of a pastor are. If you who are here today are fortunate enough to be in a fellowship where God has given a gifted man, regardless where you have come from, then I would suggest to you that you accept the personal responsibility before the Lord to see to it that the gifted man is left free to discharge the ministry for which God placed him in the Church. That ministry is a ministry of shepherding that flock and teaching, for the teaching ministry of the pastor is exactly what a shepherd does. One of the things that a shepherd does is to feed the sheep. He leads them into green pastures. He leads them beside still waters. If he did not lead them into green pastures and if he did not lead them beside the still waters, then he would not be discharging his obligation as a shepherd. I say to you that any pastor who does not spend time in the Word with the ability to make a practical application of the Word so that truly he is leading individuals into green pastures and beside still waters, he needs to get out of the pastorate and into something else.

Oftentimes I have had people say to me, rather apologetically, “I don't know why it is that when I come to services, I get so much out of the Word. Yet when I read that same passage myself, I don't get nearly that much, and sometimes I don't get anything.” Then, rather apologetically, they say, “I guess I am just lazy. I know I ought to be doing this for myself.”

There is a sense in which each of you should be a student of God's Word, but there is a sense in which when you assemble in this place on the Lord's day, you should expect to find green pastures. You should expect to find some still waters from which you can drink, green pastures from which you can eat, to carry you through the days that you face ahead. I say humbly before God today that if ever I step behind the sacred desk and fail to lead into green pastures where folk can feed on the Word of God, then it is time for me to step out of the ministry and do something else. The gifted individual God has bestowed upon the Church is the pastor and the teacher.

Conclusion

May I suggest to you in closing, that you take advantage of the gifted men whom God has left to the Church to this day—namely, the evangelists. If you know of an evangelist who is being used of God to reach great masses of the unsaved, pray for him. Don't only pray for him; put him in your budget. He can't carry on his work for nothing. And if you know of a pastor and a teacher who is ministering the Word of God, don't waste your time sitting under the ministry of a promoter or an organizer or a builder because you are going to have to give an account to God someday for doing it. Find a pastor and a teacher and let him lead you into green pastures and beside still waters. These are the gifted individuals whom God has left yet with the Church for its edification, its up-building, for the work of the ministry till we all come to the fullness of the knowledge of Christ.


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