Purpose of Ministry Gifts As Applied To Present Day Ministry
by Paul David Terry, Dr. Min.
Presented by Saint Luke Evangelical School Of Biblical Studies
In the above mentioned verse, the listing of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers is often referred to as being the five-fold ministry. Each have their own specific function within the body of Christ, yet all accomplish the same three-fold purpose as given in the verse following. What the New Testament saints performed and accomplished then, is no different than what modern day saints accomplish in today’s ministry. Malachi 3:6 states “For I am the Lord, I change not....” Since the Lord does not change, then neither will His word. Given that, then the purpose that a five-fold ministry endeavors to do has not and will not change regardless of how diverse or how multifaceted it may be. Yet before one determines to venture out into the realm of ministry, tis best that a clear understanding and definition of ministry be known. Ministry defined in its simplest form, albeit in a broad sense, is what one does in service unto the Lord and unto ones fellow man. Conversely, in a much narrower sense, it denotes the officially recognized service of persons set apart (usually by formal ordination) by a church. In both cases, the three-fold purpose is still accomplished and is what will be examined here.
Purpose 1 – The Perfecting of the Saints
Someone once said, “practice makes perfect.” If we are to live godly lives, we must practice godly living. This is our strongest Christian witness that serves as a powerful evangelistic tool in order to win souls to Christ. Our Lord so instructs us to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:8). The word ‘perfect’ as applied here means to develop fully. Hence, the perfecting of the saints is a growth process. Even our Lord recognized this an is evident in the gospel of John in the 17th chapter. It is here that Jesus prays for His disciples a most lengthy prayer, and in verse twenty-three prays that “...they may be made perfect in one; ...”. It is a prayer that the followers of Christ be united in “perfect” harmony so that the work of the Lord will be continued. The only way such perfection can come to fruition is if the disciples of Christ practice living godly lives.
The concept of this is all is perchance best illustrated by a new born infant as to a new convert. A baby will first crawl before it will ever walk. In a similar manner a new convert is to be rooted firmly in Gods Holy word before he/she are to take their own steps, but it takes much practice in living a godly lifestyle before both God and man. Yet it is this type of open witness that will draw others into wanting to know more about the Lord, His love for humanity, an perchance the most important single key element, His saving grace. Whether one is called as an apostle, a prophet, teacher, pastor or evangelist, striving to be perfect will always be a growing process, but it is that growth process produced by a godly lifestyle that will serve as a ministry to others in itself. It may be done at home, on the job, where ever one may go, the idea is to exhibit Christ at all times, The moment one determines in their heart to forego the Christian way of life, the soul loses ground with God and the example that Christ gave us to follow in becomes of ill effect thus damaging what could have been a most dynamic and powerful witness for others to desire and to follow into.
Purpose 2 – For the Work of the Ministry
Ever hear someone say, “If you don’t do it, it won’t get done”? Others may declare, “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.” The bottom line here is obvious; in order for a ministry to function, it will require action. James 2:20 states that “...faith without works is dead.” The disciples of Christ went from city to city, town to town, country to country proclaiming Christ, declaring ‘good news’. In essence, they were doing the work of an evangelist. Even if all one does is to teach Sunday School, a most noteworthy ministry, it takes work; it requires action. A ministry is only as good as the amount of effort that is expended to keep it alive. An active, vibrant faith will yield much fruit, whereas little to none reaps what has been sown.
The internal mechanics of any ministry, whether it be street evangelism, nursing home, soup kitchen, or Sunday School, relies solely upon its workers. Matt. 9:37 says thusly, “...the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” Therefore, where there is no perfecting of the saints, there is no working ministry; where there is no working ministry, there is no Word, and where there is no Word, mankind is plummeted towards a downward spiral into spiritual darkness and despair. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Rom. 10:17) Thus, in order for a ministry to function, it must have faithful committed laborers, regardless of number.
Purpose 3 – For the Edifying of the Body of Christ
Tis one thing to go forth and “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost...” (Matt. 28:19), and to uplift those who are lost with a message of hope. But, what about edification as Christian to fellow Christian? We can spend all our time, energy, and talent into various evangelistic ministries from street evangelism to global tent revivals, but it will be how Christians treat one another that will ultimately reflect on the ministry to which they are called. Should gossiping, slander, or even a clear and blatant disregard for pastoral of church authority abound; none of which is desirable in the eyes of Almighty God, it will very much so permeate the very core of a church and it ministries. And rather than destroy one another with harsh words or bad attitudes, we are commanded to edify one another. It is the trademark and seal of any Christian ministry. Any Christian can go forth and declare unto others to love their enemy and each other, but the concept starts with the body of Christ.
It is the number one ministry that the saints of God are charged with by the heavenly Father Himself, and is also the sum total of growing in Christ (perfecting of saints), and ministry laborers who play and active role (work of the ministry) and not a passive one. Hence, Christians are to work together thus culminating 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 fullness o Christ” (Eph. 4:13). When the objective(s) of a ministry are met, then the purpose as outlined in Eph. 4:12 are met whereby Christians can experience a heartfelt relationship with the blessed Trinity as they each and individually experience the reward o personal growth and development into the fullness of Christ, as will their ministry to which they have been called.