Our Reasonable Service
Or, Edifying the Saints to do the Work of the Ministry

by David J. Rogers, D.Min.
Presented by Saint Luke Evangelical School Of Biblical Studies

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." Romans 12:1 [1]

Reasonable Service. Paul, to the Church in Rome, wrote that our "reasonable service" is to present ourselves as living sacrifces to God. In Paul's day, there were many gods, everywhere. The Jewish faith was but a small group of believers scattered throughout southern Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia. The Judeo-Christian faith was even less. They were an extreme minority. They were considered a cult to the Roman Empire. The religious worship practices of some of the pantheons included human sacrifice. Under the direction of the emperor of Rome, prisoners, slaves, captured soliders of other nations, animals, and Christians were being habitually put to death to honor their "gods," most notable in the Roman Circus of the Coliseum. Paul's encouragement to the Church in Rome was not to die well. Paul's encouragement to the Church in Rome was to live well, a life acceptable to God. That was the reasonable service to God from the common Christian, live well toward God. If that was/is the reasonable service to God for the common Christian, then what is the reasonable service to those that are called to serve the common Christian, the Body of Christ?

Truly, in Paul's time, being a Christian could be very difficult. In the Roman eyes, Paul and the other Church leaders were seen as extremists and cult leaders that needed to be stopped. Stopped, because these cult leaders were taking people away from accepted, normal behavior in Roman society. They were also caretakers of the Church of Jesus Christ, a solemn duty they took seriously. Simon-Peter was also in Rome. It was to Peter that Jesus spoke in the Gospel of John, commanding him to "tend My sheep." In the modern society of the United States of America, Christians and Church leaders rarely, if ever, experience external strife directed toward them for merely being a Christian. Our modern society has lost some of its impetus to drive us toward the question of "reasonable service." There is no longer the constant threat of death for being a Christian, in the U.S.A. But, Paul's statement still holds true. We should present ourselves, stridently, to God as living sacrifices, working out daily our salvation and bearing a witness of Him, in whome we believe.

In John 21, Jesus tells Simon-Peter to tend His sheep. Like sheep need a shepherd to lead them, so too, Christians need leadership to guide them. In Psalm 23, King David said the Lord was his shepherd. David grew up as a shepherd. He knew and understood sheep. As a shepherd, he knew that the flock depended heavily on the shepherd for food, water, shelter, and protection. Jesus knew this as well. In John 10, Jesus makes several references to Himself as the good shepherd. Jesus knew that God's people would need leadership or they would be just like the sheep without a shepherd; scattered and at the mercy of every predator. Jesus taught His disciples to be shepherds in His absence, to lead and guide His flock until His return. Others He called through His Holy Spirit, as with Paul and Barnabas.

"Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod, the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away." Acts 13:1-3 [2]

Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus, that God called some in the Church to Himself to be gifts to the Church.

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Ephesians 4:11-12 [3]

Jesus desired leadership and direction for His Church, His sheepfold. These were men and women that the Holy Spirit called and "set apart" for service to the Body of Christ. These men and women are different than the overseers, elders, bishops, and deacons described in Acts and 1st and 2nd Timothy. The men of whom Paul wrote to Timothy are for the church administration, to take care of the work of the ministry. But of those Jesus gave to the Church, they are men and women set apart specifically for the task of "equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying body of Christ."

To better understand what Jesus gave us, we need to look at each one of the "types" given and in the light of how that would pertain to the "equipping of the saints."

The word apostle comes from the Greek word apostolos, which came from the two Greek words apo [from] and stellein [to send]. From Webster's Dictionary, apostle is defined as a person sent out on a special mission. This "title" is usually attributed to the disciples of Jesus, as they were sent from Him to the world. From his or her work, we could define an apostle as someone specifically sent into the world with a message from God. To stop everyone just running around calling themselves apostles, additional criteria should be added. Are they doing the same work as the apostles Jesus sent forth? Have they been sent forth by the local church elders as the Spirit of God separates them unto Himself? [Acts 13] The surest test of anyone's calling to ministry to the Church or the world at large would be the signs following. Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ being freely preached? Are good people being saved and discipled? Are churches being built and the congregations being built up? These are the things the first apostles of Jesus were doing. So, the apostle is like a shepherd collecting sheep, making sheepfolds, and raising up shepherds to tend the flocks they find.

The word prophet comes from the Greek word prophetes, meaning one who speaks before. This person is a spokesperson. In the case of the Biblical prophet, he or she is a spokesperson for God. The Bible is very clear that there are many false prophets. Tests for anyone thinking he or she is a prophet are the same tests from the Bible. If it was from God, it will come to pass. [Isaiah 46:9-10, 55:10] Prophecy in the Church is to edify or build up the Church. This is different from the gifts word of prophecy, word of knowledge, discerning of spirits, or word of wisdom, from 1 Corinthians 12. This is a person God has specifically chosen to be His spokesperson for an event or time. If you think you are called to this ministry to the Church, I highly encourage you to first pray about it, study the lives of the Biblical prophets and their lives, submit yourself and your calling to the local church elders for prayer and counseling. The judgment or accountability is higher for prophets of God. His prophets speak for Him. Great caution and much prayer should be given before exercising this gift or office. As much as we dislike being misquoted and misrepresented, how muych more so our Father in Heaven. The chiefest test of a word from a prophet is to let it sit and to submit the word to the elders of the local church for prayer. God will confirm His words through prophets. God will use prophets to confirm and encourage those that need to hear from God or are hearing from God but are unsure or disobedient. My personal definition for a prophet is someone who has an on-going conversation with God, and sometimes God has that person tell others about those conversations. The prophet is like a shepherd's hireling, going out calling on behalf of the shepherd. He is not the shepherd but a voice for the shepherd.

The word evangelist comes from the Greek word euangelistes, meaning one who is a messenger with good news. It comes from the root words eu [well] and angelos [messenger]. Interestingly, angelos is the same word for angel in English. An evangelist goes forth telling the good news. Bibically, the evangelist is someone who goes forth proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. The surest sign of this calling is when you preach, signs will follow. People will come to Jesus Christ when evangelists preach. He or she will have great effect reaching the lost. There have been many men and women since Simon-Peter that have been able to proclaim the Gospel. The evangelist is the one that goes out to the world inviting anyone who will to come. They are like the shepherds that go out looking for the lost lambs to bring them back to the sheepfold. That is the job of the evangelist.

The word pastor comes from the Latin word pastor, which comes from the verb pascere, to feed. In the Bible it is the Greek word poimen, which mean shepherd or pastor in English. Putting it simply, the pastor in a local church is to feed, tend the sheepfold of God, where Jesus is the head shepherd. This is probably the toughest job of the five ministries listed in Ephesians 4:11. The apostle travels to distant lands. The prophet prays, serves, and speaks for God when God needs him or her. The evangelist travels from church to church, from town to town, preaching. The pastor stays right there, week in, week out. The pastor tends the sheep that the apostle went to find. The prophet calls to the sheep with the voice of the shepherd. The evangelist goes out looking for the lost sheep to bring them back. Pray earnestly before entering into this ministry. Serve someone who is already working in this ministry to be sure you are called to be a pastor. The rewards of being a pastor are being able to watch all those in the local church grow in Christ, to watch them grow from sinner to saint, to watch them grow from receving to giving, to watch them grow into mature Christians thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The word for teacher in Greek is didaskalos, which means one who instructs. This is a person who is gifted by God to interpret the Sciptures and convey them clearly so that others can learn more of God. These are the men and women that continue the discipling work of Jesus Christ. James admonished, let us not all become teachers knowing that teachers will receive a stricter judgment. [James 3:1] Jesus said that it would be better to have a millstone strung about your neck and be thrown into the sea than to cause one of God's children to sin. [Matthew 18:6] The responsibility of a teacher is to teach God's Word accurately, as accurately as Jesus would. Teach according to the Word of God, not by any special interpretation. But following the spiritual intent as well as the letter intent of the Word. You can ask any teacher about their rewards. It is hard work being a teacher, but when the light of understanding suddenly fills the eyes of the student, the thrill is amazing. There is nothing quite like watching someone going from unlearned to learned to applying the lessons learned.

What is the work of the ministry? The word Christian means one like Christ, implying like Jesus Christ. If we are to be like Jesus Christ, and therefore Christians, we must do the works that Jesus did. Jesus had a very simple mission statement.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord," Isaiah 61:1-2a, Luke 4:18-19 [4]

This is the "good news" that Jesus preached. These are the words that Jesus did. This is the "good news" we are to preach. This is the "work of the ministry."

The good news to the poor is that they are not poor anymore. All of their needs are met in Christ Jesus. The promises of God, YHWH Jireh [The LORD our Provision], are available to us because Jesus took our judgment at the cross. All can have peace and blessing with God if they accept the price Jesus paid and accept it was paid for their sin.

Healing the brokenhearted. If they lost all and are brokenhearted, through Jesus we can bind up their hearts and God will heal them. God will comfort them. If they are hopeless, Jesus will give them hope, will be their hope.

Proclaiming liberty to the captive, opening the prison to those who are bound. There are two ways of looking at this. Psychology shows there are those who are captive to psychological disorders, captive to situations beyond their control. They need to be set free. There are those in our prisons. Many of those men, women, and children are physically held captive as well as captive to dysfunctional disorders. They, too, need liberty, to be set free.

Proclaiming the Acceptable Year of the Lord. The Acceptable Year of the Lord means the Year of Jubilee. It was the fiftieth year of the Jewish calendar. Under the Jewish Law, the fiftieth year was to be set aside to praise the Lord. in that year, all debts were canceled; all lands went back to the original owners. It is a year solely on the Lord's provision. Under Jewish Law, for six years the land is worked. On the seventh year, the land was to lay at rest. After 48 years, the next year would be the year of rest and the year after would be the year of the Lord's provision. The amazing blessing of this is three years of provision was provided in one year to cover the two years of no planting and the one-year of growth. This was an amazing year of super abundance. Can you see why this would be good news to the poor?

James, the brother of Jesus, and author of the Book of James, added to this work of the ministry to take care of the widowed and orphaned.

"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." James 1:27 [5]

Jesus further lined out what He thought was desirable service, in addition to the quoted verses from Isaiah 61. In Matthew 25, Jesus gave both positive and a negative example of service to God.

"The the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?" And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."' Matthew 25:37-40 [6]

Therefore, we can say the work of the ministry is this: to proclaim the good news to the poor, healing the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to those held captive, opening the prison of those who are bound, proclaiming the Year of God's super-abundant provision (the Acceptable Year of the Lord), taking care of the widow and orphan in their need, feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, taking in strangers or homeless, clothe the naked or needful, visit the sick, and visit those in prison.

With that stated, we can say the role of the five ministries of Ephesians 4:11 would be the apostles go out to find them, the prophets encourage and proclaim the Words of God, the evangelist finds the lost and draws them into the Church, the pastor cares for them, and the teacher instructs them in the way they should go so they will not depart from it. All of these ministries, to not do the work of the ministry, but to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. That is the purpose of the five ministries. And, of those called to any of the five ministries, our reasonable service is to do whatever it takes to ensure the saints in our care can do the work of the ministry as well as being able to present them to Jesus as living sacrifices without spot or wrinkle, holy, acceptable to God. That, then, is the reasonable service of an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher.

The Holy Bible, New King James Version. (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

copyright 2003 by David J. Rogers, D.Min.
Used by permission.