Eph 4:11-12 “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”
In Ephesians 4:7-8, Paul begins to tell us about the gift of Christ and the gifts He gave unto men when He ascended. Verses 9 and 10 are a parenthetical statement that Paul makes concerning the testimony that Jesus both descended into the earth and ascended into heaven (died and arose again). These verses are not directly in line with Paul’s topic that he goes back to in verse 11.
For clarity’s sake, let us look at Paul’s subject without the interjection of verses 9 and 10. “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ (v7). Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men (v8). And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers (v11); For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (v12).” Paul here begins to name some of the gifts and the purpose these gifts had.
These gifts were all given by Jesus Christ. It was not a matter of the worthiness of the receiver but all about the will and purpose of the Giver. While we certainly should walk worthy of our vocation and exercise the gifts that God gives us, we are no more worthy in ourselves of His spiritual gifts than we are of the gift of eternal life. Before Jesus called them, Peter was a fisherman, Matthew was a tax collector, and Paul was so consumed with self-righteousness that he had to be blinded before he could see. None of this prevented God from calling them, bestowing upon them spiritual gifts, and using them for His glory.
We often talk of the miraculous gifts of the apostles, and they did certainly have those. We tend to overlook that being an apostle was its own gift. We know that power over certain demons was given to them. There is evidence that some of them had power to heal and do miraculous works. We know that Peter and Paul were both empowered by God to bring back one from the dead. We often look at these men with awe, and in that we make a mistake. Our awe should be reserved for the God of heaven and earth who bestowed these gifts on these men.
He only gave the gift of apostle (Strong’s – a delegate; specifically an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ, [with miraculous powers]: – apostle, messenger, he that is sent) to some. He gave some the gift of prophet (Strong’s – a foreteller (“prophet”); by analogy an inspired speaker; by extension a poet), some the gift of evangelist (Strong’s – a preacher of the gospel), to some pastor [a shepherd (literally or figuratively]), and to some teacher (Strong’s – an instructor [generally or specifically]). There is no scriptural evidence to indicate that all the apostles had all the same gifts (i.e. only Peter and Paul are named as having ever brought the dead back to life). By the same token, the scripture tells us that there were others besides the apostles that had gifts of healing and of working miracles (Stephen and Philip to name a couple – see Acts 6:8 and Acts 8:6).
Today, He does not give us all the same exact gifts. Some may be blessed to speak with inspiration and to instruct. Some may be blessed to preach the gospel and to serve as an under-shepherd to the flock of God. Some may be called to pastor without being called to do the work of an evangelist. Some may have the gift to teach without ever being called to preach. Whether He gives one gift to an individual or several, the Giver is where our focus should be. He distributes these gifts in such a way that, regardless of the gift or gifts we may be blessed with, we need the others as well.
All these gifts were given so that those who are consecrated for God’s service (saints) might be completely furnished (perfected). All these gifts were given that we might put our service (ministry) into action (work). All these gifts were given for the confirmation (edifying) of the sound whole (body) of Christ. None are superfluous, repetitive, or unnecessary. These all came when Jesus ascended up on high, led captivity captive, and gave them unto men.
I know there has been much debate over the years as to whether all these gifts remain with us today. Of this I am sure; they are all necessary today for the good of the cause even if some of them (such as the gift of apostle) are only here as recorded witness to the work that God does in the establishing of His church. Jesus gave these gifts to men when He ascended up on high. We see these gifts today when He is exalted in our hearts. These gifts are given according to the will and power of God for the cause of Jesus Christ!
May we never honor men for the gifts that come from God but always recognize that the Giver sent them for our benefit and His glory!