“And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” Eph. 4:11
This is the list of special leaders in the early church. The church is, of course, the temple of God and at the same time the body of Christ. Jesus as the head of the body is responsible for its ongoing structure. We have already heard of the first two mentioned in verse 11, apostles and prophets.
Apostles and prophets were given as the foundation of the church. This is brought out in Eph. 2:20 and Eph. 3:5. An apostle is one sent as an appointed delegate. Most scholars see the twelve and Paul as holding this “office.” However, we know that others were also called apostles. Whether holding the office or not, they were pointed out as appointed delegates for Christ.
This gift involved the foundation of the church, the basis on which the church would be built by Christ. They were fundamental to the inauguration of the body of Christ. In the same way, prophets were gifted as part of the foundation. The job of the prophet was to provide edification, exhortation as well as comfort (1 Cor. 14:3). Since there was no Bible as we know it today, these prophets would have been involved in revealing God’s will to the various churches. Once the Bible was complete, their job would have been obsolete. Since apostles and prophets were foundational, they ceased to exist after the first generation of the body was gone.
The evangelists were like modern-day missionaries. It was their task to spread the good news of Jesus and his body into all the world. By the gift of the spirit, they were specially equipped for preaching and teaching the unbelievers. Many of the early churches were started by such people. The same is true today. Evangelist go into new areas and spread the good news, people believe are baptized, and a body of Christ is set up in that area.
Today we think of evangelists as preachers who travel from one place to another to speak to the church. That is not the New Testament pattern. New Testament evangelists were more likely to start churches. As we shall see in our next blog, there is some confusion in our modern day churches as to the gifts that were given by Christ at the beginning of the New Testament church.