Apostles and Ephesians 4:11 Bible Teachers Are in the Church Today
- Summary: Pastor Feeney spoke to a ministers’ conference about the need for a renewed manifestation of the ministries of true apostles and Spirit-anointed bible teachers in today’s Church.
For the past 35 years I have had the privilege of being affiliated with Abbott Loop Christian Center, in Anchorage, Alaska. Over the years, Abbott Loop has, with prayer and the laying on of hands, formally sent out about 1,200 people to plant about 70 local churches. A very brief history will show how the recognition of the ministries of apostle and bible teacher became central to that major church-planting outreach.
- •• The Abbott Loop church was founded in 1959. Over the next 14 years, under the leadership of senior Pastor Dick Benjamin, the church planted three other churches in Alaska, and one of those three planted an outreach church of its own. Then a remarkable event occurred in 1973.
•• Apostle Jim Durkin of Eureka, California’s Gospel Outreach came to Abbott Loop and preached for a week on the Ephesians 4:11 “fivefold” ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Brother Durkin and the local church’s elders agreed that the Lord had singled out and called three of the “pastors” in Abbott Loop to be recognized in one or another of the other “fivefold” ministries. Apostle Durkin joined with the Abbott Loop elders and ordained Richard C. “Dick” Benjamin as an apostle, Tom Edmondson as a prophet, and Richard K. “Dick” Strutz as a bible teacher. The fruit of that broader recognition of the fivefold ministries was immediate and astounding.
•• In just the next three years (1974-76), Abbott Loop sent out 354 men, women, and children on 22 church-planting teams. Subsequent to that 1973 expansion into the Ephesians 4:11 fivefold ministries, the church grew explosively, the apostolic vision for church planting dramatically increased, and the bible teaching ministry grew in size and effectiveness.
•• So much could be said about those invigorating years, as we saw the Holy Spirit move dramatically in our midst. But that was then; this is today. And my desire today — and I believe that I am reflecting to you the heart of God — is to focus on two of those ministries. I long to see a rekindling of the vision for modern-day apostles and Holy Spirit-anointed bible teachers. To that end, let’s turn to the word of God.
Ephesians 4:11 It was he [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.
- •• Our conference theme is “Rekindling the Vision for the Fivefold Ministries”.
- • “Pastor” we know well. We will focus in our conference messages on the other four.
• My assignment tonight, and the burden of my heart personally, is to stir your vision for a renewal of the ministries of apostle and bible teacher. First let’s look at the apostolic ministry.
Ephesians 2:19-20 ...God’s people...[are] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
1. Along with prophets, apostles are a foundational ministry in the body of Christ.
- •• I have great respect for dedicated evangelists, pastors and bible teachers. I had personally been ordained as a teacher (1975) and pastor (1980), before being ordained as an apostle at Abbott Loop Christian Center in 1985. But out of the five Ephesians 4:11 ministries, the bible singles out apostles and prophets as the two ministries which, anchored to Jesus the Chief Cornerstone, undergird the Lord’s Church. All Christians are entitled to be built on this apostolic and prophetic foundation.
2. Who gives these ministries to the Church?
1 Corinthians 12:28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers...
Ephesians 4:11 It was he [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles ... [and the other four].
3. All FIVE are in the Church for the entire church age.
Ephesians 3:4-5 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.
- •• Paul declares that the mystery has “now been revealed...to God’s holy apostles and prophets”. These were “now” — that is, contemporary — apostles and prophets in the Church several decades after Christ’s resurrection and ascension to heaven.
- • We need such men in the Lord’s Church today, still hearing wisdom and direction from God.
• And, may I add, along with these ministries we need also the manifestation of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit today.
4. Is the New Testament Church today properly structured?
The answer to that question can be found in a simple test. Most Christians will fail this test!
- •• Question #1 — Which three of the Ephesians 4:11 ministries are mentioned most in the New Testament?
•• Question #2 — Which two of those fivefold ministries are mentioned least in the New Testament?
•• Answer to question #1 (the three mentioned most):
- • The word “apostle(s)” occurs 85 times in the New Testament.
• The word “prophet(s)” occurs over 150 times in the New Testament, about 20 of those occurrences referring distinctly to prophets in the Church Age.
• The word “teacher(s)” occurs 125 times in the New Testament.
- •• Answer to question #2 (the two mentioned least):
- • The word “evangelist(s)” occurs only three times in the New Testament.
• The word “pastor(s)” occurs precisely one (1) time in the entire New Testament! One time!
- •• Consider those numbers. The Bible speaks of New Testament apostles, prophets, or teachers a combined total of at least 200 times. Pastors and evangelists are mentioned a combined total of four times! And yet the churches today insist on calling virtually every minister “pastor”, a practice that is certainly not derived from the New Testament.
5. WHY do we need APOSTLES today?
Book of Acts: they founded new churches.
- •• James and the other apostles in Jerusalem
•• Paul and Barnabas established many new churches.
•• We need church-planting apostles today.
Acts 15:1-21 They settled doctrinal disputations.
- •• Here, the circumcision-for-salvation issue
•• Apostles today are needed to preserve correct doctrine, to help the body of Christ adhere to the infallible, unchanging word of God, the bible.
Acts 19:22 They sent forth other ministering men.
- •• Here, Paul sending Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia
•• (1 Timothy 1:3) Paul stationed Timothy in Ephesus.
•• (Titus 1:5) Paul assigned Titus to Crete.
•• Over the years apostle Dick Benjamin sent forth from the church in Anchorage about six dozen pastors leading church-planting teams.
1 Corinthians 3:10 Apostles were wise master builders. They laid spiritual foundations.
- •• (KJV) “As a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation.”
•• Today we need apostles laying solid foundations.
- • Our good friend, apostle Patrick Low, is doing that in India and Singapore.
1 Corinthians 4:14-15 The apostle Paul had developed “sons” in the faith.
- •• (KJV) “Though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers.”
•• Christians today need spiritual fathers. And there is no better place to find those fathers than among contemporary apostles.
- • To the present day I am blessed to have apostle Dick Benjamin as a spiritual father to me. And I am over 60 years old!
1 Corinthians 11:34 They set churches in order.
- •• I have traveled with apostle Dick Benjamin to many of our outreaches and have marveled at his apostolic wisdom and ability to set things in biblical order.
•• Much in the body of Christ today needs some apostolic setting in order.
2 Corinthians 11:28 Paul exercised “care of all the churches.”
- •• I have always felt that our apostle was praying for us and caring for us.
•• We need that caring oversight as humans and as Christians.
Ephesians 2:20 Apostles are part of the foundation of the church.
- •• Only apostle and prophets (along with Jesus Christ, of course) are called such in the bible.
•• The church — and even pastors, teachers, and evangelists — need men holding them up, men who are foundational ministers well grounded in Jesus, the Chief Cornerstone.
Ephesians 3:3-5 They received revelation from God.
- •• “...the mystery...which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.”
•• They will not be writing new Scripture today — that is complete. But they receive revelation nevertheless ... “now”. There are “revelations” which are not the already-completed writing of Scripture. For example, 1 Corinthians 14:26 speaks of church services in which occur the ministry of the word, the worship of God, and spiritual gifts, including “a revelation”.
Ephesians 4:11-12, KJV They “perfect the saints for the work of the ministry”.
- •• Pastors alone cannot do that.
•• This never-ending task of perfecting the saints, of helping them to Christian maturity, requires exposure to all five, including apostles and teachers. Now let us move from our study of the apostle to a Scriptural look at the Ephesians 4:11 bible teacher.
Acts 13:1 In the CHURCH at Antioch there were prophets and TEACHERS.
- •• Today, as then, we need “teachers...in the church”.
6. WHY do we need BIBLE TEACHERS today?
Mark 16:15 ...Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel...
Matthew 28:19-20 ...go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them ...  and teaching them...
- •• The Great Commission is to WIN the LOST and to TEACH and TRAIN the SAVED.
- • Mark’s account emphasizes preaching and getting people saved.
• Matthew’s account emphasizes teaching and making disciples.
• Christianity today in America is woefully short of disciples. Bible teachers, get busy making disciples!
Romans 12:6-7 We have different GIFTS, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if [a man’s gift] is teaching, let him teach...
- •• There are many who can “teach” others in the general sense.
- • But the Church today needs anointed, Ephesians 4:11 teachers, those with a specific, Holy Spirit-given “gift” to make God’s word clear, practical, and understandable to people.
• Present and future bible teachers — don’t rely on academics. Do study, of course, but in every teaching rely on the Holy Spirit. Teachers need the Holy Spirit as much as the prophesier or the one with gifts of healing needs the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers...
- •• We need God-called and God-appointed teachers, lest we frustrate that which God is building on earth in His church.
Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave some ... teachers  FOR the perfecting of the SAINTS, for the work of the ministry...
- •• Remember: Win the lost and teach and train the saved.
•• Do a word study in the New Testament of the various forms of the words “preach...” and “teach...” You’ll find with very few exceptions that “preaching” was to the lost and “teaching” was to the saved.
- • Today’s saved people need anointed bible teachers!
2 Timothy 1:11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.
- •• The Gospel needs to be taught to believers — that is, to have its depths and richness elaborated upon, as well as “preached”.
•• God may give you multiple assignments, like Paul:
- • Paul was called to preach the Gospel, winning many over to God’s great salvation in Jesus Christ.
• He was called to traveling apostleship to the Gentiles, planting and strengthening new churches.
• And he was called to teach the Gospel:
- • 18 months in Corinth “teaching the word of God” (Acts 18:11)
• He conducted a two-year, daily bible school in Ephesus (Acts 19:9-10).
- •• Historical note: Abbott Loop Christian Center’s 1973 ordination of an apostle and a prophet were not the only reason for the church-planting explosion. A variety of bible teachers were training the saints in the recently-established Charismatic Bible College. I had the privilege of being one of the founding teachers of the bible college in 1972. We began that year with 25 students. 1973 saw 50 students, then 100 in 1974, followed by 300 students in 1975.
- • The bible teachers were a major part of that unprecedented increase! And many of those well-trained students became pastors or team members of church-planting teams that were sent out by the church.
2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
- •• We need true bible teachers today to combat the flood of false teachers and false doctrines.
James 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
- •• The United States Marines advertise that they are looking for “a few good men”.
- • The Ephesians 4:11 call of the teacher is “not [for the] many”. One should not “presume” to occupy this ministry without the Lord’s clear calling.
• It is for those who are called by God to be teachers of God's word, the bible, teachers who will take God’s judgment seriously and will devote their lives to perfecting the saints.
• If being a bible teacher is God’s call on you, don’t let a day go by without pressing further into that calling.
May we recommend also our related study: Christian Prophets and Modern-Day Apostles.
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©2008, 2015, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.