HE GAVE GIFTS UNTO MEN
by Kenneth E. Hagin
. . . When he [Jesus] ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and GAVE GIFTS UNTO MEN....
And he GAVE some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, PASTORS and teachers.
— Ephesians 4:8,11
And God HATH SET SOME IN THE CHURCH,
first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly
teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of heal-
ings, helps, GOVERNMENTS, diversities of
— 1 Corinthians 12:28
Some people today are confused about church government and what constitutes correct church government. Church government refers to who is in authority in the local church and who is responsible for the leadership of the local body. How is the local church supposed to be run?
When you study the New Testament, you won't find any ironclad laws about church government. The New Testament is not as clear as we'd like it to be on this subject. And no matter what kind of church government a church has, a person can take scriptures out of their setting to try to prove that his particular kind of church government is right. Many arguments and "religious wars" have been waged over this issue.
Although there may be some grey areas in the Bible as far as what constitutes proper church government, there are some basic principles and guidelines laid down for us in the New Testament; If we stay within those guidelines, we will be fine. But if we get out beyond those basic principles, we are going to get into trouble.
The reason some confusion exists in this area is that some people have tried to take the things which Paul said about ministry, and make them apply to church government. But we need to understand that many ministries exist which have nothing to do with the governing of the local church.
You see, Paul talks about the fivefold ministries that are given to the Church, or set in the Church. These are people whom God has called and set in the Church to minister to the Body of Christ.
In Ephesians 4:11 and First Corinthians 12:28, Paul lists the fivefold ministries. The list of ministry gifts in Ephesians 4:11 is obvious: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
And in First Corinthians 12:28, the offices of the apostle, prophet, and teacher are listed clearly enough. But we don't readily see the offices of the evangelist and pastor. However, the office of the evangelist is referred to in this list as "miracles" and "gifts of healings," since those manifestations frequently accompany that office, although they are not exclusive to that office. And the pastoral office is found in the word "governments."
Paul does not specifically mention church government except in this passage in First Corinthians 12:28 when he uses the word "governments," referring to the pastoral office.
We know that the word "governments" refers to a ministry gift because in this passage Paul is listing the ministry gifts, and he does not change his subject. Therefore, "governments" is a distinct ministry gift, not a combination of all the ministry gifts together, forming some kind of a church government.
Some people have interpreted this word "governments" to mean that Paul is saying all the ministry gifts make up church government. They claim that all the ministry gifts are found in this office of governments; therefore, they mistakenly say that all the ministry gifts are to rule and govern the local church.
In other words, according to this erroneous teaching, in order to have correct church government, the fivefold ministry must operate in every local church, no matter how small. And because the apostle and prophet are listed first, that means they have preeminence over all the other ministry gifts, including the pastor.
Because they assume that Paul lists the ministry gifts in the order of their importance and prominence in regard to church government, the pastoral office must not be very important because it is found fourth in this list in Ephesians 4:11 and not at all in the passage in First Corinthians 12:28.
Therefore, according to this reasoning, every local church must have an apostle and a prophet in authority over the pastor to govern, lead, and guide the pastor and the congregation. They say that the apostle governs the sheep, including the pastor; the prophet guides the sheep, including the pastor; and the pastor shepherds the sheep under the leadership of an apostle and prophet.
That is unscriptural. In the first place, they have taken Paul's statement out of context to come up with the idea that all the ministry gifts make up the government of a local church.
In the second place, Paul isn't listing ministry gifts in their order of importance. If he were listing them by their importance, it would mean that the apostle, prophet, and evangelist are more important than the pastor and have authority over him in the local body. That doesn't line up with other scriptures on this subject.
In the third place, as we've already discussed, apostles are not set in the Body of Christ to govern other ministry gifts.
And the prophet isn't to guide anyone either. You won't find anywhere in the New Testament, even in the Early Church, where prophets guided anyone. Besides, why would the prophet have to guide the pastor? A pastor doesn't need an intermediary or a go-between in order to hear from God. The pastor has the Holy Spirit, too, and he can get direction for the church and guidance directly from God for himself.
When the Lord set the pastoral gift in the church, that means God will speak primarily to the pastor — not to the apostle or prophet — regarding the direction of that local body.
[YES INDEED THE PASTOR/S ARE IN CHARGE OF LOCAL CONGREGATIONS, JUST PURE AND SIMPLE AS PAUL INSTRUCTED TIMOTHY - Keith Hunt]
I cannot agree with the idea that the apostle and prophet are to rule over the pastor, or that each local body needs to have the fivefold ministry in operation in order to have proper New Testament church government.
"Governments" is listed separately, indicating that it is a distinct office from the other ministry gifts. As its own separate office, "governments" indicates the pastoral office.
You see, people can make Scripture say anything they want if they don't rightly divide the Word. But one of the simplest rules of Bible interpretation is to determine who is doing the talking; to whom is he talking; and what is he talking about. Paul was talking to believers about ministry gifts.
People get off into doctrinal error when they take one scripture, or a part of a scripture, and try to build a doctrine on it.
The Development of the Local Church
The only way to get a scriptural perspective of the error that is being taught in the Church today about apostles and prophets governing the local church, is to study the development of the local church in the Book of Acts. What was the origin of the local church, and how did church government evolve?
You see, at first the only local church was the church at Jerusalem. We have no record of the Church in its earliest days even evangelizing outside of Jerusalem. The local body was confined to the Jerusalem church.
But before Jesus ascended, He had told the disciples they were to be witnesses of Him in Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). In other words, the gospel was to be preached and works were to be started in other areas as well. However, years later the Early Church still hadn't done that; they had just stayed right there in Jerusalem. So for a period of time, the Jerusalem church was the only church in existence.
Therefore, for some years preaching and teaching in the Early Church was done by the Apostles of the Lamb, and initially all ministry was confined to the Jerusalem church. But when persecution arose, the Early Church went out witnessing. Although the apostles stayed in Jerusalem when the Church was scattered, later the apostles began establishing works in other areas.
The first record we have that believers left Jerusalem to evangelize is in Acts 8:1, and that occurred some years after Pentecost.
... And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all SCATTERED ABROAD throughout the REGIONS OF JUDAEA and SAMARIA, except the apostles.
It was only after the persecution that believers went out witnessing, and works began to be established in other areas. It says the Church was "scattered abroad" preaching the gospel. The Early Church finally obeyed what Jesus had told them to do in Acts 1:8 by spreading the good news about Him to others.
As new works were started outside of Jerusalem, when doctrinal disputes arose, the disciples would return to the Jerusalem church to settle these issues.
Development of Church Doctrine In the Early Church
For example, in Acts 15, the apostles returned to the Jerusalem church to settle matters of doctrine.
And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, EXCEPT YE BE CIRCUMCISED AFTER THE MANNER OF MOSES, YE CANNOT BE SAVED.
When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to JERUSALEM [the mother church] unto the APOSTLES and ELDERS about this question....
And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the APOSTLES and ELDERS, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
And the APOSTLES and ELDERS came together for to consider of this matter.
Some people use Acts 15 to try to prove that all the ministry gifts governed the local body. But this passage doesn't have anything to do with local church government. In other words, it had nothing to do with the daily running of the church and who was in authority in the local body.
Acts 15 is an account of the New Testament Church in its early stages of development. In these early stages of development, all the ministry gifts worked together to decide universal church doctrine.
For example, regarding matters of circumcision, those in ministry offices decided whether believers needed to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses to be saved. Although all the ministry gifts helped decide this issue, all the ministry gifts did not govern the local church.
"Elders" here signifies pastors and those called to the fivefold ministry. You see, when a minister is ordained, he is ordained to full eldership in the Body of Christ. Every ordained minister is an elder.
Notice that a deacon board or a group of businessmen elected to a church board did not decide spiritual issues.
Then pleased it the APOSTLES and ELDERS, with the WHOLE CHURCH, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The APOSTLES and ELDERS and BRETHREN send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.
Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
It seemed good unto us, being assembled with ONE ACCORD, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle.
Even though those in the fivefold ministries helped decide doctrinal issues in the early development of the Church, it doesn't say, "The fivefold ministry governed the church." It just says the fivefold ministry was set in the Church (1 Cor. 12:28). They all had specific functions, but not all offices had the function of "governments." That was a distinct office with its own function.
Actually, the apostles, elders, and the entire Church at Jerusalem had something to say in deciding some matters (Acts 15:22,23). For instance, the whole church was in agreement with the apostles' and elders' decision regarding church doctrine, and they all decided who to send with Paul and Barnabas.
Of course, as the pastor or overseer of the Jerusalem church, James presided over the meeting (Acts 15:13). And even though the other ministry gifts had their input, notice that as the pastor, James ultimately made the final decision (Acts 15:13,19-21).
[NO JAMES SIMPLY PRESIDED OVER THE MEETING AND GAVE OUT PUBLICLY WHAT THE TRUTH WAS CONCERNING THIS THORNY MATTER OF PHYSICAL CIRCUMCISION. IN PASSING IF THE 7TH DAY SABBATH HAD COME INTO ISSUE OF BEING “DONE AWAY” OR “CHANGED TO SUNDAY” YOU CAN BET THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN A JERUSALEM CONFERENCE ON THE MATTER—— THE SABBATH WAS VERY MUCH A JEWISH OBSERVANCE, ANY KIND OF CHANGE WOULD HAVE BEEN DEBATED HOTLY—— THERE WAS NO DEBATE, FOR THERE WAS NO QUESTION ABOUT 7TH DAY SABBATH OBSERVANCE - Keith Hunt]
The Development of Elders in the Early Church
At first the Early Church didn't have pastors; the only recognized ministry they had was found in those men the Bible refers to as the Apostles of the Lamb. When the apostles went out from the Jerusalem church, they ministered primarily to the Jews.
Then in the course of time, God raised up Paul to go to the Gentiles. We can learn much about the development of the local church in other areas outside of Jerusalem by looking at Paul's ministry. On his missionary journeys when Paul was establishing churches, the longest period of time he stayed in one place preaching the gospel was three years (Acts 20:31), but normally he stayed a shorter time than that (Acts 18:11).
It seems that Paul would stay long enough in an area to get the people established in faith and to start a church. But every church he left was still a baby church in the infancy stages of development. It takes time for ministries to be established and for churches to grow and develop spiritually.
So when Paul or one of the apostles started a new work, they would choose one or more of the older men in the congregation to oversee the work. The Greek word "elder" literally means an older person.
But if these men weren't called to the fivefold ministry, they wouldn't have any anointing on them to stand in a ministry office. And if they weren't developed in spiritual things, they would still be novices. It takes time to grow and develop spiritually. But mature men with some natural wisdom could oversee the new work until God had the time to raise up qualified men to stand in the pastoral office.
So in the process of time, many of these elders or older men who were actually called to the ministry developed and matured spiritually and became qualified and spiritually equipped to stand fully in the pastoral office.
Therefore, in the process of time, as the Early Church grew and developed spiritually, it was possible to have men who were called of God and spiritually equipped as pastors to take the oversight of the flock. It was no longer necessary to select someone simply on the basis of age or maturity; there was a recognition of those who were actually called to and equipped for the ministry.
[BUT WISDOM AND SPIRITUAL MATURITY COMES WITH TIME; YOUNG MEN IN THEIR 20s ARE NOT, IN MY OPINION, OLD ENOUGH TO HAVE GROWN IN WISDOM AND SPIRITUALITY; GOING OFF TO SOME “BIBLE COLLEGE” AFTER HIGH SCHOOL FOR 4 YEARS IS ALSO NOT ENOUGH TIME TO QUALIFY FOR THE FUNCTION OF PASTOR - Keith Hunt]
Sometimes people say, "Let's just go back and do things the way they did in the Early Church." But if we do that, we will have a baby Church — a Church still in its infancy stages of development. It would be unscriptural for the Church today at this stage of development to randomly take people from the congregation and give them oversight of the church, unless of course it was just a temporary situation until one who was actually called and anointed as a pastor could be set in office……
You see, the Early Church was in its first stages of development, and we aren't. The fivefold ministry is already developed in the Church today.
Let's look at the church at Ephesus to see how that local church developed. The church at Ephesus had its beginning when Paul came to Ephesus many years after the Day of Pentecost and preached the gospel to the disciples there (Acts 19:1-7)……
When Paul told them Jesus had come, they believed on Jesus …. Then Paul laid his hands on them, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6,7). That was the beginning of the church at Ephesus.
Then years later, Paul called together the elders of the church at Ephesus and gave them instruction about feeding the flock of God.
And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the EEDERS of the church…..
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you OVERSEERS, to FEED THE CHURCH OF GOD, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
Here Paul addressed them as "elders? and "overseers." You see, by this time the church had had time to grow and develop, and the elders were no longer just older men. They were true elders in the spiritual sense of the term. They were overseers, or pastors.
[I SAY AGAIN NO MAN IS QUALIFIED ENOUGH TO PASTOR A CHURCH UNTIL HE IS 30 YEARS OLD AT LEAST - Keith Hunt]
By this time, the Holy Ghost had developed teachers and preachers of the Word and "set" them in the Church. That's why Paul instructed these elders to ". . . feed the church of God. ..." These "elders" were now true pastors who had the pastoral oversight of the local body and the ability to feed the people spiritually……
That's exactly what happened in the Early Church. An older man or an older believer was put in charge of the church until God had time to develop the ministry gifts of the pastor who would then become an elder or overseer in the true sense — a shepherd of God's sheep.
Studying the development of the Early Church helps us see that the word "governments" in First Corinthians 12:28 is referring to the pastoral office. Ask yourself the question, Who governs the local body? The pastor does. Nowhere in Scripture do we find the government of a local body headed up by the apostle, prophet, evangelist, or teacher.
And "governments" or the governing of the local church is certainly not found in the sheepfold, among the sheep. It couldn't be, because "governments" is referring to a ministry gift office, and laymen are not spiritually equipped to stand in ministry offices. Laymen have no anointing upon them to minister in the fivefold offices. No, the shepherd governs the local body.
We also know the office of "governments' is not found in the office of the apostle because nowhere in the New Testament do we find apostles governing the local body. In fact, the office of the apostle couldn't be part of the church government because the apostolic office is typically not a stationary ministry located just in the local body.
An apostle should be a member of a local body, of course, but he doesn't stay right there in the local church, because one of the outstanding characteristics of an apostle is that he is a sent one. He is sent out with a message, or to pioneer new works and new churches, or to minister in the mission field.
No, the shepherd governs the sheep in the local body! You can go over to Israel today and see the shepherd with his sheep. He takes care of the sheep and watches over them; he governs them. If you told him, "I have authority over this flock, and I am going to sell all your sheep," that shepherd would send you on your way!
No one else has authority over a shepherd's flock. The shepherd has the authority and responsibility to govern the flock because he is entrusted by God with the oversight of the flock.
It is the same way in the local body. The governing of the flock is done by the shepherd of that local congregation because he is the overseer of the local church. We are not talking about a natural, human governing or government. We are talking about a divine spiritual oversight, which provides for the nurturing of the sheep in an attitude of love.
[WE ALSO SEE IF AT ALL POSSIBLE THERE SHOULD BE “ELDERS” — MORE THAN ONE IN A LOCAL CHURCH — THAT WOULD BE THE IDEAL FOR CHECKS-AND-BALANCES - Keith Hunt]
Take heed therefore unto YOURSELVES, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you OVERSEERS, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
The words "shepherd" and "pastor" come from the same Greek word, "poimen." Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words gives us the definition of the word "poimen" or shepherd:
A shepherd, one who tends herds or flocks (not merely one who feeds them), is used metaphorically of Christian "pastors." Pastors guide as well as feed the flock.1
The same Greek word that is translated "overseer" in Acts 20:28 is translated "bishop" in First Timothy 3:1. It is the Greek word "episkopos," and it is translated superintendent, bishop, or overseer, and according to Vine's is another term for "elder."
So it's safe to say that the bishop, overseer, shepherd, pastor, and elder all describe the pastoral office.
There are some places in the New Testament where the term "elder" may also apply to other offices as well, but the Bible is talking to pastors, overseers, or shepherds in Acts 20:28 when it says, "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock. ..." The word "flock" refers to sheep. Sheep must have a shepherd.
It is true that the word "pastor" is only used one time in the New Testament, and that is in this passage in Ephesians 4:11: "And he gave some, apostles … prophets … evangelists ... PASTORS and teachers."
However, the word "pastor" in its varying forms — bishop, elder, overseer, and shepherd — is used many times throughout the New Testament.
The Bible has much to say about sheep and shepherds. Jesus used the word "shepherd" Himself many times. For instance, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd . . ." (John 10:11,14). Jesus is the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4), and the pastor is the undershepherd of God's flock; he shepherds and feeds the flock of God under the direction of the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church.
Actually, the original Greek of Ephesians 4:11, "pastors and teachers," seems to indicate that the offices of pastor and teacher can function together. In other words, a pastor can also be a teacher. And there are those who are called specifically to be pastor-teachers.
[A PASTOR HAS TO TEACH; IT IS PART OF HIS CALLING AND MINISTRY; EPHESIANS MAY NOT BE TALKING ABOUT 5 FUNCTIONS, BUT 4 FUNCTIONS - Keith Hunt]
Reading through the New Testament, I can't find any higher office in the local church than the pastoral office…..
You will find in studying church history that every church that tried to build on the false foundation of apostles and prophets governing a church has come to nought. Because that is not scriptural, God can't bless it.
'Every Wind of Doctrine'
These erroneous teachings have torn up churches and hurt good people…. If he doesn't come to a church to bless the people, then he's false; he is not a true minister of the gospel.
God doesn't want us to be children anymore. He wants us to grow up spiritually and to learn not to accept every wind of doctrine that someone is teaching in the Body of Christ.
That we henceforth BE NO MORE CHILDREN, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every WIND OF DOCTRINE, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.
I want you to notice something in this passage of Scripture. The Bible says children are tossed about and deceived with "every wind of doctrine." It doesn't say children are tossed about or deceived with "every wrong doctrine."
Conybeare's translation says, ". . . blown round by every shifting current of teaching."
The Amplified translation says, ". . . wavering with every changing wind of doctrine, [the prey of] the cunning and cleverness of unscrupulous men ... in every shifting form of trickery in inventing errors to mislead."
In other words, some people take biblical doctrine and pervert it slightly, and it deceives others. They put a wrong interpretation on what the Bible says, and spiritual children can get carried away with the error.
You can pervert doctrine by taking a portion of Scripture out of its context or setting by putting it with another scripture. The Bible calls that "the sleight of men" (Eph. 4:14). Error occurs when people manipulate, "wrest," or twist scriptures to make them say what they want them to say (2 Peter 3:16).
As I said, it's important to differentiate when the Bible is talking about the Church at large — the Body of Christ in general — and when it is talking about the local church.
All the ministry gifts function in the Church at large, in the Body of Christ as a whole. But you won't have all the ministry gifts functioning in each local church in order to constitute "correct" church government……
Also, we need to realize that some people's ministries require them to go out from the local body to the Church in general, whereas others are called to minister in their own local church body. Ministers need to know if the call of God on their lives is to stay in their own local church and minister, or if God is calling them to a traveling ministry to the Body of Christ at large……
There are other teachers who are called to a traveling type of ministry to the Body of Christ at large. They go from place to place, teaching the Word. That's their call in the Body of Christ. But it is up to each member in the Body of Christ to find out what his call is and to find out where God wants him to minister, and then be faithful to minister as God has instructed him.
1. W. E. Vine, M.A., An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1940), p. 167.
WE KNOW FROM PAUL WRITING TO TIMOTHY, THAT IT IS PASTOR-TEACHERS WHO ARE IN CHARGE OF A LOCAL CHURCH; AS I’VE STATED IF POSSIBLE, MORE THAN ONE “ELDER” IN A LOCAL CHURCH IS THE VERY BEST WAY, NO ELDER IS OVER OTHER ELDERS; ALL ELDERS ARE ON AN EQUAL PLAYING FIELD, AND SHOULD WITH HUMILITY SUBMIT TO EACH OTHER.