What’s All This Talk of a “Five-Fold Ministry”?

by Rob Lundberg

The concept of the five-fold ministry comes from the context of  Ephesians 4:11, “It was he who gave some to be (1) apostles, some to be (2) prophets, some to be (3) evangelists, and some to be (4) pastors and (5) teachers.” 

Because of the singular focus by NAR and charismatic teachers, there are some who believe God has restored, or is restoring, the offices of apostle and prophet in the church today. In my last posting, I addressed whether or not the office of the apostle was valid for today.  

What is the assumption of these who believe in this interpretive five fold ministry?  Let’s look at the next verses in the passage. Pushing forward into the next verses of chapter 4, verses 12-13 tell us what the purpose of the five-fold ministry is, “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” 
The assumption of NAR’s teachers, prophets and apostles is that since the body of Christ definitely is not built up to unity in the faith and has not attained to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, therefore the offices of apostle and prophet must still be in effect.
However the telling problem for teachers in the New Apostolic Reformation is context and a faulty biblical hermeneutic.[1] , Ephesians 2:20 informs us that the church (the ekklesia – called out ones) is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.” 
So if the apostles and prophets of the OT and the First Century were the foundation of the church, are we still building the foundation? No! Why?  Because  Hebrews 6:1-3 encourages us to move on from the foundation. Although Jesus Christ is most definitely active in the church today, His role as the cornerstone of the church was completed with His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. If the work of the cornerstone is, in that sense, complete, so must the work of the apostles and prophets, who were the foundation, be complete.

What was the role of the apostles and prophets? It was to proclaim God’s revelation, to teach the new truth the church would need to grow and thrive in its genesis (Acts 2).  The apostles and prophets completed this mission. How? By giving us the Word of God. The Word of God is the completed revelation of God. The canon is closed because the Bible contains everything the church needs to know to grow, thrive, and fulfill God’s mission (2 Timothy 3:15-16). 

The cornerstone work of the apostles and prophets is complete. The ongoing work of the apostles and prophets is manifested in the Holy Spirit speaking through and teaching us God’s Word. If there is a five fold ministry (I believe the original tells us four because of the original language) it would be still active.

But the five-fold ministry is not some grandiose formula to grow the Christian faith. Growth comes through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. While I agree that there is a crisis in the church, wanting to be engaged in the culture and the church the NAR is not a valid solution. If anything it shows a problem with biblical authority and the exousia of the believer (the authority given to us by Christ found in John 1:12). More on this later.

[1] Biblical hermeneutics is the science and study of interpreting Scripture.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.