We saw in our study last time that verses 7-10 are not the easiest verses in Ephesians to understand. There are some difficult interpretive matters, but the overall theme is fairly clear. Paul is showing that Yeshua is the ascended, victorious Lord over all, and that He has sovereignly given various spiritual gifts to His church.
We talked last week about spiritual gifts and said that there are basically three positions today in the Church on Spiritual gifts:
1. All the gifts are for all believers today. This is the Pentecostal/Charismatic position.
2. Some of the gifts have been removed, the miraculous ones, the other gifts are for all believers today. This would be the Baptist and Reformed position.
3. All of the gifts have been removed, there are no spiritual gifts today. This would be my position, and that of most Preterists. I believe that the gifts were operative only during the Transition Period, which began on Pentecost in A.D. 30, with the birth of the Church, and it ended at the destruction of the Jewish Temple in A.D. 70, ending the Old Covenant Age.
During the Transition Period Yahweh worked in the growing Church through miraculous gifts and spoke through His prophets to bring His Church to maturity. This was a time of change and growth, it was a time of transformation from the Old to the New. We are not in the Transition Period, and we do not have and do not need spiritual gifts.
What do we have that the church in Ephesus did not have? A New Testament! The newly formed body of Christ at Ephesus needed the nourishment of the Word of God, but the Word had not yet been completed, so Yahweh gave them gifted men with utterance gifts in order that they may be fed. In verse 11 he returns to the theme of spiritual gifts that he started in verse 7:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, Ephesians 4:11 NASB
These are not gifts per say, there is not a gift of apostleship. They are gifted men, who have special ministries. Spiritual gifts has reference to the supernatural powers possessed by individuals, while gifted men has reference to the sovereign placing of gifted men in the Church for the purpose of ministering to the body.
Apostles—the Greek word is apostolos. Thayer says of apostolos: "a delegate, messenger or one sent forth with orders." We need to make a distinction between the official or primary apostle and the apostles of the churches. The Primary Apostle is: The Lord Yeshua:
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Yeshua, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; Hebrews 3:1 NASB
He is the first apostle or messenger, He is the One sent from Yahweh.
Then we have the Twelve in Acts 1:
When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. Acts 1:13 NASB
Here we have the 11. Then we see in verses 23-26 that Matthias took Judas' place:
So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place." And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. Acts 1:23-26 NASB
In verse 25 the term "apostleship" takes on a technical meaning. The term apostle technically refers to the twelve, but two other men in the New Testament fall into the category of an apostle. And that is, Paul and James.
Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Yeshua the Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), Galatians 1:1 NASB
But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord's brother. Galatians 1:19 NASB
Here we see two additional apostles, Paul and James. These fourteen, are the official apostles. Now this raises a question, aren't there supposed to be twelve?:
And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Revelation 21:14 NASB
Not sure how to deal with this other than to say that "twelve" is symbolic of Israel, not a numeric value. Or maybe Matthias wasn't Yahweh's choice and that gives us thirteen. Technically, there were thirteen tribes in the time of Joseph, with his two sons taking his place. Maybe Judas is replaced with Paul and not Matthias and then James is added. There are a bunch of maybe's here. You decide for yourself.
Not only do we have apostles of the Lord, but there were also apostles of the churches:
As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ. 2 Corinthians 8:23 NASB
The Greek word translated "messengers" is apostolos. They were "apostles of the churches" not of the Lord, meaning that the church sent them out. We are all apostles in the general sense of messengers, or sent ones.
Ephesians 4 uses it in the technical sense of an apostle of Yeshua. Now what is it that makes a person an apostle of Yeshua? What is an apostle's qualifications?:
"Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Yeshua went in and out among us—beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection." Acts 1:21-22 NASB
They had to be a witness of Christ's earthly life. And they must be a witness of the resurrection, they must have seen the resurrected Christ:
and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 1 Corinthians 15:4-8 NASB
Both Paul and James had seen the resurrected Christ. Paul saw Him on the Damascus Road, according to Acts 9.
What was the ministry of the apostles of the Lord? He gave them authority to found the church and build it up:
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Yeshua Himself being the corner stone, Ephesians 2:20 NASB
For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be put to shame, 2 Corinthians 10:8 NASB
They, along with the prophets, were responsible for laying the foundation of the church. In Acts 2 the church is said to have been devoted to the apostle's doctrine. According to 1 Corinthians 12:28 it was one of the most important of the gifted men. They laid the doctrinal foundation of the church. Their doctrine was authenticated by the miracles that they performed:
The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. 2 Corinthians 12:12 NASB
They had unique abilities and miraculous powers. According to Acts 5:15-16 whenever Peter's shadow fell on people, they were healed. They were a unique group for a unique period of history to lay down a doctrinal foundation.
The apostles, incidentally, could have no successors. They could have no successors because we do not have appearances of the risen Christ today for apostles to see. Despite the pretentious clams of some, there are no apostles today. Having fulfilled their function, they passed off the scene. Once the foundation is laid, their work is finished. The apostles had no successors.
Charles Hodge says:
"The apostles were the immediate messengers of Jesus Christ, sent to declare His gospel, endued with the Holy Spirit, rendering them infallible as teachers, and investing them with miraculous powers, and clothed with peculiar prerogatives in the organization and government of the church."
C. H. Spurgeon writes:
"As the result of the ascension of Christ into heaven, the church received apostles, men who were selected as witnesses because they had personally seen the Savior. An office which necessarily dies out, and properly so, because the miraculous power also is withdrawn. They were needed temporarily, and they were given, by the ascended Lord, as a choice legacy."
If there are no apostles today (no one is seeing the resurrected Christ and was a witness of His earthly life), and if there has been no apostles in the sense of the fourteen since the days of New Testament, then are there temporary gifts? Yes! We can say with certainty that at least one of the gifts of the Spirit was temporary. This gives us a biblical precedent.
Prophets—these were the gifted men who were second only to the apostles in the founding days of the church. Prophets in the New Testament refers to one who has the insight into divine things and who speaks them forth. Sometimes prophecy was predictive, we see this use in:
Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. Acts 11:27-28 NASB
Sometimes it was not predictive, but speaking for Yahweh:
'I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. Deuteronomy 18:18 NASB
A prophet spoke for Yahweh. Not everything Isaiah said was predictive. So prophets gave two kinds of truth, Present and Future. When they spoke of the future they were to be 100% accurate or they were to die:
'But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' Deuteronomy 18:20 NASB
A prophet is the mouth of Yahweh:
Then the LORD said to Moses, "See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. Exodus 7:1 NASB
Aaron was to speak for Moses, who was as God to Pharaoh. Marvin Vincent says of prophecy:
"Prophecy is utterance under immediate divine inspiration; delivering inspired exhortation, instructions, or warnings. The fact of direct inspiration distinguished prophecy from teaching."
Before the completion of revealed truth in the Scriptures the prophets were inspired revealers of Yahweh's teaching to the churches. They told the infant churches what they should do, believe, and teach. We now have the Scriptures.
Are there prophets today in a secondary sense? Are there prophets today who could write something that would have the authority of Scripture? No! John MacArthur says, "There are people who want to eliminate prophecy as still existing today. They have a problem, because if they eliminate prophecy, then what do they say the people are doing who proclaim the Word?" How about teaching or preaching!
The prophets were a temporary group. There aren't any prophets today because the Word of God gives us all we need. If you want to know God's mind on a matter, read your Bible. Now if there are no people today giving inspired utterance, then at the very least some of the gifts were temporary.
Evangelists—is from the Greek noun euaggelistes, which literally means: "bearers of good news." The term evangelist only appears three times in Scripture. It appears in our text and in Acts 21:8 where Philip is called an evangelist; in Acts 8 we see Philip using his gift:
Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. Acts 8:4-6 NASB
Notice that he was preaching about Christ, not telling stories. The New Testament was not complete, so he was confirming his message with miracles.
The third time we see this word is in:
But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5 NASB
We could translate this "do an evangelist's work." There is no article before evangelist, indicating type or quality of work being stressed rather than an official position. Don't forget to reach out to the lost Timothy, do what an evangelist does.
When we hear the word evangelist we often think of someone who comes to a church for a week of meetings; a man with seven suits and seven messages. But the
role of an evangelist seems to be to preach the Gospel, win people to Christ, and plant churches.
The Baptist or Reformed position on gifts would say that apostles and prophets have passed away and been replace by evangelist and pastor-teacher. John Calvin and Martyn Lloyd-Jones limit this office to men like Titus and Timothy, and thus argue that it has passed off the scene. I agree with them.
Pastor-teachers—these two words are linked by a single definite article. This suggests that either Paul has only one group of ministers in mind, or at least an overlapping of functions. Some would say that because Paul doesn't repeat the word "some," he says: "some, apostles; some, prophets; some, evangelists; some, pastors," and he doesn't repeat "'some' teachers" indicating this is one gift, not two.
This is the ministry that takes the teaching of the prophets and teaches it to the local body of believers. What is the most prominent term today for church leaders? It's pastor. This is the only time that the word "pastor" appears in the New Testament. The words pastor, elder, and overseer (bishop) are used interchangeably in the Scriptures (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Tim. 3:1; Titus 1:5, 7; 1 Pet. 5:1-3). Elder points to the fact that church leaders must be mature men of God. Overseer looks at the main task, that of managing, leading (Heb. 13:7, 17), or overseeing the church. Pastor looks at the task from the analogy of a shepherd and his flock. In that sense, he must feed (teach) the flock with God's Word, guard the flock from wolves, and gently care for the flock.
It is my opinion that all four of these gifted men only functioned during the Transition Period. The evangelists and pastor-teachers were gifted men who took the teaching of the apostles and prophets and evangelized and taught the new believers. Now, you may ask, "What makes you think the evangelists and pastor-teachers were temporary?" I'll show you as we look at the next two verses. What was the purpose of these gifted men? Look at the next verse:
for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; Ephesians 4:12 NASB
The KJV translates, "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Thus the meaning seems to be that Christ has given these gifted men to His people, so that they would 1) perfect the saints, 2) perform the work of the ministry, and 3) edify the body of Christ. But the newer interpretation takes note of the different prepositions, taking the position that the second phrase depends on the first, and that the third depends on the first two. This has become the dominant view, and is reflected in some of the newer translations, including the NASB. The point is that the gifted men equip the entire body to work in accordance with their various spiritual gifts.
The Greek word that was translated: "equipping" here is katartismos, and it usually means: "fixing something that's broken" (as when nets are torn, Matthew 4:21) or supplying something that is lacking (as in 1 Thessalonians 3:10: "We desire to supply, or equip, what is lacking in your faith"), or perfecting. Their purpose was to "supply something that is lacking" to the saints. The gifted men don't have three purposes, but one, to equipt the saints. The literal Greek of this verse reads: "for the perfecting of the saints unto a work of ministry unto the edifying of the body of Christ."
The words "building up" are the Greek word oikodome, which means: "to build a house, erect a building." Metaphorically: "to build up, to promote growth in the spiritual walk." Oikodome is a frequent metaphor in Pauline letters to describe the coming together of Jews and Gentiles as the temple of God.
So the purpose of these gifted men was to equipt the saints, so that they would do the work of the ministry, use their spiritual gifts, and build up the body of Christ:
until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13 NASB
The word "until" here is the Greek word mechri (meck-re), which means, "up to a certain point" (as preposition of extent [denoting the terminus]). It denotes that he gave gifted men to the church and that will continue until the action of the following aorist subjunctive katantao, "until we all attain." Paul uses this same word in:
My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you— Galatians 4:19 NASB
Paul would continue to labor "until" Christ was formed in them.
Grammatically, there are three phrases in 4:13, each beginning with the word "attain to." So, "attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God," is one phrase. Attain "to a mature man," is the second phrase. Attain "to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ," is the third phrase. "Attain" is used nine times in the Book of Acts to refer to travelers arriving at their destination. Thus each of these phrases involves a process that results in a goal. Paul uses "attain" in:
in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:11 NASB
When is the goal that Paul talks about to be obtained? What is the point at which the saints were to stop building up the body by their work of service for which they were equipped by these gifted men? They were to do this work of ministry "until we all attain to the unity of the faith." Is that when it ends? No, they must also attain to the unity "of the knowledge of the Son of God." In other words, they have to become a "mature man," thus they would "reach the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." And the word "fullness" is the Greek pleroma. The gifts stopped when the body was matured. The word "mature" here is teleios, which is the same word we see in:
but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 1 Corinthians 13:10 NASB
What is Paul talking about here? What is the perfect and what is the partial? Let's back up a few verses:
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 NASB
So the partial refers to the gifts, prophecy, tongues and knowledge. What is the perfect that arrives and ends these? What is "the perfect." Some say that "the perfect" refers to the completion of the Bible. It is the completed Canon of Scripture, which is perfect. That is a very common interpretation. They tell us that in the first century they did not have the New Testament as we have it. They relied upon the teaching of prophets, evangelists, apostles, and others who spoke bits and pieces of the mind of God, but as the complete written account of the mind of God took shape and form in the New Testament, all the need for these gifts would pass away.
Some say "that which is perfect" refers to the maturity of the Church. This view states that when the Church reaches its maturity, that's the perfect thing. This is what our text in Ephesians says.
Another view says it is the Second Coming; that is "the perfect." Others say it is the coming of the New Heavens and New Earth of Revelation 21 & 22; the New Jerusalem, which is the "perfect."
So which is it? Is it the completion of the Canon, or the maturing of the Church, or the Second Coming, or the New Heavens and New Earth? The answer is—yes!
That which is perfect refers to the maturity of the body at the Second Coming of Christ, in AD 70; bringing in the New Heavens and New Earth, which closed the Canon.
The phrase "the perfect" is often used in the Greek language to speak of purpose or a goal. In this context, it is the goal of Yahweh for the Church. What was Yahweh's goal for the Church?:
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Romans 8:29 NASB
Yahweh's purpose for that church was that it be conformed into the image of Yeshua the Christ. That took place in AD 70, when the Lord returned, bringing in the New Heaven and Earth where we see Him face to face. So the coming again of our Lord for His people brought them to full maturity and closed the Canon of Scripture.
If that is true, then, what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:9-10 is this: The reason that spiritual gifts are transitory is that when we came into a face to face relationship with Christ, we entered into a perfect maturity, and there is no longer any need for spiritual gifts. Gifts were for the purpose of maturing the body, and when the body is completely matured we will no longer need spiritual gifts.
Bob Deffinbaugh writes, "There are some who teach that spiritual gifts existed only in the early church of the New Testament, and that gifts are no longer needed or present in the church today. While this may be a quick and easy way to handle some of the more controversial gifts, it is throwing the baby out with the bath water. In the light of Paul's teaching here, how can we possibly conclude that spiritual gifts no longer exist? According to Paul, spiritual gifts will cease only when the entire church has matured and has become fully like Christ. Spiritual gifts cease only when that which is perfect has come, and this will take place only when our Lord returns."
I agree, he's right, but he just doesn't know what time it is. He thinks he is still living in the "present age" awaiting the coming of the Lord.
Can we prove that prophecy ended in AD 70, and thus all the gifts; and that the Lord Yeshua returned at that time bringing the Church to full maturity and a face to face relationship? I think we can if we take a close look at some verses in the Tanakh. Let's start by looking at Daniel chapter 9. In Daniel 9, the 70 years for the Babylonian captivity was just about over:
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Daniel 9:1-2 NASB
In verses 1 & 2, Daniel had calculated the number of years of the Babylonian captivity based upon the prophecy of Jeremiah 29:10. He knew that the time was near and he went to Yahweh in prayer asking Him to remember His covenant and restore Israel. The restoration of Israel is at the heart and core of Daniel's prophecy. The angel was sent to speak unto Daniel and this is what he said:
"Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. Daniel 9:24 NASB
Daniel was told that 70 weeks had been determined on His people Israel, and city Jerusalem. By the end of this prophetic time period Yahweh promised that six things would be accomplished. One of the things that Daniel was told would happen by the end of that period was that Yahweh would "seal up vision and prophecy." If you have done much study using commentaries, you know that there is little that Bible scholars agree on. That gives great force to this phrase, which has almost unanimous agreement of Bible scholars across the board. The Hebrew commentaries are in agreement on the meaning of "seal up vision and prophecy"—they say it means: "to give or reveal," it is the process of inspiration, but it's not just that, it also means: "to confirm by the fulfilling of the prophecy." Keil and Delitzsch, highly respected Hebrew authorities, state in volume 9 page 344 that, "Seal up vision and prophecy" means:"Prophecies and prophets are sealed, when by the full realization of all prophecies prophecy ceases, no prophets any more appear." What does "seal up vision and prophecy" mean? Hebrew scholars agree that it means: "the end and complete fulfillment of all prophecy."
Even John Walvoord, who is a Dispensationalists, says this, "Probably 'seal up vision and prophecy' is best understood to mean the termination of unusual direct revelation by means of vision and oral prophecy. To seal means that no more is to be added and that what has been predicted will receive Divine conformation in the form of actual fulfillment."
To "seal up vision and prophecy" clearly means: "to give prophecy and fulfill it." Daniel's prophecy, then, tells of the time when all prophecy would cease to be given, and what had been given would be fulfilled. When would this be? Daniel's vision ends with the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in AD 70:
"Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. Daniel 9:26 NASB
So Daniel tells us that his vision ends with the destruction of Jerusalem, which would bring an end to all prophecy. This is exactly what Luke tells us:
"But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. "Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; Luke 21:20-21 NASB
When you see the enemy surround Jerusalem, run! Get out of there. Notice the next verse:
because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. Luke 21:22 NASB
All prophecy was to cease, and be fulfilled by the time Jerusalem was destroyed, which happened in AD 70. What Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 13, is prophecy will end when the perfect comes; this is what Daniel said hundreds of years earlier. Prophecy will cease at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, when the Lord returns with power and glory.
until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13 NASB
When the body was matured to the likeness of Christ, the Lord returned to take His bride. The gifts were to function "until" the maturing of the body. Once the Lord returned the gifts ended. Their purpose was to mature the body. That happened in AD 70 when the Lord returned and now all believers are like Christ—we are righteous.
A while back someone in our congregation asked me, "If we don't have spiritual gifts today, then why do we need you?" Implying that if there is not the gift of teaching today, what is my role? Did Old Covenant Israel have pastors and elders? Yes, they did. Did they have spiritual gifts? No. The New Testament church is to have pastors or elders, also. There is no spiritual gift requirement for an elder. It simply says he must be "apt to teach." Meaning that he knows and can handle the Scriptures, to teach sound doctrine, and be able to refute error. My role here is to study and teach. I am paid so that I can spend all my time studying and then teaching and thus helping you to understand Scripture better.
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