Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Gen. 20:7-8 π Gen. 20:17-18 π Num. 12:2 π 1 Sam. 9:9 π Amos 3:7-8 π Jn. 3:3 π Jn. 3:5 π Acts 2:43 π Acts 5:12 π Acts 13:2; 2nd π Acts 17:11 π 1 Cor. 6:17 π 1 Cor. 9:2 π 1 Cor. 14:3 π 1 Cor. 14:29-30 π 1 Cor. 14:37 π 1 Cor. 15:31 π 1 Cor. 15:35-44 π 1 Cor. 15:51-52 π 2 Cor. 12:12 π Gal. 5:17 π Eph. 1:13 π Eph. 2:19-22 π Eph. 3:4-6 π Eph. 3:5 π Eph. 4:11 π Eph. 4:11- 13 π Eph. 4:11-16 π Phlp. 2:12 π 1 Ths. 5:23 π 2 Ths. 2:9-10 π Heb. 2:3-4 π Heb. 4:12 π 1 Pet. 1:12 π 2 Pet. 3:2 π 2 Jn. 5

The word "missionary" cannot be found anywhere in the New Testament. Yet "becoming a missionary" is one of the coveted positions of prestige and attention in the "church." Now, let me be quick to say that I believe God does call some to be "missionaries" - for the word truly and simply means "one sent on a mission." I believe that God does send local people on certain missions to accomplish certain goals in other places far from their home. To deny that would be to place a blind eye on history and the Scriptures. But what has been lost is the nature of the one being sent. While the "church" will send just about anyone who has the money to make the journey (and a few minimal evidences of Christian influence in their life), Scripture places the onus of going upon three specific giftings.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." ( Eph. 4:11- 13; top ) There are indeed many things we could notice about this passage - chief among which is that each of these five ministry giftings are given so that the body of Christ, the saints, is equipped and edified so that they do the work of the ministry. It is the responsibility of the saints, the average believer, to do the work of the ministry. It is not the responsibility of these five giftings to do the work - it is their responsibility to disciple and train others to do the work. This is paramount.

But let us notice again the list of giftings. There are apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors (shepherds) and teachers. Because Paul used this type of construction in his sentence, some have read that to mean that there are only four giftings and that shepherds and teachers are a hybrid gifting. While there are indeed some similarities between a shepherd and a teacher, and one who is an elder needs to be a shepherd who is able to teach, they are not necessarily the same thing. Paul uses this seemingly odd construction, I believe, because he is viewing both the trans-local and local scope of the giftings. The first three, the apostles, prophets and evangelists, are trans-local. That is, though they have some place to call home and individuals to whom they are accountable, their work takes them away from home, the area or city where they live. The second group of giftings, the shepherds and teachers, are local in scope. That is, their work in caring for, discipling and teaching others keeps them within the area or city where they live.

It is the apostles, prophets and evangelists who are to be sent out and supported - not just anyone who wants to travel. The spiritually immature (even dead) "church" cannot raise up these giftings let alone raise them up to spiritual maturity. And it is precisely the lack of spiritual maturity within the "church" that has prevented a great spread of the gospel. Oh, to be sure, many people have taken some or even most of the information of the gospel, but it is only these giftings and those who have received of these giftings who actually live the gospel and therefore have the genuine gospel of Christ to share with others. Those who go or who are sent but have no apostolic, prophetic or evangelistic giftings - and who make no effort to impart that gifting to others - are simply ignorant frauds exercising a zeal without knowledge.

The Apostles

An apostle [652] is a representative, messenger, or envoy of the kingdom of God. The apostles are foundational to the body of Christ and the kingdom of God. Paul wrote, "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God [3609], having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building [3619], being joined together, grows into a holy temple [3485] in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habitation [2732] of God in the Spirit." ( Eph. 2:19-22; top )

At the risk of derailing this discussion away from the apostles, it is interesting to notice this wonderful compilation of words that refer to buildings related to the work and people of God. The English word "church" means "the house of the Lord" and surely could be found in such an important passage as this where references abound to the idea of the building and house of God. The English word "church" is derived from the Greek word "kuriakon" [2960]. Let us explore these words Paul uses to describe the work and people of God.

First there is "the household of God" - "oikeios" [3609], derived from "oikos" [3624], and it simply means to be "of the household or of one's own house," that is, home, lineage or race. Second, there is "the...building," "oikodome" [3619], also derived from "oikos" [3624], and it refers either to the act of building up (whether physically or metaphorically) or to the building itself. Third, there is "naos" [3485], a "temple or shrine," which was "used of the temple at Jerusalem, but only of the sacred sanctuary itself, consisting of the Holy place and the Holy of Holies. In classical Greek it is used of the sanctuary or cell of the temple, where the image of gold was placed which is distinguished from the whole enclosure." (Strong's Greek Dictionary). And fourth there is "katoiketerion" [2732], a word also related to "oikos" [2634], which simply means "an abode or habitation."

Interestingly enough, "kuriakon," "church," that centerpiece of modern Christianity, didn't even make it into Paul's thinking when he described the core of the work and people of God. One has to wonder how it got to be the centerpiece of what most people think Christ is all about.

But let us notice that "apostles and prophets" were the foundation upon which the "fellow citizens and members of the household of God" were built. There are some who would say that this refers to the original Twelve apostles and the Old Testament prophets. But there is nothing within either the context or the passage which supports this conclusion. In fact, when Paul refers to these same "apostles and prophets" in his letter to the Ephesians, he says that his knowledge ( "that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ"), his knowledge in the mystery of Christ was, "in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets" ( Eph. 3:4-6; top ) "His holy apostles and prophets" who had received the revelation of the unity of Jew and Gentile were not the original Twelve and the Old Testament prophets. If they were, Paul could not have said that men in other ages did not know what he was now teaching. So, what Paul is speaking of to the Corinthians is also the giftings of apostles and prophets who first came to the area with the gospel of the kingdom of God. From the work of apostles and prophets was established the household of God in that area.

When Paul felt the need to defend his apostleship, he did not refer to his extensive education, nor to his being called and sent out ( Acts 13:2; top ), nor even to his Damascus road experience. Rather, he referred to the Corinthian believers to whom he was writing as "the seal of his apostleship in the Lord." ( 1 Cor. 9:2; top ) The initial establishment of local believers in an area is one of the key works of an apostle.

Apostles are directly appointed and authorized by Christ through His only delegate, the Holy Spirit and relayed through the prophets and teachers. Barnabas' and Paul's call to apostleship is the only case in the Scriptures and therefore serves as the only pattern to imitate. ( Acts 13:2; top ) It is this direct appointment by the Spirit that gives the apostles unique authority - that is, authority in the kingdom of God to act in authority and power not available to every believer. It is not an authority to lord it over others as so many "pastors" do in their "church." It is still one of the New Testament paradoxes that the less mature are to obey the more mature but the more mature are never to command the lesser. Rather than obeying the person simply because he has a certain gifting, it is the truth spoken by the more mature person which the less mature is to obey. Thus, even when an apostle speaks of commanding others (see 2 Pet. 3:2 , 2 Jn. 5; top for example), it is simply a restatement of the commands which Christ, the Head of the body of Christ, has already given to all who follow after Him.

Genuine apostles are also authenticated by miraculous signs. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds." ( 2 Cor. 12:12 ; also see Acts 2:43 ; 5:12 ; Heb. 2:3-4; top ) And though miracles and power are attendant to a genuine apostle, we must also remember that sign alone are never enough. Paul wrote, "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved." ( 2 Ths. 2:9-10; top ) The signs that accompany an apostle does not negate the need for his words and character to match what is spoken of in the Scriptures.

Some "pastors" and teachers, trapped within the "church" paradigm, have made themselves rogues, breakaways from the body of Christ, by refusing to recognize the true apostles and prophets of God. Because true apostles and prophets will speak against "church" lies and authoritarian abuses, they have come in conflict with many a "church" empire. To justify their refusal to recognize God's truly appointed apostles and prophets, these "pastors" and teachers re-define what an apostle is. They water the gifting down to being a traveling evangelist or "church planter," sometimes even making him directly answerable to the "pastor" who sends him (which places the apostle on the wrong footing in the first place). This is completely foreign to the New Testament. To miss the corrective and establitory ministry of the apostle - as is demonstrated in 21 of the 27 books of the New Testament - is to be unable to see the trees because the forest is in the way.

An apostle is simply one sent by the King. He has an understanding of the workings of the kingdom of God and he has the authority to speak the truth and have it imparted to those who are willing to receive the word of God. Those who are rebellious against God in their hearts will receive neither God's message nor His messenger.

And again, it is important to remember that the primary purpose of the gifting of the apostle is not so that some man can run around claiming the title of being an apostle or so that he can imprint his own personal stamp on a number of gatherings. The purpose of all the giftings is to equip and build up the saints so that they can do the work of the ministry. In this case, the apostle imparts his understanding of the kingdom, thereby bringing and establishing order, and, by publicly recognizing the giftings of others, confirms others in their roles in the body of Christ (including elders).

The Prophets

A prophet, in the Old Testament, is one to whom God revealed His purposes ( Amos 3:7-8; top ), one to whom and/or through whom God spoke ( Num. 12:2 ; Gen. 20:7-8 , 17-18; top for example). The Greek word, "prophetes" [4396] carries those same ideas and is a compound word from "pro" "before" and "phemi" [5214] "to tell." It is not in the sense of time that "pro," "before," is used but rather in the sense of bringing what is told before another. Spiros Zodhiates writes:

Prophetes means one who speaks openly before anyone, and is the technical name for an interpreter of a divine message... The earlier name of a prophet indicating foretelling in Hebrew means "seer" ( 1 Sam. 9:9; top ). It is clear that what really characterized the prophet was immediate communion with God, a divine communication of what the prophet had to declare. This is confirmed by the two terms, "revelation" (apokalyptomai [601]) and "prophets" in 1 Cor. 14:29-30 . (See Eph. 3:5 ; 1 Pet. 1:12; top .) That the special element of prophesying was not merely prediction but a showing forth of God's will, especially of His saving purpose, is confirmed by 1 Cor. 14:37; top . Two things are necessary for a prophet: an insight granted by God into divine secrets or mysteries, and communicating those secrets to others. It includes God's concept of grace, but with the warnings, announcements of judgment, and so forth, pertaining thereto. (New Testament Lexical Aids, 437)

There are some who read 1 Cor. 14:3 (top) which says, "he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men," and then draw the conclusion that anyone who speaks anything negative is a false prophet. What is overlooked is that what builds up the kingdom of God usually devastates the empires of men. The prophet speaks forth that living word of God which is "living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." ( Heb. 4:12; top ) That sword of the Spirit cuts both ways but is especially destructive to the ways of the flesh against which it wars. ( Gal. 5:17; top )

But it is important to note that before a prophet can speak a word of the Lord, he must first hear the word of the Lord. It is precisely because the "church" has largely disowned the prophets that it has no ability to hear what the Lord is saying. Thus you have teachers who rigorously teach their way through the Bible but who have no concept of what God is saying to His people now. Acts chapters "now" are still being written in people's lives and the people of God still need to hear which direction God is moving in this time.

But it is again important to remember that the primary purpose of the gifting of the prophet is not so that someone could run around claiming the title of being a prophet or imprint his stamp on a number of assemblies. The purpose of all the giftings is to equip and build up the saints so that they can do the work of the ministry. In this case, the prophet imparts the ability to hear what God is saying and to relay that on to the one to whom God is saying it to.

One of the safeguards against false prophets is that every word spoken is to be confirmed by the hearer before acting on it. Any one who proclaims a word and then insists upon immediate obedience is acting improperly or is perhaps even a false prophet. The Bereans were commended for questioning what the apostle Paul was teaching and for comparing it to what the Scriptures actually said. ( Acts 17:11; top ) If even the apostle Paul is to be verified against the Scriptures, surely anyone speaking a word from the Lord today is to be subjected to a similar scrutiny. What is most often true regarding a prophet is that when he is called upon to speak a word to someone, especially a word directed to an individual, that word will be exactly what God has been trying to get across to the person for some time.

If - except in the case of new believers where much revelation comes through another's teaching ministry - if most of the revelations one receives are received through the spoken words of another, that one is still nursing on mother's milk and desperately needs to be weaned. True words from the Lord spoken by prophets today, especially words for a particular individual, ought to be confirmatory, with perhaps some elements of clarification, but not revelatory to the hearer. Words for a group of individuals are those words which are more likely to be revelatory, at least for some in the group.

There are some who don't believe that God still gifts men to be prophets. These same people are often huddled underneath the wings of a "pastor" (shepherd) or teacher and will even rely on Eph. 4:11; top as a basis for their having a shepherd and teacher. They see no inherent conflict in believing that the giftings of evangelists, shepherds and teachers are for today while simultaneously believing that apostles and prophets are extinct. Such blindness is often willful. If shepherds, teachers and evangelists are valid giftings for today's people of God, why not prophets and apostles? On what Scriptural basis could you possibly exclude them? And when you exclude them, you are guaranteeing spiritual immaturity because you are excluding two of the five giftings that God gives to make His people mature in Christ. ( Eph. 4:11-16; top )

The Evangelists

An evangelist is simply a good messenger. The Greek word is "euangelistes" [2099] and is a compound word from "eu" [2095], "well or well done" and "angelos" [32], "angel or messenger."

But it is again important to remember that the primary purpose of the gifting of the evangelist is not so that someone could run around claiming the title of being an evangelist or make his own imprint on the people to whom he speaks. The purpose of all the giftings is to equip and build up the saints so that they can do the work of the ministry. In this case, the evangelist imparts the ability to bring those who are lost to a saving knowledge of Christ. This is not the idea of learning four spiritual laws that lead to salvation or memorizing "the Roman road" or knowing what to include in a "sinner's prayer" (which is yet another of the "church's" unScriptural pillars). Rather, the work of the evangelist is to impart to the saints the deep- seated knowledge that God desires all men everywhere to be saved from death, hell, sin and self.

It is one of the greatest ignorances whenever a historian declares that someone who led a lot of people to the Lord was a leading evangelist of his time. The evangelist's primary duty is not to win souls - his primary duty is to edify and equip the body so that the body is ready to do the work of evangelizing the lost. The notion of promoting some special person as an evangelist, putting him on display at some "crusade meeting," having the saints invite all their friends and associates to the meeting and then having all who will come forward at his "altar call" is something that is completely foreign to the Scriptures. It is the primary duty of the evangelist to share his life with someone else so that his gifting, his urgent desire for the saving of lost souls, is imparted to those whom he disciples. That the "church" relies on methods other than what is depicted in Scripture is only another evidence that the "church" is not authored by Christ.

There is another aspect of the evangelist that is to be noticed. He is indeed intent upon the salvation of lost souls. But when we use the phrase "lost souls," there is often a veil over our eyes and we do not know what we have just said.

The human being is made up of three parts: spirit, soul and body (see 1 Ths. 5:23; top for example). When a person is born again (see Jn. 3:3 , 5; top ), he or she is given new spiritual life from above. They are born of the Spirit. Their spirit comes alive and is sealed by the Holy Spirit and becomes one with the Lord. (see 1 Cor. 6:17 ; Eph. 1:13; top ). But the soul is another matter. The soul is not yet saved. This is why Paul writes to the Philippians, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." ( Phlp. 2:12; top ) The soul is not fully saved until it dies. When death is obediently embraced, an event for which the genuine believer is prepared through many experiences of laying down his own life (as Paul said, "I die daily" - 1 Cor. 15:31; top ), that soul is fully saved. Until the soul steps into eternity, there will always be the temptation and pull of sin upon the soul. The body too must pass through death (excepting those who will never die but who are instantaneously changed - 1 Cor. 15:51-52; top ) before it will be redeemed - but the body is only as a seed for the new creation it will be throughout eternity. ( 1 Cor. 15:35-44; top )

The evangelist is not interested in simply seeing people go through the motions of being saved and then he abandons them to whatever fate may hold in store for them. No. He is concerned that their soul is saved. That is a lifelong process. The one who is content to "lead someone to the Lord" but has no interest in walking with them long enough to make sure their soul is truly being saved is not gifted as an evangelist. Though there are times when circumstances will force an evangelist to leave some new converts behind, it is not enough for the truly gifted evangelist to simply hand some one over to another to be discipled. The true evangelist must take a personal interest in the ones he has led to the Lord - it is an urgency and unction within him to do so. That the "church" has caused us to believe an evangelist is one who stands up in front of crowds giving "salvation messages" and "altar calls" is yet another reason for the sick and anemic condition of the body of Christ.

Going Out

Let us lay aside the notion of sending out "missionaries." Let us rather send out God's apostles to a given area who will appoint local elders who will in turn raise up local shepherds and teachers (not to mention raise up those apostles, prophets and evangelists who will in turn be sent out from that locale). Let us send prophets, men who hear God's voice and faithfully relay what God is saying to the people. Let us send evangelists, men who are committed to equipping and edifying the body of Christ so that they can bring the lost souls in their locale to salvation. But God forbid that we should send someone to be a "pastor" or teacher to another area. Those are the giftings that are to be raised up locally.

Let us simply forsake the notion of "missionaries" simply because it is incomplete and inaccurate. If we're going to send someone, let us send someone whom God has called and let us send that one as exactly what God has called him to be. Anything less is a lie and no lie is of the truth.

I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!

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