The Role of Fivefold Ministry (Part 2)

May 17, 2011
by Steven Lambert

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Fivefold Ministry is a matter frequently alluded to from the pulpit within many Charismatic and other Neo-Pentecostal churches and circles. Notwithstanding, such allusions appear to be little more than oratorical rhetoric, for the most part, because few churches make an earnest attempt to incorporate Fivefold Ministry within their ministry and structure. Certainly, I have never yet seen it in full and proper operation anywhere. Rather, for the most part according to what I have heard and witnessed, Fivefold Ministry and its function remains to be a shadowy and little understood matter to the majority of ministers, not to mention lay believers, including even those claiming to be Charismatic.

Oh, some say they believe there is such a thing as Fivefold Ministry, which is more than can be said for the vast majority of so called mainline and Evangelical denominational ministers. However, most Charismatic ministers have what could only be referred to as a cursory understanding of these Ascension Gifts of Christ and how the Bible prescribes they are to function and flow together, and very few of them have incorporated all of those ministry offices into their rightful place of function within the structure of their local church.

It is not that God has not revealed revelation and information concerning the matter of Fivefold Ministry for consumption by His Body. Far from it! Rather, as He has continued to do since the day He ascended unto His Throne, He has indeed revealed such portions of “the mystery of Christ” (i.e., Divine Revelation) “to His Holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit” (Eph. 3:5). There are apostles and prophets to whom Christ has given special revelation of things pertaining to “the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed to His Holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit” (Eph. 3:5). The matter of Fivefold Ministry and how it is to function and flow in concert together toward the fulfillment of the purposes of Christ is one such matter regarding which God has imparted revelation knowledge to His apostles and prophets through the anointing of the Spirit abiding upon them and in which they abide.

How desperately Jesus wants to share everything He has and knows with His Betrothed Co-Sovereign Partner, the Church, “the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 21:9)! How willing and eager Jesus has always been to unveil unto the Church “the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:8-10). But, to be very blunt, the bottleneck for the conveyance of such revelation to the Body of Christ are the shepherds who are standing in the doorways of the churches with their hands stretched forth like an armed guard, yelling at the top of their voice, “Stop, stop! You can’t come in here! I’m the head here; you can’t come in!”

As Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone that the builders rejected, so also many of those who purport to be builders of the House of God are stubbornly and unyieldingly (and in some cases even hysterically) rejecting these two other foundation-stones upon which the Household of God, the Church that Jesus is building, is founded—i.e., the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). Consequently, the Church remains devoid of the revelation and information Jesus so desires to impart to His Partner.

Regardless of the disdain of the stiff-necked resisters who, like their predecessors, continue to murder the prophets (Ac. 7:51,52), the Word of God forthrightly declares there are certain insights into the mysteries of Christ that He reveals only unto “His Holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit” (Eph. 3:1-5), and not to evangelists, pastors, and teachers. As anointed, gifted, and effective as the ministers who function in these latter three offices are, and as much knowledge as they have appropriated over the years through personal study and research, the only way they will ever understand these insights into the “mysteries” pertaining to the ministry and mission of the Christ is as it is elucidated by apostles and prophets. These insights do not come through study and research, but only through prayer and revelation given by Jesus (Gal. 1:11,12). Though a multitude of ministers will absolutely bristle and scream “Foul!” at these words, they are, nonetheless, the unadulterated Truth of the Spirit of God.

Despite the sophisticated and impassioned theorizations of theologians claiming the contrary, the apostolic and prophetic offices and functions have no more ceased than have the other three. If they have, then so have the other three—which means there are no such offices as evangelist, pastor, or teacher, and those who claim to be functioning in those offices are unauthorized and illegitimate frauds—because they all are established in and sanctioned by the same verse of Scripture: Ephesians 4:11. All such arguments alleging the cessation of the Fivefold Ministry offices are absolutely absurd and wholly indefensible! Rather, the incontrovertible Truth is that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!” (Heb. 13:8). By the very virtue that He is the Perfect God—He changes not! (Mal. 3:6). What He was, He is; what He is, He always has been; what He always has been, He always will be; what He will be, He is, and always has been!

While ascending on High, Jesus relegated gifts unto certain men, enabling and equipping them to function as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, in order to carry on His five-faceted ministry in His stead. Nowhere does Scripture say that Jesus has rescinded those offices, nor His appointment and anointment of men to those offices. Hence, as long as the Church age exists all five of these ministry offices will continue to exist and to be operable. Thus, as long as the Church is the Church, and it will continue to be the Church until it is wedded to Him at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, Jesus will continue to reveal to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit portions of the mystery of the Life and on going Earthly ministry of the Christ now being manifested through His many membered Body.

The Term of the Ascension Gifts
The Ephesian text indicates it was as Jesus was ascending into Heaven to retake His Throne at the right hand of God that He relegated the Fivefold Ministry Offices unto certain individuals of His election. It is for this reason that the Fivefold Ministry Offices are also referred to as the “Ascension Gifts.” This attribution rightly signifies that Christ relegated these gifts as permanent offices of function within the Church for as long as He remains ascended. In other words, until Jesus returns to Earth to claim the Church as His Eternal Bride, all of these offices will continue to be effectual and operable.

Moreover, the term of the functionality of these ministry gifts is also defined in the text in the phrase “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 fulness of Christ.” All of the Fivefold Ministry giftings will continue to be operable and necessary “UNTIL” the Church does indeed at long last attain unto the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, and does indeed attain unto the spiritual perfection and maturity of the stature of the “fullness of Christ,” that is to say, when we are fully conformed into the Image of Christ (Rom 8:28). When that has been fulfilled, the Church will have become that Church “without spot or wrinkle in all her glory” that the Lord shall return to claim as His Bride, bringing an end to the Church Age. In the meantime, as long as the Church and the Church Age exist, all of the Fivefold Ministry Offices will continue to be necessary and operable.

First Corinthians 12:28 further corroborates the permanence of all the Fivefold Ministry Offices for the duration of the Church Age: “And God has SET IN THE CHURCH, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers….” The fact that, according to this passage, it is “in the Church” that these offices have been “set,” by definition means that as long as the Church is the Church, and it will continue to be the Church as long as the Church Age endures, which will be until the Church becomes “the Lamb’s Wife” at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, the Fivefold Ministry Offices will continue to be valid ministries within the Church; i.e., for the duration of the Church Age. The term “set” used here is very important as well in that it connotes permanence and immutability. A perfect example illustrating the meaning of the word “set” is how it is used regarding cement. As anyone who has ever laid cement knows, you have to work it into the desired place and configuration very quickly, for once it has “set” it is permanently fixed and unchangeable. And, that is precisely what the Holy Spirit is indicating with the deliberate choice of the term “set” in this passage—that these ministry gifts have been permanently and immutably set into the foundational structure of the Church.

The Levitical Priesthood of Fivefold Ministers

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The best way to initiate the discussion of the focus of this chapter is to continue with the comparison of the priesthood of the believer, or the lay priesthood, juxtaposed to the Levitical priesthood begun in the previous chapter. In that discussion, the reality and validity of the priesthood of the lay believer was established and explained. While it is vital to understand, as established therein, that all believers have a priesthood in which they have been made “priests unto GOD” (Rev. 1:6), wherein they minister unto God, or God-ward, in praise, prayer, and participation, notwithstanding, it is even more essential that the Body of Christ understand that not all believers have been made priests unto the PEOPLE, in order to minister people-ward in the way Fivefold Ministers have, that is, in spiritual equipping, edification, and education. (I am well aware that many of those who are steeped in the Charismatic teaching regarding the “priesthood of the believer” will at first glance reject what I’m saying here, but if you will read it carefully and compare it with Scripture, you will see it aligns with Scripture precisely. The believer indeed has a priesthood, but it is primarily unto God, and should not be seen as a universal appointment to “minister” to others in the way Fivefold Ministers are appointed and anointed to minister or to stand in the ministry offices they stand in. Otherwise, there would not be a need for Fivefold Ministry Offices, nor would they exist, but they do!)

Fivefold Ministers have been anointed and appointed by God as the primary “priests unto the PEOPLE” in the vein of spiritual edification and education, or construction and instruction. This ilk of people-ward ministry emanates from Jesus, is transmitted by the Holy Spirit, and in turn is imparted by the Fivefold Ministers unto the receivers. This is not to say that those not in Fivefold Ministry are precluded from impartational participation altogether, however, but only that all such ministry is distributed and relegated through the Fivefold Ministers. The Fivefold Ministers are God’s designated stand-ins, His proxies, His surrogates, anointed and appointed by God to minister on His behalf unto His people in the form of spiritual edification and education, or spiritual construction and instruction (more on this momentarily). Indeed, God’s Word explicitly states that “NOT ALL” (1 Cor. 12:28-30), but rather only “SOME” (Eph. 4:7-11) believers have been anointed by Jesus with Fivefold Ministry gifting, and appointed to the Fivefold Ministry Presbytery.

Thus, we witness again the contrasts that exist between the priesthood of lay believers and the priesthood of the Fivefold Ministers. Both priesthoods are essential, but they differ extensively with regard to their nature as well as their function. As it was pointed out in the previous chapter, the differences between the two priesthoods are represented in the typology of the two separate censuses God commanded Moses to take of the Israelites following their deliverance out of Egypt. Remember, God explicitly tells us that all of these Old Testament events “happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:6), meaning they were types and shadows serving as instructional examples and symbolic paradigms for the End-time Church.

The story of the two censuses is chronicled in the Old Testament Book of Numbers, as it is titled in our English versions; the original Hebrew version was entitled: “In the Wilderness.” On the first day of the second month of the second year of their sojourn through the desolate and arid desert of Sinai, the Lord commanded Moses to number the congregation of the Israelites according to the divisions of the Twelve Tribes, which were also the divisions of their national army.

The details and purposes of this first census we discussed in the previous chapter, pointing out that typologically the “congregation” represented the congregation of lay believers in the New Testament Church, and the “congregational leaders,” comprised of the eldest sons of each tribe, typified the class of believers alluded to in New Testament passages as “deacons,” who are congregational leaders, or lay leaders, in the New Testament Church structure. (Yes, I realize that the word “deacon” means “servant” or “server,” and their assignment was to serve tables, but the Apostles told the congregation to nominate men that they could “put in charge of this task.” So, the original deacons were leaders who served, just like all leaders in the Body.) The application of this typology to the New Testament Church, I also pointed out, is also corroborated by Stephen’s reference to this assembly of Israelites as “the congregation [Greek: “ekklesia,” {lit., called out}; English: “Church”] in the wilderness” (Ac. 7:38); i.e., “the church in the wilderness.”

God explicitly commanded Moses to totally exclude the tribe of Levi, the Levites, from this census, saying they were NOT to be numbered among the tribes of the congregation. Rather, they were to be set apart and distinguished from the other tribes, because He was consecrating and appointing them the designated attendants of the Tabernacle of His Holy Habitation and its furnishings:

The LEVITES, however, were not numbered among them by their fathers’ tribe. For the Lord had spoken to Moses, saying, “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor shall you number them among the sons of Israel. But you shall appoint the LEVITES over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings and over all that belongs to it. They shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it; they shall also camp around the tabernacle. So when the tabernacle is to set out, the LEVITES shall take it down; and when the tabernacle encamps, the LEVITES shall set it up. But the LAYMAN who comes near shall be put to death. And the sons of Israel shall camp, each man by his own standard, according to their armies. But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the testimony.” (Num. 1:47-53)

Then, subsequent to this first census, by which the masses of the congregation were distributed into their respective military regiments, God then commanded that another, separate census be taken, this time of the Levites only:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring the tribe of Levi near and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him. And they shall perform the duties for him and for the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, to do the service of the tabernacle. They shall also keep all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, along with the duties of the sons of Israel, to do the service of the tabernacle. You shall thus give the Levites to Aaron and to his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the sons of Israel. So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons that they may keep THEIR priesthood, but the LAYMAN who comes near shall be put to death.” (Num. 3:5-10)

We see in all this that God Himself was commanding that the LEVITES be “set apart” and distinguished from the congregation (laity) and the congregational leaders, for they were being appointed by God to a totally different function, a different “priesthood” than the laity and tribal heads, who as stated before were societal and military leaders, whose purview was the natural and mundane matters affecting the nation. Whereas the Levites, on the other hand, were the primary spiritual leaders, responsible for the spiritual matters and the collective spirituality of the nation, which also entailed the role of government because the government of the nation at this time was a Theocracy, that is, it was under the sole sovereignty of Jehovah God alone, without any civil government. Hence, the Levites were also the chief intermediary governmental leaders of Israel as well.

In setting apart the tribe of Levi from the other twelve tribes, and consecrating them for specialized service unto Him under the types and shadows of the Old Covenant era, God was establishing the Levitical priesthood as the typological paradigm for the structure of the Church in the New Testament era. More specifically, the Levites, who God had appointed as the preeminent governmental/spiritual leaders within the Theocratic framework under which the nation of Israel operated, typified the governmental/spiritual leaders within the Theocracy of the New Testament Church, which are the Fivefold Ministers, who are the present day proxies of Christ, who Himself is the Sovereign Head of the Church. To state it directly, the Old Testament Levites typify the Fivefold Ministers in the New Testament Church. Or, to put it in the obverse, the Fivefold Ministers are the New Testament counterpart of the Old Testament Levites.

Cryptic Corroboration of the Fivefold Ministry

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Indeed, God has hidden cryptic corroboration signifying that the Levites typify the Fivefold Ministers in the New Testament Church within the details of the Levitical priesthood in two forms. First, as we shall see momentarily, the general duties and responsibilities of the Levites with regard to the Tabernacle were five in number.

Secondly, cryptic corroboration is also inherent in the details of the segmentation of the Levitical Tribe and the duties delegated to each. God divided the Tribe of Levi into two main divisions, comprised of two and three subdivisions respectively, totaling five. To each division He assigned different duties and responsibilities.

The first division was the “sons of Aaron,” of which there were two, Eleazar and Ithamar. They were the chief priests who alone were consecrated by God to enter behind the veil in order to perform the services of oblation, and to touch the Holy Objects (Num. 3:2-10,38). They were also the overseers over the Levites, and were responsible for seeing to it that the collective duties and responsibilities of the Levites were carried out and performed precisely in accordance with the specification of the ordinances God established for those duties (3:32; 4:16-32). This division typified Apostles (Eleazar) and Prophets (Ithamar).

The second division was comprised of the “sons of Levi,” of which there were three, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. It was this division who actually performed the various duties of tending to, assembling, disassembling, and transporting the furnishings and articles of the Tabernacle. Respectively, they typified the remaining Fivefold Ministries: Evangelists (Gershonites), Pastors (Kohathites), and Teachers (Merarites).

The Purview of the Levitical Priesthood
Having established that the Levites typify the Fivefold Ministers in the New Testament Church, it is vital then to begin to define with specificity the scope as well as the limitations of the purview of responsibility of the Levitical priesthood. Per usual, in His instructions, God delineated the precise specifications of the role to which He was appointing the Levites:

But you shall appoint the LEVITES over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings and over all that belongs to it. They shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it; they shall also camp around the tabernacle. So when the tabernacle is to set out, the LEVITES shall take it down; and when the tabernacle encamps, the LEVITES shall set it up. But the LAYMAN who comes near shall be put to death. And the sons of Israel shall camp, each man by his own standard, according to their armies. But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the testimony. (Num. 1:50-53, emphasis author’s)

The Levites were put in complete charge of the Tabernacle and all its furnishings, and everything involved with tending to it, which entailed five general tasks. They were to carry, or transport, the Tabernacle along with all its appurtenances; take care of it; camp around it; take it down, or disassemble, it whenever they broke camp and rejoined their trek; and, they set it up, or reassembled, it when the Israelite company encamped once again. Though the typology of these five responsibilities of the Levites and its New Testament application is not particularly germane to the subject of this article, one of them does relate to our focus, however, i.e., the role of Fivefold Ministry, namely the requirement God set for the Levites to “camp around” the Tabernacle. God said that this was in order “that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the sons of Israel,” meaning that the Levites, who God had set apart and sanctified (made holy) unto Himself by declaration, in camping around the Tabernacle of God’s Manifested Presence, did protect and preserve the rest of the congregation, the unsanctified, unconsecrated non Levitical tribes, from being consumed by the nuclear emanations of the righteous wrath of Almighty God that continuously but viewlessly to the natural eye radiated forth from the Tabernacle of the Testimony.

Indeed, it was for this very reason, when God chose to manifest His Divine Presence in the midst of this sin defiled “congregation [“ecclesia,” {lit., called out}, “Church”] in the wilderness” (Ac. 7:38), that it was absolutely necessary that He set apart, sanctify, and consecrate a certain contingency of their company who would thus be able to come near to touch and tend to the Holy articles of the Tabernacle, and to be intermediaries and intercessors between Him and the people, lest they all be consumed by His Awesome and Almighty Presence, exposure to which unsanctified and mortal flesh and blood can in no wise endure.

But, in the case of the not thusly consecrated and sanctified non-Levite layman and their approachability to the manifestation of His Awesome Presence, God solemnly warned: “But the LAYMAN who comes near shall be put to death,” meaning, he would die if exposed to the raw radiance of His Glory. Amplification regarding such limitations on the spiritual purview of the laity, and the judgments incurred when those boundaries were/are exceeded, along with the application of the Old Testament types and shadows in the New Testament era, are presented in Chapter 7 of the book from which this article is excerpted, Charismatic Captivation.
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If you have not read Part 1 of the article, I urge you to do so.


This article is an excerpt from the book, Charismatic Captivation, by Dr. Steven Lambert.

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