Gift vs Office and women in ministry

Gift vs Office and women in ministry

Continuing in our series on the gifts and their use by men and women in the body of Christ, we come to an unusual passage where the gift seems not to be a thing but a person.

In Ephesians 4:7, 8 we see that grace is given to each one of us apportioned out by Christ himself:

Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Ephesians 4:8 Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”

The Greek word for “men” is a generic term meaning mankind and applies to both men and women. Both men and women (each one of us) is given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Continuing on with verse 11 we find that the gifts that Christ gives in this passage are gifts of people for the equipping of the church.

Ephesians 4:11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
Ephesians 4:12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

Now take a look at the first gift which is that of apostle. Some consider this not to be a gift but an office. In fact this is the way that the first apostles may have looked at it because they set out to appoint a replacement for Judas.

Acts 1:20 “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘LET HIS HOMESTEAD BE MADE DESOLATE, AND LET NO ONE DWELL IN IT’; and, ‘LET ANOTHER MAN TAKE HIS OFFICE.’
Acts 1:21 “Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us–
Acts 1:22 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 1:23 So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias.
Acts 1:24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen
Acts 1:25 to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”
Acts 1:26 And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

The apostles appointed two men as candidates for a replacement of Judas, then after praying to God to show his choice, they cast a dice and chose Matthias. But can men actually appoint an apostle this way if an apostle is a gift? No ordination by men can make a man an apostle if it is a gift given by Jesus to the church. And similarly no failure of men to ordain a person will take away God’s choice of the gift of apostle to the church.

Paul was given as an apostle to the church but he struggled with being accepted because the other apostles did not ordain him as the twelfth apostle. Paul continually had to defend his being an apostle because many had made their minds up already that the position was already filled. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul responds that the Corinthians have pushed him to defend his apostleship and he is not happy to have to do this. Paul says:

2 Corinthians 12:11 I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody.
2 Corinthians 12:12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.

Paul tells the Galatians that he is not an apostle because of any man’s choice:

Galatians 1:1 Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead)

Paul boldly states that he is an apostle of Jesus by the will of God:

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…

So could Paul then be the 13th apostle after the 12th apostle was appointed by the disciples? Scripture gives an interesting answer:

Revelation 21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

There are only twelve apostles of the Lamb, not thirteen! So what do we make of Matthias? He is never spoken of again in scripture after Acts chapter 1. Paul himself claims over and over again to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, chosen by the will of God.

What does this mean? It means that an apostle is a true gift of God and an apostle cannot be appointed by man. Some wonder why Matthias was chosen by the casting of lots. Nowhere in scripture is this way of assessing God’s will ever practiced again. Was it necessary to cast lots because God never answered the eleven apostles regarding their own choice for the replacement of Judas? Is it because a gift cannot be appointed by man since it is God’s prerogative alone? Paul claimed to be an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God yet he was never appointed by man to this “position”. Rather he was gifted by Jesus and given to the church for the building up of the body of Christ. Paul was such an awesome choice that the church would not be the same without his writings. And Matthias? We never hear of him again.

What about another “gift” in the list at Ephesians 4:11 – the gift of pastor? Can a pastor be appointed by man? If a pastor is truly a gift as Ephesians 4:11 states, then a pastor is not a pastor because they are appointed by man. Similarly a pastor is not any less of a pastor because they are not appointed by man. This gift is given for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, for the building up of the body of Christ and it is not an appointment but a gift.

What does this all mean? I believe that it means that if you are called and gifted to be a pastor you do not need to have man’s ordination to flow in your gifts as a pastor. You are a pastor by God’s calling and gifting and not by the will of man. And if a person is a pastor that isn’t called or gifted to be a pastor they are not a true pastor just because man has ordained them. Paul said that there were false apostles who disguised themselves as true apostles:

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.

Would it be any wonder if we would also have false pastors too? Jesus calls these people hirelings or hired hands:

John 10:12 “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
John 10:13 “He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.”

So if you are a woman and God has called you and gifted you as a pastor, do you really need any man to make you a pastor? Should you not just pastor the sheep? Be it a small group setting or a big group or a congregation, shouldn’t you just do what God has called you to do? If you are in a church that refuses to allow a woman to take the name of pastor and you want to stay in that church, do you think that God will allow you to do the work of a pastor without the name? A pastor is a gift to the body of Christ by the will of Jesus. Just be that gift and use your gift to nurture and tend the flock.

20 thoughts on “Gift vs Office and women in ministry

  1. The only appointed position I can think of is Elder/guardian/overseer. This is what I think is significant in the letter to Titus. He was to appoint elders in every town, and in that same letter Paul talks about both male and female elders. There is no reason to think these are not the appointees of chapter one.

    So even if some comps might possibly concede that since “pastor” is a gift it cannot be appointed, we still have scriptural backing for the appointment of women to an (the only?) official position in the assembly.

    And of course we can’t overemphasize the problem of how the traditional church has mangled the gift of pastor and turned it into the position of a spiritual CEO. Pastor/shepherd is someone who both guards and nurtures, and therefore must know the difference between wolves and sheep (discernment). A good shepherd will care for the sheep and protect them by beating off the wolves. But the traditional “Pastor” is a corporate officer who calls all the shots and commands the underlings.

    Personally, I say the comps can have their “lodge”, their boys’ club, and run it however they want. But they can’t legitimately call it The Assembly. We are what we are by God’s gifting, and it has nothing to do with buildings, sanctuaries, pulpits, pews, performances, or committees. Let them make rules for others and rage against the Holy Spirit’s choice of servants. Let them have it their way, because I am not obligated to join it.

    The Spirit leads, and we can “test the spirits” by the Bible. The Word and the Spirit work together to keep us from the extremes of gullibility and cold-heartedness. No amount of human organization or rationalization can stand against it.

  2. Excellent points Cheryl. I have been waiting a long time for someone to shed some light on this subject. Keep up the good work!!!

  3. Here are some of my understandings:

    1. A crucial difference between an office and a leadership ministry gift is that an office exists regardless if someone is actually in the office, which any spiritual gift (including leadership ministry gifts) ONLY exists when someone has that gift. For example, the office of President of the USA existed even when President Kennedy was shot but there was no actual President until Johnson was shown in.

    2. The 12 can be said to have an office, in that when Judas left, there needed to be 12 of them (to be 12) and so another was chosen. But when James died, no one was selected to replace him as one of the 12, as he died in the faith.

    3. I have heard that the lots MIGHT have been votes by the 11. Even if it was a random device, the Bible says “The lot is in the hands of the Lord.” so for me, the question is whether the 11 did it in faith, and I believe they did.

    4. There are many others in the NT who are called apostles besides the 12 and Paul, none of these are said to be in an office. I do not see any offices in the new covenant besides Jesus as High Priest and the 12, which needed to be 12 to map to the 12 tribes of Israel.

    5. One is given a gift by God, such as being a apostle (often called a missionary today), prophet (sometimes called a preacher), evangelist, pastor and teacher. My understanding is that these are the teaching ministers, in the sense that they are all expected to be able to teach.

    6. When someone is recognized with the above ministry (not office), the existing leadership (possibly non-local as in missionary) can lay hands on them and appoint them as an elder/overseer of the congregation.

    7. God can give another gift to anyone whenever he wishes.

    8. I cannot find anyone called Apostle John or Prophet Agabus in the NT. What I can find is John, an apostle, or Agabus, a prophet. The point is that I look with skepticism on titles and look at what someone does.

    9. If someone is given a ministry gift, do not try to force fit it into another ministry gift. If you are given the gift of being an evagelist, do not try to be a pastor, for example, as it can just lead to frustration. Accept whatever gift you have been given and use it to serve the body of Christ.

  4. This question is for Don Johnson.
    Where in the Bible does it say that an evangelist has to be able to teach? I understand that an evangelist (man or woman) is gifted to share the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ wherever he/she goes.

  5. This is a sketch of how I connect the dots, you might see it differently.

    For the specific ministry of evangelist, they can be expected to be able to teach the gospel to a non-believer. They might also be able to teach more, but my take is that would be the minimum.

    An evangelist is one of the 5-fold ministries as I see it. I understand these to be the varieties of possible ministry gifts of the elders/overseers in a church congregation, notice that not all of them are a pastor, there are other varieties. And one of the qualifications of an elder is to be able to teach, per 1 Tim and Titus, this is the main distinction between an elder and a deacon, both are servant-leaders, but a deacon is not necessarily expected to be able to teach. Some deacons might teach and some might be preparing to become elders later in life. But it is perfectly fine if a deacon has no desire to teach at all.

    The ministry gifts are gifts of the Holy Spirit. Leadership in the church is appointed by having hands laid on one by the current leaders and includes a recognition of the ministry gift (and perhaps asking for more). So the 2 are closely coupled together, but not identical, because someone can be given a ministry gift, yet the local leaders not recognize it, for example, if they do not believe a woman can be an elder or a deacon.

  6. Cheryl,

    Great teaching here.

    i have always thought it was very interesting that we never hear of anything ‘more’ of Matthias after his ‘appointment’ to the 12.
    Who needs ‘titles’ anyway? Like you say – let’s just DO the work of an evangelist, or pastor or teacher as God equips us.
    Pride and a lust for power (even though it is sometimes so subtle) corrupts the Body of Christ where we are to all respect each other equally.
    One of the things i like about the Senior Pastor of my church here in Australia (and it’s a big church for downunder – about 4000 people with perhaps 80+ staff)…is that he simply introduces himself as ‘one of the workers’ here at the church or ‘one’ of the staff. He never highlights that he is the “senior” pastor when up the front preaching or facilitating the service. Our value as people is found IN Christ – not in titles or special activities or roles we fulfil.

    keep up the great work Cheryl.
    regards
    Kerryn

  7. Don,

    You said:

    3. I have heard that the lots MIGHT have been votes by the 11. Even if it was a random device, the Bible says “The lot is in the hands of the Lord.” so for me, the question is whether the 11 did it in faith, and I believe they did.

    I too believe that the disciples did it in faith. I do not believe that God told them what to do hence their decision to cast lots (whether it was a vote or not isn’t the important thing since they were looking for guidance and a vote or a casting of the lot would have been interpreted as guidance) was not God’s choice. I sincerely believe that God allowed this example so that we could have a first-hand example of the difference between God’s choice when it comes to gifting and man’s choice. God has also given a clear indication that there was only 12 apostles so that just as you said when the actual apostles died there was no replacement for them only for the one who was not a faithful apostle, because in Revelation there are only 12 listed.

    I also believe that God has given this example for us so that we can have confidence in our gifts. If we know that God has gifted us for an area but no one has voted us in, we can still pastor. I actually have been doing that for many years. For 16 years I hosted a support group for ex-JW’s in my home and I supported them in their difficult journey out of a cult and I taught them how to distinguish between true doctrine and false doctrine. This is a shepherding work and I didn’t need anyone to give me approval to do this work. We did submit to our church leadership and had the pastors in to the group to observe from time to time, but the work was being done not because any man put me in this position. I did it because I have a heart for the lost in the cults and I was compassionate with them and fed them with the truth of God’s word. This feeding and shepherding is what a pastor does and God’s calling can be followed even without a so-called church setting.

  8. Kerryn,

    Thank you for your words of encouragement and the info about your church. Your pastor sounds like a humble pastor – a true shepherd of God’s people!

  9. Don,

    You also said:

    4. There are many others in the NT who are called apostles besides the 12 and Paul, none of these are said to be in an office. I do not see any offices in the new covenant besides Jesus as High Priest and the 12, which needed to be 12 to map to the 12 tribes of Israel.

    I agree. There certainly was a special foundational type of apostle that was of the 12. But there were also other apostles in scripture. I believe each apostle and each pastor is gifted by God to be an apostle or a pastor. I really liked your analogy that an office is there whether a person is in that position or not. So we could say that the 12 apostles were apostles by gift but also apostles by a special office called “the foundation” of the church. Jesus, the 12 apostles and the prophets are called the foundation and the church is built on this foundation, with Jesus being the corner stone.

  10. Don also said:

    6. When someone is recognized with the above ministry (not office), the existing leadership (possibly non-local as in missionary) can lay hands on them and appoint them as an elder/overseer of the congregation.

    This is exactly what I believe. While God gifts, we the people can recognize the gift and the maturity of another believer and the laying on of hands is given for us to recognize the leadership abilities of a mature Christian. Some pastors are elders and some are not, but the key thing in my article was pointing out that a pastor does not need a man to ordain him/her although they can be ordained as an elder.

  11. Don also said:

    7. God can give another gift to anyone whenever he wishes.

    8. I cannot find anyone called Apostle John or Prophet Agabus in the NT. What I can find is John, an apostle, or Agabus, a prophet. The point is that I look with skepticism on titles and look at what someone does.

    This is the New Testament way. It seems that we have gone a long way from the way that the church was set up.

  12. Lastly Don said:

    9. If someone is given a ministry gift, do not try to force fit it into another ministry gift. If you are given the gift of being an evagelist, do not try to be a pastor, for example, as it can just lead to frustration. Accept whatever gift you have been given and use it to serve the body of Christ.

    Don, you have been a blessing to me. Your words are written with great wisdom. This is a very wise word and something I will take to heart.

  13. Thank you for the kind words, I do want to be a blessing. And you have blessed me also with your insights. I am always seeking a better understanding.

  14. the 12 apostles are the foundation etc etc. So is it Matthias that is part of that foundation? It can’t be judas right? What if Paul is really the 12th! please help.

  15. In my understanding Matthias is the 12th apostle of the 12. Paul and others in the NT called apostles are not one of the 12. Junia was an apostle, but there are a few ways to alter the translation so that it does not seem that way, if you do not believe a woman can be an apostle.

  16. Thanks for the answer! It seems that God allowed this to take place and God doesn’t disputy it, ok Matthias is the 12th!

    Pauls example is simple… weather he was part of the 12 or not, it’s not so much about office but about answering your higher calling and using your gift/ gifts from God to the full.

    The 12 I think was for Israel….12 Tribes etc and the foundation along with the prophets etc.

    As for “Junia”, Yes I believe she was a Female Apostle like Paul! I have done alot of research from both sides of the issue and I believe Junia was a woman gifted by God!

  17. It is a somewhat tricky question to ask how many apostles are found in the NT. There are quite a few.

    Also, I find it best to think of it as a ministry, it is the ministry of being sent out (from a congregation, like a missionary). Many people do this today, yes they are special, but an apostle is not so special that they are only found in the NT.

  18. Cheryl, Good illustration in post nr. 9 above. Another simple example would be the case in which one of the doors in the Sunday School wing of the building is squeaking terribly. Should we hire a contractor at God knows how much per/hr. to fix it, or does somebody simply take it upon him or herself to tap down the offending hinge pin and give it a couple-o’-squirts of dura-lube? Your point is well taken that one’s gifting in the church is not the province of any ecclesiastical (man-made) body. And as you’ve made it abundantly clear, these gifts when bestowed by God himself are not to be hindered by the whim and fancy of men.

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