January 12th 2019 – Ephesians 4:8-16

Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
    and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."

Ephesians 4:8-16

As to the gifts themselves, and their nature, we shall look at them in turn; and first, 'apostles'. This word has a twofold meaning in the New Testament and is first of all applied to the twelve original disciples and Paul. In this narrow and exclusive sense, the qualifications for apostleship were: to have seen Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:1), and to have been a witness of the resurrection. On this understanding of the word the apostles were bound to die out in course of time and never be replaced, there could only be twelve apostles in this sense, for later generations could not possibly 'see' Jesus in the way they did, or be eye-witnesses of His resurrection in the forty days between the resurrection and the ascension. But the word 'apostle' is also used of others than the twelve - of Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14), James the brother of our Lord (1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19), Silvanus (1 Thessalonians 2:16), and others. These may well in fact have 'seen' Jesus in his earthly ministry, and been witnesses of the resurrection also. But what is important for us to recognise is the fact that Christ gave to these men the responsibility of establishing the norm of the apostolic gospel, by their preaching and writing. In this, they were unique and unrepeatable. There are no apostles in this sense today, nor could there be - nor need there be - since the revelation is now complete. New revelation is not possible - or necessary either - although new illumination (a very different thing!) of what was originally and once for all given may be needed again and again.