January 14th 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

A further word may be added in relation to the prophets. With the establishment of settled ministries under 'pastors and teachers', the prophets became progressively unnecessary and 'redundant', and their special office superseded, with ministers 'taking over' their ministry of exhortation and instruction. Here is a helpful comment by Francis Foulkes in his Tyndale commentary on Ephesians:

'The ministry, or at least the name, of prophet also soon died in the Church. Their work, receiving and declaring the word of God under direct inspiration of the Spirit, was most vital before there was a canon of New Testament Scriptures. We read of prophets in the second century, but they had diminished importance. The apostolic writings were coming to be read widely, and accepted as authoritative, and this tended to replace the authority of the prophets. At the same time, the local ministry was assuming greater importance than that of itinerant ministers, and there was the added problem that there were many false teachers and self-styled 'prophets', who went from place to place to peddle their wares.'

The prophetic function today, must therefore be seen as that of contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. This is what we mean by a 'prophetic' ministry - the recovery of old, lost values, the rehabilitation of a true ministry of the Word in the Church.