From “Feast of Tabernacles,” Chapter 7- The Day of Atonement, continued
HOW SHALL IT COME TO PASS?
This life shall not come by fleshly striving. Nor shall it come merely by prayer and repentance and seeking God’s face. This, of course, is most essential, and God will hear that prayer of sincerity and reveal the channel and means by which perfection shall be attained. But prayer and repentance in themselves are not the means by which the saints are to be perfected. Neither is the rapture of the Church the plan of God for the perfecting of the saints, and their deliverance from sin and carnality. God has another plan–a far more glorious plan, and yet a very simple plan; and here it is:
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in (unto) the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13). The Church may proclaim an imminent rapture as much as they will, and teach that any moment the saints will be snatched away from earth to escape the gathering clouds of Tribulation. But this is not the teaching of God’s Word. True, we must always be waiting and watching for His Appearing–but this is not the “Appearing” of modern evangelical theology. This glorious Appearing must first of all be manifest in the saints.
How thankful we are, therefore, that God is revealing the pattern of perfection. The Ascension gifts, the ministries in the Body of Christ–these are the means of perfecting the saints,–and as we have read, they are to remain in the Church till we all come unto unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man! Notice too, that these ministries were given “when he ascended up on high,” and not when He was here on earth. He gave twelve apostles when He was here on earth; but here we find that He gives apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers after His ascension.
The perfection of the saints unto maturity, then, is just as mysterious as the growth and development of the members of the human body from birth unto manhood–and just as real. Spiritual gifts in the saints, exercised by the recipient in the power of the Holy Ghost, develop into ministries of the Spirit. And these ministries are vital, living spiritual faculties in the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ, therefore, shall nurture and edify itself. Just as the human body has within itself the God-given and God-created ability to grow, to develop, to heal its own wounds, and to reproduce itself; so the Body of Christ, by means of these spiritual faculties, has the God-given and God-created power to grow into holiness, to develop into sonship, to heal its own sin-wounds, and to reproduce its kind. Says Paul, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15, 16). “Unto the edifying of itself in love!” That is God’s pattern. GHW
So if the Ascension gifts, or five-fold ministry, as it is also known, is the way to maturity for the Body of Christ, how does that look in its every day functioning? There are three ways to look at this.
1. That the Ascension gifts are given to some people in the Body of Christ and are not given to everyone in the body.
2. That the Ascension gifts are given to everyone in the Body of Christ and are not limited to certain individuals.
3. That the Ascension gifts are given to certain people in the Body of Christ and these individuals are to nurture an inclination within others in the body to minister in their given calling.
I believe the third option is the correct way to look at the Ascension gifts. This third option distinguishes between the office of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher and the inclination toward the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral or teaching functions within the body. As an example, people with a bent toward the apostolic can flow with the vision of the apostle and do great work without being in the office of the apostle themselves. There are apostles and there are apostolically activated congregations that minister in their communities and to the world in powerful apostolic ministry. This same principle applies to the other ministries, as well. The mandate of the office gifts is to train others in their calling within the body: to equip or perfect the saints for works of ministry. In this process of equipping, it may become evident to some being trained that they, too, are called to a particular Ascension gift office, but that will not be the case for everyone. In this case, it will require personal mentoring on the part of those in an Ascension gift office to continue training at a deeper level. But as always, these in training are “not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead” (Gal. 1:1 NLT).