Gifted Leaders

Ephesians 4

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
April 2019

Today, we will be looking at Ephesians 4:11-16.  It is a very important passage.  This passage is powerful.  It gives us a biblical philosophy of ministry, what ministry should look like in church.  We will look at the Ephesians 4 ministry model.  It is a philosophy that looks very different from what we see in many churches.  This is one of the most important passages in the NT for the church in America to hear today.

It is also an important passage on spiritual gifts.  We will review what we learned last week, learn some new things about spiritual gifts and we will tie them all together at the end, as we look at a total of ten principles about spiritual gifts from Ephesians 4.

Last week that there are a lot of different spiritual gifts every believer has one.  Jesus is the gift giver.  He gave even the most insignificant Christian a gift.  The problem is that all of these gifts today are not being used.

Many of us already know about spiritual gifts.  We have read I Corinthians 12.  We know all about spiritual gifts.  That is a great chapter on spiritual gifts but we learn some other things in Ephesians that Paul did not tell us in I Corinthians.

In I Corinthians 12, spiritual gifts are called gifts of the Spirit.  They are given by or through the Spirit.  In Ephesians 4, we find out that they are also gifts of Jesus.  They are all gifts of the ascended Christ.  Paul says that three times in Ephesians 4 but there is another difference.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:11-12 NIV)

Paul uses a completely different definition of gift in Ephesians 4.  There are two definitions of a gift.  We normally think of gifts as special abilities or skills.  That is the normal definition but in Ephesians 4 we have a different definition.  In Ephesians 4, gifts are not ABILITIES given by God to people.  Gifts in this chapter are PEOPLE given by Christ to the church.

It is a completely different concept.  When we talk about an Ephesians 4 gift, we are talking primarily about people.  Martin Luther was a gift to the church.  Billy Graham was a gift to the church.  John Wesley was a git to the church.  D.L. Moody was a gift to the church.  They are not the only gifts.  WE are also gifts of Jesus to the church.  The truth is that some churches appreciate their gift better than others.

Last week, we saw that when Jesus ascended, He gave gifts and now we see what five of those gifts were and why He gave them.  They are not all of the gifts.  They are only one type of gift.  They fall into one category.  We are going to find out three things today: a list of the gifts, the purpose of the gifts and the duration of the gifts.

The Leadership Gifts

Jesus ascended from heaven and gave gifts.  What gifts did He give?  What are the divine gifts?  Paul lists five gifts.  What are the five gifts?  They are apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers.  What do we notice about these five gifts? 

These are all PEOPLE.  They are all PREACHERS.  All five groups of people proclaimed God’s Word to people in some way.  All of these gifts involved speaking.  They are all speaking gifts.  They are also all LEADERS.  These are leadership gifts.  These are some of the top offices in the church.  They are gifted leaders.

Are all of these gifts equal?  No.  Some were extraordinary (miracle working scripture writing apostles who followed Jesus around for three years) and some were ordinary (ordinary pastors, teachers and missionaries) but they were all gifts of leadership to the church.  Some of these gifts are only mentioned in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4 is the only time we see the word “evangelist” on a list of spiritual gifts.  It is the only time in the NT the word ‘pastor’ is used of a church office.  It is used in the plural.  The word pastor in the singular is not used anywhere in the NT.  When every Paul wrote to any church, he never greeted the pastor.  When he wrote to the church at Philippi, he wrote it to all the saints in Philippi with all the elders and deacons (Philippians 1:1).  It seems a little strange that he did not address the letter to the pastor.

The word pastor means shepherd.  It is in the plural.  It is not limited to the man who preaches on Sunday morning.  There should be many shepherds in the church.  The same word is used in its verb form in I Peter of elders and many other people can have this gift of shepherding.

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 SHEPHERD the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly (I Peter 5:1-2 ESV)

They are not only leadership gifts; they are ascension gifts, as we saw last week.  Are these the only ascension gifts, as some teach?  No.  These were not the only gifts that Jesus gave to the church after he ascended into heaven? There are more than twenty spiritual gifts listed in the NT.  There are other lists of spiritual gifts in the NT.  Paul mentions more in Romans and I Corinthians.  What are the five gifts here?


First on the list are apostles.  When we think of an apostle, we think of the Twelve, who followed Jesus around for three years, heard him teach and saw all of his miracles but there are actually three kinds of apostles in the NT.  Paul was an apostle but he did not follow Jesus around for three years as his official representative and there are other people in the NT called apostles who were not apostles like Paul or the Twelve.

They were lowercase apostles.  Barnabas is an example of someone who was not one of the Twelve but he is called an apostle.  But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out (Acts 14:14 ESV).  This shows that apostleship in the NT was not limited to the Twelve and you could have the gift of apostleship without the office.


Prophets were people who spoke by direct divine revelation.  It could be a revelation about the future or about the present but when a prophet spoke, God spoke.  Prophets did not go around saying, “It seems to me that this will take place” or “I feel strongly that you should…” or “This is what most scholars believe.”

They said, “Thus says the Lord.”  We need to be careful today because many people say some crazy things that they say that God told them.  Prophets need to be tested.  Even in the NT times they needed to be tested.  Many people abuse the prophetic gift but it was a genuine gift.


Evangelists are people who preach the gospel.  That is something that all of us are to do but some are really good at it.  It is their spiritual gift.  They live and breathe evangelism.

PASTORS are spiritual shepherds but it is not just the pastor.  The word pastor means ‘shepherd’ and shepherds are to feed the flock.  Most pastors are more preachers than teachers.  Some pastors feed the flock and some do not.  The sheep in some churches are skinny and malnourished.


Lastly, he mentions teachers.  Some say that this is the same gift as pastors.  They say it is the gift of pastor-teacher, because of Greek grammar (Granville Sharp Rule) but that is probably not correct.  It is not demanded by the Greek text.  The same construction is used in Ephesians 2:20 and they refer to apostles and prophets. Teaching is mentioned as a separate gift in Romans and I Corinthians.


What is the difference between pastors and teachers?  Pastors are often more people persons.  Teachers tend to love truth.  Pastors tend to love people.  Pastors tend to be more practical.  Teachers explain the word.  Pastors often apply it.  They are different gifts and not all teachers are pastors, although all pastors should be teachers.

There are all kinds of different kinds of teachers.  Some are better at teaching adults and some are better at teaching children.  Some are better at teaching brand new Christians and some are better and teaching seasoned saints.  Some teach by writing (books) and some teach by speaking.  Some teach by both.

What is the difference between evangelists and teachers?  There are many differences.  Evangelists are often move around.  Teachers stay in one place.  D. L. Moody said, “Dead men need evangelists. Living men need pastors and teachers.”[1]  My wife described it this way.  The job of the evangelist is to bring them in.  The job of the teacher is to build them up.  The job of the pastor is to send them out.

What is the difference between a prophet and a teacher?  They are separate gifts.  Both give a message from God, but they do it in different ways.  Prophecy is spontaneous (cf. I Corinthians 14:29-30). Teaching is NOT spontaneous.  It requires hours of preparation and study.  Prophets give a new revelation of God.  Teachers explain and interpret the revelation that God has already given.

Two Signs of Good Leaders

No church is perfect.  No leaders are perfect but how do you know if you have good leaders?  There are three signs in the text.

1) Good leaders produce stability in a church

That includes doctrinal stability.  Ephesians 4:14 says, “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” (ESV).

If you have good leaders, you will have a spiritually mature church.  You will have members who know the Word and can discern truth from error.  God does not want Christians to be spiritually gullible and naive.  He does not want us to be immature spiritually.  He wants us to grow up.

Five Signs of a Childish Christian

1. They do not know the Word.

They really do not know what it teaches, even though they may have bee in the church for thirty years.  They especially do not know what is in the OT.  That is the great tragedy of the church today.  It is biblical illiteracy.

2. They eat a simple diet.

It is a diet of spiritual baby food.  They like the milk of the word but not the meat.  They are spiritual vegetarians.  They only like shallow bible studies and nothing to deep.  They would not dare read any theology or doctrine.  They even think that the Bible is boring.

3. They have little discernment.

Proverbs 14:15 says that “the simple believe anything” (NIV).  Some Christians are like that.  They have no discernment.  Everything that the preacher says, they accept.  Everything their church tells them, they believe.  They often go from preacher to preacher and from church to church.  They are like infants “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Ephesians 4:14 NIV).

4. They do not know how to defend their faith

They have no idea how to answer questions people have about the Bible or even basic objections to Christianity.  They would know know how to answer someone if they asked how they knew that God existed, that Jesus really rose from the dead or that he even existed.  They would not know how to answer someone if they asked how we know that the Bible is the Word of God.

5. They are easily deceived

It is very easy to trick children (Ephesians 4:14). Baby Christians are also very easy to deceive. Cultists can teach false doctrine, take verses out of context and they will believe every word.  The first goal of leadership is to develop mature Christians but that is not all that they do.

2) Good leaders equip the saints for service

to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12 ESV)

Every Christian is a saint but the saints need to be equipped.  One of the job of the leaders, the job of people with leadership gifts is to equip and empower the saints for the work of ministry. That is not what we see in many churches.  In many churches, ministry is done by the paid professionals.

In most cases, the leaders are highly educated, seminary trained, ordained ministers.  The church pays them to do ministry.  The rest of the church sits back, while the senior pastor does all of the work. It leads to a passive church. That leads to a big gap in the church between the clergy and the laity.

The model for ministry in Ephesians 4 is different.  The job of the leaders is to quip the saints so they can minister to others.  That is what a healthy church looks like.  That is what discipleship in a church should look like.

Notice the two parts to it.  The first step is EQUIPPING.  The second step is SERVICE. In every church, there should be some EQUIPPERS and there should be some SERVERS.

Some pastors try to do everything.  They try to micromanage everything.  What they should do is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.  All of us are in the ministry, not just the paid professionals.  Every Christian is a minister.  You do not have to be ordained to be a minister.  The pastor is not the only one in full-time Christian service.  Every Christian should be.

When every Christian in the church does his or her part, the body is built up. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, AS EACH PART DOES ITS WORK. (Ephesians 4:15-16 NIV)

The purpose of ministry is to build up the body.  You may know some professional body builders who train their body, so they have big bulky muscles like the hulk.  This is biblical bodybuilding.  It is Christian body building.  It is spiritual body building.

Spiritual gifts do not develop physical muscles.  They develop our spiritual muscles. The purpose is to build up the body of Christ, not tear it down.  The primary purpose of the church is to build up the body.  Jesus did not give you a spiritual gift for your own benefit.  If you have a spiritual gift, it is for the benefit of the body.

The primary purpose is to glorify God and to build up the body of Christ.  In some churches, the focus is not on the body but on the lost.  It is not on saints but on sinners.  the local church is primarily a soul-winning station, rather than a soul building station.  The focus is on evangelism, rather than discipleship.[2]  Some churches preach the same message week after week and it is the salvation message.

Errors on Spiritual Gifts

There are three basic  errors in the church today when it comes to spiritual gifts.   The first error is that many Christians do not use their spiritual gift.

We are all part of the body of Christ.  Some of the body parts are working and some are not.  Some have to work overtime.  For a Christian to decide not to use his or her gift would be like your kidney or heart deciding not to work in the body.  That would be catastrophic.  Ten percent of the church often do ninety percent of the work.  When they all work together as they should, the body is built up.

The second error is that in some churches that are some Christians who have a genuine gift and want to use it but are not given the opportunity.  That happens in many churches.  John Wesley was barred from preaching in most churches in his day.  He was considered too radical, so he went and preached outside to large crowds of people.

The third error is that many Christians are not serving in the ministry where they are gifted.  They are doing something in the church but not what God has called them to do.  Many just fill a need but do not focus on what they are actually called by God to do.

The Gifts Today

How long do these gifts last?  The text is clear and it goes against what a lot of people in the church teach.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 UNTIL we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV).

When we all reach complete unity in the faith with every other Christian?  When we all see Jesus.  The gifts were given by Jesus until that happens.  What is that important?  Many today teach that some gifts were only given for a few hundred years and then they died out.

They believe that there are two types of gifts in the NT: temporary gifts and permanent gifts.  They believe that there are permanent gifts and nine temporary gifts.  The temporary gifts are apostles, gifts of healings, working of miracles, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues.  There is no evidence for that in Ephesians 4.  None!

Now it is true that The Twelve are gone.  The Twelve and Paul had a special authority that people do not have today.  There is no apostolic succession (contrary to what the Catholic Church teaches).  If anyone on the Internet or TV claims to be an apostle in that sense, they are liars.

There were people in Paul’s day who claimed to be apostles but were not real apostles.  We have the same problem today.  That does NOT mean that the gift of apostleship no longer exists today, just because the office no longer exists.  There were other apostles in the NT, besides the Twelve.

Many say that we no longer need prophets today because the prophets wrote Scripture and we already have the Bible.  The canon is closed, so there is no longer any need for a prophet today.  Are they right?  No.  The canon is closed but that was not the only job of prophets in the Bible.

In fact, many prophets never wrote a book of the Bible.  John the Baptist never wrote a book of the Bible.  Some were speaking prophets and some were writing prophets.  Paul described the purpose of prophecy as edification, exhortation and comfort.  Paul said, “But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort” (I Corinthians 14:3 NIV).  Do we still need that today?  Yes.

There were prophets in the early church (Acts 2:17-18; 11:27; 13:1; 15:32).  The gift will be around during the Tribulation Period (Revelation 10:7; 11:6, 10, 18; 16:6; 18:24).  It will also be around just before the Second Coming of Christ (Joel 2:28-32).

Some say that apostles and prophets must have ceased because they are part of the foundation of the church. They get this from Ephesians 2:20. The argument is that the church is pictured as a building and the apostles and prophets are part of the foundation of that building. They were foundational gifts to the church. You only build a foundation once. Therefore, there is no longer any need for them but this argument has a flaw.

The apostles and prophets are NOT the foundation of the church.  How do we know?  Paul said that the foundation of the church is Jesus.  In fact, he said in another epistle that the church has NO other foundation than Jesus (I Corinthians 3:10-11).  They are not the foundation.  The teaching about Jesus by the apostles and prophets is the foundation of the church.  This is an example of an objective genitive in Greek.

Ephesians 4 Principles on Spiritual Gifts

Principle One: Jesus is the author of spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:7, 8, 11)

Principle Two: Jesus gives a gift to every believer (Ephesians 4:7)

Principle Three: Jesus gives different gifts to believers (Ephesians 4:11)

Principle Four: Jesus gives a gift to every church in the form of people (Ephesians 4:11)

Principle Five: A pastor’s job is not to do all of the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12)

Principle Six: Ministry belongs to everybody, not just the pastor (Ephesians 4:12)

Principle Seven: There are two types of gifts in the church: equipping and serving gifts (Ephesians 4:12)

Principle Eight: Lay ministry leads to spiritual growth (Ephesians 4:15-16)

Principle Nine: The purpose of spiritual gifts is to build up the body (Ephesians 4:12, 16)

Principle Ten: Spiritual gifts continue until Jesus returns (Ephesians 4:13)

[1] D. L. Moody, Notes from my Bible: from Genesis to Revelation (Kindle Location 2520). Note on Ephesians 4:11.  Sequor Ltd. Kindle Edition.

[2] This is taken from George Zeller’s outline.

2 Responses to Gifted Leaders

  1. Gary Owen says:

    Great teaching Alan. Enjoyed it very much. I hope the class understood our decision on leaving.

    • admin says:

      We all hate to see you leave but understand the situation. We will miss you. We will be praying for you. You can come back any time.

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