7.18 Ephesians -- the Five-Fold Ministry

The Holy Spirit is active in the local church, and one way He manifests His presence is through "gifts" of leadership, specifically the so-called "five-fold ministry" (Eph 4:11-12).  This is another mystery, because the Holy Spirit doesn't act directly, but cloaks Himself in (faulty) human vessels.  Paul believed that leadership in the church was appointed by God.  This, indeed, was his own experience (Acts 13:2).  Unfortunately, he doesn't go into sufficient detail as to how God bestows these gifts, or what their specific qualities are.  So later denominations are free to fill in the blanks according to their own preferences.

         

The gifts of leadership, however, are not distinct from the purpose of the community: oneness, peace, patience, love.  There are plenty of examples of leaders in all categories of gifts whose ministry has not served the greater good.  Paul mentions several specific qualities of an authentic leader (Eph 4:12-13):

           a.  prepares God's people for service, instead of doing it all himself
           b.  builds up the body of Christ -- not just increasing in numbers, but strengthening it
           c.  works towards unity in the faith
           d.  increases in the knowledge of Jesus Christ
           e.  aims towards maturity, "the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."   As the NIV says, "...the maturity of the perfectly balanced character of Christ" (p. 1796).      

 

When leadership serves these purposes, it is in line with the Holy Spirit.  But the danger of a permanent 5-fold ministry is that it risks disturbing the precarious unity of the Spirit by introducing a hierarchy, a new priesthood in the likeness of the Levites and their religious monopoly.  Where an inviolable line is drawn between clergy and laity, teacher and taught, the growth of the church to maturity will founder sooner or later.  Paul did not intend to restrict the working of the Spirit to the few gifted ones:

            From [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Eph 4:16).

            The leaders may be the ligaments that hold the structure together, but there is life in each healthy cell, and it is meant to be shared.