In Scripture all of God's people are presented as priests, living stones being built into a holy sanctuary. Yet not all of the covenant people are ministers. All are sheep, but not all are shepherds under the Great Shepherd (as Paul especially argues in 1 Cor. 11 and 12). There are different gifts and different callings within the one body. Christ is the sole mediator between God and humanity (1Titus 2:5), but he has given "the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers" to his body, "building [it] up" (Eph. 4:5-16). These differing gifts generate special offices of ministry and oversight. Such graces, however, are not qualities (or, as in Roman Catholic terminology, an indelible "character") sacramentally infused into ministers so that they might be elevated ontologically above the laity. They are simply gifts for particular offices, given in order to serve the rest of the body. As Christ has promised, he has not left us orphans but is present by the Spirit through the ministry of the Word. Admittedly, this is a difficult interpretation to affirm, especially since most of our modern translations (in contrast to older ones) render Ephesians 4:11-12 as follows: "The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry" (NRSV, but also essentially the same construction in other modern translations, including the ESV). However, there are good reasons for preferring the older translations (for example, the King James Version), which render the verses, "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."
Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California), host of the White Horse Inn, national radio broadcast, and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He is author of many books, including The Gospel-Driven Life, Christless Christianity, People and Place, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, The Christian Faith, and For Calvinism.
Issue: "Embassy of Grace" May/June 2011 Vol. 20 No. 3 Page number(s): 24-27
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