Why Were The Grace Gifts
Of Servant Leadership Given?
By Sandy Simpson
Sometimes ministers and their congregations don't get along. In one church things had gotten so bad that the Elders arranged to meet with the minister and ask him to go. The minister, however, refused. “I’m the servant of Jesus” he said. “When Jesus tells me to go I’ll leave but until Jesus gives the word, here I stay”. So he did. Week by week his congregation groaned through the services. Finally one Sunday morning the minister announced Jesus had given the word - he was moving to another church. As one the congregation rose to their feet and began to sing “What a friend we have in Jesus.” (Source: unknown. Reported in Simon Townsend, Times Preacher of the Year, 2001, winning sermon.)
To avoid ending up like this poor church leader Paul has set down the criteria to be a good leader.
Eph. 4:11-16 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 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. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 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. (NIV)
WHAT ARE THE GRACE GIFTS OF SERVANT LEADERSHIP TODAY?
The grace gifts of leadership, or more accurately servant leadership, are listed as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers or pastor-teachers, depending on your interpretation. First we must define whom this list is referring to.
The gift of foundational Apostleship is no longer around today as no one in our day fits the criteria to be a foundational apostle. The teachings of the foundational Apostles and prophets are what the Church is built upon (Eph. 2:20), Christ being the chief Cornerstone and Foundation (1 Cor. 3:10-11). The Apostles were those who saw the Lord while He was on earth before he ascended into heaven (1 Cor. 9:1). The Lord did true signs, wonders and miracles through them to authenticate their ministries (2 Cor. 12:12). They wrote Scriptures (Matthew, John, Peter, Paul, etc.). They were persecuted and all but one, John, were killed/martyred for the Faith, and this included Paul. You can find this information in 1 Cor. 4:9, the Pre Nicene Fathers writings, and the Book of Martyrs. Paul said that he was the last, in sequence, of the original foundational Apostles (1 Cor. 15:7-8). The word he used for "last" in 1 Cor. 15:8 is "eschatos" in Greek, which is the word used for the last number in a sequence such as 10 would be in the numbers 1-10. Finally, we are to use the Word of God, through Jesus Christ, taught to us by the Apostles and prophets, as the basis for our Christian life (2 Peter 3:2, Jude 17).
There is no one today who can meet the biblical criteria to be a foundational Apostle. But there are "apostles" in the Church today, "sent out" ones, messengers, mainly church planting missionaries, but they are not foundational to the Church.
There are also no longer any "foundational" prophets (Eph. 2:20). Again, they who wrote Scripture (Samuel, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.). They were often martyred for the Faith (Luke 11:47-48, Rev. 18:24). The Church has its foundation on the apostles and prophets (2 Pet. 3:2), and in Christ the Foundation and Cornerstone (1 Pet. 2:6). Now, there are prophets today. They are those who preach from the written Word of God, throught which the Holy Spirit still speaks to His Church. The Scrptures are living and active (Heb. 4:12) and we are not to go beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6). Modern day prophets are to be held up to the same standards as any biblical prophet. What they prophesy must be biblical and what they predict must come true, if they are saying it is a word from the Lord (Deut. 13:1-3, 18:20). Otherwise they are to be considered false prophets and the Church should not listen to them (Jer. 23;16, Matt. 7:15, 2 Pet. 2:1 1 John 4:1). This criterion also applies to any of the grace gifts. If evangelists are preaching a false gospel (Gal. 1:9) they are under condemnation and the church should reject them. If pastors and teachers are not teaching sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3, Titus 1:9, 2:1) they are to be regarded as heretics and rejected after a few admonitions if they do not repent (Titus 3:10).
Today the main role of a prophet is to exegete, pull out what God is saying, from the written Word. Jesus Christ speaks to us through His Word (Heb. 1:1-2) to instruct and edify the Church (1 Cor. 14:31). The modern prophet does not rely on his own interpretations (2 Pet. 1:20). The Holy Spirit speaks through the living written Word, which we are not to go beyond, and out of that comes the guidance of the Lord for the Church. As a prophet elaborates upon the Word, prophecy for the church today often comes forth. The Lord can and still sometimes does speak through dreams and visions (Acts 2:17). But, again, dreams and visions must be tested by the Scripture (1 Thes. 5:21). The written Word is our highest authority because the Holy Spirit breathed the words through men--the very Word of God (2 Tim. 3:15-16). I would also add that you can be sure that those who give themselves the title of apostle or prophet today, blowing loudly their own horn loudly before men, are false apostles and false prophets (2 Cor. 11:13, Mark 13:22).
The roles of evangelist, pastor and teacher continue today as they did in the first century.
Now that we have established who modern day apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are, let's move on to the main reason why these grace gifts of servant leadership were given. Let's step through the passage above.
Vs. 12 ... to prepare God’s people for works of service ...
First, the purpose of the grace gifts of servant leadership is to prepare God's people for works of service. If a person is not a servant himself, he will not know how to train others to be servants. Servants serve, they are not there to get others to serve them. We serve God first, then we serve others. On the other hand, false teachers are full of pride. They are self-absorbed, self-proclaimed leaders. They claim gifts from God yet take advantage of people. They give themselves big titles and they lord it over men. They have no idea how to be servants themselves. Therefore they cannot prepare anyone for works of service in the body of Christ, or teach them how to preach the Gospel to the world. True apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers use their grace gifts to serve in humility.
Vs. 12 ... so that the body of Christ may be built up ...
This is not talking about numbers, church size, "salvation" statistics. It is talking about the spiritual body of Christ being built into a house.
(READ) Eph. 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
This passage is talking about the same building, the Church. It is a spiritual building, not a physical temple. The Holy Spirit now dwells in the temple of the individual spirit of the true believer, and in the body of Christ as a whole. As leaders, we are not to be concerned as much with quantity (numbers) as with quality (discipling Christians to maturity). We care what people believe, that they believe the right thing, and that what they do and act like is in line with that belief. The reason for the grace gifts is not to build big churches but to build upon the foundation of Christ taught by the Apostles and prophets. This means that those who have the grace gifts of servant leadership will be teaching sound doctrine as a basis for true unity.
Titus 1:9 He (the overseer) must hold firmly to the trustworthy
message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound
doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.
Vs. 13 ... until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God ...
So then, "unity" is not referring to ecumenical unity, or unity for the sake of making friends. It is not talking about interfaith dialog, or coming to unity with other religions. It is not even talking about the unity we already share in the Holy Spirit by because we are born again in the Lord Jesus Christ. We already have that as the body of Christ. So what kind of unity is this talking about? It is talking about unity in doctrine, unity in the knowledge of Jesus Christ! The whole purpose of the gifts is to bring about unity in the core doctrines of the Faith and in the knowledge of the character and will of God. Heretics, the divisive ones, can break unity in the Faith. This is why we are to reject divisive heretics because they cause disunity in the body of Christ.
Titus 3:10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.
The word for "divisive" in Greek is "hairetikos" from which we get the word "heretic". A heretic is a person who teaches against the core doctrines of the Faith.
(READ) 2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the
people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will
secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord
who bought them— bringing swift destruction on themselves.
Romans 16:17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
Heresy causes divisions over the core doctrines, and puts obstacles or roadblocks in the way of people becoming mature in the Faith. We have seen this happen time and again in Micronesia, and it is happening all over the world because the churches are unwilling or unable to reject false teachers.
Vs. 13 ... and become mature ...
How can someone with the grace gifts teach someone else to be mature if they themselves are not? They cannot. So what does becoming mature mean? It means growing from an infant to an adult spiritually. It means going from milk to solid food. It means growing in wisdom and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about
Christ and go on to maturity ...
Colossians 1:10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,
(READ) Heb. 5:13-14 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Notice that those who are mature eat solid food, and that solid food trains them to distinguish good from evil. Infants cannot tell the difference between good and evil. The other day I was driving and came around a corner and there was a little two-year-old child right in the middle of the road. He just stood there. I drove up alongside and told him to get out of the road. Finally his mother came running out of the house and grabbed him. You see, little children don't know what is good or bad for them. That's why many baby Christians can be so easily led astray by heretics. It is very important for those in servant leadership to prepare the body of Christ to eat solid food so that they can tell what is right and wrong, and then stand against false teaching, false prophecy and false "anointings".
Vs. 13 ... attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ ...
Can any Christian be exactly like Christ? Certainly that is our goal. But while we are here on earth we still have our old sin nature in the flesh and mind, and the temptations of the enemy to contend with. Jesus Christ was in the same situation as we are, but never sinned. We will never be able to make that claim. Fortunately, as we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Jesus Christ, the perfect God-man, died in our place to pay the wages of death for our sins. When we are under the blood of Christ, God the Father no longer sees our unrighteousness, but sees the righteousness of His Son through the blood He shed for us. However, that doesn't mean we are sinless, and it certainly doesn't mean we don't continue to grow to maturity in Christ, to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. To do that we must be crucified with Christ daily.
Galatians 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified
the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
(READ) Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
We no longer live for the desires of the flesh, but we "live by faith in the Son of God". The perfect measure of the fullness of Christ will have its ultimate fulfillment when we are resurrected to eternal life. But there is also a fullness, an abundant life to be experienced now as we are crucified with Christ and follow Him.
John 10:10b I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
But we will not experience that life unless we grow to maturity in Christ. He will help us grow, but we must submit to His Holy Spirit teaching us.
Eph. 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
We are saved by grace, and it is also the power of the Holy Spirit working in us Who can bring us to the fullness of Christ. We cannot do that on our own. What we must do is to submit to the Spirit, study and obey the Word, stay in sound doctrine.
Vs. 14 ... Then we will no longer be infants ...
Babies or small children cannot swim in a rough sea. They will drown. Mature adults know how to swim. How? They have studied swimming, practiced swimming, and know how to survive. Spiritual babies have little understanding and so the seas of doctrinal confusion can swallow them under. Those with the grace gifts are to bring spiritual babies to maturity by teaching them sound doctrine and giving them the tools to survive on the oceans of life. This is the MAIN REASON FOR THE GRACE GIFTS!
Vs. 14 ... tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching ...
The winds of false teaching today are greater than ever before in the history of the Church. Many "Christians" have abandoned the truth for teachers that tell lots of stories, but have no widsom from the Scriptures to impart.
(READ) 2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
They are false leaders, and though a few of them may even have natural gifts they mistake for spiritual ones, they are using those gifts for greedy gain and to become famous. Their followers no longer have a love of the truth, and are baby immature believers, if they are believers at all. Those who are true leaders in the body of Christ will prevent Christians from being tossed about by every wind of doctrine, by being watchmen. A shepherd not only feeds the flock, but also guards it from wolves.
Ezekiel 33:6 But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not
the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any
person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will
I require at the watchman’s hand.
(READ) Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Acts 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Vs. 14 ... and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming ...
Here we find that those who teach false doctrine are also those who are schemers. Their cunning and crafty ways show that they have another spirit. Satan is the father of lies, not the Holy Spirit. Therefore they are often after people's money, a following, fame, and power over people. They teach the things that people most want to hear because they know they will reap the rewards of fame and fortune. They claim to be sheep, but they are wolves that eat sheep for breakfast. It is these very schemers that those with true grace gifts of servant leadership must steer people away from. The Apostles and even the prophets of the Old Testament did that by naming names. We can do no less.
Vs. 15 ... Instead, speaking the truth in love ...
Now we move on to how to accomplish bringing Christians to maturity and unity in the Faith once for all delivered to the Saints. We must speak the truth. We must love people. We must speak the truth in love.
The most loving thing you can do for a non-Christian is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them.
The most loving thing you can do for a Christian is to teach him the truth so he can grow.
The most loving thing you can do for a deceived Christian is to show him the truth and warn him away from false teachers.
The most loving thing you can do for a deceiver is to rebuke him sharply, once or twice, then if he refuses to repent (which he almost always does) reject him--turn him over to Satan for the destruction of his body so that his spirit may have the opportunity to be saved (1 Cor. 5:5, 1 Tim. 1:20). If he repents, then accept him back in the body. If he does not, warn others away from him, don't let him near the flock and continue to pray for his salvation. But do everything out of love.
I love how Jude described our duty:
(READ) Jude 20-25 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear— hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Vs. 15 ... we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ ...
We are to grow up, mature. We are to grow up to be like Jesus Christ. He is our Head. We are not the Head; He is the Head. We are the body and must continue to grow spiritually. It is the responsibility of those with servant leadership grace gifts to be sure Christians are growing into the likeness of Christ. That can only be done through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God and the correct application of the grace gifts.
Vs. 16 ... From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament ...
We are one body in the Faith. A body cannot live without the Head, but it also cannot function properly without a thumb, an eyeball, a leg, etc. Try running without your legs, or seeing without your eyes. The body of Christ is not joined together by some kind of ecumenical or interfaith unity, but by the Holy Spirit. That unity is then strengthened and brought to maturity by the unity we have because of our common belief in and obedience to the commands of God in His Word.
Vs. 16 ... grows and builds itself up in love ...
As we grow in the unity of the essentials of the Faith, we will grow in love. As we become mature, stay away from false teachers, reach out in love to those who are falling -- we build ourselves up in love. Love is more than saying you love someone or something. It is action. Love is not afraid of being persecuted or hurt for the sake of the truth. Love is not the sickeningly sweet romantic ideas of love we see and hear so much about these days in the movies and even in the churches. True love consists of sacrifice, even to the point of death. Are Christian leaders willing to suffer persecution for their stand for the truth? If not, then the body of Christ cannot be built up in love.
Vs. 16 ... as each part does its work.
The main problem today in the churches is that each part is no longer doing its work. Many "Christians" have been convinced that their main goal in life is
- to do spiritual warfare in the heavenlies
- to bind territorial spirits
- to spend time on the carpets of churches laughing and acting like animals
- to be "drunk in the spirit"
- to make a big Pharisiacal show out of giving money
- to travel to where the newest Christian show is being put on to get another "anointing" that doesn't exist
- to pretend to worship God when they are singing with arms uplifted in churches while they live like the devil during the week
- to be in unity with anyone who simply says they "believe in Jesus" no matter how wrong their theology is or how weird they act
-to build huge mega churches that spend all their time thinking up programs and none of their time preaching the gospel
- to be afraid to be discerning while judging in all the wrong ways hypocritically ...
These are the signs of leadership in churches that have forgotten their role to bring Christians to maturity and get them away from false teaching. They have lost THE MAIN REASON FOR THE GRACE GIFTS according to Eph. 4.
It is my prayer that more Christian leaders will rediscover the reason they have been given grace gifts of servant leadership. I pray they will use these gifts in line with the will of God as given us in the written Word of God. Those who love the Lord obey His commands!