Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Company Explained

Ephesians 4:11, He gave some to be apostles. Did the so-called five-fold ministry offices cease after the New Testament era, or do they continue function in the body of Yeshua to this day? In our day, most people agree that the ministries of the evangelist, teacher and pastor are still in operation today, but many say that the offices of apostles and prophet have ceased to operate. Yet in verse 13, we read that these offices would operate “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah…,” which hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, it would stand to reason, that all these ministry offices are still needed today.

He. It must be kept in mind that Yeshua is the epitome of and over all (authoritatively) ministry offices that follow in this verse. When we ascended to heaven, he spread his own abilities out, as it were, among those he called to be leaders over his spiritual flock below (see Eph 4:8). Collectively, these ministry offices should be doing the work that Yeshua himself would be doing were he here on this earth presently.

Apostles. In addition to the twelve original apostles (including Matthias who replaced Judas Iscariot, Acts 1:26), here is a list of the other apostles, which might be called Yeshua’s ascension-gift apostles (Eph 4:8):

  • James, the half brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church (Gal 1:19)
  • Barnabas (Acts 14:14)
  • Paul (e.g. Acts 14:14)
  • Apollos (1 Cor 4:6–9)
  • Timothy and Silvanus (1 Thess 1:1 and 2:6)
  • Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25)
  • Titus, and other un-named apostles—at least two (2 Cor 8:23)
  • Andronicus and Junia (Rom 16:7)
  • Yeshua is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession (Heb 3:1)
  • Including Judas Iscariot, this makes a total of at least 26 apostles who are mentioned in the Testimony of Yeshua. 

With this list in mind, it now becomes logical to divide the apostles into at least three categories or level. Yeshua is the Chief Apostle. The original 12 that Yeshua appointed (minus Judas Iscariot) and possibly Paul would be the next tier. They are the foundational apostles. Yeshua mentions that the 12 apostles will rule over the 12 tribes of Israel and that the 12 foundations of the New Jerusalem are named after the 12 apostles (Rev 21:14). It seems that Yeshua commissioned these foundational apostles in direct, face-to-face encounters. After this come the lowest tier or ascension-gift apostles (Eph 4:8), which are all the other apostles.

Apostle Defined

Apostolos means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.” According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, apostolos originally was a military or naval term relating to an expeditionary force that was sent out or dispatched. It came to be applied to a band of soldiers, or colonists and their settlement as well as to the commander of the expedition or an admiral. A common feature of all the definitions of the word was its passive character. In none of the definitions is there any suggestion of initiative on the part of the apostle. The word denotes the quality of being sent. In the New Testament, apostolos always denotes a man who is sent with full authority and is synonymous with the Hebrew word shaliach as is evidenced in John 13:16. Here is a legal term relating to one who is lawfully charged to represent the person and cause of another. This meaning is confirmed by the juxtaposition in this verse of the Greek words doulos/kurios and apostolos/pemptsas. Here the servant (doulos) stands under full jurisdiction of his master (kurios) and derives from him all that he is. Apostolos also denotes the “commissioned representative of a congregation” (Acts 13:2ff). Finally, the term signifies the “bearers or proclaimers of the NT message.” The latter meaning applied to not only the original twelve apostles that Yeshua commissioned and sent out, but to the first Christian missionaries or their most prominent representatives (Acts 14:4, 14). According to Paul, the apostles (1 Cor 12:28f) aren’t officials of the congregation, nor the chief of such officials, but are officers of Yeshua by whom the church is built (ibid. vol 1, p. 407ff). 

Attributes of an Apostolic Ministry 

Elohim sets or appoints (puts in place, establishes) a apostles (as he also does prophets, teachers, etc., 1 Cor 12:28).

An apostle is called by God, not men (Gal 1:1).

They minister in the power of God, not the wisdom of men (Mark 16:20 cp. 1 Cor 2:1–5).

Elohim appoints apostles by the revelation of the Holy Spirit and as confirmed by other established elders ( Acts 9:15; Acts 13:2-4; Acts 22:21).

  • An apostle is given a specific mission to a specific group of people (Gal 2:8–9; Acts 13:2–4).
  • They are spiritual pillars (Gal 2:9).
  • They form part of the spiritual foundation of the church (along with prophets, Eph 2:20).
  • They lay spiritual foundations for others to build on (1 Cor 3:10).
  • They facilitate unity (along with the other five-fold ministries) within the body of Yeshua (Eph 4:11–13).
  • They help the body of Yeshua to mature, to grow up, and to be built up (Eph 4:11–13).
  • Apostles bring revelation to the church (Eph 3:5; Gal 1:11–12).
  • Apostles establish, set, and correct doctrine (Acts 2:42; 15:19–30).
  • They raise up new ministries and ordain elders (Rom 15:20; Acts 14:23).
  • They impart spiritual gifts (Rom 1:11).
  • They defend the gospel­—are defenders of the faith (Phil 1:17).
  • The apostles in the NT were persecuted and rejected or even killed for their service to the body of Yeshua (e.g. 1 Cor 4:11–13; Luke 11:49; Acts 5:18, 40). This is because they’re on the forefront of YHVH’s spiritual battle to advance his kingdom into the enemy’s territory.
  • One has to grow into becoming a fully function and a spiritually powerful apostle. Yeshua’s 12 apostles asked him to increase their faith (Luke 17:5; Mark 16:15 cp. John 21:3 and Acts 2:14).
  • An apostle may initially not be baptized in the Spirit, but once having received this spiritual empowerment will be released into the full authority of the office, as was the case with the original 12 apostles.
  • Apostles take their marching orders directly from Yeshua (Acts 1:2).
  • Apostles have authority to pronounce judgment on sinners within the body of Yeshua (Acts 5:3–10; 1 Cor 5:1–5).
  • Apostles work many signs and wonders (Acts 5:12).
  • Apostles lay down the doctrinal foundation within the body of Yeshua (Acts 2:42; 2 Pet 3:2).
  • Apostles are often called to testify before secular and religious leaders (Acts 5:29).
  • Often apostles have to stay in the thick of the spiritual battle while the rest of the saints escape from harm’s way (Acts 8:1).
  • After the gospel is preached in an area, apostles are sent in to establish spiritual order and to plant congregations (Acts 8:14).
  • Apostles go into new areas to preach the gospel (Acts 13:1–14:7).
  • Apostles along with elders are called to help resolve conflicts within the body of Yeshua (Acts 15:2, 6).
  • There are false apostles (2 Cor 11:13; Rev 2:2).

He gave some to be …prophets. Gr. prophetes. The Greek word prophetes translated as prophet some 140 times in the NT and means “one who, moved by the Spirit of God and hence his organ or spokesman, solemnly declares to men what he has received by inspiration, especially concerning future events, and in particular such as relate to the cause and kingdom of God and to human salvation; of men filled with the Spirit of God, who by God’s authority and command in words of weight pleads the cause of God and urges salvation of men; in the religious assemblies of the Christians, they were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak, having power to instruct, comfort, encourage, rebuke, convict, and stimulate, their hearers.

According to the TDNT, prophetes as it relates to the primitive church was inspired speech of charismatic preachers through whom Elohim’s plan of salvation for the world and his will for the life of individual believers was made known. The prophet knows something of divine mysteries (1 Cor 13:2), about Elohim’s saving will for the Gentiles (Eph 3:5f), and one of his chief concerns is to declare imminent eschatological events (Rev 22:6f). He also knows other aspects of the future (Acts 11:28; 21:10f). The prophet speaks on contemporary issues as well relating to the ministry of the gospel (Acts 13:1ff; 1 Tim 1:18; 4:14), and edifies, comforts and exhorts the members of the body of Yeshua (1 Cor 14:3; Acts 15:32). Through his preaching, he brings to light the secret wickedness of men (1 Cor 14:25). Since he speaks with a sense of God-given authority, he gives authoritative instructions (ibid., vol. 6, p. 848).

He gave some to be …evangelists. Gr. yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace. An evangelist by definition is a bringer of good tidings or news, or one who heralds of salvation through the Messiah and who were not apostles. It derives from the word euanggelidzo meaning “to preach the gospel, bring or declare good tidings or news. This word occurs only three times in the NT (Acts 21:8 of Philip; Eph 4:11 as listed among the other “fivefold” ministry offices; and in 2 Tim 4:5 of Timothy). The TDNT says that this term denotes a function more than an office. In the NT, it appears that all apostles were evangelists, but not all evangelists were apostles, and that former was subordinate to the latter. They are more than mere missionaries, since they preach in and lead congregations as well (2 Tim 4:2, 5; ibid., vol. 2., p. 736f).

He gave some to be …pastors. Gr. poimen. The Greek word poimen (pronounced poy-mane) occurs 18 times in the NT and is translated in the KJV as shepherd (17 times) and only once as pastor (pl., Eph 4:11). Poimen literally means “a herdsman, esp. a shepherd or one who cares for sheep.” In the Near East, it was the duty of the shepherd to watch for enemies trying to attack the sheep, to defend the sheep from attackers, to heal the wounded and sick sheep, to find and save lost or trapped sheep, to love them, and to share their lives with them thus earning their trust.

The TDNT summarizes the role of the shepherd in this manner: In the Gospels, the shepherd’s sacrificial loyalty to his calling is depicted with loving sympathy using true-to-life pictures. For example, he knows each animal by name (John 10:3, 14, 17), seeks the lost sheep, is happy when he finds it (Luke 15:4–6), and is prepared to hazard his life to protect the sheep form the wolf (John 10:11–13). Yeshua even uses the shepherd as figure for Elohim in two parables (Luke 15:4–7; Matt 18:12–14; ibid., vol. 6, p. 490).

As noted, only once in the NT are congregational leaders called shepherds (Eph 4:11). The absence of the article before teachers in the list of church offices (Eph 4:11) indicates that pastors and teachers are to form a single leadership group as it relates to ministering to the individual congregations, yet there’s no indication in this verse of pastor being an ecclesiastical title (ibid.)

The verb poimainein, a derivative of poimen, gives some indication of the work of the pastor in the congregation. By definition, poimainein indicates the leadership responsibility of feeding, nourishing, tending, leading, ruling and cherishing Elohim’s flock or church (1 Pet 5:2; Acts 20:28; John 21:16) as a shepherd feeds his flock.

He gave some to be …teachers. (Gr. didaskalos). The Greek word didaskalos means “a teacher” or one who imparts knowle.g. or one who teachers definite skills like reading, fighting, or music, and develops the aptitudes already present (TDNT, vol 2., p. 149). The Greek grammar indicates that he works closely with the pastor (see notes above under “pastors” ) in leading the local congregation. He also works closely with prophets (Acts 13:1). It is logical to conclude that once the apostles and prophets have laid the foundation for a local congregation (Eph 2:20), it is the responsibility of the teacher (along with the pastor) to continue to guide and overseer the congregation from that point forward to maintain the spiritual care, health and well-being of the sheep, and to insure that they are taught and remain grounded on the word of Elohim.

Other Ministry Designations

Bishop — The word bishop 1985 is the Greek word episkopos and means “an overseer, patron, one who watches or protects, one who cares for others, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian or superintendent; the superintendent, elder, or overseer of a Christian church” (TDNT, vol. 2, p. 608). This word or related cognates occur only several times in the NT (Luke 19:44; Acts 1:20; 1 Tim 3:1, 2; 2 Tim 4:22; Tit 1:7; 3:15; 1 Pet 2:12, 25). 

Once again, Yeshua is the Chief Shepherd and Bishop over his people (1 Pet 2:25), with those holding those earthly offices under his authority. 

The TDNT notes that the role of the episkopos is to strengthen that of the pastor in watching over the flock (e.g. Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:2). The NT with regard to the congregation in Ephesus seems to equates the episkopos with the presbuteros (or elders-leaders of a congregation, see Acts 20:28) indicating that there is more than one leader or overseer over a congregation—literally, a group of leader-elders. Elders (presbuteros), pastors (poimen) and bishops (episkopos) are again viewed as equivalent in regards to local leadership in 1 Peter 5:1 and 2. In this passage, the leadership terms are in the plural, thus not indicating a central lead figure per se although it is the scriptural norm from the time of the patriarchs, through the priesthood, judges and kings of Israel to have a human who exercises ultimate authority. Such leaders can be elected (Acts 1:21ff; 6:3ff) or be appointed by an apostle (Acts 14:23; ibid., p. 615f). 

Minister — The term ministry (Gr. diakoneo) as used in the NT encompasses a broad sphere of activity including “to be a servant, attendant, domestic; to serve, wait upon; to wait at a table and offer food and drink to the guests; one who prepares food; to relieve one’s necessities (e.g. by collecting alms), to provide take care of, distribute, the things necessary to sustain life; to take care of the poor and the sick, who administer the office of a deacon; in Christian churches to serve as deacons; to minister; to attend to anything, that may serve another’s interests; to minister a thing to one, to serve one or by supplying any thing.” 

The actual office that such a person may occupy with in a local congregation is the Greek word diakonoßv (pronounced diakonos) and is translated in the KJV as minister, servant, or deacon. This term refers to “one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister; the servant of a king; a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use; a waiter, one who serves food and drink.”

The TDNT explains that diakoneo or diakonia as used in the NT refers to the discharge of any service in genuine love — especially to the saints — and in so doing, one was serving the Messiah. Thus, all ministry offices are classed under the generic heading of the diakonia. For example, apostles are a part of the diakonia (Rom 11:13; 2 Cor 4:1; etc.), as are evangelists (2 Tim 4:5; ibid., vol 2., p. 87). 

The NT views those who are members of the diakonos are viewed as waiters at a meal (John 2:5, 9),the serant of a master (Matt 22:13), a servant of the Messiah (John 12:26), a servant of ones fellows (Mark 9:35; 10:43; Matt 20:26; 23:11). Timothy was called a servant (diakonos) of Elohim and Yeshua (1 Thess 3:1–3; 1 Tim 4:6) as are other leaders in the early church (Col 1:7; 4:7; Eph 6:21; 1 Cor 3:5). Paul describes himself as such as well (Col 1:25; 1 Cor 3:5).

Beyond the generic meaning of the word, within context of leadership of the local congregation the term diakonos took on a fixed designation. In Philippians 1:1, deacons are mentioned with bishops, though mentioned after them. This distinction is further strengthened by the list of qualifications given for those members of the diaconate as juxtaposed with the episcopate (1 Tim 3:1–13; ibid., vol 2., pp. 89–90).

Elders — The Scriptures indicate that the pastor is a member of the group of elders (Gr. presbooteros) that oversees the individual congregation.

The pastor’s job is to care for the congregation (1 Pet 5:2–4; Acts 20:28), to seek the lost (Matt 18:12–14 cf. 12:30; Luke 11:23), and to combat heresy (Acts 20:29). In fulfilling this task, he is to be an example to the flock (ibid. p. 498).

Quite obviously, the congregational shepherd is under the authority of Yeshua, the Chief Shepherd (Heb 13:20; 1 Pet 2:25) who is also the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).


4 thoughts on “Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Company Explained

  1. Derek Prince, a preacher who meanwhile has passed away, once asked a group of young Bible students who would like to be an Apostle; many hands went up. He then went on to read to them what he called the ‘job description of an Apostle’: 1 Cor 4:9-13 NIV “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ,……We are weak,…….. we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment, we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.”
    Derek asked the students again who wanted to be an apostle, but this time, no hand went up; their enthusiasm had obviously waned considerably.
    Shalom, Sonja

    • To be sent by YHVH, would be a most difficult task. I can understand why Jonah tried to escape from his mission!

    • One doesn’t choose to be an apostle or prophet; Elohim chooses and sends out. Those who want to be are those who are self-appointed and are likely charlatans or imposters. This is why I refuse to recognize anyone as such who uses the title “prophet” or “apostle” before their name. This is merely a human attempt to validate that which is not. By their fruits you will know them, not by their titles (or man-contrived credentials).

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