A Question I Was Asked:



I Have Questions on Covenants, Prophets, and Five Fold Ministry. Can You Help?








I recently read your article entitled All About Faith. I agree that faith is a subject that has caused much confusion within the body of Christ and as such the subject is prone to erroneous teachings, many of which unfortunately can border on manipulation.... with talk of seed faith etc., your article was pleasantly enlightening, thank you.
But I do have three questions for you:

1 What is the distinction between the old and the new covenant.
2 Do prophets of today hold the same authority as those under the old testament.
3 What is the role of the five fold ministry in light of the priesthood of believers under the new covenant?



UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let us look at these points:

1. The Old and New Covenants.
a. The Old Covenant was the Old Testament ministry of Israel, the 'church in the wilderness.' It looked forwards to the coming of Christ in numerous ways yet Christ was not yet, of course, a full reality for these people. It was a legal regime (over 600 laws!), yet firmly based on faith in the Lord. The Decalogue (ten commandments) was right at the centre of everything. During this covenant God worked almost (but not entirely) exclusively with Israel, the children of Abraham's wife Sarah.


b. The New Covenant commenced when the veil in the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom when Christ expired upon the cross. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is now at the centre of everything. Justification by Faith alone is now fully revealed and it fell mainly to Paul the Apostle to fill out many of the details on this in several New Testament books, especially Romans. We now learn that law on its own was insufficient and it could never have restored sinners to God, only the sacrifice of Christ was able to do that. We have numerous articles which fill out the details on all of this. So, just as the decalogue was at the centre of everything under the old covenant, Christ Himself is now at the centre of everything under the New Covenant. Also, just as Israel were 'the chosen people' whom God worked with, now the Church become 'the chosen people' whom God is working with. Under this covenant, all peoples of every tribe and nation are offered access to God.


2. I am answering this question within question 3 below.


3. First of all, what is "five fold ministry"?

The concept appears to come from Ephesians 4:11, "It was he who gave some to be (1) apostles, some to be (2) prophets, some to be (3) evangelists, and some to be (4) pastors and (5) teachers."

Purely as a result of this verse, some believe God has restored, or is in the process of restoring, the offices of apostle and prophet within the church today. The other offices are not argued about because there is general acceptance that they continue, however, 'prophet' is controversial because the Bible appears to show that this office has now concluded, and 'apostle' is in exactly the same category.

Ephesians 4:12-13 tells us that the purpose of this ministerial structure is,

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.

So, since the body of Christ is not built up to unity in the faith and has apparently not yet attained to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, so, the thinking goes, the offices of apostle and prophet must still be in effect. But at once we must say that the reasoning here is flawed.

Ephesians 2:20 informs us that the church is, to quote,

Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.

This, then, is the foundation, but, if the apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church, does it follow that we are still building that foundation right now, in our day? Just think about this. Our homes are built on foundations too, but the foundations are not active in our day (unless something has gone wrong).

If we look at Hebrews 6:1-3, those verses encourages us to move on from the foundation.

Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so. (Hebrews 6:1-3).

For our Saviour's part, Christ's role as the cornerstone of the church was complete with His crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension. If the work of the cornerstone is, in that sense, complete, so presumably must the work of the apostles and prophets, who were part of the foundation, also be complete.


Prophets

The prophets of Israel only operated under the old covenant. That office has now concluded, Christ Himself has now superceded that office:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1-2).

For a period of time, at the beginning of the ministry of the church, God also allowed 'church prophets,' they had a reduced ministry of warning the church about coming persecutions in a very dangerous day in which the Gospel needed to be spread and dissemninated, and very new Christians needed to be taught. It might prove helpful to read: Are There REALLY Prophets in Today's Church?


Apostles

The Apostles had to be witnesses of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, then to deliver that witness to many nations. Then, the activity of the Holy Spirit was to lead the church on through the ages. See John 14:16; John 15:26; John 16:7-9. However, since it was vital that the Apostles were to be witnesses of the ministry of Jesus whilst He walked this earth, it must be obvious that this office has now concluded. I am not going into the issue of apostles here since I have done it in depth here: What are the Signs of an Apostle? and Dave Miller has also covered it here:Are There Modern-Day Apostles?

In short, I maintain, with scriptural authority on my side, that the office of 'Apostle' is now a closed office.

Robin A. Brace. October 5th, 2015.

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