1 Corinthians 12:28 begins with a list of church leaders; and it is an unusual list. It does not even mention evangelists and pastors, which appear in Paulís list in Ephesians 4:11. Evangelists are people who teach other people how to trust Christ. Pastors look after the people who have become Christians.
The list is also unusual for another reason. It does not use the titles that Paul himself chose for church leaders in 1 Timothy 3:1 and 1 Timothy 3:12.
The list in 1 Corinthians 12:28 seems to emphasise the work that God has given these people to do. It is not just a list of natural human skills. Like the list in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, it shows how Godís Holy Spirit works among his people. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 was a list of gifts that the Spirit gives. 1 Corinthians 12:28 is a list of people that the Spirit uses.
The word Ďapostleí originally meant a servant whose master sends him to carry out an important task. Among the first Christians, it meant someone whom God sends to declare his good news, and so to establish churches. A prophet is someone who declares messages from God. A teacher teaches people from the Bible. The apostles led the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:1); prophets and teachers led the church in Antioch (Acts 13:1).
God can work through church leaders; he also works through people who are not church leaders. He wants to use every Christian, but to some of them he gives special gifts (12:8-10). Other Christians use natural skills as the Holy Spirit guides them. We can find examples of all these things in Paulís list in 1 Corinthians 12:28. In the lives of all these people, Godís Holy Spirit is working for the benefit of other people in his church.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.