The anointing that was upon Jesus was expressed to the world as apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. Ascension gifts of Jesus are chosen men who are called to the church for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. Such men are called to the Son by God the Father and gifted with grace by Jesus to be expressions of Himself1 as apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. These men are prepared and empowered by the Holy Spirit – through their own unique personality – to prepare God’s people for works of service; and to build up the body; so that the church will become mature attaining to the fullness of Christ.
Eph 4:7-8; 11-13 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”
[…] 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. NIV
To prepare God’s people
The key phrase in the commissioning of the disciples2 after Jesus’ resurrection and just before His ascension is; make disciples. It then goes on to describe how this is done; baptise them in the divine name of God; teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded. And the promise of His presence which is His authority will be with you.
The duty or function of ascension gifts of Jesus has over time become marred. Calling these gifts ‘ministers’ has only added to the problem because it has influenced the function. In fact, Ephesians four clearly states that ascension gifts are given to the church for the express purpose of preparing or equipping all of God’s people (saints) to do works of service which is ‘ministry’.
Preparing people for ministry is the task of making disciples and disciples are those who are obedient to the commands of Jesus. So, the first role of Ascension Gifts in making disciples is to teach obedience. That is: how to live as a New Creation in line with the Word of the Cross.
The apostle Paul warned Timothy; “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Tim 4:16NIV) What can often be overlooked is the need to consider how we live and what we believe. It is the responsibility of Ascension Gifts to ensure that these two foundational truths are known, adhered to and persevered in. To prepare God’s people to eventually do works of service is to teach them how to obey (watch your life) and what to obey (know and watch your doctrine).
Works of service
Works of service or ministry is the work of the New Creation. Jesus made it clear in Matthew 25:31-46 that works of service are an essential function of everyone, not only pastors. In fact, the notable verses of Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:8,9 concerning faith are often used to explain that works are not necessary. However, when the next verse (10) is included, such an idea is clearly a misunderstanding of the text.
Eph 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (NIV)
To become a New Creation is neither earned nor deserved; however a New Creation has been prepared by God to do good works. The idea that salvation is a ‘personal experience’ giving individuals access to heaven one day does little to prepare God’s people to live as a New Creation. It leaves Ascension Gifts with no role other than to keep the individual happy until they get to heaven. Pastors are often reduced to personal servants of ambulatory centres of selfishness (little gods) who must have their needs satisfied rather than being recognised as gifts of Jesus commissioned to teach disciples obedience to Jesus’ commands and teach them how to serve.
If Ascension Gifts do not know their purpose as gifts to the body how will they fulfil the work of Christ to which they have been called? The goal is to prepare or equip or make disciples, by teaching them obedience3 to righteousness:
Rom 6:16-18 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. NIV
And then, as disciples mature in discernment distinguishing good from evil in their own hearts,4 and learning to live as New Creations, they will become ready to be taught to do works of service for the sake of the Body of Christ.
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.
When we realise that God’s purpose was always the cross5 and its work in history then we will be better placed to fulfil our part in God’s eternal plan. Far from Jesus’ death being about me6 it is about God’s eternal purpose – into which the elect are called – which he put into effect in Christ Jesus from the foundation of the world.7
Eph 1:9-10 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (NIV)
Eph 3:9-11 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. NIV
The salvation of individuals is a part of the all encompassing plan of God to bring all things under one head, Jesus Christ8 so that God would be all in all and that all of creation will ultimately be filled with the glory of God. The church is the vehicle through which God’s manifold wisdom should be made known and that always according to His eternal purpose accomplished in Christ Jesus.
The main point of salvation is that individuals are saved from the world – in which each person lived as enemies of the cross, idolatrous self-worshippers, trusting in the futility of their own thinking9 – and redeemed into the family of God to live as those set free from the old nature of self-worship.
People are saved from the world to the church which is the body of Christ. Ascension Gifts of Jesus are to continue the work of Jesus Christ by building up His body. The primary mindset that needs to be grasped is that of the New Creation.10 Those who are a New Creation are not of this world but consider themselves as strangers and pilgrims passing through looking towards the city whose builder and maker is God.11
As such the Body of Christ – the church – is of first importance in regard to earthly relationships. No longer are we to consider anyone from a worldly perspective but from the renewed mind of the New Creation. The unity of the Spirit12 is what each member of the Body is called to keep from the beginning. This is not unity with the world or with fleshly desires but unity with the body through the Spirit. The church is not a club to be joined, nor a vehicle of self-fulfilment or a consumerist destination; it is not a political movement or a network to be added to one’s sphere of influence, rather it is the Body of Christ and if we are members of that body then it is from the body that we receive our life blood.
Eph 4:15-16 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
Col 2:18-19 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. NIV
1 Cor 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. NIV
The goal is that the body will ultimately come to the unity of the Faith. And this faith is described as “the knowledge of the Son of God” which will bring the body to maturity and thus attaining to the fullness of Christ.
Ascension Gifts of Jesus are specifically those called by God to Jesus who receive grace to be vehicles through which Jesus gives of Himself as apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher to the church. When they function as Ascension Gifts of Christ to the church it is as if Christ Himself were present in those individuals with authority.
The Ascension Gifts of Jesus have received grace and authority to make disciples by teaching God’s people to obey Jesus’ commands especially by living as New Creations. The Gifts of Jesus are commanded to teach the saints how to do works of service and compel them to do so.
The preparation that empowers disciples to live Christ (live as a New Creation) and to know Christ (think as a New Creation), when they have reached maturity will produce a God-glorifying church (Body of Christ).
Eph 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. NIV
- Gal 1:15-16 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, NIV [↩]
- Matt 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” NIV [↩]
- cf Will the real church stand up Chapter 7 [↩]
- Heb 5:14 [↩]
- 1 Pt 1:12; 2 Tim 1:9 [↩]
- the sentimental teaching that “if you were the only person in the world Jesus would have died just for you” is a long way from sound theology as it has nothing whatsoever to do with God’s eternal plan in Christ Jesus as revealed through the cross by His Spirit [↩]
- cf Will the real church stand up chapter 5 [↩]
- cf 1 Cor 15:24-28 [↩]
- Eph 4:17-19 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.NIV [↩]
- 2 Cor 5:16-17 [↩]
- Heb 11:13; 1 Pt 1:1,17; 2:11 [↩]
- Eph 4:3 [↩]