The Gifts are Essential
We allow for the fact that God can use anybody because it is a kingdom of priests, and the Spirit gives gifts as He wills, and God can use anybody that has Jesus living inside of them. We need to make room for that every single time we’re together. And we also recognize that the gift of four-fold, five-fold is a very important part of God’s plan. With all of that, you’re going to be able to move a little bit. Nobody expects anything out of anybody in particular, but if God wants to use somebody then it’s wide open for that.
The things in Ephesians 4 you speak of, how can you leave that out? When Jesus ascended on High it mentions four or five specific gifts that He gave so that everybody can grow up into the full measure of the stature of Christ. That’s a good thing. Also, so that they can grow up into the unity of the faith and the full knowledge of the Son of God. That’s great, too. So they’ll no longer be infants tossed to and fro.
It doesn’t say if you read your Bible enough and pray enough that you’ll no longer be an infant tossed to and fro. If you read your Bible and pray enough and share enough then you’ll grow up into the full measure of the stature of Christ. That’s not what it says. He said He gave these gifts so that all of these nine things can happen. So if I want those nine things I’d better make allowance for the fact that we as a body worldwide need these gifts.
That doesn’t mean you’re going to have an apostle or prophet in every gathering or church of believers. But the whole New Testament story is letters and people traversing city and national barriers; it was relationships between people across countries, continents and even sub-continents in order to make those gifts available to the Body of Christ.
We’re fairly certain no apostle lived in Corinth and made his home there. We’re fairly certain there was no apostle there. How do we know that? Because the place was a disaster until Paul, who had already been gone for a year, wrote a letter back. And then they repented en masse and had indignation and alarm and made this sin right. Had that gift of architect and builder already been there, then there’s no way it could have digressed that far and that fast.
So does every group of believers and every church have all five of those gifts? Absolutely not. There are twenty-three apostles listed over a sixty-year period in the New Testament. Twenty-three in sixty years over three continents. It’s hard to imagine that there were really 5,000 or 10,000 when the Bible only mentions twenty-three and places like Corinth could be such a disaster.
And the seven churches of Asia pretty much were a disaster and one of those disastrous areas is even Ephesus. Paul lived there and Timothy lived there and Aquila and Priscilla lived there. They had a lot of input, and yet they were losing sight of their first love and the rest of it was going to be in vain because Jesus was going to take their lampstand away. Their very right to be called a church—the lampstand was going to be ripped from them. And they had a lot of apostolic input, but apparently no one lived there. Timothy did for a while we think, and he’s actually called an apostle, too, in the scriptures. But they were a mess by the time AD 96 rolled around when John penned those words from Jesus.
So are those gifts essential? I believe that they’re so essential that God gave us a list of nine things that every Christian should want that according to the scriptures are directly related to those gifts. Not just everybody being a teacher, but those specific gifts. We do need them, but I think it’s important to understand that that’s a list that encompasses relationships across cities and countries. Not necessarily every local assembly ought to have all those, because clearly they didn’t even in Paul’s day.
So does every single congregation of believers even have the gift of teacher? It’s listed fifth of those five, I sure wish they would. Like Moses said, “Would to God that all of God’s people would prophesy.”
We wish that every group of believers could have all of those gifts, but the reality is we really need relationships on a broad level, and that’s one of the reasons denominations are such a crime. Because there might be those gifts in a given city, but because of the denominations we have no access to them at all in a normal system. A Baptist is not going to borrow a Presbyterian who has a gift of teaching. They’re just not going to do it. There are too many barriers and prejudices and fears. So the denominational system has sabotaged a lot of God’s plan about all of these things.
One of the reasons why in twenty years of existing we never had even a name for the church there in Indianapolis is because none of the Bible churches ever had a name. None of them ever had a name. It’s also just a dividing wall of hostility that’s just useless.
Without a name allows us the freedom and liberty to have lots and lots of different denominations write to us and have relationships with them. They’re pastors, they’re presbyters, they’re administrative people, or the dean of this seminary and that. They all feel free to dialogue with us, because we’ve never planted a flag other than Jesus. And so there are no walls there.
I totally agree with the chaos that comes from a thought process of democracy: “Everybody share, okay? Why don’t we all share?” I don’t think that’s a scripture message. That’s just not how it reads in the Bible. It’s about anointing and gift and relationship and submission one to another. It’s about a quality of life every day that results in what we would call meetings as opposed to a meeting that everybody isolates. There’s this dynamic of supernatural gifts, commitment to Jesus and love relationships on a daily basis that makes the meetings just work.