What Happened to the Church Jesus Built
By Tommy Thornhill

After the church Jesus promised to build Matt.16:18, was established on the Day of Pentecost Acts 2, it began its work, fulfilling the purpose God intended Eph.3:10-11, that of making known (proclaiming) the saving gospel of Christ to a world lost in sin. The church, through its members, did its work well, and in ca. 35 years had carried the gospel into the whole world Col.1:23.  When the church came into existence it was founded on Jesus Christ, the unshakable foundation 1.Cor.3:10-11, the elect, tried, precious cornerstone prophesied in Isa.28:16; 1.Pet.2:6.

The rule of faith by which the church was to be guided was “the doctrine of Christ,” aka as the apostles’ doctrine, revealed to inspired men by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This doctrine also gave them the blueprint (pattern) of organization, worship and work by which the church is to function. In the beginning the church was in its infant state. The foundation had been laid, the rules given, and the platform for unity revealed Eph.4:3-6, but the church has not yet matured, reached its intended, perfected state. Some things were lacking that were necessary to bring the church to maturity (intended perfected state). Until these things were provided the church would never be and do all that God intended.  

So, in their divine wisdom, God and Jesus Christ provided the gifts necessary to perfect the church. Paul writes on these gifts in Eph.4:11-13. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of His knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the fullness of Christ.” 

Some think the gifts Paul mentions in the passage just quoted are miraculous gifts. It is a fact  that Jesus  gave His  apostles supernatural, miraculous gifts to  confirm  the wordthey preached Mk.16:19-20; Heb.2:3-4. The apostles, in turn, by the laying on of their hands could impart miraculous, spiritual gifts to some Christians Acts 8:14-18. These gifts were not for show, but to help establish the word of God. When revelation was complete, these miraculous gifts ceased 1.Cor.13:9-13.  But I do not believe the gifts of Eph.4:11-13 are miraculous gifts. From a study of the context I believe they are functionaries (functioning offices) given to perform specific works to assist the church to achieve maturity and perfection of the body.

Their primary function was to equip the saints to communicate the word of God to lost humanity, to help them minister (serve) and edify (build up) the body of saints with the purpose of attaining the unity of the faith and form the perfect body.  Let’s examines these gifts and their purpose. First, the apostles and prophets, who were responsible for laying the foundation. The apostles were representatives of Christ, chosen to lay the foundation Eph.2:19-20; by delivering His divine message Gal.1:11-12, using and imparting spiritual gifts to confirm the word Heb.2:3-4; Mk.16:19-20. The prophets, though not apostles, were inspired spokesmen for God 1.Cor.12:29.

Once their work was done, and they died, they had no successors, but the foundation they laid remains steadfast even to this day.  The evangelists were preachers and messengers of God’s gospel. They assisted in the spread of the gospel Rom.10:10-15. Their work is ongoing, since the word once confirmed, was to be taught to others that the gospel might continue to spread 2.Tim.2:2. There is always a need for people to evangelize (preach the word). Special, miraculous knowledge is not needed today, nor is it provided, for the work. The evangelists preach the word already revealed/confirmed 2.Tim.4:2-5.  Pastors/teachers. Some divide this work into two parts, but I believe the words apply to same office (that of elders/bishops) under two different aspects of their work. As pastors they are to shepherd, feed and protect the flock. As teachers they are to feed, teach, nourish the flock 1.Tim.3:2; Tit.1:9; Acts 20:28; 1.Pet.5:2-3.  The purpose of these gifts (offices) was/is to equip the saints, to prepare them too minister and edify the body to bring to maturity the church (members) Eph.4:12-13. All these gifts are a permanent part of the church, continuing to endure in their intended function.  Some might say, what about “till in v.13. I believe the context reveals that “till” is not referring to some specified period of time on earth, but to continue until the goal is reached or the result obtained that was sought after. In other words, until the purpose of the gifts is realized, which was not only to establish and maintain “the unity of the faith,” but also to bring the saints to maturity “unto the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the fullness of Christ.” While the inspired word is complete Jude 3; 2.Tim.3:16-17, there is still the continued need to teach and preach the gospel to the lost, to equip the saints, and to minister to and edify the saints, to encourage them to “hold fast to the pattern of sound words” 2.Tim.1:13, “give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest we drift away” Heb.2:1.