"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-12)Paul continues to interpret for us what David prophesied when he said, "You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men." (Psalms 68:18) To Christ has been give some among men whom He has called to a particular function within the Body of Christ. These men and women He has then, in turn, give back to the Body as special gifts for their equipping and maturing in Christ. It is because of this receiving and giving that Paul interprets David's prophesy as saying, "and He gave gifts to men." (Ephesians 4:8) This does not mean that these men and women are somehow superior to other believers, or that they comprise a separate class of believers, but simply that they have been chosen for a particular task and function within the body of Christ. In their function, their ministry is particularly directed to other believers rather than to the world at large. While we are all called to the work of ministry, they are specially called to minister to the Body of Christ in a way to help us all to grow in our own individual walk and calling in Christ.
In describing these particular gifts that God has given to His church, there are several thing that we should take note of. First, as we have said before, the gifts He has given are the gift of men and women. Notice He does not say that the gifts He gave were apostolic gifts, prophetic gifts, pastoral gifts, etc. but men who function as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The gifts God has given are people not abilities. We should learn to respect, honor, and love the people more than the gifts they carry for it is them, not their anointing, that represent God's gift to the church. Some say we should honor the gift more than the man, but I believe that God intends it to be the other way around. We should honor and love all those God had placed among us for who they are and honor God for the gifts He has given to us in one another. If we learn to see people in the Body of Christ as God's gift to us, then many of the problems we face in the church today would disappear.
Secondly, the gifts God has given to the church are not offices but functions. Those He gives as apostles, prophets, etc. are not those who fulfill some ecclesiastical office but those who fulfill a special function within the Body. Consider your own body. There is not the office of an eye or an office of the heart, rather there are members of your body who fulfill the function of an eye and the function of a heart. While there are particular entities, their significance is not because of their name or designation but because of the function they perform. I personally do not believe that God has established offices within the church of Christ. I do not believe that there is an office of an apostle, and office of a prophet, an office of a pastor, and so on. An office exists whether or not there is someone to fulfill it. When an office is vacant, it can be filled by any qualified candidate. However, with the gifts God gives He gives them at His own discretion and those gifts remain as long as those men and women who are the gift remain. The reason we have prophets and pastors and other ministries is not because we have such offices that are filled and executed, but because God, in His own economy and timing, has give such men to function as such within our midst. This may seem like a small distinction but the fact is that such ministries are not made by men but rather given by God.
Thirdly, these gifts are given for the specific purpose of equipping and building up the Body of Christ. In so doing, their work is two fold. First they are called to build up the Body of Christ. The Greek word for "build up" refers specifically to a structure and a building. These gifts are specially concerned for the structure of the church. They are concerned with its foundation, its architecture, and its strength as determined by the materials used in its construction. While most members of the Body are concerned with ministering to the needs of individuals, both inside and outside of the church, these gifts are concerned with the church as a whole. They exists for its benefit and their scope is not local but rather global. Secondly, their calling is not to do the work of ministry, but to equip others to do the work of ministry. Their goal is to see the maturation of all believers that each one of us might be equipped and prepared for the work that God has called us to. In our modern Christianity we have become content to let our paid professionals do all the work of the ministry. We hire pastors, worship leaders, counselors, etc. to do the ministry we ourselves ought to be doing. However, we are the ones called to the work and these special gifts to the Body are called to equip us to do the work to which we have been called. The Greek word for "equip" means to perfect or to furnish. We are all called to the ministry but we must first be made ready for that ministry. It is the function of these enumerated gifts that Paul mentions to impart to us that which we need to be successful and useful in the things which God has called us to. They exist to furnish in our lives that which we need for the work we have been called to. In this sense, they are not superior to the Body or even served by the Body, but they are called to take a lower place, to honor others above themselves, and to give their lives that others might be equipped, trained, and released in their own ministries and calling in Christ. How precious are the gifts God has given to His Body!