Is Tradition Trumping The Word In Your Life? Part Two

Posted on April 5, 2015


This is my second post about traditions often taking precedent over the Word of God. What a day to make this post when so many are celebrating Easter by tradition and possibly not understanding what the Word of God says. The Apostle Paul said that we were to be happy in any way that Christ was proclaimed (Philippians 1:18) but if we are to be mature and effective in our walk we need the purity of the good news and to be teaching others in truth.

Five Fold Ministry

This is a newer doctrine found among some groups but is taught as if it were the answer to church government, taking our cities, and actually a pattern implemented in the early church, all of which is not true. Now this term of “Five Fold Ministry” was created from a real scripture like the “Agreeing In Prayer” doctrine but in both cases the passages are taking places and taught in a manner not intended as we study scripture.


Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

This list we are told in the next verse was for the perfecting of the saints.  In that aspect this passage is almost always taught correctly. But if you read before and after and continue to search you will never find the full phrase “Five Fold Ministry.”  The only time fold is generally used in the Bible is referring to a sheep fold which means flock and does not fit the term fold here were it implies that ministry is divided into five sections or facets of ministry.

Modern History of the Five Fold

Since there is no actually biblical history of this doctrine we have to look at where the term came from.  Most consider this to be a modern day Pentecostal and Charismatic term but the term goes back to 1832 to a Catholic movement called the Catholic Apostolic Church.  The Latter Rain movement revived the term in the 1940’s and in more recent times C. Peter Wagner and others have made the term popular among some groups. People like patterns and lists and it makes it easier to remember things and I believe that is why people like this doctrine.  The five categories give people a place to fit in and seem like a part of the whole.  I do not believe anyone that teaches this way is intentionally trying to harm the body of Christ, they have simple created something and have bent the Bible as bit to support their doctrine. They have placed way too much emphasis on one verse and ignored many others. If our purpose is to have the purity of Word and the heart of God, this teaching misses that.

The Bible Interpreting The Bible

God has never let us down and we can stand firmly anytime we validate a doctrine with the Bible finding several passages teaching and often examples of the doctrine being fulfilled in the Bible. Further teaching does not support this list of five nor is there any example of these five positions being implemented anywhere in the Bible.  This list of five is found in the middle of the

New Testament and really for it to be valid there should be an Old Testament foundation of some sort.  There should be an example of five positions that lead, taught, and informed people in a similar manner and it simple does not exist. Based on this alone, the absence of supporting teaching and examples the doctrine should be thrown out. You can find some parts but never the five again.

What You Can Find

Searching the scriptures and trying to support this doctrine will bring nothing but confusion or it will lead you to the truth.  The first thing you find when you search for supporting passages is lists that do not match. Looking at the same Apostle Paul’s writing to the church at Corinth we find his list has eight items in it with only three matching the list in Ephesians.

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

From the preceding passage the thing you will learn and see a pattern is that the apostle and prophet are in many lists together and sometimes just by themselves.

Ephesians 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

Ephesians 3:5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

Revelation 18:20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.

The Pattern

As you can see from these passages that the apostle and prophet appear many times together and even exclusively and from this we can deduce that these two offices as it says are foundational to the local church or region.  I believe God gave us a similar pattern even in the Old Testament. The prophet is very easily defined as an oracle of God revealing secrets from God to his people throughout the entire Bible.  The apostle appears only in the New Testament in name only but in leadership tasks by duty throughout the entire Bible as well.  The word apostle from the Greek means a “sent one.”  Apostles were sent to a people group or location with specific duties in the New Testament which was establishing the gospel among a people group or in a location.  God established and sent people as well in the Old Testament and often these people were accompanied by a prophet.  Often, like in the case of the Apostle Paul who both received prophetic revelation and put it to work as an apostle too, the same happened in the Old Testament.  King Saul and King David are both great examples of called ones with a mission from God working alongside of a prophet.  This pattern flows through much of the history of the kings.  In the book of Judges a judge was called with a mission from God and in most cases received the revelation directly from God and carried out the work too. Moses was one called by God receiving revelation directly from God and carrying out the work as well. With this pattern throughout the Bible we can easily see that God calls a person and places a task on them sometimes directly and often through a prophet as they work together.

What Would It Look Like?

If the Five Fold Ministry was a true pattern that God intended to be in every church, city, and region what would teachings in the Bible and examples look like? The more important something is the clearer the teaching and pattern in the Bible.  The example of apostle and prophet is very clear and well established in the entire Bible.  So if this Five Fold doctrine was true and that important it should be equally as clear and throughout the Bible.  Jesus’ final words to his apostles should have been go into the entire world preaching the good news and establishing apostles, prophets, evangelist, teachers, and pastors.  We should have examples from the apostles how they established each of these in the places they ministered.  We can find one person that was called Phillip the Evangelist but he was not the evangelist of a particular church, city, or region that we know of. Peter, Paul, James, or John, never mentions a teacher of a church, city, or region except themselves, which were apostles. The irony of the title pastor is that in the Christian World today, pastor is the most used leader term and is only found once in the Bible in the fivefold doctrine scripture, Ephesians 4:11. The Greek word of pastor is translated as shepherd in every other place in the New Testament and is referring to real shepherd of sheep or Jesus the great Shepherd, never to a person leading a Christian group.

What to Do?

I myself trusted well-meaning apostles and prophets of today and supported and taught this false doctrine until I read the Bible and studied the subject.  I heard stories of prophets telling groups of people to raise their hands and depending on which finger or the thumb they felt a sensation that was their office, with the thumb being the apostle because it could touch any finger.  Sounded good but it does not fit the Bible, period! Where would you feel a sensation if your ministry was helps, an elder, miracles, or other gifts and callings in the Bible? I have heard so many interpret the number five when seen in a dream, prophesy, or just in life to be associated with the Five Fold Ministry when there are many lists of five in the Bible having nothing to do with ministry. Now I am educated by the Bible and the Holy Spirit and have put Ephesians 4:11 into context I hope you have too!