THE SPIRIT GIFTS FOR THE GREAT COMMISSION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-29-66 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the First Baptist Church in Dallas in its morning worship hour, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Basic Ministries of the Word, The Spirit Gifts for the Carrying out of the Great Commission. Now I found that at 8:15 I got about halfway through the message. So do not be disturbed; they are all being written out. This series on the Holy Spirit, each message is being written out and published, and the book will be out in January, by the grace of God, if I get through preaching on the Holy Spirit before then. What was planned to be ten messages on the Holy Spirit has already grown into thirty. And I do not know what the future will hold, but I have never had any study in my life that ever blessed my heart and answered so many questions as I have found in this intensive study in preparation for these messages.
Now the last time I preached here, Sunday a week ago, I spoke on those four different lists of the gifts of the Spirit that Paul makes in the twelfth chapter of Romans [Romans 12:6-8], two of the lists in the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians [1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 12:28-30], and one of the lists found in the fourth chapter of Ephesians [Ephesians 4:11]. And when I added them all up, I found that they came to the sum of thirty; in the four lists of the gifts of the Holy Spirit made by the apostle, when you add them up, they come to thirty. Then writing out the thirty gifts of the Spirit that God pours out upon His people, I checked off those that were duplicates; where he mentions one gift, say, four different times or one gift twice or one gift three times. And when I checked out those that were repeated I found nineteen left. There are nineteen gifts that Paul names that the Holy Spirit bestows upon His people.
Now I’m preaching on them like this; the message this morning is on the basic ministries, the gifts of the Spirit for the carrying out of the great assignment of God in the world; for evangelization, and for teaching, and for preaching; for the conversion of those whom God hath elected to salvation. Then next Sunday I am preaching on the precious gifts of the Spirit for the ministering among the people. Then the next Sunday I’m preaching on the gift of miracles, the following Sunday on the gift of healing, the next Sunday on the gift of speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues, then other final sermons will follow. But these are the series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Now today if you will turn to Ephesians 4, he lists there the basic gifts of the ministry of the Word:
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all. . .
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on high, He lead captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men
And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
He names five of those marvelous gifts of God and the Holy Spirit to the church; first apostles, second prophets, third evangelists, fourth pastors, and five teachers [Ephesians 4:11]. And as I list them and study them, these in that order are the basic ministries for the mediation of the truth of God in the world, for the carrying out of the Great Commission [Matthew 28:19-20], and for making known the gospel of the Son of God in the world.
First, apostles: the first gift of the Holy Spirit is that of apostles. The word translated “apostle,” apostolos, is an ordinary Greek word in the household of the Greco-Roman world, and it meant someone who is sent. It means a messenger. The word in its verbal form apostellō means to send somebody with a message. The Latin equivalent is missio, and the English equivalent is “missionary.” But when we read the New Testament, there is in that Greek word far more than our general word “missionary.” And as you study the Bible you will find that the word apostolos is used in two senses. One: it refers to an office, the apostolic office; limited, narrow. It has a technical meaning, apostolos, the office of an apostle. Second: it has a general meaning, referring to a man who preaches the gospel where the name of Christ has never been known, and who founds churches out of the gathering together of the saved in a pagan and polytheistic and lost society. First, God set in the church apostles [Ephesians 4:11], and we shall speak of its limited sense, its technical sense, its reference to an office.
In the sixth chapter of the Book of Luke, after the Lord had prayed all night [Luke 6:12], verse 13 says, “And when it was day, He called unto Him His disciples: and of them He chose twelve, whom also He named apostles” [Luke 6:13]. That is the technical meaning of that word apostolos. It refers to an office. And in that office there are twelve men, there are twelve apostles. In a unique and a distinct way, in the sovereign intervention of God Paul was an apostle. Called of God and set aside for that apostolic office [Acts 22:2; Romans 11:13]. In a way, James the Lord’s brother was called an apostle. When Paul went up to Jerusalem, he said, “Other of the other apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother” [Galatians 1:19]. I don’t know how God will number them, I have often said that the disciples chose Matthias to be an apostle to take Judas’ place [Acts 1:26], but God chose Saul of Tarsus [Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1]. I don’t know how God will number them, but there are always and only twelve apostles. In the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew the Lord says that they shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel [Matthew 19:28]. And in the Revelation, when the Lord gave to John the vision of the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, the holy city [Revelation 21:9-10], John says, “And the city had twelve foundations, and in those foundations were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” [Revelation 21:14]. They are twelve; the office of an apostle in its technical sense and use refers to twelve men. And on that foundation of apostles and prophets, our church is built. Ephesians 2:20; “We are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” So the first of the gifts of the Spirit of God to the church is the apostolic office [Ephesians 4:11], and on that foundation of the apostle and the prophet, the church is built [Ephesians 2:20].
The apostles laid the doctrinal foundation of the church. In the second chapter of the Book of Acts: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” [Acts 2:42]. And the apostles laid the structural foundation of the church [Ephesians 2:20]. In the development of the life of the church, under the guidance and inspiration of the Spirit and revealed to the apostles [Ephesians 3:5], all of the superstructure of the church that you see today is built upon the structure, the foundation that they laid. It was the apostles that used the keys of the kingdom, opening the door to the Jew and to the Gentiles [Matthew 16:19]. It was the apostles that formed the connecting link between the old dispensation and the new. Their roots were in the old; their ministry was in the new. And it was in them that the purposes of God has continuity through the ages, all though the centuries the working of God; the old dispensation and the new.
To be an apostle one had to be baptized by John the Baptist. He had to be taught in the ministry of Christ, and he had to be a personal witness of the resurrection of the Lord from the dead. We learned that in the first chapter of the Book of Acts as they stated the qualification for an apostle to take the place of Judas [Acts 1:22]. In this sense, in this sense the apostolic office was brief and temporary and passed away. They have no successors; they did not constitute a great council or a continuing Sanhedrin. They are like a constitutional convention; when its work was finished the office was abolished. For example, in the first twelve chapters of the Book of Acts, you will find the twelve referred to frequently, thereafter, they’re hardly mentioned. When, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostles wrote down the doctrinal truth of the Word of God [2 Timothy 3:16], there is no longer an appeal made to an apostle. But the appeal for truth and doctrine and practice is made to the written Word [2 Peter 3:15-16]. The last time the apostles were assembled together was in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts at the council of Jerusalem [Acts 15:1-6]. And there, meeting with the elders of the church, they were presided over not by Simon Peter but by James, the pastor of the church and the Lord’s brother. And in the decision that was made the whole congregation shared equally and alike [Acts 15:13-29]. Thereafter the apostles are never together again. They were scattered to the ends of the earth. Their work was finished, their assigned task was done, and they had no successors. In that limited and narrow and technical sense, the use of the word apostoloi, apostles, was temporary and passed away.
But there is also another sense of that word apostolos used in the Bible, in which sense the gift of the Holy Spirit of apostles is upon some of our people today. For example, in 2 Corinthians chapter 8, Paul writes concerning the companions of Titus. “If any ask concerning Titus, he is my partner and my fellow helper concerning you, or of the brethren that are with him, they are apostoloi” [2 Corinthians 8:23]. Now you don’t see that in your King James Version because it is translated “messengers”; which is right, which is correct. The word apostoloi means messengers; one carrying a great deliverance from the word and mouth of another. But these brethren are the apostles of the churches and the glory of Christ. So the word is used in a technical sense referring to the twelve. The word, the gift of apostleship is also the gift whereby God chooses out men and makes them able, effectively to preach the Word of God among pagans and heathen and idolaters; and gathering converts together to organize them into churches.
You find that word—and this is just typical—you find that word in Philippians the second chapter. Paul writes, “Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion and laborer and fellow soldier, but your apostolos, your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants” [Philippians 2:25]. Here Epaphroditus is called an apostle. In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Romans, “and Andronicus and Junia are called apostles” [Romans 16:7]. They are not apostles in the sense of that technical office; they did not possess the office of an apostle. They were an apostle in the sense of a gift of the Holy Spirit upon the church through the centuries; men who are marvelously able to carry a message where Christ has never been named and to win converts and to organize those converts into churches. And in that sense, the gift of apostleship by the Spirit of God is still upon our people [1 Corinthians 12:28].
When I was in Guatemala, I met a young missionary there who had the gift of apostleship. He would go to a territory, to a province, to a state where Christ had never been preached, and there, among heathens and pagans and idol worshipers, he was marvelously effective in preaching the gospel, and in winning converts, and in gathering them together into churches. And after he had finished the organization of a church in one place, he would feel compelled of the Spirit to go to another place, and he did the same thing, and he scattered churches all over that Central American country of Guatemala. He had the gift of apostleship. In my humble opinion, it seems to me that our churches ought to magnify and greatly to support those men upon whom the Holy Ghost has poured out the spirit of apostleship. They enter pioneer areas, and I am not speaking just of the heart of Africa or the center of the Amazon jungle or over there in Indonesia, I’m speaking of America. In these pagan communities, in these vast cities there are places where the gospel message of Christ is never preached and never known. And yet there are men among us upon whom God bestows the gift of the spirit of apostleship, preaching Christ in a pagan and idolatrous culture. And those men, in my humble opinion, ought to be greatly magnified and greatly supported. It is the first gift of the Holy Spirit of God to His churches. And God gave some, and first, apostles [1 Corinthians 12:28], preaching the name of Jesus to a people who know Him not.
Now the second gift to the churches is prophets [Ephesians 4:11]. And I am frank to tell you that in the years and years that have passed; I have never had any conclusive understanding of that word prophet in the New Testament at all. And it is just now, please God and in His mercy and grace, that I have come to see what that is. The Greek word is an ordinary word, a household word; prophētēs, prophet, prophētēs. A prophētēs is one who “speaks out,” and for the most part speaks out. A prophētēs is one who speaks out, and for the most part is used with reference to a man who has insight into divine things, and he is one who speaks out concerning divine things. And the verbal part propheteuō, propheteuō, means to speak out, and for the most part, to speak out clearly, distinctly; to herald concerning divine things.
Now it was not until the medieval age that that word passed into the English language with reference to prediction and foretelling, and that‘s the way we look upon it today. But it is a mistaken identification and delineation and definition; the word prophecy has nothing in it, originally and as it is used in the Bible, it has nothing in it concerning foretelling. For a prophet to foretell something would be an incidental and a secondary thing. The meaning of the word is to stand up and to speak out concerning divine things; the mind of God, the revelation of the will of God.
Now here again I found the word used in two ways in the Bible. First, it refers to an office, the prophetic office, and second, it refers to the gift of prophecy, which is the gift of exhortation, and edification, and encouragement, and appeal. And those two are altogether different. It is the same and identical way that the Bible uses the word apostolos. The word apostolos can refer to an office; the twelve who filled the office of an apostle, and when that office work was done, the office was done away with. But the gift of apostolos is upon us today, one of the mighty and meaningful gifts of the Holy Spirit of God. A same and identical thing is true concerning the office of a prophet. There is a prophetic office, and then there is the gift of prophecy that is upon the Holy Spirit-directed churches of today [1 Corinthians 12:28]. Now you will see that in the Bible very plainly.
First, the office: when I think of a prophet, a prophet of God in the office, I think of Moses, I think of Samuel, I think of David, I think of Isaiah and Jeremiah. And in the New Testament these are named as prophets in the New Testament: Paul of Tarsus; Agabus, a New Testament prophet, filling the office of a prophet; Judas and Silas named as such, prophets—these great and mighty men of God called to fill the office of a prophet! Then you look in the nineteenth chapter in the Book of Acts: here are about a dozen men who have never known the Lord, and Paul preaches the gospel to them, and they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus [Acts 19:1-5, 7]. “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came upon them; and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied” [Acts 19:6]. Look what a difference; these raw recruits are prophesying. Does that mean that they stand in the prophetic office of Isaiah, of Paul, of Agabus? Why, no! The office of a prophet is one thing, like the office of an apostle is one thing, but the apostolic gift of the Holy Spirit is another thing, and the prophetic gift of prophesying is another thing from the prophetic office! They don’t exist in the same world. They are two different things. And we will discuss that, and I want you to see that plainly.
You have another instance of that clear delineation between the office of a prophet and the prophetic gift of prophesying in the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Acts. It names here the four virgin daughters of Philip who did prophesy [Acts 21:9]. Now that verse is right there. Now as though the Holy Spirit is making a very careful distinction, it says in the next verse, “As we tarried there many days, there came down from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus [Acts 21:10]. And he took Paul’s girdle, and bound [himself], and said, so the Holy Spirit says this man who owns this girdle shall be bound if he goes to Jerusalem” [Acts 21:11], which came to pass; he was arrested there in Caesarea, and to Rome to appear there before Caesar [Acts 25:12]. But here in the Bible there is a very plain distinction made between those four virgin daughters of Philip who prophesied [Acts 21:9-11] and Agabus the prophet. One of them held the prophetic office in the train of Isaiah and Jeremiah, but the others prophesied; they had the gift of prophecy [Acts 21:9-10]. And it is hard for me to talk because every time I use that word prophecy, you think of it in the English meaning of the word, they are foretelling events. It has no [such] meaning at all, none at all, none at all.
Let me leave that and come now to the temporality of the prophetic office. Why did God place prophets, the office of prophets, in the church, what was its need? Well, the need is very plain. In the second chapter of the Ephesians letter, Paul writes, “We are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” [Ephesians 2:20]. Now when you read that, you think we’re built upon the foundation of the apostles: Peter, James, and John, and the prophets Samuel, Moses, and Isaiah. It has no reference like that at all. The prophets of the New Testament were men in a prophetic office that were raised up especially for this purpose. The primeval church had no New Testament. The New Testament had not been written. And when an apostle like Paul preached the gospel in Ephesus, preached the gospel in Pisidian Antioch, in Philippi, in Thessalonica, in Berea, in Athens, in Corinth, and gathered the group together and organized them into a church, then the apostle went on his way, what was the church to do, and how was it to know which way to turn in doctrine, in procedure, in practice? For the apostle had gone and they were left there; what did God do to guide the church in its faith and its doctrine and its procedures? Well, God did this for those infant churches: He raised up prophets, the office of prophet in every one of those primeval first-century New Testament churches. And the prophet delivered to the people God’s revelation as to what they should do—the doctrine that was true, and the faith that was from heaven, and all of the practices that were according to the mind and purpose of the Holy Spirit. That was what the prophet did. He taught the church what to do.
And in order to sanctify it and to hallow that ministry so that it would be unmixed with error, the Lord gave in the congregation “gifts of discerning of spirits” [1 Corinthians 12:10]. And “the spirit of a prophet is subject to the prophets” [1 Corinthians 14:32]. For a prophet would stand up, as in this congregation, had we lived back there in the days of the first Ephesians church; when a prophet stood up to deliver to the congregation what God wanted the congregation to believe and what God wanted the congregation to do, when the prophet stood up to deliver the message of God, all of those who had the spirit of discerning [1 Corinthians 12:10], listened to his message, because sometimes the prophet himself was misled, and there were false prophets. And the prophets who were present and those who had the gift of discerning of spirits listened to the message of the prophets, and they judged it according to whether it was the mind of God or not [1 Corinthians 14:29]. In this sense the prophetic office has passed away.
No longer do we gather in this glorious church here in Dallas and—to know what to do and what to believe and what is the true doctrine of the faith—no longer do we depend upon a man who has the office of a prophet to stand up in the congregation to speak to us the mind and the will of God. What we do today to learn doctrine and procedures and practices in the house of God is to turn to the Holy Bible. For God, through the apostles, wrote down all of the faith and all of the doctrine and all of the procedures that we should ever need! [1 Corinthians 13:9-10]. And they are permanently sealed forever; they are not to be added to, they are not to be taken from, they are forever inclusive in the pages of the Holy Word of God [Revelation 22:18-19]. In that sense, therefore, there are no more prophets. The prophetic office passed away when the Holy Scriptures were written, and it was no longer needed. Like the office of the apostle, he had no successor; the office of a prophet he had no successor. Our Word and tribunal and appeal now is in this Holy Bible.
But I say there is also another way that that word prophētēs is used. Not only to refer to the office of a prophet, which office only endured in the days of the primeval church, but there is a gift of prophecy that God poured out upon that first church [1 Corinthians 14:1], that God has poured out on all of His churches since, and that God pours out upon His churches today. What is the gift of prophecy? You have it outlined here in the fourteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter. Listen to it, “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, to exhortation, and to comfort” [1 Corinthians 14:3]. The gift of prophecy for edification, for exhortation, and for comfort, and I turn the page but these who prophesy, Paul says, “bring conviction to the hearts of the lost and the unbelieving, and they are converted and saved [1 Corinthians 14:24-25]. And then I read again in this fourteenth chapter, “For those who prophesy do so that all may learn and understand and be comforted” [1 Corinthians 14:31]. So the gift of prophecy [1 Corintihans 12:10], as the Spirit of God pours it out upon certain members of the congregations today, the gift of prophecy is one of preaching, and of exhortation, and of encouragement, and comfort, and edification and inspiration. And God chooses certain [members] in the congregation today, and He pours out that spirit of prophecy, that gift of prophecy, upon these members in the churches today. I don’t know of anything I had rather hear in my life than to sit under the ministry of a man who has the prophetic gift; the spirit of burning, of urgency, of the mediation of the Word and will of God. And when I think of my own ministry in this sacred place and back of this sacred desk, oh, ten thousand times ten thousand times have I asked of God for the presence of that holy spirit, the spirit of burning, the spirit of truth, the spirit of the revelation of God, the spirit of the presence of the Almighty. How different it is from a methodical lecture, what a different world is it from one of merely conveying scientific or experimental truth—the spirit of God in a God—anointed preacher, delivering the word of Jesus Christ, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” [Revelation 19:10].
I do not know of a sadder thing I ever read in my life than in the life of Savonarola, the Florentine prophet. And broken and crushed and imprisoned, he sent word to his friend, saying, “The spirit of prophecy has departed from me.” It is an anointing; it is a gift of God. And I can sit down in any church in any congregation in this earth; I can tell in a few minutes whether the man who is delivering God’s message has upon him the spirit of prophecy, or whether he speaks by method and by rote and by necessity; there is such a difference. Education has nothing to do with it. I have listened to men at the heads of the “hollers,” in the backs of the woods, sometimes out there on those far plains; who butcher the king’s English, who knew nothing of grammar, but oh, they moved the soul, and when they preached God’s Spirit came down in convicting and in converting power, and God’s people were edified, and rejoiced, and strengthened, and inspired in the faith; the spirit of prophecy.
Now our time is gone. Apostles, and prophets, and evangelists, evangelists: the gift of evangelism [Ephesians 4:11]. Some of our men—and I wish I had time to preach on it, but I shall not—but some of our men and some of our people, God pours out upon them the gift of evangelism. And some pastors, pastors—I have quoted many times, you’ve heard me mention it here in this pulpit several times: to me, the sweetest of all the responses I have ever heard to an invitation was said by Dr. George W. Truett, pastor in this church for forty-seven years. Baylor University invited him to be president of the university, and Dr. Truett, declining, said, “My brethren, I have sought and found the shepherd’s heart.” Poimēn, translated here pastor, a poimēn is a shepherd. Dr. Truett had the spirit and the gift of prophecy, but he also had the gift and the spirit of a shepherd. And he loved the people, and to minister, and to comfort, and to strengthen among the people. It is a gift of the spirit of God.
And teachers, to mediate the truth of the Lord, and some of you have a double portion of that spirit, the gift of teaching [Ephesians 4:11], to make known the Word of God, especially to people who stumble at the truth of God. We must close. I conclude: isn’t it a marvelous and an incomparable assurance to know that there is Somebody presiding above us. We don’t have to make all of the decisions, it’s not our prerogative. There is Somebody infinite who has guided the work of His ministering churches through the abounding years. And He presides over this congregation today, and He bestows gifts; gifts, Spirit gifts, gifts of the Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:8]. All of us have some of them, all of us. Some of us have an abounding measure, but all of us have separate gifts and all vitally needed in the body of Christ, in the household of faith [1 Corinthians 12:12]. And next Sunday I shall speak on some of those precious ministering gifts by which God enriches His people.
Now as we sing our song, upon the first note of the first stanza, you: “Pastor, today I make known before men and angels the commitment of my life in faith to Jesus my Lord, and here I come, here I am” [Romans 10:9-10]. Somebody you, put your life in the fellowship of this dear church. A family, a couple, a youth, you; it is the Spirit of God that makes the message pertinent; it is the Spirit of God that presses the appeal to the heart. I am a voice; I am an echo. It’s God that speaks. And as we sing this hymn of faith and appeal, today if God speaks to your heart, come. “Pastor, today I give my life to Jesus” [Ephesians 2:8], or “Today we’re putting our family circle in this dear church,” or “Today, pastor, I am answering a special call from God.” As the Spirit shall say and as God shall lead in the way, come. And when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming: “Here I am. The Lord hath spoken to my heart, and here I am.” Do it. Answer with your life. Do it, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE BASIC MINISTRIES OF THE WORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Apostolos – “a messenger”
B. Used in two ways in the New Testament
1. Technical sense – refers to the office
a. Designation of the Twelve(Luke 6:13, Galatians 1:9, Matthew 19:28, Revelation
b. They laid the foundation for the church(Ephesians 2:20, Acts 1:22, 2:42)
c. Had no successors(Acts 15)
2. General sense – the missionary founding churches(2 Corinthians 8:23, Philippians 2:25, Romans 16:7)
A. Prophetes – “one who speaks out; to herald
concerning divine things”
B. Used in two ways in the Bible – vast difference
1. Technical sense – the prophetic office(Acts 19:6, 21:9-11)
a. Needed before the writing of the New Testament (Ephesians 2:20)
b. Taught the infant church what to do
c. Gift of discerning of spirits(1
Corinthians 12:10, 14:29, 32)
2. General sense – the gift of prophecy, exhortation,
appeal (1 Corinthians 14:3, 24-25, 31, Revelation 19:10)
A. Euaggelistes – “one who tells good news,
glad tidings”(Ephesians 4:11, Acts 21:8,
2 Timothy 4:5)
B. Involves two ideas: the kind of message preached; the itinerant
A. Episkopos, “bishop”; presbuteros,
“elder”; poimen, “shepherd”(Philippians
1:1, 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:5, 3:1-7, 7, Acts 20:17, 28, 1 Peter 5:1-4)
B. To be obeyed and held in honor(Hebrews
A. Didaskalos – “teacher”(Romans
12:7, 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11)