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The idea of a 5-fold ministry originally comes from Ephesians 4:11-13:

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ [ESV]

There are Christians who believe in a present-day continuation/restoration of these 5 offices. One notable example, in my opinion, is the Five-Fold Church [5F Church] (website, YouTube channel), based in Los Angeles, California, whose lead pastor, Kathryn Krick, claims to have been called by God to be an apostle, as her personal YouTube channel Apostle Kathryn Krick makes patently clear.

However, a passage that is commonly cited to argue for the cessation of the offices of Apostle and Prophet is Ephesians 2:19-22, particularly verse 20:

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. [ESV]

The Got Questions' article What is the five (5) fold ministry? presents this argument:

The concept of the five-fold ministry comes from Ephesians 4:11, "It was he who gave some to be (1) apostles, some to be (2) prophets, some to be (3) evangelists, and some to be (4) pastors and (5) teachers." Primarily as a result of this verse, some believe God has restored, or is restoring, the offices of apostle and prophet in the church today. Ephesians 4:12-13 tells us that the purpose of the five-fold ministry is, "to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." So, since the body of Christ definitely is not built up to unity in the faith and has not attained to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, the thinking goes, the offices of apostle and prophet must still be in effect.

However, Ephesians 2:20 informs us that the church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone." If the apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church, are we still building the foundation? Although Jesus Christ is most definitely active in the church today, His role as the cornerstone of the church was completed with His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. If the work of the cornerstone is, in that sense, complete, so must the work of the apostles and prophets, who were the foundation, be complete.

What was the role of the apostles and prophets? It was to proclaim God’s revelation, to teach the new truth the church would need to grow and thrive. The apostles and prophets completed this mission. How? By giving us the Word of God. The Word of God is the completed revelation of God. The Bible contains everything the church needs to know to grow, thrive, and fulfill God’s mission (2 Timothy 3:15-16). The cornerstone work of the apostles and prophets is complete. The ongoing work of the apostles and prophets is manifested in the Holy Spirit speaking through and teaching us God’s Word. In that sense, the five-fold ministry is still active.

Question: How do Christians who believe in current-day Apostles, Prophets and the 5-fold ministry interpret Ephesians 2:20 in a way that is consistent with their views?


Somewhat related:

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  • Somewhat related: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/86076/…
    – Jess
    Sep 22, 2021 at 19:13
  • 2
    Just to point out that Eph 2:20 goes hand in glove with Rev 21, which describes the future heavenly New Jerusalem, once "the former things are passed away" (vs 4). Once everything has been restored to perfection, we're told that "the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (vs. 14). That's 12, not 24 or 144 or 144,000 or 12 million. That's another significant point that believers in current-day Apostles & Prophets need to take into account.
    – Anne
    Sep 23, 2021 at 13:00
  • @Anne can you explain v1-2? has this happened(if so when)?
    – depperm
    Sep 23, 2021 at 13:57
  • @depperm I don't know why you are asking me to explain when (a) I made this comment to SRI and (2) I am not answering the question (not being a person he wants to answer.) It's up to you to explain how those verses fit in with your belief in current-day apostles and prophets, surely?
    – Anne
    Sep 23, 2021 at 17:27
  • @Anne - your comment inspired me to ask this question, and depperm already posted this answer. Sep 23, 2021 at 17:31

4 Answers 4

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The foundational apostles and prophets of Eph. 2:20 refers to New Testament apostles and Old Testament Prophets. Christ is the cornerstone.

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

Peter writes of the same foundation.

That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: 2 Peter 3:2

From that foundation, the church is built up on what would be the subsequent five-fold.

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

The difference between the two categories is one of function.

The OT prophets spoke "thus sayeth the LORD"; written in stone as it were. The NT prophets speak "unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. (1 Cor. 14:3). There is no sense that a NT prophet speaks for God, like the OT prophets did. In the NT, we are to challenge in fact.

Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 1 Cor. 14:29, 32

For apostles, they initially were eyewitnesses of Christ's ministry; they laid the foundation. But we also find other examples of men called apostles in scripture, yet who were not eyewitnesses from baptism to ascension.

Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, Acts 14:14

Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. Rom. 16:7

But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. Gal. 1:19

So, for the most part, apostles after the apostolic age (from James' death to John's death), they were called as messengers.

Messenger:

"an apostle," is translated "messengers" in 2Cr 8:23 Vines

So today, we have apostles who are those sent from a church, prophets who encourage and edify, evangelists, pastors who lead the local church, and teachers.

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The house of God is still expanding.

When you build an extension for your house, the first thing you do is lay down some more concrete to extend the foundation, right? It's the same thing for the Church: the apostles and prophets help to lay the foundations for the Church's growth, through the conversion of non-believers and the creation of new churches.

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  • 1
    For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. - 1 Cor. 3:11. Perhaps the existing foundation is big enough? Sep 23, 2021 at 12:22
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    A case needs to be made for your claim, from the Bible, as the Q is based on what the Bible says on the subject. An extension to a house is usually done because the original house is inadequate. I hope you're not suggesting that the house / Church Christ builds, which not even the gates of Hades can overcome, proved over time to be inadequate.
    – Anne
    Sep 23, 2021 at 13:05
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The argument that His role as the cornerstone of the church was completed with His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. If the work of the cornerstone is, in that sense, complete, so must the work of the apostles and prophets, who were the foundation, be complete. is fallacious.

  • Ephesians was written after Christ's death/resurrection and says: are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone not you were fellow citizens....
  • They are referencing the foundation Jesus set forth/designed/laid, and he was resurrected (still lives, still the cornerstone...is not Jesus Christ the cornerstone of Christianity's faith).
  • And the apostles didn't stop their work after Jesus' resurrection

If the argument is fallacious, then the rest of the scripture still stands the His church needs prophets and apostles.

LDS Perspective

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe Jesus still leads the church. The prophets and apostles guide and direct his church here on earth.

See also:

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  • So, how do LDS interpret Ephesians 2:20? Sep 22, 2021 at 16:55
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Jesus is still the chief cornerstone and the foundation is still built on prophets and apostles.
    – depperm
    Sep 22, 2021 at 17:20
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    I would say yes. Ephesians was written after Christ's death/resurrection and says are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone not you were fellow citizens.... They are referencing the foundation Jesus set forth/designed/laid, and he was resurrected (still lives, still the cornerstone). And the apostles didn't stop their work after Jesus' resurrection so that alone I think makes that statement fallacious
    – depperm
    Sep 22, 2021 at 17:41
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    2 things I noticed regarding "the foundation is still built on prophets and apostles". 1) The foundation is not built on the apostles and prophets, it is Christ Jesus and it is of the apostles and prophets, 2) No other foundation can be laid than that which was already laid (1 Corinthians 3:11). There is no more foundation building going on, just building upon the existing foundation. Extreme care must be taken that the building thereon is not combustible. Sep 23, 2021 at 12:33
  • 1
    @MikeBorden Eph 2:20 indicates a distinction (the cornerstone is part of the foundation, and the role of prophets and apostles point to Jesus Christ, see links in answer). The office/position holder of prophet/apostle might change, but the cornerstone, Jesus Christ, does not. The LDS believe a restoration was needed to the foundation (not the cornerstone, but apostles and prophets part)
    – depperm
    Sep 23, 2021 at 13:04
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Foundations

It appears that there are essentially 2 schools of thought on "apostles as foundation":

a) The apostles laid the foundation and that work is done. When you build a building, you hire contractors to dig, pour cement, etc. Once they have done so, the contractors are no longer needed (their work remains)

b) The apostles are the foundation. The work of apostles and other officers is described not only here but in Ephesians 4, cited above (additional description of their work can be found, for example, in the Great Commission)--the apostolic ministry is to take the Gospel message to the world, to bring about unity in the faith, knowledge of the Son of God, etc. The apostles were and are the foundation of that work. As stated in the OP, that work isn't done yet any more than Jesus' work as Savior is done--if I go to Him for help, how many Christians really believe He would say "you're on your own, I've got nothing left to give"? Not I.

I suggest the genitive construction τῶν ἀποστόλων ("of the apostles"), and the ontological statement about Jesus Himself that follows it (not He made the cornerstone, He is the cornerstone), very much favors option b above. It is not that the apostles laid a foundation and left it; they are the foundation.

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Theological View

I believe that the ministry of the apostles is a critical function in God's ongoing work. Just as God was able to authorize (through His chosen channels) Matthias, James ben Joseph, Barnabas, and Paul to officiate as apostles after the calling of the original 12, He can (and I believe He does) appoint apostles when & where the time is right, and that this was a significant feature of the restoration of the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in modern times.

I don't believe Jesus' participation in the work of salvation is done; He is not a passive observer. His atoning sacrifice has been performed, but He remains actively involved in the development and progression of humanity. So too the offices He instituted to join Him in taking His good news & His covenants to the ends of the earth.

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The Word of God is complete?

I believe in a God whose words "never cease".

From the OP:

The Word of God is the completed revelation of God. The Bible contains everything the church needs to know to grow, thrive, and fulfill God’s mission (2 Timothy 3:15-16)

Nowhere does the Biblical text claim to be the completed revelation of God. The commonly cited passage in Revelation 22 refers not to the Bible as a whole (didn't exist yet), but to the book of Revelation. If warnings about adding or taking away were intended to apply to the entire Bible, we'd have to claim the same for the parallel passage in Deut. 4:2...which would mean discarding everything in the Bible except the Torah. Sadducees anyone?

I respectfully suggest that 2 Tim. 3:15-16 is being misused here. If Paul really meant to say that the scriptures contain everything the church needs to grow, that would be an argument for discarding the entire New Testament. The New Testament, as a collection of 27 (or 29, etc) sacred texts had not yet been compiled, and even on a generous interpretation of the chronology, several of its books hadn't been written yet when 2 Timothy was composed.

When Paul refers to the "scriptures" he means the Tanakh/Septuagint, not the 66/73/74+ book Bible.

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