A Crisis of Sorts Regarding APEST

blindmenandelephantFirst, what’s APEST?  APEST in an acronym for the people gifts in Ephesians 4:11:

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherd/pastors and teachers.”

The purpose of these gifts are for the current equipping of God’s people for works of service, for the building up of God’s body (Church), for reaching towards unity in the faith, for attaining maturity through a knowledge (knowledge gained through first-hand relationship – properly, “contact-knowledge” – perception, discernment, recognition, intuition.), attaining the fullness of Christ, stability amidst a constant barrage of deceit and false teaching, and corporate growth. (Ephesians 4:12,13,4)

Notice, I used the word “current,” before proceeding with the purpose of these gifts.  Also, these gifts are not traits, characteristics, talents, or abilities.  They are people.  Yes, these people ‘have’ certain giftings which set them apart functionally, not positionally, from one another in the body of Christ, and yes, they fulfill different needs, but because these are people, and not just the talents of people, these gifts are characteristically different from other lists of gifts mentioned in the New Testament. See: (Romans 12) (1 Corinthians 12) and (Ephesians 4)  Also, there are gifts like celibacy ( 1 Cor. 7:7,8), hospitality (1 Pet. 4:9,10), martyrdom (1 Cor. 13:3), cultural aptitude  ( Eph. 3:6-8), voluntary poverty ( 1 Cor. 13:3) etc., found in throughout the NT.  To those, I would likely add others. You? Which?

The “current” outworking of these people gifts is a confusing conversation, and perhaps, even more confusing in the application of them.  It is, however, a needed conversation.  The outright dismissal of the apostle and prophet kills the conversation and places it in the past and not in the present and future.  The string of shady logical propositions which deny some of these gifts for today are met with equally shady strings of logical propositions that ‘nail down’ exactly what these gifts are today.  I’ve read A LOT of treatments of Ephesians 4:11.  I’ve written A LOT of words regarding the above passages, and I’ve spoken A LOT about them, but here’s my crisis:

Where are the sound theological arguments?  Where are the non-speculative biblical propositions that put meaning to each of the APEST gifts?  Why do most of the self-proclaimed APEST gurus sound so much like the story of the six blind men and an elephant?  Why are most APEST tests based on mysterious hypothetical theories rather than validated and confirmed biblical texts?  Don’t misunderstand me, I believe there are some great thoughts emerging from a new wave of intellectually and spiritually honest queries, but likewise, there’s wild speculation and some twisted determinism.  Deterministic in the sense that people have a desire to be fit into one of the APEST molds.  Just look at the sheer amount of participation in Facebook personality tests, which color people are, what animal or movie character, or which office implement they are etc. Compound this yearning for identity with other groups who insist on corralling people into controllable chunks of ‘church’ to fit their self-driven agendas and you have a recipe for apathy.

Here’s my crisis:

I was recently asked to co-write an article on the different types of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers.  Yes, I believe that the 5 people gifts can be expressed, or better yet, ‘manifested in,’ different ways.  But, when searching the scriptures to support my thoughts, I was blindsided by the sheer absence of data.  This caused me to reexamine the descriptions, definitions, and characteristics that have been used regarding the APEST gifts and see a huge amount of speculation or poorly strung together logical arguments based unrelated passages of scripture.

So, here are my questions:

A current apostle has these characteristics   ______________, based on these passages of scripture_______________?

A current prophet has these characteristics   _____________, based on these passages of scripture________________?

A current evangelist has these characteristics   ______________, based on these passages of scripture______________?

A current shepherd has these characteristics   ______________, based on these passages of scripture_______________?

A current teacher has these characteristics   ______________, based on these passages of scripture________________?

Use the comment section below to participate.

0 thoughts on “A Crisis of Sorts Regarding APEST

  1. Alan Knox says:

    “…because these are people, and not just the talents of people, these gifts characteristically different from other lists of gifts mentioned in the New Testament. See: (Romans 12) (1 Corinthians 12) and (Ephesians 4)”

    Don’t the other “spiritual gift lists” (at least some of them) include a mix of both gifts and people?


    • Miguel says:

      Good Point Alan,

      One which I need to probe further. But, I find it interesting that “charismata,” the word used for “gifts” in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, etc., is not the word used “domata,” in Ephesians.

      Also, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, prophecy,service, teaching, administration, discernment, faith, healings, helps, knowledge, miracles, prophecy, teaching,tongues, tongues interpretation, and wisdom seem to be of a different sort than the Ephesians gifts. They appear to be more experiential than personal.

      It’s interesting to me that Paul didn’t say He gave them apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, and didactic traits.

      • Alan Knox says:

        Isn’t domata in the quotation from Psalms? I don’t think Paul uses either charismata or domata in Eph 4:7-11 outside of the quotation.

        Why do you think the other gifts/gifted people in other lists are a “different sort” of gift? Is there something in the text that differentiates the Eph 4 list as a different kind of list? I don’t understand your distinction between experiential and personal. They all seem both experiential and personal to me.

        From other lists, it seems that Paul easily changes between the gift and the gifted person even within the same list. I don’t think he is making a distinction by doing this. Instead, it seems that the gift only exists within the gifted person.


        • Miguel says:

          Off the cuff, Alan, The gifts in other lists are practiced or practical. They are done for a time, or in a time (Gifts of Healings) etc. by persons. They are given “to” persons. The list in Ephesians is ontological. They “are” persons.

          • Alan Knox says:


            First, I don’t want you to take my questions and comments as being antagonistic. I love the questions you are asking in this post. I thnk they are incredibly perceptive and important questions. I’m excited about the direction that you are headed with this post.

            The lists in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Cornthians 12:28 also include persons, not just the gifts.


  2. Don Perry says:

    There are many places in the NT where things happened and God blessed, in the absence of a clearly biblically defined theology. I think that the same things happen today. Many people get uncomfortable when this happens. I have grown comfortable with these situations over time. Thoughts?

  3. Marshall says:

    yes, Miguel, “domata”. an excellent start to point, with Paul writing here in apologetic form. The same [Christ] εδωκεν/gives [us] the apostle ones, the prophet ones, the well-messagers/evangelists ones, the shepherds ones and teachers (and other ones, surely). So simply, they’re all being sent by the same Christ whom we know. We should be recognizing the same Christ in each person doing these functions/operations. When or if we’re not, something’s amiss.

    So then, the emphasis not so much to defining or recognizing a gift, but rather to perceiving the same Giver (in the gifted).

    I’ve been encountering among some ekklesia where one “gifted” is not of the same One Spirit. Appreciate Paul’s profound reminder regarding. The “gift” itself means nothing without the Giver having given it.

    • Alan Knox says:


      Interestingly, the Greek grammar of Eph 4:11 corresponds with your statement “So then, the emphasis not so much to defining or recognizing the gift, but rather to perceiving the same Giver.”


  4. Miguel says:


    I’ve taken nothing you’ve said as ‘antagonistic.’ In fact, your questions are driving me deeper into reflection. Grammatically, there are some huge hurdles for me to get over which support my ‘thesis.’

    Eventually, I think, we’ll get to the point where we’ll start answering the questions at the end. It may take a few more posts to get there.

  5. Stan Meador says:

    Hi Miguel! Here are the comments that I posted on your FB thread.

    You can’t compartmentalize it and understand it. You can’t pull these five out of the NT context, insert them into current models of “church” and understand them. Until you get NT church polity right, you won’t understand the APEST.

    Miguel wrote: Excellent Stan! This is what I was hoping someone would bring up. But, help me understand in what sense you are using the word ‘polity.’

    Yeah, I didn’t know what other word to use. I don’t like to use the word “model” either. The entire NT only presents one “model” of church and doesn’t indicate any other models will be necessary. For 300 years the early church was largely unchanged from the NT reality. Within that reality the APEST functions were understood and little explanation was needed. One major problem is that historians post-Constantine have written the post-Constantinian structures and titles into their histories. One example is a historian referring to James as the Pastor of the church at Jerusalem. Scripture is clear that this James was an Apostle, not a pastor. And, the confusion over the whole thing dates back about 1,500 years.

    About polity. Most denominations have a “church polity”. All of the ones that I have studied use Scripture to form their polity. As well, all of them leave out the Scriptures that don’t quite fit into their polity. Why? It is like a puzzle. They put a post-Constantinian picture of the church on the box top but the pieces actually belong to a pre-Constantinian church reality. That being the case, they can’t make all the pieces fit.

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