The 5-Fold Ministry: Benjamin, or Joseph’s Half-brothers?

And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him. Gen 43:34

Notice that Benjamin was given five times as many portions of food as his other brothers were given by Joseph. That is truly spiritual language!

Let us also consider Genesis 45:22: “To all of them he gave each man changes of raiment; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment.” Here again, Joseph gave gifts to his brothers (whom I deliberately call half-brothers), but the Bible takes the pain to tell us that Joseph gave to Benjamin “three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment.”

Benjamin was Joseph’s true brother, born of the same mother, Rachel. Joseph’s actions in both these scriptures demonstrated his love for Benjamin. Joseph loved his other brothers also, but he loved Benjamin infinitely more. He therefore favoured him far above his brethren, and gave him gifts of far greater worth than the rest of his brethren.

While Joseph is a type of Christ, Benjamin is a type of the church, and the number “five” in both these scriptures speaks of the five-fold ministry – the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor and the teacher. Christ’s love for the church is revealed in that He gave these five ministries to the church. The riches and privileges that Christ has for the church that are to be found in the operation of all these ministries, working together as a team within the church. The incredibly rich treasures that Christ has given to His church through the operation of these ministries are, simply, indescribable. The five-fold ministry is packed!

If Jesus had not intended for all these ministries to operate within the church in their totality, He would have given one, or two, or three. But He gave five.

That can only mean that when we talk of these ministries we must talk of them as one ministry. Hence, the five-fold ministry. The reference is right and true.

There is no place for the lone wolf ministry within the Body of Christ.

In Ephesians 3:14-21, the Apostle Paul makes a prayer for the Ephesian church. But notice that the apostle’s prayer that the Ephesians “might be filled with all the fulness of God” (v. 19) is directly linked to the operation of the five-fold ministry in their midst (Ephesians 4).

God’s intended goal for the church is for it to walk in “the fulness of God”, no less. And, pray, what is “the fulness of God”? It is that God’s people may mature in the Spirit, unto perfect men and women in Christ. The church can only be perfected through circumcising of our hearts and putting to death all the works of the flesh in our lives. It is a deep work of the Spirit, which can only be brought about by the revelation of the cross in our hearts. That is“the fulness of God”!

This revelation is something that only the five-fold ministry can accomplish (Eph. 3:1-12).

The five-fold ministry talks of teamwork. These five ministries – undergirded by the foundational ministry of the apostle – form a team. For Christ’s goal for the church to be realized these ministries must work as a team.

Today, much of what we see of God’s church are disembodied ‘ministries’ and denominations scattered all over the spiritual landscape. People think this is God’s plan for the church, and they cheer these ministries on. But no, that is not the church and we should stop cheering. Just from reading this scripture, we can tell that the concept of “church” without the five-fold ministry –working as a team – is simply not there. That word, “church”, is out of order where the five-fold ministry is not operational.

Single ministries, however ‘powerful’ are simply not God’s plan for the church. God is gracious and merciful and He will bless us here and there, in small ways and in big ways. There are many ways in which God could and does bless us. According to His magnanimous nature, therefore, God allows these single ministries to be there and to do a thing or two. But whatever these lone ministries do will never come close to the fullness of what God has for the church.

Any one ministry is a blessing to the church. But when the church is operating under a single ministry – be it a prophet, a pastor, or even an apostle – and not within the totality of the five-fold ministry, it in effect becomes like one of Joseph’s half-brothers, receiving piece-meal portions. Did Joseph’s brothers rejoice at his gifts? They did, of course! The gifts were big! But what they received was nothing compared to what Benjamin received. He received five portions – “the fulness of God”!

It is sad – and a shame – that men start ministries or churches which they turn into their own property. They establish personal ‘church dynasties’, where they operate their ministries single-handedly and after they move on they hand their ministries to their sons and grandsons. It is a vicious cycle designed to keep out the vitality of the Holy Spirit to touch people’s lives through allowing the five-fold ministry to operate within the church.

Christ loves His people. But if they will not allow the five-fold ministry to minister to them, there is no way He can perfect them and therefore God’s people will forever remain babes in the spirit. They will never mature spiritually. They will rejoice at the solitary “portions” that are handed to them – material needs, healing, lone ministries operating here and there – but they will never know the deep riches that Christ has for His church, the working of the cross in their lives to mature them, to perfect them, and to unite them in the Spirit. This is something that God’s people need to seriously desire in their lives.

We could say that the church’s sole calling is to operate under the five-fold ministry (Col. 1:24-29).

On their part, God’s servants need to seek for a revelation of the cross in their own lives so that they can humble themselves and see their need to seek other true ministries with which they can unite together to build the Body of Christ.

[Below: Sunsets are incredibly beautiful. Here, the sun sets in Dar es Salaam]


2 thoughts on “The 5-Fold Ministry: Benjamin, or Joseph’s Half-brothers?

  1. Your last sentence is the key – humility at the foot of the cross of Christ. When I was being interviewed for ordination I said ministry to me was encouraging others to do, and the committee voted me down (the first time) partly on the grounds of my naivete around ministry which should be, in their view, one of authority! I have never been part of this kind of collegiality you write about. Perhaps before I die God might grant this.

    • I am very sure that God will grant you this prayer, David. When I see the biblical model, this is the one prayer that God desires us all to have.

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