1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
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. Eph. 3:1-5
In today’s Christian context, when you mention words like “revelation”, “the crucified life”, “the cross (as a revelation)”, “the gospel/message of the cross”, or even “the five-fold ministry”, most people will look at you and label you a cultist. They cannot understand where you got such words! And yet, these words or symbols form the very foundation of our Christian experience.
Moreover, whether through inference or directly, these words are right there in the Bible, clear as day. But again, we all know that daylight is meaningless to a blind man. And today’s church is as blind as blind can be. It was for this very reason that the Apostle Paul would pray that God would open the Ephesians’ eyes, that they might see in the Spirit and experience the true riches of Christ.
I like what the Apostle Paul writes here. He says that the gospel he carried was a mystery that was given to him “by revelation”. Furthermore, he says that this revelation was given to him through a dispensation of the grace of God.
I like that. In other words, Paul ascribes everything to God. Notice that even the revelation he had was given to him “by the Spirit.” Paul’s revelation did not come by anyone’s mental ability or perusal of scripture.
Terms like apostle, prophet, revelation, the cross (as a revelation) are difficult to understand by today’s Christian generation which relies heavily on the power of the mind.
And yet, these neglected or little-understood symbols are the very things that form the foundation and fabric of our Christian faith. Without these terms, there is no church. There will be born-again believers all right, but it is the equivalent of having stones but no building. Unless someone comes and begins putting up that building, those stones will remain just that – stones. No building.
The five-fold ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors are the gentlemen whom God’s sends to put up that building. The first two lay the foundation.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the deeply fragmented Corinthian church, told them, “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9).
When Paul says, “ye are God’s building” , he was not referring to the Corinthians individually, but as a body. You haven’t heard of a building that comprises of only one stone, have you?
These ministries have the necessary tools and expertise to accomplish the task. The tools they have are tools of the Holy Spirit. They are not human tools. These ministries – apostles and prophets – together with all the other revelatory symbols that the Apostle Paul mentions in his letters are the symbols that build up the church, the Body of Christ.
Much of today’s Christian generation, having imbibed the teachings of the prosperity gospel, do not want to acquaint themselves with anything more. They drift into simplicity, and they would rather end their learning at kindergarten. For example, for many, once they get saved, they will quickly memorize the 365 promises that their preachers readily find in the Bible – a promise every day – and that’s it for them. They will never hear a word about the “strong meat” of the gospel! (Heb. 5:12-14)
These believers have no idea that beyond kindergarten there is primary school, secondary school, college; that there are even things called Ph.Ds. In the Spirit, Paul was taken up to the third heaven.
We in today’s generation should be glad that we are getting an awareness of such spiritual terms as the Apostle Paul received. And we ought to be grateful. We live in exciting times, and this is a unique experience. The Pauline revelation was something that was so exceptional that even the Apostle Peter in his writings would refer to it in the most awe-filled terms (2 Pet. 3:15).
The revelation of the gospel is a fully-loaded package. It lacks nothing. It brings holiness to the church. It brings maturity and unity to God’s people. Believers become “no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). Here the five-fold ministry is at work, directing and empowering God’s work by the Holy Spirit.
That is how God’s church is built.
I believe it is time for the church to begin praying God for revelation. The revelation of the gospel, as Paul received it, is all that is needed for the church to be formed and perfected.