There is liberty for the exercise of gifts by the Holy Spirit.
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 (Eph. 4:11,12). Having then gifts
differing according to the grace that i given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy
according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he
that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let him
do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence, he that sheweth mercy, with
cheerfulness (Rom. 12:6-8).
From the verses above, and other passages in the New Testament, it
becomes clear that the local church is the gathering wherein there ought to be opportunity
for the local gifts of each believer to be exercised. It is not a gathering where one or
two exercise all the gifts. There is a plurality of ministers, but not every man in the
church ministers. There is a plurality of teachers, but not every man in the church
teaches. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets,
thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments,
diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all
workers of miracles? (1 Cor. 12:28,29). The Holy Spirit is given the opportunity to use
those whom He has gifted for the edification of the body of Christ. All gifts are
exercised for the growth of the body so that the body may grow together in Christ. Thus we
learn from these verses another dynamic character of the local church which enables it to
be a gathering at which the power of the Holy Spirit is able to operate.
A distinguishing mark of a New Testament church is that a plurality of
brethren, gifted by God, are given opportunity to exercise their gifts for the edification
of the body. In many local churches today this characteristic has been so widely abused
that it is practically impossible to recognize the multiplicity of gift in the church. One
extreme is to place the responsibility in the hands of the pastor and appointed
assistants. The other extreme is to allow teaching, preaching, and pastoring to be done by
those who are obviously not gifted by God. It is this latter abuse through the years that
led to the professional training and choosing of a selected pastor to carry out these
The questions then to be asked in looking for a New Testament church
are: Does one man and his assistants control all of the ministry or is there opportunity
for other gifted men to participate? Does every man minister and consequently the ministry
is often not edifying and the body is not growing in Christ?
One would understand then that in a properly conducted New Testament
church there needs to be a plurality of elders who watch for and promote the kind of
ministry that will edify the church. They will not permit one man to dominate the ministry
and they will not allow those to minister whose ministry obviously does not edify the
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over
the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He
hath purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).