At the very outset of the New Testament, it is striking that the Lord Jesus and the Apostles labored to establish only one institution, the local church.
1 Corinthians 3:10 (New International Version) By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.
The local church lies at the heart of God’s program for today.
Francis Schaeffer writes, “The Church did not sit there as a group of believers with no form. The New Testament form is commanded by God. These norms are not arbitrary, they are God’s form for the institutional, organized Church and they are to be present in the twentieth first century as well as in any century.”
A cursory study of Church history reveals that for more than 500 years, God has been in the process of restoring the Church to the glory He always intended. He has accomplished this by taking the Church through one restoration movement after another, beginning with the close of the dark ages. At that time, God used Martin Luther to begin the call to reformation by revealing to him that the “just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). One after another, lost truths have been restored to the Body of Christ: Salvation by faith alone; believers’ baptism; baptism of the Holy Spirit; the second coming of Christ for the Church; healing in the atonement; the authority of the believer; power in the Name of Jesus; faith in God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in full operation in the Church.
By the 1950’s, God had also begun to restore the five-fold ministry, His gift to the Church.
Ephesians 4:11-12 (New International Version) It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
Ephesians 2:13-22 (New International Version) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with it’s commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.
The five-fold ministry has been described as God’s hand extended to the Church to equip for the work of the ministry. The little finger refers to the teacher. It is fashioned such that it is able to enter into the ear so that God is able to dig into our hearing and impart understanding of the truth of His Word and of the things of the Spirit.
The ring finger speaks of the pastor. He is wed to the people of God and united to them with a heart connection.
The longest finger signifies the ministry of the evangelist reaching out into the world, drawing sinners from the darkness.
The index finger is the pointing finger which speaks of the ministry of the prophet who points out sin and unrighteousness in the Church and in the land. The prophet gives direction to the body of Christ as he hears God’s voice for the Church and for the nation.
Lastly, the apostle is represented by the thumb: the grasping ministry. As the thumb is the only digit able to easily touch all the other fingers, the apostle is able to touch the other four ministries and work with them toward a unified effort to accomplish the will of God for the Church.