Ephesians 4: 11 “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith…”
I believe in what is referred to as the five-fold ministry. Paul makes a specific distinction between the five ministry offices that are given to the church from Christ Himself. I once heard a great analogy that paints a good picture of the purpose of these five. Each of your hands has five fingers. Your pinky is symbolic of the Teacher. If you make a fist and strike it on a table the pinky is the first to hit. The Teacher is the foundation on which the other four rest. The Pastor is represented by the ring finger. The ring finger symbolizes the relational covenant. The Pastor carries the heart of Christ for His church. It is the Pastor who cares for, and tends to the bride of Christ. The Evangelist is likened to the middle finger because it has the longest reach of any of the others. The Evangelist is called to reach out and gather in. The first finger is also known as the “pointer finger”. The Prophet likewise is a prophetic voice to the church that points the way. The Apostle is like the thumb He empowers the others to do something that they never could on their own. He carries a commission, and imparts that commission to others. They are all in place to work together to accomplish a common purpose.
These ministry offices are given to the church by Jesus Himself. There are specific assignments for each of them but there is one factor that is necessary for them to achieve all that they are designed for. Let us discover what that is.
In the fifth chapter of the book of John there is an intriguing event that takes place at the pool of Bethesda. John records it this way:
“1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda,[a] having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.[b] 5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”
7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.” (NKJV)
Bethesda Is known to mean “House of Mercy” it is also translated “Flowing Water”.
Here at this location we are told that there are “Five Porches” these porches were simply coverings in which an individual could find shelter. It is under the shelter of these porches that a “great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed” laid waiting for a supernatural event to occur. The angel was only able to stir up the water enough for one to be healed. Their hope was that they would be the first to enter into the water to be the one healed at the stirring of the pool. It is apparent that there existed among the sick a spirit of competition. Instead of coming to the aid of one another they each look out for themselves. Everyone there is expecting to be healed, but as the sick man stated to Jesus “there is no man to put me into the pool”. The atmosphere that existed at Bethesda reminds me of a large portion of the church today we have expectation without experience. Perhaps the only reason Bethesda became a gathering place for the sick was due to the expectation of a supernatural occurrence that would immediately change their life, unfortunately only very few would enjoy the experience. When Jesus arrives at the pool He is unknown to the people. They did not know what we now do, which is that Jesus had the ability to heal them all. We know He could have done that instead His attention is drawn to only one. One man who has waited thirty eight years for an experience that would supernaturally change him would now discover that there were limitations under the five porches but there are no limitations in Christ. Jesus heals the one man with one simple command “rise, take up your bed and walk”.
I find myself asking the question “why only one?” most likely there were hundreds if not thousands of people who needed what Jesus had. Jesus only heals one. Could it be that Jesus was afraid of what a mob of sick people might do if they discovered in that moment that He was the healer? In a story that seems to have many multiples there seems to be a greater emphasis on the singulars. There are five porches and a great multitude, but only one angel who heals one person at a time, and one sick man who is healed by Jesus. What if instead of trying to figure out all the questions we have about this encounter we look at the imagery that is created by this story. Before we do that lets look at another similar event.
Acts 5:12 “And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. 13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. 14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. 16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.” (NKJV)
What a display of power! The New Testament church is thriving and amazing things are taking place. I believe that the experiences of Acts chapter 5 should also be our experience today. That just as they were impacting a city as well as the surrounding region so too the church should be experiencing that today only now at an even greater level. However for the most part it is not. The church today has much in common with those who gathered under the five porches of Bethesda. We have multitudes who are in need of a supernatural encounter but very few who have experienced it. We are still living under the covering of the five porches.
The Pool of Bethesda consisted of two pools surrounded by five covered porches, or colonnades. There were four around the perimeter and one through the middle separating the two pools. They were all there but they were separated much like the ministry offices of Ephesians 4 are today. At the moment we exist under a structure that does not support the fluency for them all to function as one. At Bethesda every man was by himself and for himself. Just as the sick man pointed out “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” (NKJV) This is the reason that at Bethesda we see the singular attitude that lead to so few encountering the power of God. There was one angel, one stirring, and one individual healed. When Jesus who was known for healing “all” arrives even He only heals one. My simple observation is this “That the more singular the ministry offices of the church are the more singular our results will be.”
Paul wrote in Ephesians four that it was “He Himself who gave” Therefore we must understand that these ministry offices are given to us out of who Jesus is. Jesus is the Apostle (Hebrews 3:1) He is the Prophet (Luke 24:19) He is the Evangelist (Luke 4:18) He is the Pastor (John 10:11) and He is the teacher (John 3:2). The five fold ministry positions represent the fullness of who Jesus is. They are meant to represent and reproduce the whole Jesus to the body of Christ. Just as Paul stated in verse 13 the purpose for the five who are given from “Himself” is that we attain to “the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”. It would be difficult to understand the “fullness” of Christ without a full view of who He is. The five belong together just as every finger on your hand belongs there. And the body of Christ needs to be touched and ministered to by the five not just one, or three but the fullness of the five.
I’d like to propose that the five porches of Bethesda represent the five-fold ministry offices of Ephesians four and that the imagery we draw from the events occurring at the pool is that when the five-fold ministry offices are structured in such a way that there is no direct interaction between them we are then drawing from an inferior model that cannot reproduce the level of supernatural ministry that we see in Acts five and therefore will not impact cities and regions with the full demonstration of the power of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. I’m certainly not saying that a church cannot experience the supernatural without the five. I am curious however as to what we may be missing out on when the five are out of place.
When the spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost the Bible states in Acts 2: “1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” (KJV) I cannot tell you how many times over the years that I have heard this verse recited as the primary reason for the release of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. That they were all finally unified enough for Him to come. We often neglect to include the events of chapter one with the outpouring of chapter two. It is in the first chapter of Acts that Peter recognizes a piece missing from the puzzle. That is an Apostle is missing from his place. After already praying, and already being in “one accord” Peter has a revelation that the position left vacant by Judas needed to be filled. They draw straws and choose Matthias. I would argue that the outpouring came because of positioning and not because of agreement. After all according to verse 14 of chapter 1 they were already in agreement. It wasn’t until the twelve were assembled together and in their proper place that the greatest move of the Holy Spirit mankind had ever experienced was released.
I have had the privilege of being in full-time ministry for nearly fifteen years. Over the last few years I had seen some of the greatest miracles and moves of God than at any other time in my life. In those moves of God I have noticed one reoccurring theme. When there are multiple ministers ministering in one place there is a greater level of anointing, and a greater release of the supernatural. One of the most powerful meetings that I have ever been a part of occurred at the church I was pastoring. I had invited two evangelists to come minister for the weekend, as well as another pastor who was a friend of mine. One of the evangelists that were coming was bringing a friend of his who is a prophet. We had five services together over a weekend. I’ll never forget the Saturday night service. My pastor friend was scheduled to speak and during the course of the evening the other evangelist shared for a minute, as well as the prophet, and then I closed the service. As I stood the presence of the Holy Spirit filled the room so strongly I knew some great things were about to happen. That night we saw several healed, but I’ll never forget the level of prophecy that was in operation. That night I gave some of the most accurate prophetic words that I have ever given. When the dust settled and all of us who were ministering compared notes we were all taken back by the level of anointing that entered the room that night. In fact one of the ministers remarked “I think we all got an upgrade tonight”. The Apostle John wrote In Revelation 19:10 “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy”. If this is true and if the five-fold ministry offices of Ephesians four represent the “fullness” of Christ then wouldn’t it be safe to say that they are also the “testimony” of who He is. When the testimony of Jesus is present it releases the prophetic utterance necessary to build up the body of Christ. This is one of the main purposes of the five-fold ministry. Just as Paul wrote in Ephesians they are given by Jesus “…for the edifying (building up) of the body of Christ”. Since that time of ministry I have continued to notice that when there is more than one ministering there is always a greater level. This is why even if I’m the only minister I always make sure to have my wife beside me when we are ministering to an individual. I’m not saying God won’t move through one person. I am saying I’ve seen what He will do with two or more!
Bethesda means “flowing water” I believe God’s desire is that the five porches of Bethesda flow into the one porch represented in Acts 5. “And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.” They were all in place and because of this the city and region were witnessing the greatest move of God on the earth up to that time. At the pool of Bethesda under the five porches only one was healed. Here under Solomon’s porch “All” were healed “16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.”
The five must flow together. This is how they were designed, and this is how they function best. I believe that we are in a season when not only is God strategically placing people in locations, but He is also bringing together strategic alliances that know how to bring heaven to earth.
“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour” Ecc 4:9