Equipped for Family Ministry

What is an Apostle; Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher?

   Apostle/apostolous- [Gk. ?apostello? I send] A title given in the early Church to some of its leaders (1Co.12:28), esp. missionaries, and in Heb.3:1 to Christ Himself. The origin and precise significance of the term is disputed but some reference to being sent (Gk. Apostello, ?I send?) is certain. St. Paul claimed the title for himself (Rom.1:1, Gal.1:1, etc.) on the basis of a commission from the Risen Christ, and used it of others (e.g. Rom.16:7), incl. St. James the Lord?s Brother (Gal.1:19). It is used, most frequently by St. Luke, of the twelve disciples whose names are recorded in Mark 3:14-19, Mt.10:2-4, Lk.6:13-16, the slight variations perhaps indicating uncertainty rather than fluctuating membership of the group or different names for the same person. The later restriction of the title to the twelve  (cf. Rev. 21:14) was apparently unknown to Paul (cf. 1Cor.15:5,7), or at least resisted by him. It was popularized by Luke, who sees the election of St. Matthias (Acts 1:15:26) as the reconstitution of an apostolic twelve after the defection and death of Judas Iscariot. In modern usage the term is sometimes applied to the leader of the first Christian mission to a country, e.g. to St. Patrick, the ?Apostle of Ireland?, Sts. Cyril and Methodios, the ?Apostles of the Slavs?, and many others. Where the traditional beliefs of the operation of grace and authority in the Church are maintained, it is through the twelve apostles that this grace and authority are held to descend from Christ, and from them to their lawfully appointed successors (see Apostolic Succession, Episcopacy). Acc. To later tradition, all twelve apostles, except St. John, were also martyrs. (Ox.Dict.XtianCh, p.88-89)

   The word means ?one who is sent? and as such refers to the ?Twelve? followers of Jesus Christ who journeyed with Him during His teaching ministry. They were later commissioned to spread the Gospel throughout the known world and establish communities of believers wherever they went. All the Apostles of Christ were generally unschooled (except St. Matthew), married (except St. John) and Jews. The Feast of the Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles is June 30?.The title is also used to include Paul, Luke, Mark, Barnabas and others usch as the ?70, Seventy? sent on missions who were noteworthy figures in the early Church. (Complete Book of Orthodoxy by G.Grube, p.35)


   Equal to the Apostles- ?Isapostolis? A title given to certain saints in the Orthodox Church, such as Mary Magdalene, Constantine, Nina, Helen, Vladimir, Thekla, Cyril and Methodios, and others. The term signifies a great veneration given to a particular saint and their preaching mission in the Church.

   Prophet/prophetas- [Pro ?advancing, projecting forward/outward? + phetes ?speaker?, deriving from ?phanai/to speak?] Prophecy- From the earliest times Christians have believed that already before the Incarnation of God the Holy Spirit, as affirmed in the Nicene Creed, ?spoke by the prophets?. Such prophetic inspiration was found esp. in the supernatural knowledge by which holy men were enabled to foresee and foretell, in par, the revelation which was to be given in Christ. It was extended to Abraham (Jn.8:56) and David (Mk.12:35ff.), but it was pre-eminently the privilege of the prophets. It has also been generally recognized that the prophets were the inspired deliverers of God?s message not only about the future, but to their contemporaries, to whom they declared His will, and whom they recalled to His righteousness. (ODCC, p.1336)

   Early Christian- While prophecy as a phenomenon is well attested in the early Church (esp. 1Cor.12-14), the precise position of the prophets mentioned in the NT is unclear. Sometimes they appear as a distinct order of ministers (1Co.12:28 and Eph.4:11); other references suggest something less definite (e.g. Acts 11:27), while women as well as men could prophesy (Acts 21:9). The apocalyptic expectation that prophecy would be restored at the end of time seems to lie in the background. Several early Christian writers assume the authority of prophets (e.g. St. Ignatius and Hermas), but prophecy seems to have died out, the Didache perhaps witnessing to the period of transition. ?Prophets? once again found prominence in Montanism, but they were unable to establish their authority against the developed episcopal authority of the Church. (ODCC, p.1337)

   Evangelist- (Gk. Euaggelistis, ?a proclaimer of the Good News?) In the NT the word is used three times of a traveling missionary (Acts 21:8; Eph.4:11; 2Tim.4:5). Probably no special office is designated, but the evangelist ordinarily combined his duty of proclaiming the Gospel wit such offices as those of bishop or deacon. Philip, e.g., was both a deacon and an evangelist and the Apostles are also said to have evangelized. In modern usage the word is applied to certain laymen Protestant Churches who undertake popular preaching.

   In the technical sense, the author of one of the canonical Gospels, i.e. exclusively St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John. This usage established itself in the 3rd century. Traditionally the four evangelists are symbolized respectively by a man, a lion an ox and an eagle, on the basis of Revelation 4:6-10. (ODCC, p.581)

   Pastor/poimenas- [shepherd, from ?poimne/flock?, related to ?poimenarxis? referring to bishop] The title given by Lutherans and some other Protestant bodies to their clergy, primarily those in charge of a church or congregation. The term derives from the Latin ?pastor?, meaning ?herdsman? or ?shepherd?, hence a ?shepherd of souls?. In this sense it is found in the Middle Ages and in the BCP (e.g. in the collect for the feast of St. Peter), and is occasionally used of RCs with cure of souls. (ODCC, p.1229)

   Teacher/didaskalos- [didasko- I teach; didache- the teaching, preaching, sermon; Heb. Rabbi] Expositor who edify by their clearer understanding. Teaching of skills and development of aptitudes. The one who expounds the divine will as laid down in Scripture.


The order of the gifts is material, not hierarchical. The apostles are giving way to pastors and the evangelists to teachers.