the weblog of Alan Knox

Five-Fold Ministry? Seven-Fold Ministry? Eight-Fold Ministry? Why not All-Fold Ministry?

Posted by on Mar 28, 2012 in spirit/holy spirit, spiritual gifts | 24 comments

Keith at “subversive1” has written on a topic that (I think) is often misunderstood. His post is called “58 Fold Ministry?” and it tackles the subject of the (so-called) five-fold ministry in Ephesians 4:11.

He examines the list of spiritual gifts (and spiritually gifted people) in Ephesians 4:11, but he also compares that list to the ones in Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. (Of course, there are others lists in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 and – my personal favorite – 1 Peter 4:10-11.) And, he asks a very good question: Why are the spiritual gifts in Ephesians 4:11 considered the “five main gifts in the church today, or that these five should be exalted above all the other gifts…”?

Keith decides that there are at least 58 gifts listed in various places in the New Testament, and the each of these (and any others) are necessary for the growth and vitality of the church. (Sounds similar to what Paul says in the entire section of Ephesians 4:7-16.)

I love Keith’s conclusion:

At face value, the message of the New Testament is that you matter. Your gift – whatever it is – is necessary. You are important. You have something the rest of us need. We have something that you need. We need one another to grow and to thrive.

As Paul says in each of these passages, there are many gifts, and they are all given by the One Spirit, and we are all members of each other. Our gifts are not for us, they are not about us, they are about one another and the purpose of these gifts is to be a blessing to everyone else and to exalt them, not ourselves.

So, I’m not sure about you, but since there are something like 58 different spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible, I’m a big fan of the Fifty-Eight Fold Ministry of God.

Please take the time to read the rest of Keith’s post! It’s worth the read.

So, are those gifted as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers important for the edification of the church today? Absolutely! But so are those who are gifted as servants, helpers, administrators, etc. etc. etc.

If you are in Christ, then he desires to work through you to build up his church.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 3-28-2012

    Thank you for sharing Keith’s post. The emphasis on “the five fold ministry” as special people, with elevated positions(offices),is one of the hundreds of erroneous teachings of the institutional church system. Praise the Lord for the light that is shinning out of so many these days.

  2. 3-28-2012


    The focus on certain spiritual gifts carries over outside of the more institutional organizations associated with the church as well.


  3. 3-28-2012

    I understand,I still hold the church accountable. There is one church, and there is one ekklesia, and never the twain shall meet. Just because “church” today is reformed, it is still the “church” that has misrepresented the grace of God in Jesus Christ for 1,700 years. It is still the same church that has lead untold millions astray. Even though the devil gets more sophisticated, he is still the same devil.

  4. 3-28-2012


    Yes, as the church (God’s people in Jesus Christ) we are accountable for the way that we obey (or do not obey) the work of God in our lives, regardless of what organizations or institutions might tell us.


  5. 3-28-2012

    “The focus on certain spiritual gifts carries over outside of the more institutional organizations associated with the church as well.”
    you are very right about that Alan. Over in the missional, organic, housechurch, simplechurch, whatevernameyouwanttogive it church there is often an emphasis on the five fold giftings, sometimes even further drilled down to emphasis on the function of apostles or church planters. I understand well meaning people are trying to correct some weaknesses of the past but I feel it can go overboard.
    That said I do think everyone exibits some of the five fold giftings so as general high level categories they can assist understanding how we can function together.

  6. 3-28-2012


    I don’t know if you know Miguel from “God Directed Deviations,” but he says something similar, i.e. that all “giftings” are rolled up into those four/five gifts. But, I can’t find his post now.


  7. 3-29-2012

    I “may” concede that the so-called 5-fold gifts tend to be more visible than some other gifts. Yet, as already observed, there is an non-bilical emphasis placed upon them. Further, I see overwhelming evidence that at least on of these gifts is worthy of support. I find it curious that Paul took these particular gifts and isolated them for the church at Ephesus. Could it be that while all gifts are for the edification of the body, these in particular serve the unique purpose of equipping, “the saints for the work of ministry?”

  8. 3-29-2012


    Yes, that’s the post! Thanks!


    It’s possible that Paul only considered people gifted as apostles, prophets, evangelists, or pastors and teacher to have the unique purpose of equipping the church to serve. However, consider this: In 1 Corinthians 12:8-11, Paul lists nine gifts then says: “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit…” Are only these nine gifts empowered by the Spirit, since these are the only ones Paul listed? (And, yes, he specifically says “these” pointing back to the list of nine gifts.)


  9. 3-29-2012

    Alan – all gifts empowered by the same Spirit but perhaps just a few equip to do ministry (to make fully ready?) I am asking because in Ephesians 4 he separates those particular gifts.

  10. 3-29-2012


    That’s my point. Yes, Ephesians 4 is the only of spiritually gifted people who Paul say “equip the saints for the work of service.” 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 is the only list of gifts that Paul says are “empowered by the one and the same Spirit.” If the argument is valid for the first list, then it is valid for the second list, right?


  11. 3-29-2012

    You are always cautious not to emphasize any part of the body over another. That said – YES. We are in agreement.

  12. 3-29-2012

    From a experiential/practical viewpoint I cannot imagine healthy community without those giftings mentioned in other passages… encouragement, mercy, administrating, gifts of healing, discernment etc. The question is really how much of Jesus do we want and need. I would say all and so what categories or titles or characteristics can contain Christ? The fivefold characteristics/giftings? Certainly not.
    Even as to equipping… at its heart ministry has to be expressing Christ to one another and the world so in that vein every giftings has a significant place. I guess if we redefine ministry and put it in a small box then the fivefold is sufficient but if we think of everything Christ is in and through the body, 58 fold sounds much better!!

  13. 4-2-2012


    We agree? Awesome! 🙂

    There is one place in Scripture where Paul says that God emphasizes one part of the body of Christ over others: 1 Corinthians 12:22-25. His emphasis is quite different from the emphases I typically see today.


    That’s a good point. Thank you!


  14. 4-3-2012

    I am curious however about the order Paul gives in 1Corinthians 12:28. Wonder what he meant by using such words as first, second, third, etc. I looked at the Greek On the word first and found it interesting. There is also Titus 2:15 the makes me question whether there may have been some authority placed on certain people. Seems as if Paul spoke of himself in this way. Could there have been someone or some gift that was recognized as, “in charge?”

    The husband and wife have a mutual submission yet one is the head.

    I really don’t have a point here. I am just careful to draw concrete conclusions where I have some questions. I think that John is on point.

  15. 4-4-2012


    Titus 2:15 is interesting. I’ve never understood why that was translated “with all authority,” since the word is actually “command”: i.e., “with every command.” To me, it points back to what Paul wrote in Titus 1:3. So, it’s not the “authority” or “command” of Titus that’s in view, but the “command” of God.


  16. 4-17-2012

    How can I get a copy of KEITH’S #58 Spiritual Gift List and where they are found in scripture and church history? Are there more than #58? If so, how many are there from your studies please?

    How can I get a copy of Keith’s #58 fold ministry from Ephesians 4;11 article or thesis? I am a PhD student at Trinity Theological Seminary and I’m very interested in this subject matter. Can you assist me please?
    Thank you very much.

  17. 4-17-2012


    Send me an email at aknox [at] sebts [dot] edu. I’ll be glad to share some of those passages.


  18. 1-18-2013

    I was in charge of bulletins once… it was a tri-fold ministry

  19. 1-18-2013


    That’s hilarious! 🙂


  20. 1-19-2013

    Dear Alan,

    I posted this on your blog a little while ago:

    “How can I get a copy of KEITH’S #58 Spiritual Gift List and where they are found in scripture and church history? Are there more than #58? If so, how many are there from your studies please?

    How can I get a copy of Keith’s #58 fold ministry from Ephesians 4;11 article or thesis? I am a PhD student at Trinity Theological Seminary and I’m very interested in this subject matter. Can you assist me please?
    Thank you very much.”

    You stated, you would assist me, if I would email you. So I am taking you at your word by emailing you for assistance.

    I would appreciate any and all help on obtaining info on spiritual gift lists in the OT & NT as well as in Church history documents. And any suggestions and/or copies on articles, journals, books, theses-es, dissertations, blog, and bibliographies on spiritual gifts and their lists. If any expenses are incurred on your part by assisting me, I will gladly reimburse you and of course, if I use any of your materials in my research, I will cite you properly and give you credit accordingly as well as a copy of my final dissertation. I just appreciate your assistance in any way as I navigate these treacherous PhD waters. Thank you very much for your blog and help.


    Pastor Michael W. McCullough, Jr.

  21. 1-19-2013


    I apologize if I missed your email previously. I just replied to your requests via email.


  22. 1-26-2013

    As this brother Michael, has requested a copy, I would appreciate this knowledge too, Lord willing. ALLAN

  23. 1-27-2013


    As I replied to Michael, I do not know if Keith has published anything on this topic. You can check his post (linked to above). Otherwise, I’d recommend studying the various passages concerning spiritual gifts in different commentaries (don’t stick to one commentary series or authors with the same theological bent). From those commentaries, the footnotes will often lead you to specific articles and essays.