I ended up highlighting 138 separate passages in this book. What a gold mine of insight about the Eph. 4 APEST team and how they function! So much of what is written in these pages expresses my own heartbeat concerning the forgotten and yet-needed roles of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. We need the APEST functions as much today as when they were first given to the church in the first century.
I found the author's treatment of 1 Timothy 3 passage to be especially thought-provoking. Cole points out, for example, that some translators assume the role of 'overseer' in 3:1 to be an 'office' and hence, "stopped translating and started teaching something that Paul did not intend." In 3:8-13 I found his suggestion compelling that, "the roles of deacon and deaconess are the fulfillment of the equipping gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11—that is, deacons and deaconesses are the mature apostles, prophets , evangelists, shepherds, and teachers who equip the saints for the work of service." He goes on to state,
"From this perspective, an elder’s role is less broad in influence than that of a deacon or deaconess, and more focused on a specific spiritual family (what we would see as an oikos, which is a spiritual household of faith or a missional community). As such, the necessary abilities for the elder’s role are more specifically defined, and teaching is essential to that more limited role. In contrast, perhaps deacons and deaconesses are capable of many more ministry assignments (five, to be specific) on a broader scale, only one of which would be as “teacher.” That is, deacons may serve as apostles, prophets, evangelists, or shepherds."
I also resonated with the description of apostles and prophets (AP) being the START AND GO team, while evangelists, shepherds and teachers make up the STAY AND GROW team building upon the foundation set by the AP team. If you've ever wondered about what each of these five functions entail, this book does a wonderful job in spelling out how these work together and how each is needed.
The book repeatedly emphasizes something I have long believed and taught others, that each of the APEST are there to equip the saints for the work of service. They do not exist to be DOING the work themselves, but "for the EQUIPPING OF THE SAINTS for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." Since this goal has not yet been reached, there is still the ongoing need of modern apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers to be about the appointed tasks. Cole does a good job in pointing out counterfeits to the real thing.
All in all, this is an excellent and much needed read for the greater Body of Christ, especially those in church leadership roles. We need to get back into a more Biblical balance in regards to being servants first and foremost.