“And truly He gave some to be apostles, and some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. And this until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)
Some have mistakenly thought that because the Bible states that all believers are a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), that there is no need for leadership in the church. However, the above passage clearly states that God has given some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (or “pastor-teachers”), “until we all come into the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure and stature of the fullness of Christ.”
I think it is clear that we have not all come to the “unity of the faith” (etc.) as this passages states that we are (one day) supposed to. Hence (according to this passage), a strong case can be made for the continued existence of all four (or five, depending on how you count them) of the leadership roles mentioned. Now, I don’t want to be controversial, but, do you suppose that today, there are apostles and prophets, as well as evangelists, and pastors and teachers (or “pastor-teachers”)? My firm opinion is yes, prophets do exist today, as well as apostles. However, I would also not be too quick to “jump into the same bandwagon” as some, who have defined apostles or prophets as meaning a “very strong person who knows God and you had better listen to him ‘or else’.” That, to me, does not fit well with the definition of an apostle or a prophet as the Bible would have us understand such a person (for example, I believe Keith Green was a prophet — his voice has gone out throughout all the word, his message was and is sound, and he had a real heart for God — three good indications of a prophet).
If it is true, then, that prophets and apostles exist today, I think we need to be very careful about our definition of them, as to “who exactly these people might be.” Our definition must be, first and foremost, Bible based. Remember, the apostle Paul (an apostle who I am sure we could also say was a prophet), suffered greatly for his faith, and (as tradition says) in the end, willfully laid down his life and was beheaded on account of it. This does not correspond very well with some people’s definition of a prophet or an apostle (“one you must listen to at all costs, one who you must submit to at al costs, one you must heed at all costs, lest you perish, lest God be angry with you). Above all, leaders within the church must be like Christ, and have the humility of Christ (or, are obviously on their way there). Watch out! Lest you be devoured by those who claim leadership, who have no such right to it. That can include so-called apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (or “pastor-teachers”).
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits to see if they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)