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old testament giftings

May 8, 2018

I wrote yesterday about the APEST (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher) and how we see – in the old testament – great examples of people with these giftings. This is really important, as it shows that these are basic and normative types, and not just a product of the early church, belonging exclusively to the early church. We saw how Abraham leans in to the apostolic, and Moses to the prophetic. So are the other APEST gifts seen in the Old Testament?

Evangelist: if we understand the evangelist simply to be the one who tells the good news, this doesn’t exist in the old testament! Jesus hadn’t yet come, and salvation was found by being or becoming Jewish! However this is a very narrow definition of the evangelist. At it’s heart the fivefold gift of the evangelist is someone who can see and understand culture, and from that point of understanding make the connections needed to explain the message of the good news. With this wider understanding is there an Old Testament evangelist? Yes there is: Daniel. Daniel is taken as a prisoner to Babylon when Israel is taken into exile. He is in an alien culture, and even given an alien name, but right from the beginning he understands the culture enough to find the one point of challenge that will open the door to the message about his God. He chooses not to eat the food prepared for the other exiles and by living on a vegetarian diet persuades his guard that Daniels God is real and powerful. He goes on to understand the culture and society of Babylon so well that he is the advisor to several Kings.

Shepherd: (Pastor) the clearest example of the shepherd in the OT is David, for him life began literally as a shepherd and in his formative years he learned about protecting and nurturing a flock of sheep. Later, on the run from King Saul, we are told he gathered people who were discontent – caring for them and turning them into a loyal band of followers, he cares for Mephibosheth, for the sake of a promise of freindship – exactly as you would expect from a fivefold gifted shepherd. In David we also see the shadow side of the shepherd, he avoids confrontation with Amnon, and with his son, Absalom even though it nearly cost him the Kingdom and ultimately led to the death of both Amnon and Absalom.

Teacher: Much of the old testament was written as instruction, but for me the clearest example of a teacher is Ezra, who works alongside Nehemiah to ensure that the temple is rebuilt, but also takes time to teach the people what the temple means and what they needed to do. Like many teachers he is happy to have the bible read all day,  (Nehemiah 8) but also to make sure that the book is explained so everyone understands.

So the OT has people with APEST giftings, this is not just for the new testament era but for all time. We need to make sure we know what our gifts are and then get into teams where all the fivefold gifts are exercised. This way we can avoid some of the worst shadow side effects and be the church we were designed to be.

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