How do you refute the "Five Fold Ministry"?


I recently learned about the “Five Fold Ministry” and I am trying to refute it by explaining the Church’s teaching on Three Fold Ministry. I am looking all over googling everthing I can think of and can’t figure out how to explain Ephesians 4:11 the way the Church would teach it. Can anyone help me out?:smiley:


A couple of resources that might shed some light are at, under “Charismata”; this section touches on this a bit, although Ephesians 4:11 is not really discussing charisms but is related to the passages that do. Another book that discussed the Church history on this is “Democracy in the Church” by Edgar Laing Heermance. There are other history books as well, and Jimmy Akin has an article on “three fold ministry” that you may have already seen.

What I understand from multiple sources that speak to the Early Church Fathers’ discussions on this topic, including Catholic commentaries, is this – of the five offices, Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists (or Preachers depending on your translation), Pastors (or Shepherds), and Teachers, the first two, Apostles and Prophets, belong to the past and are the foundation of the Church. This was concluded form Eph 2:20, “…built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, which Christ Jesus himself as the capstone”. It is clear that Christ did not intend the Church to have more apostles, and that they were people of specific criteria (example knew Jesus directly). In Eph 2:20 prophets are considered the same.

Acts 13:1 combines prophets and teachers. It seems that like Apostles, prophesy just became less common over time, similar to Apostles. This may have been because prophesy did not appear to be a permanent office, but a temporary one, as 1 Cor 14 attests in that revelation could come to one but then the other. So the Early Church Fathers reasoned that, like apostles, Christ saw a need for Prophesy that became less important as the Church was established.

So of the three left, Preachers of the gospel or Evangelists became Deacons, Pastors or Shepherds became Priests, and the Teachers of course became the Bishops indicative of their combined authority as the Magisterium of the Church.

Note this change came very gradually, and was not fully in place across all Churches until the end of the second century. But there is evidence of it, and the three ministries, as early as the Didache from what I can tell. I think Jimmy Akin’s article has some info on the timeline.


Thank you so much! This is what I was looking for. As I was reading your post, I remember reading one of the convert stories in Surprised By Truth II that dealt with this too. I really appreciate your help with this info. God bless you :slight_smile:


You need to define your terms, I have no idea what five fold vs three fold ministries are.

Maybe there is a paralell in your system to the five fold ministry. If there is, pointing out those paralells would have more impact overall.


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