"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts." (1Cor. 12:27-31)
It is interesting that the gift of teaching is tucked in the midst of these gifts, five of which many Bible teachers ignore or render obsolete, but there is simply no Biblical grounds for the neglect of these spiritual gifts. Apostles, prophets, miracles, and healing, along with teachers and the rest, are mentioned as being appointed in the church...the body of Christ. The same church that exists today.
"Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Heb. 13:7,8) The leaders spoken of here by the apostle Paul are the original apostles and disciples of Christ whom God anointed to establish the foundation of the church. These are the leaders whose faith we are to imitate: and if Jesus wanted the church equipped spiritually then, He wants it spiritually equipped today...and tomorrow.
Every generation has those new in the faith that need to be built up in the body of Christ. So it is up to the church to equip them, and that by the power of the Holy Spirit through those He has given specific gifts to. Without the accompaniment of the witness of other gifts within the body, teaching in itself is powerless; it appears as mere knowledge. All gifts rely on others for spiritual confirmations to accomplish unity in the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:1-16)
The testimony of Jesus is revealed by prophets. (Rev.19:10e) The mysteries of God are stewarded by apostles. (Romans 16:25, 1Cor.4:1) Teachers instruct the body on the gospel of God's grace. (Matthew 28:19-20, 1 Timothy 4:1-11) Miracles are the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:18, 19) And so on...but our most important role as ambassadors of Christ is as a servant to one another. (Matthew 20:26-28)
If apostles ceased after Paul, and Jesus was the fulfilment of all prophecies, thus ending the apostles and the prophetic gifts, if miracles, healings and tongues were intended for the sole purpose of confirming the first church, as many teachers would have you believe, why then were the Romans, Corinthians and the Ephesians being addressed about them and told to earnestly seek the higher gifts? If this has already been established and no longer needed, why does Paul desire they earnestly seek these gifts? If indeed, the church holds that all scripture is inerrant and inspired by God, then dismissing the relevance of certain spiritual gifts in today's church reduces the Bible to a history book, a simple reference for knowledge alone. By incorporating their own authority, pastors and elders have effectively removed the only power that God has designed for the church.
Again..."Pursue love and be eager for the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy." (1Cor. 14)
"Worship God, for the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Rev.19:10)
"Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace." (1Cor. 14:29-33)
"For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness." (Rom.12:3-8)
While elders are certainly necessary, and we are to esteem those over us in the Lord with double honor, we are not to be followers of men.
"But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ." (Math.23:9-10)
"I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything—and is true and is no lie, just as it has taught you—abide in him." (1 John 2:27)
Why isn't this interpreted, beyond the obvious intent of the author, that since we now have the Holy Spirit within us, even teachers are no longer necessary in the church? Because it is the teacher who rules over the congregation. In the world, knowledge has always reigned over the masses. Jesus did not build His church to be ruled by a few men, exercising their own strength and understanding. Therefore it is necessary that all the members be recognized for the full equipping of the saints.
"Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward." (Math. 10:40-42)
If apostles, prophets, healing, and miracles are ignored, then the rewards of the same will not be received or known. The church will function, but only as an incomplete body. Handicapped, crippled, and powerless. As long as pastors/teachers continue holding the high office in church, contrary to what the Bible calls 'first' or 'greater' of the spiritual gifts, then the power of that church will be one of knowledge and religion rather than spiritual and relational.
Teachers can indeed instruct apostles,prophets, healers, miracle workers and those who speak in tongues to recognize God's sovereignty in all gifts. It seems, though, they would rather eradicate the gifts (which is far easier and comfortable to do) than to recognize and allow them to function in the church. Jesus knows the complacency of the religious. "No one, after drinking old wine wishes for new, for he says, 'The old is good enough.'" (Luke 5:39)
On the other side of the same religious coin is the misuse of spiritual gifts in many charismatic churches today. The enemy has so perverted these gifts, through those he is able to work through, that the immediate response of the conservative church is to discount these gifts altogether. Some theologians and pastors, on a quest to squelch the 'prosperity ministry's' false teachings have landed so far on the opposite side, that they unintentionally render relationship and faith as an enemy against doctrine. Rather than asking God for wisdom, they have created false interpretations of Scripture to facilitate their fear of what they don't understand.
When knowledge rules the church, the spiritual have no place. Teachers that go on about their own agenda and disregard the spiritual are no different than the spiritual who disregard sound doctrine. The control of both churches belongs to man and not the Holy Spirit. Titles and labels amount to nothing. The church can function beautifully without them, if it will but recognize and embrace the fullness of God's Spirit upon it.
No doubt, the presence of the Holy Spirit resides in the true believer within every church, whatever spiritual oppression it may be suffering. God will expose the religion of man, and reveal the truth to those that are His, that they may function as a body, and no one as the head, which is Christ Jesus.
"An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority,
And my people love it so."