I commented on a post written by Bob Robinson and introduced by Scot McKnight at Scot's blog: Evaluating the APEST Theory of Church Flourishing (Bob Robinson)
I enjoyed all these comments. It seems like the first point about the application of Granville Sharp's Rule to Eph 4:11 has been disproven, which perhaps merits a retraction or correction in the post above.
I do not want to defend the prooftexting use of APEST but I think Bob is incorrect in saying: "Paul talks to Timothy and Titus about the importance of 'presbyteroi' ('elders') and 'episkopoi' ('bishops' or 'overseers.'). These were the key leaders of the early church." I would say in response that the significance of the apostle Paul and his delegate Timothy are assumed in the Pastoral Epistles and therefore it is not the case that the most significant role in the early church were overseers and elders. The most significant role was the apostles. See Gordon D. Fee, "Reflections on Church Order in the Pastoral Epistles," in Listening to the Spirit in the Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 156. Gordon D. Fee, "Laos and Leadership Under the New Covenant," in Listening to the Spirit in the Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 142.
There is good reason to retain the missionary emphasis of the "apostle." However, the lists of gifts, functions, and roles in the New Testament vary greatly and give little suggestion that individuals should try to discern their precise label so one should be very cautious with emphasizing titles, labels, self-assessments, etc.
The majority of the Christian tradition give little attention to APE roles. The so-called ecumenical consensus is described in the 1982 Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry World Council of Churches document: three offices: overseers (bishops), elders (presbyters), and deacons (with apostle seen as morphing into bishop).
I think Gordon Fee is correct that overseers and deacons were sub-sets of the larger category: elders.
“The elders in the local churches seem to have been composed of both episkopoi (overseers) and diakonoi (deacons).”
Gordon D. Fee, "Laos and Leadership under the New Covenant," in Listening to the Spirit in the Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 141.
“The term ‘elders’ is probably a covering term for both overseers and deacons.”
Gordon D. Fee, "Reflections on Church Order in the Pastoral Epistles," in Listening to the Spirit in the Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 157.
There is also explicitly in the Reformed tradition a cessationist view of apostles, prophets, and evangelists. John Calvin writes, “According to this interpretation (which seems to me to be in agreement with both the words and opinion of Paul, those three functions [apostles, prophets, and evangelists in Eph 4:11] were not established in the church as permanent ones, but only for that time during which churches were to be erected where none existed before” (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book IV, Chapter III, Section 4, Beveridge translation, p. 1057).
My point is that the APE roles were dismissed for poor exegetical and Christendom reasons and should be recovered. The apostle is conversionary, cross-cultural and community-forming (John G. Flett, Apostolicity: The Ecumenical Question in World Christian Perspective (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016), 302-305, 318, 324).