And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Here, Paul lays out various offices within the church: of apostle, prophet, and teacher. Elsewhere in Ephesians, he also mentions the office of evangelist (4:11). Each of these designate specific roles within the church, some are temporary and some perpetual.

What makes an apostle an apostle?

He is not given a church over which he must shepherd. He is given a commission to preach to the whole world (see Matthew 28:19).

Is this office temporary or perpetual?

Temporary. We see throughout the New Testament that the apostle (most clearly Paul) give instructions to other men (see Timothy and Titus) to shepherd the flock, instruct in sound doctrine, and care for the church.

What makes a prophet a prophet? 

I don’t believe this speaks of prophecy as a gift of prophecy. Rather, it speaks of the gift of interpreting the Scriptures with accuracy and clarity. Why? Because he commends this above all other gifts (14:1-5) and is for the greater edification of the church. If it were proper to a spiritual gift of predicting future events, it would not be for the edification of the church at this time. It appears most likely to belong to the exposition of the Scriptures that is extraordinary and under the inspiration of God.

Is this office temporary or perpetual? 

Temporary. Until the consummation, the church will always need edification and exposition of the Scriptures; yet, this is ordinarily given to the office of pastor and teacher.

What makes a teacher a teacher? 

This most clearly speaks of the office of pastor, one who instructs in sound doctrine and keeps the church pure from error. It also refers to the government of the church, which we will get to shortly.

Is is this office temporary or perpetual?

Perpetual. As the church is perpetual, and as some have been given the office of shepherding the church, it follows that the office is perpetual. (Acts 20:28′ Hebrews 13:17).

What about gifts of healing, helps, governments, and tongues?

Healing seems to refer to gifts associated with the extraordinary apostolic time wherein God was shaping the early church. Tongues could mean this as well, though since it speaks of diversity of tongues it could also refer to the extraordinary gift of speaking in a foreign language unknown to the speaker ordinarily. For much of church history, these extraordinary gifts were unknown to the church except with very fringe sects of Christendom. It has only been in the last 150 years that anyone has suggested that these extraordinary offices ought to be continuing; this often accompanied with it deficient eschatology of being in the “end times” or the “last days” common in dispensational theology.

Helps likely refers to the care of the poor and is proper to the diaconate. Governments appears to be related to the office of elder who governs the order of the church.

When people ask me if I believe in the spiritual gifts, I often say “yes, only those that God ordinarily gives” in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. What I mean is that those gifts that accompany the perpetual building of the church – gifts of interpreting Scripture, instructing in sound doctrine, governing the church, and providing for the care of the poor, widowed, and orphaned – these are the spiritual gifts for today. Others ceased both in practice and in necessity within the age of apostles and were extraordinary in nature.

I am a Reformed Presbyterian. I offer all content as my own personal reflections. I am not a licensed minister.