One of the questions that gets asked concerning APEST is, if this is so key a paradigm, where do we see it in play across scripture as a whole?
My answer would be, it is everywhere, hidden in plain sight.
Are there apostles and apostolic intelligence? Yes. Both Abraham in the Old Testament—the father of those who live by faith—and Paul in the New Testament would be examples of apostles, sent out into the world by God.
Are there prophets and prophetic intelligence? Of course! There are great giants of prophetic ministry, the Isaiahs of the canon, alongside the twelve shorter prophetic witnesses that run from Hosea to Malachi, not to mention Elijah and Elisha, and a host of other more local voices.
Are there evangelists and evangelistic intelligence? Four, for a start: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Are there shepherds and pastoral intelligence? Certainly. Consider Moses, the shepherd who led a wilful, wandering people through the wilderness for a lifetime, and who told them the stories that form the Pentateuch.
Are there teachers and teaching intelligence? Indeed. What else is the Wisdom literature of Job, the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon if not a diverse collection of instruction for life?
But APEST is not one-dimensional. While we have a primary gifting, this interacts with our secondary and tertiary giftings—and we’re called to grow in them all. So how about examples of where we see someone in the Bible demonstrating all five intelligences? Let’s consider Joseph, whose story is told over Genesis chapters 37-50.
Joseph is the classic case-study in life-long prophetic intelligence, starting out from a place of immaturity that is damaging to his relationships, and being formed for maturity by circumstances of hardship. Joseph is someone who converses with God in the night. He is prophetic to his very bones. Indeed, his bones are the fulfilment of his prophetic vocation, waiting for the day—long after Egypt has forgotten their deliverer—when the family of Jacob will go out and return home, carrying Joseph with them.
Joseph is a prophet. But we see in him the development of an apostolic intelligence, the establishing of environments in which others can flourish. First, in the household of Potiphar. Then, in prison. And, ultimately, in the management of Egypt through the crisis of famine, and the provision of the land of Goshen for his father’s family. Joseph’s handling of the famine years is controversial. As the famine cuts deeper and deeper, all the money, livestock, land, and people of Egypt come into the possession of the Pharaoh. In his determined stand, Joseph demonstrates classic apostolic behaviour.
What about evangelistic intelligence? This is revealed in the names Joseph gives to his sons. Manasseh, for ‘God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house’. And Ephraim, for ‘God has made my fruitful in the land of my misfortune’. Joseph has known both hardship and misfortune, but his focus has become the good news stories. In the names he chooses for his sons, it is good news that he is wanting to communicate, to his peers and to the next generation.
Though he comes from a family of shepherds, pastoral intelligence does not come naturally to Joseph. Even so, we see God at work to grow this gift within him, melting his heart with compassion for his brothers, and being moved to respond to their need, albeit cautiously to begin with. Joseph may have chosen to put his past behind him, but at the right time God brought it back.
It is also in relation to his brothers that we see Joseph exercising teaching intelligence. When he makes himself known to them, he is at pains for them to learn that, despite their own evil intention, God meant what had happened to Joseph for good. And Joseph must revisit this lesson with them after their father’s death, in order for his brothers to really come to know it for themselves.
So, Joseph was a prophet, but all five of the gifts of Christ were at play in his life. Now, over to you. Where else do you see this in the characters that populate our scriptures? Bear in mind that we have selected accounts, not access to their whole lives. We might not be able to point to all five gifts in each case. But make a start, and you’ll be surprised at what you discover, hidden in plain sight.