Statement of Faith Current Teaching Teaching Index
May 2016

What is an Apostle? What are the role, ministry, burden, vision, and character of an Apostle? Finally, are there Apostles today?

First, we must come to grips with the understanding that God created us for fellowship with Himself. His ultimate goal is to dwell in the midst of His people (cf. Ezekiel 43:79; Zechariah 2:10 11). Our ultimate calling is to be a dwelling place for God!

“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:1922).

Apostles “apostolos” in the Greek, simply means  “one who is sent forth.” They are given to the Church as master builders called and commissioned to help build the habitation of God. For a better understanding of the apostolic ministry.  Let us look at the Apostles main functions in the first century church. These main functions were:

1.     To Preach the Gospel in un-reached areas. Romans 15:20 says, “And so I have made it my aim to ‘preach the gospel, not where Christ was named,’ lest I should build on another man’s foundation” (Emphasis added). This should be the Apostle’s dominant passion.

2.     Planting churches upon the foundation which is Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:1011 “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” The apostolic ministry includes helping to establish churches that will stand fast in the truth of the Gospel around the world (Galatians 1:610, 3:13).

3.     Appointing and training leaders once the Church is planted. “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you” (Titus 1:5).  “And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:2123).

4.     Dealing with problems, false doctrines, or sins in the Church. The entire books of 1 and 2 Corinthians are an example of this apostolic function.

5.     Promoting unity in the body of Christ. Refer to Ephesians 4:116, and Philippians 4:2. Besides dealing with developing unity in local assemblies, Paul also performed the apostolic role of developing unity in the Universal Church (cf. Acts 11:2730; Romans 15:25 27; 1 Corinthians 16:14; 2 Corinthians 89).

6.     Demonstrating and imparting the supernatural to all the saints. Acts 4:33 “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon  them all.” Not only did the apostles show the power of God, but they also imparted it in special ways to other believers (cf. Acts 8:420, 10:4446, 19:16; 2 Timothy 1:67).

Although the first century apostles fulfilled these six general functions, the apostolic role was carried out quite uniquely by each of the apostles described in the New Testament; each one had his own special area of expertise. For example, Peter was particularly gifted at reaching the lost. Three thousand were saved after his first sermon. Paul seemed to excel in teaching and building believers in Christ’s image. Paul was probably the greatest teacher other than Jesus that ever lived. Two-thirds of the New Testament epistles are Paul’s written teachings. John was an apostle with a prophetic heart. His passion was that God’s people would walk righteously and in love relationships, both with the Lord and each other. James, the half-brother of Jesus, also was recognized as an apostle (1 Corinthians 15:7), although his ministry was apparently more pastoral and primarily localized in Jerusalem.

Having an apostolic ministry does not automatically mean the apostle has the right to exercise full authority in all situations in every church. It was a ministry based on relationships and not just on calling. Paul told the Corinthians, “Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 9:12).

It is also crucial to note that Paul’s heart was not to establish a chain of “we are of Paul” churches, but to see each church function under the headship of Christ (cf. Colossians 1:18; Acts 20:32; 2 Corinthians 11:23). The true apostolic vision, or ultimate goal if you will, is to see those who joined themselves to the Lord become Christ-like in every aspect of their lives. Any true spiritual vision is not something that you decide is godly; the vision and calling must originate with God Himself. Notice how Paul describes his vision for himself and his spiritual children, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). The prophet Haggai said it like this, “the latter glory of this house will be greater than the former” (Haggai 2:9). He did not say that the house was greater, but that the glory in it will be greater. This is why the Great Commission was not to make converts, but to make disciples. The burden is to make all the saints Christ-centered not self-centered. We as Christians must grasp the reality that the Lord does not exist for the Church; but the Church exists for the Lord. The more man-centered or Church-centered the Church becomes, the quicker she will fall into the prophesied apostasy.

The apostolic goal is not focused on the house as much as on the glory of the one who inhabits the house. The apostolic vision is Christ-centered and not Church-centered. Many people are drawn to church because of the beauty of the temple, the singing, the atmosphere, or the program and they never come to know Christ. Nevertheless if men were led to Christ for the reality of the true significance of His atoning work they would inevitably end up in God’s true Church. Ask yourself, what good is the most glorious temple in the world if the Lord is not in it? Whatever physical state your temple is in, would it not be more glorious if the Lord is there in all His glory and splendor?

Look at Paul’s great apostolic prayer found in Ephesians 1:1819.  “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.”

Paul does not pray that we will come to know anything that is ours, only that we come to know what is His. This is truly the apostolic vision and it perfectly reveals the character of a man with the call of an apostle. Apostles are called to be the master builders of God’s dwelling place. If we therefore, look at the character each master builder possessed we can easily recognize those called to be apostles.

For example, of Moses, the first to build a dwelling place for God, it was said:  “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:2426).

Moses chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, esteeming the sufferings of Christ as greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. In like manner, Paul walked in continual persecution, dangers, and setbacks, viewing all of them as a means of greater authority and opportunity for the Gospel (Philippians 3). Paul was a member of the aristocracy of the world’s greatest empire, yet he counted every title and privilege as “dung” (Philippians 3:8).

Paul’s vision like Moses’ had its foundation based on the spiritual reward. It is often said that some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. To some that may be true, however, to the rest of them about whom this is said, they are the ones who are suitable candidates for apostolic ministry. Are there any men who have walked the earth since Jesus, who were more heavenly minded than the apostles? An overwhelming problem in ministry today is that most ministers are too earthly minded to be of any spiritual good. “For he [Moses] endured as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27, emphasis added). True spiritual vision demands that what we see with the eyes of faith, be more real than what we experience with our natural senses.

What about today? Are apostles needed today? Didn’t the apostolic call end when the last of the original twelve died? These questions can best be answered by looking again at the list of functions of an apostle.

  • Penetrating un-reached areas - There still are thousands of un-reached people groups that, because of geographical or linguistic isolation, have never even heard of Jesus Christ

  • Church planting and foundation laying - God anointed church planters are desperately needed in America and all over the world

  • Appointing and training leaders once the church is planted - Whether or not our ministers attend a Bible college or seminary, today’s young leaders are unlikely to receive the type of personal training and character development that Timothy received from Paul. Without a doubt, we are still in desperate need of true anointed spiritual fathers (1 Corinthians 4:1417).

  • Addressing unresolved problems - We still need leaders able to courageously apply the Word of God to areas of sin, imbalance, false doctrine, and division

  • Promoting unity - Unity is sorely needed in the Church today, and only those with apostolic insight and authority have the necessary gifts to bring it about in a significant way

  • Demonstrating and imparting the supernatural - Today, more than ever, because of our society’s increased interest in Satanism, the occult, and New Age practices, the Church needs to be able to display and dispense the true power of God (1 Corinthians 2:45)

Let us examine one last thought regarding the question; Are apostles needed today? And did not the apostolic call end when the last of the original twelve died?  Let us consider these  questions by asking a question. What would you think if someone suggested that pastors, teachers and evangelists were no longer valid ministries of the church today and their ministries ended at the death of the original twelve disciples?  Wouldn’t you think them off scripturally? Nevertheless, we often have allowed ourselves to be robbed of the ministries of Apostles and Prophets, because of false doctrines like this. Remember brethren, Apostles and Prophets are found in the same list of ministries as Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists (Refer Ephesians 4:11).  So would it not seem logical to believe if we see any of these ministries today, we should see them all. For there is no scriptural reference at all that says one disappeared and not the others. Unless you wish to take 1 Corinthians 13:8 and twist it far beyond its original and obvious meaning.  To do so is foolishness!

We need more people functioning with apostolic and prophetic impact and fewer people worrying about having the titles: especially those individuals having or desiring the title without the calling or the Gift. Paul said it best when confronting this unrighteous desire, “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:57, emphasis added).

Apostles like Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers are God’s gift, God’s calling, and God’s work for God’s ministry. We need to desire His fullness, reckoning ourselves as dead. Only then will the Church grow in Him. In God’s kingdom, all authority comes from who we are in Christ, not your title. Your ministry is your function not your rank. In God’s eyes, rank is earned by loving your neighbor as yourself, and serving God in absolute humility. The more we love others the greater our rank. A parishioner who loves more has a greater rank with God than the pastor who loves less. The moment we start looking at others in the reflection of our own pride, we become blind and deaf to the Spirit of God. Looking at the body of Christ through the eyes of humility will make you great in the kingdom of God (Matthew 23:1112).

When we place our faith in Jesus as our Savior, He comes to live within us. Then He works to transform us, replacing our selfishness with His-likeness. As we grow in grace and in our knowledge of God, our thoughts, words, and actions become more like our Lord’s.

A.J. Gordon, the 19th-century American minister, educator, and author, gave us an example of this process from nature.

“Two little saplings grew up side by side. Through the actions of the wind they crossed each other. By and by each became wounded by the friction. The sap began to mingle until one calm day they became attached. Then the stronger began to absorb the weaker. It became larger and larger, while the other withered and declined till it finally dropped away and disappeared. And now there are two trunks at the bottom and only one farther up. Death has taken away the one; life has triumphed in the other.” [i]

Next month we will examine the next administrative gift “Prophets.”

"The Lord bless you and keep you; (25) The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; (26) The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace" ' (Numbers 6:24-26).

[i] A.J. Gordon, The Twofold Life, DD Hodder & Stoughton, 1884

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