It’s time to finish up this series on ‘apostles today’ at To Be Continued. You can review the previous articles by clicking on this link. I will also look to post a PDF document that will contain the whole series in one place. That might be easier for people to access if they would like to engage with me on this topic.
Still, as a summary, my major premise has been mainly four-fold:
- Christ was the greatest apostle to ever exist. We might not have thought of him as an apostle, but he was.
- The Holy Spirit was sent in Christ’s stead to continue the exact same work he began. Thus, the Spirit of God is an apostolic Spirit.
- Christ, by his Spirit, has empowered the church to be all of Christ in all of the earth.
- Thus, Jesus desires to have both an apostolic body as a whole and continue to gift specific people in apostolic ministry.
As I progressed through the series, there were 3 specific sub-issues that I hit on:
- Apostles in New Testament Scripture
- Objections to the existence of apostles today
- What an apostle actually is
I addressed the first 2 above in quite a thorough manner. But now it’s time to move on to the third. Hence, this final article on what an apostle actually is.
As a forerunner, you might be interested in this very practical post on what should be true in the lives of all leaders within the church (over at my personal blog, The Prodigal Thought). Apostles, or shepherds for that matter, do not have some ‘position’ or ‘title’. Rather, they have a ministry to serve the body by equipping it to be all that Christ would have it be.
Now I move on to highlight seven summary points about apostles.
As I repeatedly emphasised, noting the essence of the Greek word, apostolos, an apostle is a sent one. And all apostles are specifically sent and commissioned to a particular mission task. It does not mean all missionaries are apostles. Some missionaries will function in other ministries like that of an evangelist. Nor does one have to go to far-off nations abroad to fulfil an apostolic ministry. But, in whatever task they have been appointed to by Christ, they are ‘sent’ knowing they have a particular mission-task to accomplish.
Apostles are foundation layers, as we saw in our discussion of Ephesians 2:20. As previously discussed, they are not called to lay a completely different gospel foundation from the first apostles (and prophets). Rather, while treasuring that very important foundation, the call of apostles (and prophets) today is to lay foundations that equip the church to live out the gospel in this day and culture. Specifically, as foundation layers, I would say that apostles are spiritual architects par excellence.
As with all five ministries of Ephesians 4:11-13, apostles are called to be equippers of God’s people so that the body of Christ can get on with ministry and be built up in Christ. And, at the same time, this will assist the body in moving towards the ultimate goal of unity and maturity.
We can see an example of laying foundations and equipping through the constant work of both Paul and Barnabas in the book of Acts. Many times we see them returning to the churches they had established, all that they might strengthen the disciples and even appoint leadership in the churches. See these insightful passages below:
- Acts 14:20-23
- Acts 15:41
- Acts 16:5
- Acts 18:23
Apostles are servants, as Paul stated about the ‘true signs of an apostle’ in 2 Corinthians 12:12. The great apostle, Jesus, was the greatest servant ever (see Matthew 20:25-28). Therefore, we should expect apostles to be exemplary in serving (washing feet and laying down their lives) as well.
Apostles believe in teamwork, not in lone-ranger ministries. This we see in the life of Christ and in the life of people like Paul. They also recognise the importance of accountable relationships. Though they have a strong and important measure of gifting in God, they do not get a free pass on being accountable to the body of Christ. And, of course, in understanding such an important call, they will take joy in such relationships with Christ’s body.
Authority, Anointing and Revelation
Apostles will carry a special authority and anointing given by Christ to help the church be strengthened and equipped in fulfilling the purposes of God. They are also people of revelation (Ephesians 3:5-6). Again, this will not contradict the tenor of Scripture. But we live in a world today in which the dynamic life of the Spirit of God is available. We need God’s Spirit to continue to provide revelation for living out Christ today. Apostles will be utilised in such to help the body of Christ.
Also, I would note that apostles would be people generally utilised in the miraculous. Some will have a stronger miraculous ministry than others, no doubt. Just as some leaders in Christ’s body hold a stronger measure of teaching than others, etc. Of course, looking at New Testament apostles like Barnabas or James, we are not certain if they were ever used in the specifics of miracles and healings. So, though some would claim this as a hard-line proof of apostolic ministry, I wouldn’t be so dogmatic. Yet, as a general acknowledgment, I recognise that apostles have been and will continue to be people who function in the miraculous.
Leaders To Leaders
We could say that, as foundation layers, apostles will be people of wisdom, insight and compassion, providing leadership to leaders. Or, I might state it this way: apostles are pastors to pastors, shepherds to shepherds. This is to be seen as a great blessing to other gifted leaders.
Of course, I could have spent loads of more time fleshing out these characteristics. But suffice it to say, these are seven very important factors in the life of those who are apostles (whether first century or today). Remember, apostle is not inherently defined as Scripture-writer. Though some of the first apostles were utilised in the recording of the New Testament Scripture, it is not part and parcel to such a ministry, noting that plenty of apostles never penned Scripture.
Keep your eye out for the full PDF document post next week.
I appreciate your website.
I was curious to know if you’ve made the PDF of this series available, and if so, where would I find the link. I’ve read some of these articles and would like a single, complete version to consider.
While I see continuationism as the assumed position of Scripture for the Body of Messiah, it does seem that throughout history there’s often been a defacto cessationism, whether whole or in part, in wide areas of Christianity. In my view, cessationism is not decreed from Heaven, but is a result of the Body of Messiah failing in various ways, including to “seek the greater gifts” in the fear and trembling, that characterized first century congregations. Certainly groups that actively promote cessationism will achieve what they proclaim, to their own loss, IMHO.
But on the flip side, that does not mean that groups which confess continuationism have been fully equiped with every gift. Yet it would mean at the very least that they will be better prepared to receive such giftings, presuming they meet the other criteria, which would boil down to “earnestly seeking” in its widest connotation. IMHO the problem of realizing the giftings anticipated in a continuationist paradigm is tied to human recipients, not the Throne of Heaven.