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Archive for May, 2010

Summary and Overview of a present-day apostle

  • He will have evidence of an apostolic ministry gift, given by the ‘ascended’ Christ. Read more ..
  • The apostolic ministry does not  elevate a man above his brethren.  Read more ..
  • The apostolic ministry is an ability, not a title and not spelled with a capital ‘A’. Read more ..
  • He will not be one of the twelve, who had to have unique qualifications. Read more ..
  • Apostolos means ‘one sent forth’. He will need to be sent by a local church as indicated by the Holy Spirit. He is not self-appointed.  Read more ..
  • In modern terminology he is a church planter or missionary.
  • He will be regarded as an apostle only to those churches that he establishes, to other local churches, he would be regarded as an Instructor.  Read more ..
  • His authority does not lie in his ministry gift, position or title, but in the Scriptures, as quoted in context. Read more ..
  • He is not infallible in his interpretation of Scripture and must therefore remain teachable and open to correction.  Read more ..
  • He does not speak or write Scripture, unless he is quoting from the Bible. He cannot add to the Scriptures. Read more ..
  • He works with a team of other ministries to whom he will give direction, on the basis of mutual co-operation, not as a CEO or despot.  Read more ..
  • He doesn’t head up a denomination or group of local churches as their perpetual leader.  Read more ..
  • He may receive and use funds from local assemblies for his ministry, but  he has no claim or jurisdiction over local assembly funds.  Read more ..
  • Apostles are not replaced by other apostles to maintain a continuity. Apostolic succession is not Scriptural.  Read more ..
  • There is no evidence of a group of apostles forming “The Apostolic Oversight’ over churches, but the founding apostle gives oversight to the churches that he has established in the form of care. Read more
  • The apostle’s ministry presents Jesus Christ in all His glory, but is not the earthly representative of The Apostle, Jesus Christ.  Read more ..
  • The ministry of an apostle is to break new ground by preaching the Gospel and establishing believers on a sound doctrinal foundation, where they are equipped to operate as a local representation of the Body of Christ, not dependent on constant outside ministry for their survival, but dependent upon Jesus Christ the Head of the church. The apostle and his team of ministries will have input from time to time into the local assembly with the view to bringing them to maturity, where, from their own number, elders are raised up and recognised or ordained. Read more ..
  • The apostle’s ministry input into a local church diminishes as the believers in that local church mature. Once elders are recognised in a local church, they form the oversight of that church and are not answerable to a higher authority, other than the Lord Jesus Himself.  Read more ..
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The specific skill of an apostolic ministry

Management rather than apostolic skills are needed for the modern church

The modern church has become very big business, with property assets amounting to millions and a large full-time salaried staff compliment, in many cases. To manage and control this volume of activity and finance, requires professional management skills and suitable programs. Without a well structured organisation, this monolith would flounder and collapse. The large congregations demand a high calibre speaker to maintain the organisation’s image and the interest of the people. To keep the large congregation in time and in tune while singing, special hi-tech equipment, along with professional musicians is essential.

To plant or establish such a church does not require God-given apostolic ministry. The above organisation can be established by a dynamic entrepreneur, with marketing, organisational, management and team building skills.  Unfortunately this dynamic management team are often given spiritual titles such as, Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher, but their skills and abilities are no different to the management skills of a large secular Corporation, like Microsoft.

True apostolic ministry establishes a Christ-centred local church

The apostolic ministry gift that Jesus gave to men when He ascended on High, was not an ability to build an efficient and effective organisation, but a company of believers, who are focussed on Jesus Christ as the Head of the church.

The particular skill of an apostle is to preach and teach Christ in such a way that each believer sees Jesus as his immovable ‘worldview’ and foundation. The apostle then equips the believers with sufficient knowledge of Jesus Christ and the revelation of the Scriptures, so that they can function without outside ministry input for long periods of time.  Each member is equipped to make a meaningful contribution, so that the ‘Body’ can edify itself. “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect (mature)man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”(Eph 4:13)

Anyone with an ability to preach or teach and with a bit of initiative can form a “Preacher dependent” congregation, that will need to be perpetually propped up by a Pastor or Full-time Minister, but it takes a very special gift (true apostolic gift) to establish a “Christ dependent” gathering who have learned to relate directly to Jesus Christ, the Head of the church and are able to build one another up in the Lord, through that which ‘every joint’ (member) supplies. (There are many examples of  these churches in Scripture, established by Paul).

In such a local church men with pastoral or elders ministries will soon come to the fore. Paul would give recognition to local elders to care for the local assembly on a return missionary journey, or else he would send an assistant, such as Titus to do so.

“For this cause I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed you.” (Tit 1:5) The churches in Crete had come of age and were able to stand-alone, having been set in order with elders.

The true local church as a dynamic organism, animated by the Holy Spirit Himself

The true local church correctly established on the foundation of Jesus Christ, is a dynamic organism that impacts its community with the glorious light and testimony of the Gospel. It focuses on Jesus Christ as central, supreme and pre-eminent in their gatherings, in their lives and in their future.

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Eph 3:17-21)

Apostles Part 7 is a Brief overview for easy reference  Go to Apostles Part 7

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Access to local church finances by apostles

It is clear from Scripture that the founding apostle of a local church, had no jurisdiction over the finances of that local church. In the church at Antioch a financial need was brought to their attention by Agabus, a prophet. The believers at Antioch, without reference to any apostle, collected money and sent it to the believers in Judea by the hands of Barnabas and Paul. (Acts 11:28-30).

As we know, Paul had established the Corinthian church, who had agreed to give finances to assist the saints who were in dire straights. He does not command them to give, but rather says, “I speak not by commandment, but to prove by the earnestness of others, the sincerity of your love. “(2Co 8:8) He goes on to advise them: “And in this I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to desire a year ago.” (2Co 8:10)

Paul gave a directive as to how money should be collected, but he did not dictate as to how the money should be spent. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do you. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” (1Co 16:1-2)

Paul in a previous letter to the Corinthians, shows how he respected their independence and initiative in the area of finance.”And when I come, whomsoever you shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.” (1 Co 16:3) This was not for ministers salaries but to alleviate poverty in Jerusalem.

The churches in Macedonia used their own initiative with finances and begged Paul to take a gift to Jerusalem. “Begging us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.” (2Co 8:4)

We can conclude from this that the principle of “it is more blessed to give than to receive” applies to a local church, and while they can be made aware of financial needs outside of their church, they are responsible before the Lord as to how their finances are collected, conducted and distributed.

The occasion in Acts where the believers “brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:34-35) is clearly descriptive and not prescriptive. I say this because this ‘one off’ incident was never taught or practised again in any of the early churches. The money collected was also not used for ministers’ salaries or monthly financial support, but was used to supply the needs of all the believers who had travelled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost and had then stayed on after being saved and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Continuity of apostolic input or apostolic succession

As we have seen, the ministry of an apostle is primarily to go out and break new ground by the preaching of the Gospel and then to establish the group of new believers upon a firm doctrinal foundation from which they are able to relate to the Lord Jesus as the Head of the church. Using Paul’s modus operandi as a model of how an apostolic ministry operates, we see that he spent a relatively short period of time in each place, on his missionary journeys. Once he had established a local church, he would leave them to build on the foundation that he had laid.

Paul had further input into these assemblies by responding to issues or questions that were reported to him. His response was to write an epistle to address the issues and generally sent the letter with one of his assistant workers, who would not only deliver the letter, but also minister to the local church.

The goal of the apostolic ministry and indeed of all the ministries is to see the believers mature to the point where they can operate as a Body of Christ and that “the whole body being fitly joined together and knit together by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph 4:16). Or in other words, every member participating according to their unique God-given ability.

When one can appreciate that the ministries are to equip the saints, it becomes self-evident that the need for apostolic input would diminish as the local church grew and matured in the Lord. Replacing the founding apostle with another apostle to continue the apostolic work suggests that assemblies remain immature and dependant upon apostolic input for the duration of their existence. This is not seen anywhere in the New Testament. Hypothetically, should the founding apostle die before the local church is mature, they could call on the services of other apostolic ministries, but these men would not be regarded as apostles to that local assembly, but instructors as Paul taught. These instructors should work towards seeing this local assembly growing to maturity as soon as possible.

(By ‘maturity’ I mean able to function as a Body of Christ without dependence on outside ministry input. This generally took about 5 months of foundation laying input from Paul).

The very clear precedent that we have in the Scriptures is when Paul called the Ephesian elders to Miletus, where he told them that he would never see them again. He did not command or advise them to relate to Timothy or Titus from then on, but left the full responsibility of oversight on the shoulders of the elders. (Acts 20:17-38)

We can conclude from this that apostles are not replaced by other apostles and there is no precedent, example or grounds for any form of apostolic succession in Scripture.

The continuation of the ‘apostles’ doctrine’ (Acts 2:42) is not dependent upon an unbroken line of apostolic ministries, but upon the Holy Spirit who has been sent to lead all believers into the truth.

Are apostles earthly representatives of  The Apostle – Jesus Christ?

All ministries and in fact all believers in a certain sense represent the Lord Jesus Christ. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2Co 5:20) When a member of the Body of Christ shares a message inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is as if we were hearing from the Lord Himself, except that we must recognise that the message is coming through an ‘earthen vessel’ and lips of clay. We are to be discerning when listening to any ministry or prophesy from anyone. The difference being, that if Jesus Himself stood in the church and spoke, we would not question His word because it would be the direct Word of God. No ministry or believer can therefore fully represent Jesus as if He was there in person.

We are told in Heb 3:1, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.”  This statement is very similar to the description of Jesus as the “Author and finisher of our faith” (Heb 12:2) and Jesus’ own description of Himself, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, says the Lord, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. (Re 1:8)

If we apply the meaning of the word apostolos, as being ‘one sent forth’ to the Lord Jesus, we will understand that it is a reference to His coming to earth to lay down His life as the only foundation upon which anyone of us can stand. It then becomes abundantly clear that no one can represent this aspect of the work of the Lord Jesus. This title of Apostle is therefore exclusively His.

We can therefore conclude that Jesus gives apostolic abilities to men to enable them to establish believers on the foundation that Jesus has already laid. These apostolic ministries do not represent our Apostle and High Priest, but they rather present Him through their teaching and testimony.

If we believe that apostles represent The Apostle, Jesus Christ, then the absence of apostolic ministry in a believer’s life, suggests the absence of Jesus the Apostle of our profession, which is error, for we are complete in Him. (Col 2:10).

Read more in APOSTLES PART 6

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Relationship of apostles to other ministries

Paul seldom worked alone, he nearly always had other brethren working with him. Some of the people who worked with Paul: Barnabas, Silas, Apollos, John Mark, Demas, Timothy, Titus, Gaius, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus,Tychicus, Trophimus, Priscilla & Aquila,Epaenetus, Erastus, Phoebe, Rufus, Andronicus, Junias, Urbanus, Lucius, Jason and Apelles. Paul mentored and trained a number of these workers along the way.

Paul’s modus operandi generally was to take a brother or two with him on a missionary journey, where he broke new ground with the Gospel and established a group of believers in a locality. It appears that this took between 3 to 5 months in each place. He spent about 18 months in Corinth and about 3 years in Ephesus. He would either leave a brother to assist the new church, or else leave them without help and later send a brother in response to a problem, or a request from the church for ministry.

It is important to note that Paul’s assistants never became the resident minister or pastor in any local church. These brethren were part of the apostolic team, who assisted by virtue of their various ministries in perfecting (maturing) and equipping the saints and laying a solid foundation. “And sent Timothy, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to encourage you concerning your faith.” (1 Thes 3:2)

It is also clear that while they respected Paul as the senior brother and in some cases as their spiritual ‘father’, they nevertheless used their own initiative in the ministry, as they were personally directed by the Head of the church, through the Holy Spirit.

Examples of this are seen in Paul’s relationship with Apollos: “Concerning our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have opportunity. (1 Cor 16:12)

Paul’s relationship with Titus: “I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from there into Macedonia.” (2 Co 2:13)

Paul’s relationship with Philemon: “Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you that which is required, Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech you, being such a one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. I beseech you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds.” (Philemon 1:8-10)

Paul’s relationship with Timothy: “To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of you in my prayers night and day; Greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy; When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice; and I am persuaded in you also. Therefore I remind you that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the laying on of my hands.” (2Ti 1:2-6)

John’s (one of the twelve apostles) relationship with Gaius: “The elder unto the well beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers. For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, even as you walk in the truth. (3Jo 1:1-3)

Apostolic oversight over a group of churches

The phrase ‘apostolic oversight’ does not appear in the New Testament and tends to give the impression of apostolic control, which is not supported in Scripture.  Paul speaks of, “Besides those things that are outside, that which comes upon me daily, the care of all the churches. “(2Co 11:28)

It is clear from this verse and many others, that  Paul exercised oversight over the churches that he had established in the form of care. He received reports from various people from time to time from the churches he had established and responded by letter to correct their doctrine or practises. He did not however practise a dictatorial or despotic form of oversight.

This can be seen when an extremely serious sinful situation had to be dealt with in Corinth.  Paul had received a report about this sin and he wrote a directive to the Corinthians, identifying with them as one of the members of that church, “For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that has so done this deed, “(1Co 5:3) He then gives them a directive as to how the matter should be handled, but rather than saying “you had better listen for I am your Apostolic Oversight”, he quoted Scripture as his authority and then left the responsibility of dealing with the matter to the Corinthian church. It must also be noted that there were no elders in Corinth at the time.

In a follow-up letter  Paul wrote, “For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not regret, though I did regret: for I perceive that the same epistle has made you sorry, though it were but for a time. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you sorrowed to repentance: for you were made sorry after a godly manner, that you might suffer loss by us in nothing. “(2Co 7:8-9)

It appears from this second letter that Paul was concerned that his rebuke may have offended the believers at Corinth, but was relieved that they had understood the gravity of the situation and had responded to Paul’s correction with godly sorrow. There is no evidence in this situation of dictatorial oversight, abuse of status or position and also no threats if they did not obey. Paul’s oversight culture and style was one of absolute dedication to Jesus Christ and a deep love and care for the believers.

“Therefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause who had done the wrong, nor for his cause who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you. “(2Co 7:12) It should also be noted from this that Paul was not involving himself in the internal affairs of the local assembly, he was more concerned with the assembly themselves and how they had handled their internal affairs.

Where elders have been ordained, they form the oversight of the local assembly and are not answerable to a higher authority, other than Jesus Christ Himself. (Heb 13:17) They will show love and concern for all believers in different local churches and also draw from outside itinerant ministry, as required, but they are not answerable to ‘oversight’ or ‘covering’.

We can conclude from this that there is no Scriptural evidence for ‘Apostolic Oversight’ in the form of a controlling body of apostles. That apostolic oversight is in the form of care and loving direction from the founding apostle, towards the churches that he has established with the view to seeing them mature in the Lord.

Continued in Apostles Part 5

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The authority of an apostle

We may gain the initial impression from Paul’s writings, that he wielded unquestionable authority as ‘an apostle according the will of God’ over the churches that he established. It may also be assumed that Paul’s apostolic ministry was the basis of his authority, but despite acknowledging that “I labored more abundantly than they all” comparing himself with all the other apostles, he based his authority on the (OT) Scriptures and on the special revelation that the Lord had given him. Where Paul did not have Scripture or a direct revelation from the Lord, he gave his advise. An example of this is found in 1 Cor 7:12  “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord… “

Where Paul had either Scripture or the revelation given to him, he presented his case with great authority, an example of this can be seen where he says, “If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. (1 Cor 14:37)

We must be very careful not to attribute this authority to the status, position, office or ministry of the apostle because as demonstrated briefly above, even Paul’s authority was based in Scripture, either Old Testament or revelation that he himself had received from the Lord. We can then conclude that the ministry of apostle does not carry authority in itself. Apostolic ministry is merely a function and not a position of authority. The authority of the ministry lies in the authority of Scripture itself. I do believe that the canon of Scripture is complete and that we may not add extra-Biblical doctrine or revelation to the Bible. Any revelation that we receive today is not new but rather a deeper understanding of what has already been written. As no present-day apostles receive revelation that is outside of Scripture,  the only authority that a present-day apostle has is the written Word of God.

Even when dealing with heretics or sin in the church, the directives and authority of Scripture rule in such cases, rather than an apostle controlling and disciplining the situation, by virtue of his perceived position of authority.

When a present-day apostle establishes a local church he will naturally be regarded as an authority on things pertaining to God, by virtue of his maturity and knowledge of the Scriptures. Such an apostle does not however, have a Biblical mandate or precedent to prescribe behaviour or practises that are extra-Biblical; nor is his interpretation of Scripture above scrutiny, by virtue of his perceived apostolic status or apostolic gift ministry.

Put another way: a present-day apostle’s authority is the Word of God and nothing else. His ministry gift would make him skilful in the word and his sincerity and pure motive as a servant of God, would enable him to establish believers upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and direct them to look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their faith and not to himself as the final spiritual authority in their lives.

Infallibility of apostolic ministry

A group of believers who are ‘young’ in the Lord may regard the founding apostle, who is establishing them upon the Rock, Christ Jesus, as infallible in his knowledge and interpretation of Scripture. It is also a temptation for the apostolic ministry to allow the culture of his perceived infallibility to develop, so as to minimise questions and challenges against his ministry and cultivate unity.

Scripture however, quite clearly demonstrates the opposite. We are told that one of the chief apostles (2 Cor 12:11), Peter was wrong  in his understanding and application in Antioch,when he would not eat with Gentile believers in order to satisfy his Jewish brethren and was rebuked publicly by Paul for his conduct. (Gal 2:11-14) We are also told that Paul and Barnabas had a dispute over John Mark, the ‘contention was so sharp between them’ that they parted company. (Acts 15:39)

A Conference was held in Jerusalem to deal with problematic doctrinal issues and the Scripture says, “And when there had been much disputing ….. (Acts 15:7) This dispute was not settled by any apostle claiming infallibility or superior revelation, but having aired all aspects of the problem they were persuaded by the authority of Scripture, which James quoted.(Acts 15:15-17) They believed the Holy Spirit had thus given them the solution which was unanimously adopted. (Acts 15:28).

The Berean believers were commended for checking Paul’s ministry against the Scriptures. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Ac 17:11)

Paul also tells us that no matter how much we might know, our knowledge is still incomplete. “And if any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.” (1 Cor 8:2)”For now we see in a mirror dimly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor 13:12) The apostolic ministry gift does not incorporate the gift of infallibility, nor does it include the gift of omniscience!

To dig a little deeper read Apostles Part 4

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The function of the apostolic ministry for today

It is clear that no present day apostle can claim to have been an eye-witness of the Baptism of Jesus through to His resurrection. Nor can present day apostles claim that their spoken or written ministry carries the same authority as Scripture, unless they are quoting Scripture in its correct context. The only clear example given to us in Scripture of what an apostle does, is the detailed account in Acts and in Paul’s letters of the ministry that he was called to do. The distinction that needs to be made however,  between Paul’s ministry and present day apostles is that Paul had a special dispensation given to him to establish the Gentile believers in the truth (Eph 3:2-6), he also was given the unique honour of writing Scripture (2 Pet 3:15-16) which cannot be said of any present day apostles.

Writing Scripture by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was not a normal function of apostolic ministry, but rather given to chosen vessels by God. The writers of the epistles were: Peter and John  (part of the twelve apostles) Paul and James both called apostles, Jude as the Lord’s brother and Luke, a Gentile Doctor wrote a Gospel and the Book of Acts.

Scripture gives us a clear understanding that Paul’s ministry as an apostle, was to lay a doctrinal foundation in the hearts of believers and to establish them on this foundation as an all-member functioning local church. (1 Cor 3:10; 1 Cor 14:26 and 1 Pet 2:5) It is also clear that Paul expected other apostles to do the same. He said of Timothy, “For I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state. (Philippians 2:20)

The status of a present day apostle

Not a title but a function

It is important to note that the ministry gifts presented in Eph 4:11 are all in lower case and not capital letters. Throughout the New Testament, even when referring to very prominent men, the word ‘apostle’ never starts with a capital “A” except when applicable to Jesus (Heb 3:1 KJV). The word ‘apostle’ is therefore not intended to be a proper noun or a Title, but is a common noun describing a function.  This is in keeping with the teaching of Jesus, who told us not to give titles to men. (Matt 23:9-10). Although Paul often made reference to his ministry as an apostle, he never claimed this as a title. Nor did Peter refer to ‘the Apostle Paul”, but rather referred to him as “our beloved brother Paul” (2 Pet 3:15)

Paul was very much against exalting apostles, he told the Corinthians, “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that you might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. (1 Cor 4:6)

The status of a present-day apostle is therefore, that he is just a brother, a member of the Body of Christ, who has a God-given ministry ability.

The scope of the ministry of an apostle

Sending forth

The word ‘apostle’ simply means ‘one sent forth’. Jesus personally commissioned His twelve apostles  to “Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20) All the other apostles mentioned in the New Testament were sent out by the Lord, but through the avenue of the church.  An example of this is seen in the church at Antioch. “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:2-3) The apostolic ministry came from Jesus (Eph 4:11), the identifying of their ministry came from the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the ‘sending forth’ came from the church at Antioch in obedience to the Lord’s direction.

We can conclude from this that men can’t decide to be an apostle and then embark on a self-appointed mission. They need to have the gift ministry from the Lord Jesus, there should be some identifying and direction from the Holy Spirit and then recognition and a sending forth by the local church or assembly.

Limited jurisdiction of an apostle

The apostles often worked together, as was the case with Barnabas and Paul, the apostles at Jerusalem also sent both Peter and John to Samaria to establish the believers who had come to the Lord through Phillip’s preaching. (Acts 8:14). While this is so, Paul gives us a very useful insight into the scope of his own ministry. He had established the Corinthian church along with Silas on his second missionary journey, but the Corinthians had also had doctrinal and spiritual input from other apostolic ministry, such as Peter and Apollos and in their spiritual immaturity they had made choices, as to whom they would follow. Paul in alluding to this says, “For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have you not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I beseech you, be followers of me. (1 Corinthians 4:15-16)

Paul did not command them to follow him so that he would be recognised as their primary Leader, but appealed to them to recognise that God had used him to lay the foundation in Corinth as a ‘wise Masterbuilder’ and although they had received input from other reputable apostles, he was claiming apostleship over them as the foundation layer. His motive for doing this becomes clear as we take the tenor and context of all his epistles. He did not want to control or claim ownership of these churches, but he wanted to ‘espouse them as a chaste virgin to Christ, and he was concerned that they would be confused or ‘corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ’ as happened to Eve. (2 Cor 11:2-3).

To further clarify this, Paul would not claim apostleship over any local church that he had not established. “If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of my apostleship are you in the Lord. (1 Cor 9:2) He also said, “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: (Rom 15:20).

We are able to conclude from this that the scope of an apostolic ministry only extends to the local churches that he has been used of the Lord to establish, even though he may work in close conjunction with other apostolic ministries. Other apostolic ministries obviously have input into the churches that they have not established, but they would be regarded as ‘instructors in Christ’ and not as apostles to these local churches.

This is an important point when looking at present-day apostles, who claim apostleship over a denomination or a group of local churches that they have not established. If they have a god-given ministry of apostle, they are able to offer valuable input to these local churches, but cannot claim to have ‘begotten them through the Gospel’. At best these apostles may be regarded as ‘Instructors in Christ’ according to Paul’s teaching. This becomes less of an issue as believers in the local church mature in the Lord because they learn to relate to the Lord Jesus as the Head of the church and are less reliant on the input of the founding apostle. It is however, an important issue when believers are still spiritually immature and a doctrinal foundation is being laid. This is the situation that Paul was dealing with in Corinth.

Paul encouraged the Corinthians to ‘be followers of him’ (as the apostle or fatherly ministry) so that they would be firmly established upon the Foundation that had already been laid, which is Jesus Christ. And that they would not be like children ‘tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine’.

To dig a little deeper read Apostles Part 3

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Aberrant views of apostolic ministry

If you want to read a brief summary go to Part 7

Charismatic/Pentecostal

To offer  a Biblical answer to this question, I unfortunately have to first dispense with a lot of error surrounding this topic. In recent times (from the 1990’s) there has been an aggressive propagation of the Apostolic Ministry in the form of the “New Apostolic Reformation” (NAR) and its many affiliates. These people are all motivated by aberrant Dominion theology which, in a nutshell, teaches the error that Christians have to take dominion over the earth before Jesus will return.  These ‘New Apostles’ and their affiliates espouse extra-Biblical doctrines and interpretations that they believe carry more weight than the written Word of God because of their ‘Apostolic Ministry’ and ‘Apostolic Authority’.  This aberrant ‘apostolic’ movement has its roots in the “Latter Rain” and “Manifest Sons of God” movement (a distortion of Rom 8:19), which began to infiltrate Pentecostal/charismatic circles from as far back as 1948. It was rejected then by the Assemblies of God USA, but this erroneous  Dominion/Apostolic Reformation has since been assimilated, in one form or another, into most charismatic and mega church current theology and practice.

Non-Pentecostal

On the non-Pentecostal side of the scale we have the ‘cessationist’ view that there were only twelve apostles, Paul having been the replacement for Judas, as ‘one born out of due time’. This view states that once the apostles had laid the foundation and the canon of Scripture had been completed, there is no further need for apostles. “A cessation of apostles and associated gifts of the Holy Spirit”. I would argue that this too is error; but rather than going into a lengthy explanation on this issue, I would rather let Scripture speak for itself and build what I believe to be the Biblical view of the apostolic ministry.

Roman Catholic

I should also mention the Roman Catholic error that the Pope is regarded as The(Chief) Apostle, who is the ‘Vicar of Christ’ or the earthly representative of Jesus. ( the Head of the church and Apostle and High Priest of our profession) The Pope claims apostolic authority and authenticity as a successor of the Apostle Peter. The Pope issues ‘Apostolic Directives and Catechisms’ which are regarded as infallible and supersede the authority of Scripture.

What the Bible says about apostles

The twelve apostles of the Lamb

The twelve apostles had to have unique qualifications that very few other men or apostles could possibly have, including Paul. Peter details these qualifications on the Day of Pentecost, “Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. (Acts 1:22) He divulged this information while discussing a replacement for Judas.  A specific aspect of the ministry of these apostles was to be personal eye-witnesses of the life of Jesus from His baptism, where God declared from heaven that He is the Son of God, to His resurrection, which they also personally witnessed.  The cessationists are correct in saying that this aspect of apostolic ministry can never be repeated.

Another group of apostles

There is another aspect of apostolic ministry that was introduced after the resurrection of Jesus, in fact the Scripture says that it occurred ‘when He ascended’ into heaven, ‘He gave gifts to men’. (Eph 4:8) Five gifts are mentioned, one of which is ‘apostles’. (Eph 4:11) It is evident that these apostolic ministry gifts were bestowed upon more than just the twelve. There are at least ten other apostles mentioned in the New Testament. They are: Apollos (1 Cor 4:6-9); Andronicus (Rom 16:7); Barnabas (Acts 14:3-4, 14, 1 Cor 9:5-6); Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25); James the Lord’s brother (1 Cor 15:7, Gal 1:19); Junia (Rom 16:7); Paul (Gal 1:1, Eph 1:1, Col 1:1 et al); Silas (1 Thes 1:1, 2:6); Timothy (1 Thes 1:1, 2:6) and Titus (2 Cor 8:23).  (Epaphroditus and Titus are called ‘messengers’ in the KJV but the Greek word is ‘apostols’ in both cases, from which we get our English ‘apostles’). Of this group, only Paul was used to write Scripture, giving us sufficient evidence that there were apostles, other than the twelve, who had a vital function in the church, but had nothing to do with the writing or completion of the canon of Scripture.

The apostolic ministry for today

Paul was specific about the function of these ministries, they were  “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Eph 4:12) Every Protestant church, Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal accepts that pastors,  teachers and evangelists, mentioned along with apostles and prophets in Eph 4:11, are ministries needed for the church of today. It follows then that apostles and prophets in the same list would also have a function in the church of today. It should also be noted that the book of Revelation was written about AD 90 by John,who in the letter to the Ephesian church (Rev 2:2), dictated by the Lord Himself, commended them for ‘trying them that call themselves apostles and are not’. If it was clearly understood that there were only twelve apostles, whose names were all well-known to the early church, this discerning of apostles would not have been necessary.

Dig a little deeper by reading: Apostles Part 2

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