We not only believe that apostles still exist today, but we see their contribution as being vital to our church growth and development. To learn more about our understanding of this gift to the church,
THE GIFT OF AN APOSTLE
The Greek word "apostolos" means "one who is sent forth” as a messenger and one who represent the name or authority of the person that he speaks for. The role of an ambassador is as close to this concept that we have today. The modern term `missionary’ is also similar because both are “sent forth”. However, many denominational missionaries today are not sent out specifically by the Lord and do not have apostolic authority operating in their ministries.
THREE CATEGORIES OF APOSTLES
There are three categories of apostles:
1. JESUS WAS THE CHIEF (FIRST) APOSTLE
“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus...” (Hebrews 3:1).
Jesus serves as our foremost model of the ministry of the apostle. We can look to Him alone for the full expression of the apostolic ministry, as well as the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor/shepherd and the master teacher. When He ascended, He divided up His ministry into five parts and gave them to men so that no one could function alone and so that team ministry would be necessary to fully express His ministry in the earth.
2. THE TWELVE APOSTLES OF THE LAMB
“Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him” (Matthew 10:2-6).
“And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelations 21:14).
3. A LIST OF OTHER APOSTLES
People tend to only think of the twelve apostles when they hear the word apostle mentioned. We have so elevated them in our thinking that it is difficult for some to consider that there may be other men with the same gift and calling. But the fact remains, that there were other apostles in the New Testament Church other than the original twelve, and there are many more apostles in the church today. In fact, we know that there were over twenty apostles overseeing the Church when it consisted of only a few thousand people. Today, we should expect many more apostles to oversee the Church worldwide. Since Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us that the apostles are needed for the building up of the Body until we all attain to the unity of the faith, then we should be able to recognize more than the original twelve apostles of leaders, who have served as apostles during the history of the Church.
Nowhere is it taught that the apostolic ministry would cease. Apostles are needed until the Church is perfected and presented to Jesus, her Husband. We need EVERY gift given to the Church by Jesus.
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13).
“And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28).
A LIST OF OTHER APOSTLES
There are more than ten apostles specifically mentioned in the New Testament, besides the original twelve:
Matthias: An apostle chosen by lot in Acts 1:13 (Joseph Barsabas was also qualified to be an apostolic replacement for Judas but was not chosen in the lot)
Silas (Silvanus) and Timothy: “To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ“ (1 Thessalonians 1:1).
Then he continues on in chapter 2 verse 6, saying of these men and himself, “Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ” (1 Thessalonians 2:6).
Barnabas: “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out" (Acts 14:14).
Andronicus and Junia: (Junia was likely a woman)
“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me” (Romans 16:7).
Apollos: When Pal wrote about the apostles who were made a spectacle of in the world and to angels, he seemed to include Apollos with himself in 1 Corinthians 4:6,9.
Titus and two unnamed brothers: (The word messengers used here is apostolos)
“If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ" (2 Corinthians 8:2).
In Philippians 2:25, Paul referred to Epaphroditus as a messenger, which is the word apostolos.
James: and possibly the other four natural brothers of the Lord Jesus were considered apostles in 1 Corinthians 9:5, 15:5-8, Galatians 1:19
In my opinion there are several high profile apostles in modern history, but even now, there are many apostles who do not have the stature of these: Count Von Zinzendorf who was the leader of the Moravians; Hudson Taylor to China; John G. Lake to South Africa; Smith Wigglesworth; John Wimber.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE APOSTOLIC MINISTRY
The apostle has grace to minister each of the other four ministry gifts in a limited way: prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher. The apostle often will raise up pastors, evangelists, teachers, and other leaders to help them fulfill their calling. Often, the calling of an apostle is specific to a region or a people. Paul wrote that he was an apostle to the Gentiles and that Peter was an apostle to the Jews (Galatians 2:8). The apostle becomes a father to the work, and he may remain as head of the ministry with several leaders under him, or he may move on, as Paul did, turning the established work over to someone else. The Apostle Paul is the best type to illustrate all of the statements above.
AN APOSTOLIC TEST
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. Do not marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
“I know your works, and your labour, and your patience, and how you can not bear them which are evil: and you have tried those who say they are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars...” (Revelations 2:2).
Of course in this day and hour many are proclaiming themselves apostles. Should we accept everyone’s word for it if they come calling with the word “apostle” on their business card? Of course not! In fact, in the book of Revelation the Lord commended the Church in Ephesus for adequately distinguishing between those who were true and false apostles. I wish I had a copy of the test they used. If I were writing my own, I would hold up the person who claimed to be an apostle by the following characteristics:
Apostles have the grace upon their life to carry a revelation of Christ. In Ephesians 3:5 Paul speaks of the mystery “…which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:”
While there are many other aspects to the work of apostles and prophets, this one function is primary - the ability to unfold the revelation of the unified corporate Body called the Church. Stated more simply, the greatest purpose apostolic and prophetic ministries have - the ultimate goal above all else - is to bring a revelation of Jesus; to bring to light an unfolding of the unsearchable riches to be found in Jesus. It is to reveal the Cornerstone, who is Christ Jesus Himself!
Apostles have the grace upon their father and mentor others. Paul told the Corinthian church, which he had planted: “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:15-16).
Many of the apostolic ministries I have been exposed to simply have the “feel” of being a “father”. They will often have actually “begotten” and raised up sons in the faith, but will also have such a fatherly nurture, care and steadfast heritage about them that makes younger ones want to be “adopted”.
Apostles are usually team players. While an apostle can sometimes seem to be a jack-of-all-trades; he knows the overall objective can best be served through a team effort. Knowing the value of team, and being able to accomplish it however, are two different things. Part of the apostolic grace is that of being a kingdom diplomat. He is also able to command the respect of leaders who would be leadership material in their own right; but have seen, as well, the higher good and greater accomplishment team effort will bring. A survey of apostle Paul’s ministry shows he always traveled with a team. Jesus Himself instructed His apostles to go two by two.
Apostles are general contractors for the building of God. Paul called himself a master builder. The term “master builder” is actually “architekton” in the Greek language and is the derivative of our word “architect” who has the big picture. He knows what is to be built.
“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 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” (1 Corinthians 3:9-11).
Apostles usually have governmental authority and dominion. The essential meaning of the word apostle is “sent one”. One very solid consequence of being sent by God is the authorization He gives. If you are sent by God, you have the very authority of God Himself backing you up. The restoration of apostolic ministry includes restoration to a whole new level of kingdom dominion and authority.
“But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:19-20).
He was saying, in essence, “Talk is cheap but let me see if you carry power”.
TITLES AND TERMINOLOGY
While we believe that there many today who function in apostolic gifting, within Word of Grace we do not use this title when referring to one another.
We believe that the elder who leads the church, which is called the presiding elder, or Senior Pastor holds the highest level of authority within a local church and all other five-fold ministry must defer to this office.
This study includes some insights gleaned from a study written by Jim Wies, Destiny Image Publishers