THE MINISTRY OF THE APOSTLE
BY KEVIN J. CONNER
“And He gave some, apostles . . .” (Ephesians 4:11).
God hath set in the church firstly apostles . . . “(I Corinthians 12:28). “Are all apostles?” (I Corinthians 12:29).
The ministry of the apostle is one that is much misunderstood. It is a ministry that has been limited to the period of transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. It has been relegated to the period of the Book of Acts and early Church history. With the death of the apostle John and the completion of the Old and New Testament canon of Scriptures, it has been taught that the apostolic ministry was no longer required. However, the Ephesian Epistle distinctly says that Christ, after His ascension, gave gifts to men, and “He gave some, apostles.” This ministry, along with the others, was given for a certain period of time, ”until” the Church comes to unity and maturity. This has not yet come to pass. Therefore the Church needs the apostolic ministry today. We consider the ascension gift ministry of the apostle.
A. Definition of the Word
It is worthy to note the change and development of this word from secular language to what it came to mean in the Church. It seems that this word, as other words, took on a new and fuller meaning in the Church than it did even in secular use.
1. Ancient Greek Usage
The word ”””APOSTOLOS” rarely” rarely” rarely has in classical Greek anything like the meaning which it has in the New Testament (Karl H. Rengstorf in “Apostleship”).
In Classical literature it had various usages:
a. A Naval expedition, a cargo ship, a fleet of ships sent with a specific objective;
b. The admiral or commander of a naval expedition or fleet of ships;
c. The colony which was founded by the admiral; a group of colonists sent overseas;
d. A personal envoy, or emissary or ambassador, a delegate.
(Arndt and Gingrich and Dictionary of New Testament theology. Vol. 1, Colin Brown). Kittel s Theological Dictionary (Vol. 1, p. 407) says If a fleet of ships was sent by Rome to establish a new colony elsewhere, all these were called apostles–i.e. the fleet, the admiral and the newfound colony. ”
The usage of the word connects the sender and the one who is sent. Jesus said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant (slave) is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent (a sent one, apostle) greater than he that sent (Christ, the sender) him (John 13:16).
Even in this ancient usage, the dominant thought is that of someone being SENT!
2. Hebrew Usage (SC 7971)
The Rabbis applied the term “Shalach”, “to send away”, to the one who was commissioned and authorized by God.
Isaiah the prophet, therefore, was “a sent one” (Isaiah 6:8), the authorized representative of God, the sender being one with Him who sent him.
The Rabbis had two groupings especially; these being, the priesthood, and several of the great prophets, such as Moses, Elijah, Elisha and Ezekiel, because of special acts of God done through them (Kittel, p. 419).
According to Colin Brown in “Dictionary of New Testament Theology” (Vol. I, p. 27) the LXX (The Septuagint, or Greek Translation of Hebrew Scriptures), the words apostello and exapostello are used some 700 times. They are used almost exclusively to render “Shalach”, stretch out, send. It meant the authorization of the messenger (Cf. Joshua 1:16; II Kings 19:4; Jeremiah 34:3).
The noun “apostolos” is found only in I Kings 14:6. Here Ahijah the prophet is sent, or commissioned and empowered with a hard word for Jeroboam’s wife. The emphasis here is not” the institutional appointment of someone to an office, but the authorization of him to fulfill a particular function or a task which is normally clearly defined. The stress is laid on the one who gives his authority to the one he sends or take into his service.” (Colin Brown, p. 127, 128).
3. Koine Greek Usage
Brown continues to say (p. 128), in contrast to the LXX, the frequent occurrence of the noun APOSTOLOS is something new. The word is used six times in Luke; twenty-eight in Acts; thirty-tour in Paul s writings, once in Hebrews, three times in Peter, once in Jude, three times in Revelation, and Matthew, Mark and John use it once each.
In striking contrast with classical Greek, apostolos is used in the New Testament only in the general sense of messenger, and particularly as the fixed designation, a definite office; the primitive APOSTOLATE!
The one sending is represented in the one sent. Jesus said, “He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me’ (Matthew 10:40). The Father sent the Son (The Apostle), and the Son sent the Twelve disciples (The Apostles) (John 13:16; Luke 10:11; 6:13).
The Greek word “apostolos” from which we derive the word “apostle” literally means “one who is sent forth”
Various expositors add:
* “A delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders” (Thayer).
* One sent forth” (Smith s Dictionary).
* One sent as a messenger or agent, the bearer of a commission, messenger (Analytical Greek Lexicon).
* A title denoting a commissioned messenger or ambassador. It occurs 79 times in the New Testament with various shades of meaning, both of precise and of a general character (Interpreter’s Dictionary).
* “Delegate, envoy, messenger, missionary” or “one especially commissioned” (Arndt and Gingrich).
EXAPOSTELLO means ”to send forth, to send away; to send away from one s self; to dispatch on a service or agency (Thayer, p. 68). It is used 13 times in the New Testament (Luke 1:53; 20:10, 11; Acts 7:12; 9:30; Luke 24:49; Acts 11:22; 12:11; 13:26; 17: 14; 22:21; Galatians 4:4, 6).
Taken together, the word “apostle” simply means “a sent one, an ambassador, a delegate, one who is sent forth, one commissioned and authorized by another to represent another and carry out his will and purposes. The sent one is one with the one who sent him.”
B. Orders of Apostles
The New Testament shows that there were several ranks or levels of the apostolic order.
1. Christ, THE Apostle (Hebrews 3:1).
Christ is spoken of “THE Apostle and High Priest of our confession.” The Rabbis applied the term apostle to the priesthood as well as to some of the prophets, as already noted.
Perhaps the writer to the Hebrews had this thought in mind when he combined both offices of PRIEST and APOSTLE in Christ as our Apostle and High Priest.
Jesus Christ is indeed “THE Sent One”. He is THE Apostle, the only infallible apostle and all other and lesser apostles seek to follow and emulate Him and will be judged by Him.
As Head of the Church, as the God-Man, He stands unique among and above all. In all things He takes the pre-eminence (Colossians 1:18, 19).
The Gospel of John could well be called the Gospel of Christ’s apostleship. He was “The Sent one”, sent forth by the Father, one with the Father, representing the Father and fulfilling His will and purposes as the faithful apostle and high priest of our confession (John 3:17, 34; 5:36-38; 6:29,57; 7:29; 9:7; 10:36; 17:3, 8, 18, 21-25; 20:21).
The character, nature, grace, revelation and signs of an apostle were perfectly manifested in Him.
2. The Twelve Apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14)
We note some of the most prominent points about this rank of apostles.
a. The twelve apostles were chosen by Christ after a night of prayer (Luke 6: 12, 13).
b. There are four listings of the name of these twelve (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19;
Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:3). Their names are:
Peter, lames, John, Andrew,
Philip, Nathanael, Thomas, Matthew,
James (Son of Alphaeus), Simon (the Zealot),
Judas (or Thaddeus), and Judas Iscariot.
It is significant that each listing mentions Peter first, and Judas the traitor last.
c. Paul speaks of “The Twelve” (I Corinthians 15:5). Paul also speaks of those who were “the most eminent apostles” (11 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11. NAS). The marginal of NAB says “the super apostles” while the A.V. says “the chiefest apostles”.
Although there is difference of opinion as to the replacement of Judas Iscariot, it does seem that Matthias is the one chosen to complete “The Twelve” between Passover and Pentecost. This is seen in the following references.
In Acts 1:15-26, after prayer and the casting of lots, at the suggestion of Peter, Matthias is chosen to complete the twelve apostles. Matthias was numbered with “the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26).
The casting of lots was a pre-Pentecost act and it was confirmed by the Lord as to the choice (Leviticus 16:8, 9; Proverbs 16:33). Matthias was not chosen directly by the Lord but by the eleven in prayer.
H. B. Hackett in “Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible” (p. 127, 128) says: “The original qualifications, as stated by Saint Peter, on the occasion of electing a successor to the traitor Judas, a fallen apostle, was, that the person should have been personally acquainted with the whole ministerial course of our Lord, from the baptism of John until the day when He was taken up into heaven. He himself describes these as they that had continued with Him is His temptations” (Luke 22:20; Acts 1:21).
On the Day of Pentecost “Peter, standing with the eleven” (Acts 2:14) gave the Pentecostal sermon with its attendant results.
“The Twelve” are also mentioned in Acts 6:2.
Then Paul says that the risen Christ was seen of “The Twelve”, not “The Eleven” (I Corinthians 15:5).
Hence Matthias is recognized as one of “The Twelve”:
1) Before Pentecost (Acts 1:26),
2) At Pentecost (Acts 2:143,
3) After Pentecost (Acts 6:2),
4) And by the apostle Paul himself (I Corinthians 15:5).
d. The number twelve is the number of government, of apostolic foundations. It is prominent in Israel’s history as a nation and very prominent in the New Jerusalem, city of God (Revelation 21-22).
* The 12 sons of Jacob were the foundation sons of Old Testament Israel (Genesis 48-49).
* The 12 wells of water symbolized the twelve apostles (Exodus 15:27).
* The 12 pillars at Mt Sinai symbolized the 12 apostles (Exodus 24).
* The 12 princes and their offerings for the dedication of the brazen altar also symbolized the 12 apostles (Numbers 7).
* The 12 stones with the 12 names of the 12 tribes in the breastplate of the High Priest pointed to such (Exodus 28-29).
* The 12 loaves of shewbread on the Table pointed to the same (Exodus 25:23-30).
* The 12 lions on Solomon’s throne (I Kings 10:20), and the 12 oxen upholding the molten sea in the temple courts pointed to the same truth (I Kings 7:25, 44), and the 12 porters at the gates of Jerusalem also (I Chronicles 26:13-19).
The city of God has 12 gates, 12 foundations, 12 names, 12 manner of fruits, 12 gases of pearl, etc. All point to foundational ministries, apostolic government, the authority of God manifested in the number twelve.
None can add to “The Twelve” foundation apostles.
Many others could be mentioned. The consummation of the number twelve is seen in the city of God. There we see the names of “The Twelve Apostles of the Lamb” on the foundations (Revelation 21:14).
It is a unique place, reserved especially for those apostles who were with the Lamb in His earth walk, reaching from His baptism to His ascension, over a period of 3 1/2 years ministry.
They were each chosen (except Matthias in his replacement) by the Lord on earth and before His ascension. They were pre-ascension apostles.
The Twelve were especially sent to the House of Judah in a period of transition from the Old Covenant economy to the New Covenant economy. They ministered at the overlapping of dispensations. They were more distinctly “The Jewish Twelve” (Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:14; Luke 22:14). Peter, in time, opened the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 11:17), but he was the apostle of the circumcision (Galatians 2:7-9). They were sent “to the Jew first” (Romans 1:16; 2:9).
The Old Testament age was the age of the Prophets. The New Testament opens with the ministry of the Apostles (Cf. II Peter 3:1-2).
f. The reward of the Twelve is to sit on 12 thrones in the regeneration and rule over the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28).
g. The Old Testament Scriptures were written primarily by the inspired prophets. The New Testament Scriptures were written primarily by the inspired apostles, but both confirmed each other. The New Testament apostles saw the fulfillment of the word of the Old Testament prophets (11 Peter 3:2; 1:20-21; I Peter 1:10-12).
It should be noted that the first ministry chosen by Christ in His earthly walk was that of apostles. No prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers were expressly chosen until after His ascension. This shows a distinct change of order from the Old Testament prophets to the order of New Testament apostles.
Alex. Rattray Hay in “The New Testament Order For Church And Missionary” (pp. 214-217) says this of The Twelve, and which we condense and adapt for our summary:
* The Twelve had a special position and a special mission.
* The Holy Spirit, through them, laid the doctrinal foundation of the Church. called the apostles doctrine (Acts 2:42).
* Through them the structural foundation of the Church was revealed and laid. This included the Keys of the Kingdom, opening the door to Jews and Gentile. (Matthew 16:16-19; 18:15-20).
* They forte the link which joins the old Dispensation with the new. Through them the unity and continuity of God s purpose is preserved. Their roots are in the glorious Dispensation that has ended; their ministry is in the more glorious new Dispensation.
* These Twelve were called and appointed by the Lord in the flesh prior to the cross; they were trained by Him and were His companions during His ministry on earth. They were eye-witnesses of His life, crucifixion and resurrection.
* All were Jews born in Galilee or Judea. They were of the House of Judah
* Their authority was delegated and limited. Their authority was in Christ and the Word and Spirit he gave them. They were not High Priests or a Sanhedrin.
The very fact that these are called The Twelve Apostles of the Lamb show that they hold a unique place in the redemptive plan of God both in time and eternity.
Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles
There is absolutely no doubt that Paul stands as unique among other apostles mentioned in the New Testament, apart from the twelve apostles of the Lamb. For this reason, we devote this section to the uniqueness of his apostolic ministry. He is spoken of as apostle extraordinary to the Gentiles. We consider come of the important factors involved in Paul’s apostleship.
a. Paul was not one of “The Twelve”; that is, of the original twelve. He himself felt that he was “one born out of due season” (I Corinthians 15:5, 8).
b. Paul was a “called apostle” (Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:1, 15; I Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; II Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 2:8; Colossians 1:1; I Timothy 1:1; 2:7; II Timothy Timothy 1:1, 11; Titus; Titus 1:11).
Paul humbly but consistently attests to his calling as an apostle in most of his Epistles. He is first spoken of as an apostle, along with Barnabas in Acts 14:14.
Note: It is worthy to see that Paul calls himself “An apostle”, never “THE apostle”. Paul was “A father” but not called “Father Paul”. Thus he was not a title-conscious man, but did specify his office (I Corinthians 4:15; Matthew 23:8-10). He was not after flattering titles.
c. Paul was a “post-ascension apostle”. That is, he was called personally on the road to Damascus by the heavenly and risen Christ after his ascension (Acts 9: 1-20; 22:1-22; 26:1-23).
d. Paul had “seen the Lord” which was counted then as an important qualification for apostleship (I Corinthians 9:1-2; 15:9; II Corinthians 11:4, 5).
e. Paul was directly commissioned by Christ to minister to both Jews and Gentiles but especially to the Gentiles. He was the apostle of the uncircumcision (Galatians 2:7-8; Acts 9:15; 26:15-18; Romans 11:13; 15:15-20; Galatians 1:15-17; I Timothy 2:7).
f. Paul’s apostleship was confirmed by miraculous signs and wonders (Acts 14:27; 15:3-12; II Corinthians 12:12).
Paul suffered much as an apostle (II Corinthians 11-12).
h. Paul’s apostleship was sealed by the fruit he had; the founding and establishing of Churches in the cities the Lord sent him to (I Corinthians 9:2; I Corinthians 3:9-10). Paul was a “wise master-builder”, and he was also a “father” to the Churches (I Corinthians 4:15).
Paul’s apostleship was not inferior to that of the Twelve. He says he was not one wit behind the chiefest of apostles (II Corinthians 11:15; 12:11-12).
It is significant to note that Peter and Paul were the two major apostles in the Book of Acts. Acts 1-12 centers around Peter, the apostle to the circumcision, and the Church at Jerusalem. Acts 13-28 centers around Paul, the apostle to the uncircumcision, and the Church at Antioch.
Because the Lord foresaw the ensuing carnal comparison of Peter and Paul by believers (I Corinthians 3:1-8, 21-23; Galatians 2:7, 8; I Corinthians 15:1-10), it seems as if He equipped them both for their distinctive apostolic roles, as the following comparison shows.
Apostle to Jews, Circumcision
Apostolic revelation to the Church
To the Jew first
Then to the Gentiles
Lays hands on Samaritans
Outpouring of Holy Spirit
Healed a lame man
Raised a person from the dead
Signs and wonders
Deals with a sorcerer
Witnessed before the Sanhedrin
Seven addresses recorded in Acts
Established local churches
Imprisoned for witnessing
Angel of Lord delivers from prison
Arrested in the Temple
Chains fell off
A man of heavenly visions
Religious and political opposition
Beaten for the name of Jesus
Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria
Writer of two Epistles
Apostle to Gentiles, Uncircumcision
Apostolic revelation to the Church
To the Synagogues first
Then to the Gentiles
Lays hands on the Ephesians
Outpouring of Holy Spirit
Healed a lame man
Raised a person from the dead
Signs and wonders
Deals with a sorcerer
Witnessed before the Sanhedrin
Seven addresses recorded in Acts
Established local churches
Also imprisoned for witnessing
Angel of Lord sends earthquake
Arrested in the Temple
A man of heavenly visions
Religious and political opposition
Beaten and stoned for name of Jesus
The Uttermost parts of the earth
Writer of 14(?) Epistles
Paul seemed to be an apostle who functioned in each of the fivefold ministries, and also other functions and also in the gifts of the Spirit. He is seen as apostle (Ephesians 1:1), teacher (II Timothy 1:11), and prophet, and evangelist (Acts 17:2-4), and pastor (Acts 18:9-10; 19:10). He worked miracles, had gifts of healing, discerning of spirits, governments, faith, words of wisdom and knowledge, etc. He was indeed apostle extraordinary in his time.
j. Paul, as seen already, wrote 13 (or 14, if Hebrews) of the 27 books of the New Testament-Apostolic revelation was given to him comparable to none except the apostle John. Even Peter said Paul wrote things hard to be understood, but accepted his writings as inspired Scripture (II Peter 3:15, 16). He could say “I have received of the LORD that which I delivered unto you-“–NOT of the other apostles, who added nothing to him as far as apostolic revelation was concerned (I Corinthians 11:23; 15:3; Galatians 1:11, 12; 2:1-9; Ephesians 3:1-12).
Thus Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, stands unique among all other apostles. He was indeed a “super-apostle” by reason of the grace of apostleship upon him. He was the FIRST post-ascension apostle chosen directly from heaven by Christ Himself, the Head of the Church.
So unique and distinct is Paul’s apostleship, that some Bible expositors believe that he was the Lord’s choice to replace Judas, the fallen one of the Twelve, and not Matthias. Matthias was chosen by lot before the outpoured Spirit at Pentecost under Old Testament custom. Paul was chosen by the Lord, after Pentecost, under New Testament dispensation of the Spirit.
There is much value in this thought. The following “General Bible Theme” is adapted from Rev. W. W. Patterson’s notes and well worthy of consideration.
Truth as Revealed in Type and Fulfillment
Old Testament Type and Prophecy
GOD revealed to Natural Israel
The Church in the Wilderness (Acts 7:38)
Exodus 3:15-16. The LORD GOD of your fathers:
The God of
The 12 sons of Jacob (Genesis 48). Then the 70 souls of Jacob’s house who went down into Egypt. Then the innumerable hosts of natural Israel (Genesis 22:17). “As the sand upon the seashore” (Hebrews 11:12; Romans 9:27). Rueben, one of the 12 sons of Jacob sinned, lost or forfeited birthright. (Genesis 35:22; 49:4; I Chronicles 5:1)
Jacob adopted the two sons of Joseph: 1. Manasseh, the elder, to become a great people (Genesis 48:19a) 2. Ephraim, the younger, to become a multitude of nations (Genesis 48:19b)
Ephraim is set before Manasseh and receives a Double Portion Genesis 48:22; Jeremiah 31:9. Ephraim now becomes the Firstborn Ephraim is listed among the twelve tribes. Tribal name. This makes 13 Tribes in Israel
New Testament Antitype and Fulfillment
GOD revealed to Spiritual Israel
The Church in the New Testament
The Church of firstborn (Hebrews 12:23)
Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19. In THE NAME of
(1. The Father, and of
(2. The Son, and of
(3. The Holy Spirit (I John 5:7).
The 12 apostles (Matthew 10:1-4). The 70 others sent forth by Christ (Luke 10:1). The innumerable hosts of redeemed spiritual Israel (Revelation 7:9) “As the stars for multitude,” (Hebrews 11:12). Judas, one of the 12 apostles sinned, and lost his Bishoprick (John 6:71; Matthew 26:21-25, 47-49; 27:3-5; Acts 1:16-20). The New Testament ‘Adopts’ two apostles: 1. Matthias, chosen by lot (Acts 1:21-26; 2:14; 6:2; I Corinthians 15:5) 2. Paul, chosen by the Lord and is apostle to multitude of Gentile nations (Acts 9:1-18; 22:6-21; 26:12-23) Paul is set before Matthias and takes the lead in Acts. Receives a Double Portion of the Spirit The portion of the Firstborn II Kings 2:9 Paul’s name is thus possibly (?) in the Foundations of the City of God. Matthias and Paul make 13 Apostles
Eternity alone will reveal whether the name of Matthias or Paul is in the foundation of the city of God (Revelation 21:14).
Paul, however, was certainly a wise master-builder who laid “THE foundation”– Christ Jesus, and warned all others to take heed how they built (I Corinthians 3:9-16).
4. Ascension-Gift Apostles
Although Paul was the first ascension-gift apostle chosen, he stands unique among all other ascension-gift apostles. No other apostle mentioned in the New Testament has their apostolic ministry attested to like the apostle Paul. All others mentioned are lesser apostles, none having the measure of the grace or gift of apostleship bestowed upon Paul by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Altogether there are over 80 references to apostles, amongst these there are about fifteen other persons mentioned or designated as apostles besides the original Twelve Apostles of the Lamb. These were named after Christ’s ascension.
* Matthias (Acts 1:26).
* James, the Lord’s brother (Acts 1:14; I Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19; 2:9).
* Paul (Acts 14:14; 22:21).
* Barnabas (Acts 4:36; 11:22-30; 14:1, 4, 14; I Corinthians 9:6),
* Apollos (I Corinthians 4:6-9).
* Andronicus (Romans 16:7).
* Junia (Romans 16:7).
* Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25, Messenger = Apostle).
* Titus (II Corinthians 8:23, Messenger = Apostle).
* Two unnamed brethren (11 Corinthians 8:23).
* Timothy (Acts 19:22; I Thessalonians 1:1; 2:6).
* Judas (Acts 15:23; I Thessalonians 2:6).
* Silas/Silvanus (Acts 15:23; I Thessalonians 2:6; 1:1).
* Erastus (Acts 19:22).
* Tychicus (II Timothy 4:12).
God has set in the Church, firstly apostles (I Corinthians 12:2&). These are the gifts of Christ to His Body (Ephesians 4:11). In totality we have about 28 persons mentioned in the New Testament as apostles.
A study of the lives and ministries of these mentioned as apostles (except Paul), show that none of these compared with Paul as to revelation, signs and wonders or the apostolic ministry given to him. Yet they were called apostles, but undoubtedly apostles of lesser order and grace.
So has it been through Church history. None can compare with the original Twelve, nor with the apostle Paul, but many can be compared and spoken of as lesser apostles, though they are apostles, Church history evidences men, too numerous to name, who could indeed be designated as lesser apostles, who did apostolic work. Many missionaries and ministries in modern times also qualify as lesser apostles. It must be remembered that Christ gives this ministry according to the measure of grace and the measure of the gift that He desires to manifest in and through them (Romans 12:1-6; Ephesians 4:7). Only as this fact is recognized will we cease to measure every apostolic ministry by the Twelve or by Paul.
Rev. Earnest Gentile writes in some notes:
“There is a theoretical teaching that in the last days, the Church will again be led by twelve apostles, one of whom will ‘fall away’ (like Reuben of the 12 sons, and Judas of the 12 apostles) to become the last-day Antichrist. Such an apostolic college would be composed of Gentile apostles of various races. Such teaching is based on the symbolism of the 12 stars crowning the last-day Church (Revelation 12), and the meaning of the 24 Elders of Revelation (12 Early-day, and 12 Last-day apostles). Obviously, we will need thousands of apostles to complete the perfection of the Church and the evangelization of the world. But it is also great and very exciting to contemplate that just as the Church Age began with 12 Jewish Apostles leading a basically Jewish Church, the Age will end with 12 (or a representative number of) Gentile Apostles leading a mainly Gentile Church. Such apostles would be a special category of their own, and could only be brought together by God Himself.”
If this is so (and the patterns of Scripture seem to confirm it to be so), then undoubtedly these last day apostles will be men like Paul. They will have the character, qualifications, revelation and ministry that Paul had. Paul was set forth to be a pattern to those who would afterwards believe on Christ (I Timothy 1: 12- 16). Perhaps there is some implication in the fact he was an apostle “born out of due season”, for he typifies the last day apostles!
5. Apostolic Companies
In the early Church there were ministry-teams “sent out” to various places who could be referred to as “apostolic teams” or “apostolic companies”. It was not that all on these teams were apostles but they were “sent ones” to tasks in either pioneering or establishing Church.
Christ sent out the seventy two by two (Luke 10: 1-20). Their commission was similar to that of the Twelve sent out. However, though they were “sent ones” (Greek “Apostella”, to send), they were not “apostles”.
So we may say that there are apostolic companies today though all among them are not apostles. In this manner we could speak of all of the fivefold ministries as “apostolic”, in the sense that they are all “sent ones” by the risen Christ. Apostolic companies were formed by the Spirit: “The Spirit said . . .” Christ sent the Twelve in twos, as He knew they would balance each other, working together.
Following are some of the most outstanding “apostolic companies”.
* Peter and John sent to Samaria (Acts 8:14) to Philip the evangelist.
* Barnabas, Saul and Mark (Acts 13-15). Apostles and Deacon.
* Paul and Silas (Apostle and Prophet) (Acts 15:40).
* Barnabas and Mark (Apostle and Deacon). Acts 15:37-39.
* Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke (Apostle, Prophet, Deacon, Physician). Acts 16:9.
* Paul, Silas, Timothy, Luke, Aquilla, Priscilla and Apollos (Apostle, Prophet, Deacon, Physician, Teachers). Acts 18:2-24.
* Paul, Silas, Timothy, Luke, Erastus, Gaius, Aristarchus (Apostle, Prophet, Deacon, Physician and ministry in training). Acts 19.
* Paul, Silas, Timothy, Luke, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Tychicus and Trophimus (Apostle, Prophet, Physician and other ministries in training) Acts 24.
* Judas and Silas, as prophets, sent with the Epistle (Acts 15:27).
* Barnabas and Saul bring relief money to Jerusalem (Acts 11:30).
A careful study of the Book of Acts and these apostolic teams show that they were involved in the planting, instruction, correction and establishing of the Churches (Acts 13:20). No apostle was a “loner” or “independent” of other Churches or ministry.
C. Calling, Qualifications and Ministry of an Apostle
In the light of the New Testament, there are certain basic things by which apostolic ministry can be recognized. It is not that all apostles will be exactly alike or have the same measure of the grace-gift of Christ, but there will be enough of the evidences that confirm that person is an apostle. There should be definite Calling, Qualifications and Ministry manifest in a genuine apostle.
1. Calling of an Apostle
An apostle, as any other ministry, must have a distinct calling of the Lord and he must know this calling.
* The Twelve were called and ordained by the Lord Jesus Himself (Mark 3:13-15; John 15:16).
* The Seventy were called also by the same Lord (Mark 6:7-13).
* Paul was called by the risen Lord and was deeply conscious of his calling to apostleship (Colossians 1:1; I Timothy 1:1; Titus 1:1; Romans 1:1; I Corinthians 1:1; II Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1).
Paul could say of his calling:
a. He was not an apostle by the will or call of man or by men.
b. Paul knew THE apostle had called him (I Timothy 2:7; Hebrews 3:1).
c. Paul knew he was separated by God the Father to this calling.
d. Paul had his calling also confirmed by other ministries too.
* It was revealed to Ananias (Acts 9:1-20).
* Something must have been revealed to Barnabas that caused him to seek Saul out from Tarsus and bring him to Antioch (Acts 9:27).
The Holy Spirit confirmed his calling with Barnabas in due time at Antioch from whence he was sent out as an apostle (Acts 13:1-4; 14:14).
* Peter accepted Paul as an apostle (Galatians 2:17-19).
* The Church at Jerusalem recognized Paul as an apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:1-9).
Paul’s calling and election in eternity was confirmed in time by the Lord and other ministries in the body of Christ. The Lord had put him into the ministry (I Timothy 2:7; 1:12-16).
Thus Paul was called by the Lord. His calling was confirmed at Damascus, at Antioch and at Jerusalem. It was foreordained in eternity and confirmed in time by the Lord and by other ministries.
Timothy and Titus were lesser apostles, and their calling was confirmed by the laying on of hands of other apostolic ministries (Acts 16:1-3; 19:22; Romans 16: 1; I Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 2:19-24; I Thessalonians 3:2; I Timothy 1:1; II Timothy 1:2).
An apostle must know his calling to this office. The Lord can and will confirm that calling to and through other ministries.
An apostle will know that he is “a man sent from God”, for an apostle is also a sent one.
Jesus was sent by the Father. The Gospel of John confirms this. The Twelve were sent by the Son, especially to the Jews (Luke 22:30). Paul was sent by Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1-4) to the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas together were sent by the Church (Acts 13-14).
We may illustrate the Apostolate with Christ, the Head, and the Twelve as the Shoulders (Isaiah 9:6, Government on His shoulder), and the Post-ascension apostles, the many, as the Body of the Apostlate. The many are Body-building apostles.
2. Qualifications of an Apostle
Apostles, as any of the fivefold ministry, must be qualified persons.
a. An Apostle must have the character qualifications an Elder
Qualifications of Elders have already been dealt with. Apostles are elders, though all elders are not apostles.
Peter spoke of himself as an elder among elders (I Peter 5:1-5). John the apostle spoke of himself as an elder (I John 1:1; III John 1).
Most expositors hold that 12 of the 24 elders in Revelation 4:4, and 5:8 are 12 apostles of the Lamb.
An apostle is also spoken of as holding the office of a bishop (Acts 1:15-16). Judas, an apostle, fell from his bishoprick.
An apostle will be a qualified elder (I Timothy 3; Titus 1).
b. An Apostle will have a Servant spirit
Paul, James, Peter and John, though apostles, all spoke of themselves as being “slaves of Jesus Christ”. That is, they were bond-slaves, love-slaves to His will (Titus 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Romans 1:1; James 1:1; II Peter 1:1; Revelation 1:1). They had a servant spirit (Mark 10:3545), Apostle-Deacons! Perhaps some of the greatest words concerning apostleship were spoken by John Alexander Dowie, before his spiritual decline in “The Life of John Alexander Dowie”, by Gordon Lindsay, when Mr Calverly, looking to Dr. Dowie, said, amidst great applause, “But I think I can see an apostle”.
“I have not the slightest idea but that our dear brother Calverly spoke with that perfect honesty which has always characterized him, and that he would not have been guilty for a moment of flattery. But I am too perfectly honest when with no mock humility (say to you from my heart, I do not think I have reached a deep enough depth of true humility, I do not think I have reached a deep enough depth of true abasement and self-effacement for the high office of an apostle, such as he who had reached it could say, and mean it too, ‘I am less than the least of all saints, and not worthy to be called an apostle.’ ”
But if my good Lord could ever get me low enough, and deep enough in self-abasement and self-effacement to be truly what I want to be and hope in a measure I am, “a servant of the servants of the Lord,” why, then I should become an apostle by really becoming the servant of all.
In becoming an apostle, it is not a question of rising high, it is a question of becoming low enough. It is not a question of becoming a “lord over God’s heritage”, but it is a question of if a man shall be called to be an apostle whether he can get low enough, low enough to say from the depths of his heart, the words of the apostle Paul, “It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, Christ came to save sinners of whom I am (not I was) chief.”
I do not know if any persons here have a notion in their minds that the apostolic office means a high pompous position, wearing a tiara, and swaying a sceptre. If so, they are entirely wrong. It means a high position truly, but the power of one that can take the lowest place. I think some of you have got a very false conception of power in the Church of God. Power in the Church of God is not like power in the Government of the U.S.A., where a man climbs to the top of the pyramid of his fellows to the acme of his ambition, and there makes it fulfill his personal pride and purpose. Power in the Church is shown in this, that a man gets lower and lower and lower and lower, until he can put his very spirit, soul and body underneath the miseries and at the feet of a sin-cursed earth and a diseased and smitten humanity and live and die for it and Him who lived and died for it. That is what I understand by the apostleship. ”
c. An Apostle will have Spiritual Authority
This authority is spiritual authority. It is not dictatorship or lordship over God’s heritage. It is not assumed authority. Jesus spoke with authority, not as the Scribes. He had authority because He was under authority.
Neither Peter nor Paul exercised any dictatorial authority as apostles. Paul would not use his authority for their destruction but for their edification (II Corinthians 1:24; 10:8; I Peter 5:1-5; I Thessalonians 2:1-8; Luke 22:24-27; I Corinthians 4:21; II Corinthians 13:2, 10). Paul did not exercise authority in Churches he did not found.
Paul exercised a spiritual authority among his Churches and workers but not an official authority, controlling them and their movements.
He would “send” and “leave” and “persuade” and “encourage” his workers to do certain things for the Gospel, but he did leave it to their knowing the will of the Lord (Acts 16:14, 9, 10; 17:15; 20:3-5, 13-14; I Corinthians 16:10-12; 8:6; II Corinthians 8:16-18, 22; Ephesians 6:21, 22; Ephesians 6:21, 22; Philippians 2:25; Colossians 4:7, 14-17; I Thessalonians 3:1-2; II Timothy 4:9-13; Titus 1:5; 3:12-13).
An Apostle will be a Spiritual Father
I Corinthians 4:15-21; 11:34. Though there are many instructors, yet there are not many fathers. An apostle will be a spiritual father in the Lord, though he will not be called “father” (Matthew 23:1-12; I John 2:12-14). Paul was gentle as a nursing father (Numbers 11:12; I Thessalonians 2:6-11; Philippians 2:22; Ephesians 6:4).
An Apostle must be sound in Doctrine
An apostle will be sound in the apostles doctrine once delivered to the saints (Acts 2:42; Romans 16:25, 26).
He will have apostolic revelation, insight, understanding and wisdom of the Word, of both Old and New Testaments (Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:5; I Corinthians 14:26; Matthew 16:13-18).
He will be able to make apostolic decisions on doctrinal issues (Acts 15).
f. An Apostle will be clothed with Humility
Although all believers should be clothed with humility, an apostle must be characterized by this quality. Jesus, THE apostle was humility personified. The greatest must be the humblest. Humility is a necessary attitude because of this high calling of apostleship.
The Lord gave Paul a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble because of the abundance of revelations given to him and lest he should be exalted above measure (11 Corinthians 11-12; Acts 20:19; II Corinthians 10:2, 18). An apostle will not be given to self-glory or want the pre-eminence (I Corinthians 4:9; John 5:44; 111 John 9, 10). There will be no self-deification as manifested in Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-14).
g. An Apostle will be noted for Patience (II Corinthians 12:12).
Patience and/or endurance will be a characteristic of apostolic ministry. Paul is certainly a pattern apostle of this quality. It is needed with the people of God who may be slow in their spiritual development. Endurance is also needed for the work of the ministry.
h. An Apostle will be exemplary as a leader to follow (I Corinthians 11:1)
Paul said to follow him as he followed Christ. The safeguard is that we may follow any ministry so long as he follows close to Christ. If he ceases to follow Christ, then we do not follow the leader but Christ. An apostle must approve himself as the minister of Christ (II Corinthians 6:3-10).
i. An Apostle should manifest the qualities of Divine love
I Corinthians 13; II Corinthians 12:15. Love is kind, gentle, long suffering, patient, hopeful, faithful and God-like. An apostle need Divine love qualities.
3. Ministry of an Apostle
The following material is gathered from the ministries of the major apostles of the New Testament. However, it should be remembered that everyone of these things cannot be laid on all, but all will operate in their apostolic ministry according to the measure of the grace-gift the risen Christ gives to them.
a. Apostolic ministry, as the fivefold ministry, is given to the Body of Christ for: 1) The perfecting and maturing of the saints, 2) The work of the ministry, to bring saints into the work of their ministry, 3) The edifying, or building up of the Body of Christ, 4) The bringing of saints into the unity of the faith, 5) The bringing them to the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, 6) To bring them to the measure of the stature of Christ’s fulness, 7) To bring them out of childhood unto adulthood.
Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 1:25-29; Hebrews 6:1-2.
b. Apostolic ministry involves founding and/or establishing New Testament local Churches on the sure foundation, Christ Jesus.
I Corinthians 3:9-16; Romans 16:20; I Corinthians 9:1; Ephesians 2:20-22..
The Church is built on the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets. Other builders are to take heed how they build. Apostles are foundational ministries.
(Note–A study of the list of apostles show that not all pioneered or founded Churches, but all were involved in establishing them in the faith once delivered to the saints; foundational truths).
c. Apostolic ministry involves preaching and teaching the Word of the Lord. I Timothy 2:7; II Timothy 1:11.
Each of the fivefold ministries are “WORD Ministries” but there is a distinctiveness about the ministry of the Word in apostolic preaching and teaching. There is insight and illumination relative to the Scriptures.
d. Apostolic ministry involves, as the Spirit wills, signs and wonders. Certain gifts of the Spirit belong to this ministry gift of Christ. Healing, exorcism, raising the dead, miracles, etc., as the Lord willed (Acts 4:23; 5:12; II Corinthians 10:18; 12:12; 1 Corinthians 4:19-20; Romans 11:13; 15:18, 19; Acts 3:1-8; 9:36-43; 16:18).
e. Apostolic ministry involves ordination and appointment of ministries. Deacons chosen by the congregation were approved and appointed by the apostles to that service (Acts 6:1-6).
Paul and Barnabas ordained elders by the laying on of hands with prayer and fasting in the Churches they established (Acts 14:23).
Paul was involved in the presbytery and impartation of spiritual gifts in the ordination of Timothy to ministry (I Timothy 1:18; 4:14; 5:22; II Timothy 1:6; 4:6; Romans 1:11).
f. Apostolic ministry involves the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:14-18; 10:1-16; 19:1-6. Peter and Paul both saw people coming into the baptism of the Holy Spirit evidenced with speaking in tongues. However, this is not limited to apostolic ministry.
g. Apostolic ministry involves preparation and placing of other potential ministries.
II Timothy 2:2. Paul taught faithful men who would also teach others. Paul trained Timothy (Acts 16:14). Barnabas chose Mark and in time developed him (Acts 13:5, 13).
Paul sent Timothy and Epaphroditus and others as messengers to the Churches for report and instruction (Philippians 2:19-25; Titus 3:12; I Thessalonians 3:1-2; II Timothy 4:10-13, 21; Romans 16:1-2; Colossians 4:7-12; Acts 15:36). The Spirit led and confirmed in these things.
h. Apostolic ministry involves Church judgments and disciplines.
This involves “binding and loosing” ministry given to apostles (Matthew 16: 16- 19; 18:15-20; Isaiah 26:9; 4:4; I Peter 4:7). It is judgment at the house of God.
1) Sapphira and Ananias were judged by the Lord through the word of the apostle Peter for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-1l).
2) Elymas, the Jewish sorcerer and false prophet was blinded by the Lord through the apostle Paul for resisting the Gospel (Acts 13:11).
3) The Corinthian fornicator was disciplined under apostolic instruction (I Corinthians 4:21; 5:1-13; II Corinthians 2:6-11; 13:2, 10).
4) The apostle John said he would deal with. Diotrephes when he came for his arrogance (II John 9, 10).
5) Paul dealt-with others for their false doctrine (I Timothy 1:20).
6) Church discipline was placed on divisionaries (Romans 16:17)
Thus the keys of the kingdom and the binding and loosing ministry promised by Christ to the apostle Peter and the Church is involved in these apostolic judgments and disciplines (Matthew 16:16-19; 18:15-20; I Peter 4:17; James 5:9; Proverbs 19:29; 13:23).
i. Apostolic ministry has vision for the whole Body of Christ.
Ephesians 3:1-9; 4:1-16. Apostles cannot be sectarian but they must have a vision for the whole Body of Christ. They are given to the Body, for the Body. Local Churches may either accept or reject apostolic ministry to their gain or loss (Revelation 2:1-6).
j. Apostolic ministry will especially care for the Churches he founds.
II Corinthians 11:28. Paul had the care and concern of all the Churches.
These Churches he founded were the seal of his apostleship (I Corinthians 9:1-2; 7:17; 11:34; II Thessalonians 3:14).
k. Apostolic ministry is willing to sacrificially suffer for the Church.
A study of the pattern apostle, Paul, shows how he willingly suffered for the Church, the Body of Christ. He was willing to lay down his life for the flock of God. (Acts 5: 1840; 7; Colossians 1:23-29; I Corinthians 4; II Corinthians 6:3- 10; II Corinthians 11-12 chapters).
1. Apostolic ministry will be willing to be tested and proven true.
True apostles will be willing to be tried and tested by the Word of God and be willing to submit to other ministries. Cf. Revelation 2:2; Galatians 2:11-13; Acts 17:10-12. To try is to test, prove, examine. The Bereans were willing to test Paul’s word out by the Scriptures. Apostolic ministry is not infallible and no true apostle is afraid of being tested out as to the revelation he brings. There are false and self-made apostles (II Corinthians 11:13-15).
m. Apostolic ministry will be characterized by wisdom.
II Peter 3:15, 16; I Corinthians 1-2-3. Moses and Solomon had God-given wisdom.
So should apostles in the building of God’s house, the Church.
Apostolic ministry especially is noted for “word of wisdom” (I Corinthians 12:8).
Apostolic ministry may apparently minister in other of the fivefold ministry, as the Lord wills and the need arises, although he majors in one.
Paul was an teacher/apostle (II Timothy 1:11). Paul and Barnabas were listed among the prophet/teachers at Antioch (Acts 13). Peter was a pastor/apostle (John 21:15-17). Timothy could have been an evangelist/apostle (II Timothy 4:5).
Old Testament ministries seem to overlap also. Jeremiah was a pastor/prophet. Isaiah was an evangelist/prophet.
So at times there seems to be an overlapping of ministry in ministries according to the need and God’s purposes. It is apostolic ministry that reveals the “pastoral/teacher” ministry, as well as the prophetic in the New Testament Epistles. The Lord and the Spirit gives gifts to persons and these persons themselves are gifts to the Church (I Corinthians 12:8-10; Ephesians 4:9-11).
o. Apostolic ministry will set God’s house in Divine order.
Note the use of the word “order” in these verses concerning Paul’s ministry. I Corinthians 11:34; 7:17; 16:1-2; II Thessalonians 3:14; Colossians 2:5.
p. Apostolic ministry should be identified with a Local Church.
Though Paul said he was “free from all to be servant of all” (I Corinthians 9: 19), he was not a law to himself. And though he founded Churches, yet he himself was part of the local Church at Antioch for years and reported to them periodically (Acts 13-14).
It is a good safeguard for all ministries to have the covering of a local Church and other ministries.
q. Apostolic ministry has the ministry of governments also (I Corinthians 12:26-29).
4. Recognition of Apostolic Ministry
The principle used here is applicable to any and all of the fivefold ministry. That is, the recognition and acceptance or rejection of ministry in the members as well as the ministries in the Body of Christ.
Jesus said if we receive a prophet in the name of a prophet we receive a prophet’s reward (Matthew 10:40-42). And to receive those who have been sent by the Lord is to receive the Lord who sent them. To reject those sent is to reject the One who sent them (Matthew 10:1114; John 13:20; Matthew 25:40; Luke 10: 16; I Thessalonians 4:8; John 5:22, 23).
If a person has a true ministry gift, and is a tried and true apostle (Revelation 2:2), then the Church should receive such. Receiving them releases their ministry and the Church receives the reward of that ministry’s labor in the Word of the Lord. To do otherwise is to bind that ministry, so that there is no release of the Word of the Lord.
D. Warnings Against False Apostles
As with every other ministry there is true and false, so it is with apostles. The Scriptures warn against false apostles.
II Corinthians 11:13; 12:11; Revelation 2:2. They are false, not because they claimed apostleship but because of the false doctrines they bring, leading people astray from the truth of the Gospel.
It is John, the last living apostle, who commended the Church at Ephesus for trying out those who said they were apostles and found them liars and deceivers.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM THE CHURCH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, AND PUBLISHED BY BT PUBLISHING, 1982, PAGES 138-152. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.