WHAT IS AN APOSTLE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE (Part One)
Do modern day apostles hold an authoritative spiritual position over other christians within the church? Is the growth and effectiveness of the body of Christ dependant on the church’s alignment under their teachings? Is the position of “authority” of which they claim to have over other believers ordained by God? Are they the foundation of the church?
There is no shortage of those who claim to be apostles and if the truth be told, many who who claim to be apostles want to have the preeminence. If those who claim to be apostles really knew what being a true apostle was all about, very few of them would embrace it.
True Biblical apostleship is not about having the preeminence. It is about servanthood. In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul describes how he viewed the ministry of an apostle.
For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. ~ 1 Corinthians 4:9-13
This should be the “life verse” if there is any such thing, for all who think they are called to be apostles. While today’s “so-called apostles” seek to be first, Paul felt that the apostles of his day were last because of the call to servanthood and the sacrificial life to which they were called.
Within the pages of scripture, the ministry of an apostle was never about establishing governmental authority and leadership within the collective body of Christ. Those who think it is have misunderstood the teachings of scripture.
In scripture, the ministry of an apostle was never about having a position of power and wealth within the church. It wasn’t having the authoritative daily word to guide the church, rebuking Jezebel, declarations of shifts in the atmosphere, etc.
Instead, it was about preaching the gospel with authentic miracles and signs following. It was about establishing believers in the person of Jesus Christ with wholesome and sound doctrine which glorified God among unbelievers. It was never about having an authoritative position within the ranks of ministry to which others in the collective body of Christ should submit themselves unto.
Paul never attempted to exert authority over believers he had not established in the Lord.
For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:14-18
Paul and his co-laborers in the Lord had reached the Corinthians with the gospel and had established sound doctrine concerning how they should live as ambassadors for Christ. Paul had no desire to rule over the spiritual lives of the Corinthians: Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:24
Paul’s view of his apostleship to the Corinthians was that he had preached the gospel to them and had established them in Christ with sound doctrine. Paul held the Corinthians accountable to Christ in these matters and that is how Paul demonstrated his apostolic authority among them. The spread of the gospel among the Corinthians was the result of Paul’s labor in the ministry and rightfully, Paul cultivated the work he had invested in the Corinthians.
Paul did not seek their money nor their homage. Instead, Paul sought their growth in the faith and in Christ-like character, so that the gospel he had delivered to them would flourish among them and spread through them to others. Paul was not seeking his own kingdom of rank and file.
Unlike many of today’s “so-called apostles” who think they are called to be in authority while others serve them, Paul took the position of a servant and set the example of godly living by working and paying his own way – that’s a far cry from the modern day, self proclaimed apostles.
Contrary to their claims, modern day apostles do not hold a place of spiritual authority over the collective body of Christ, and the growth and effectiveness of Christ’s body is not dependant on them. They are not the foundation of the church. Jesus is!
But doesn’t the Bible teach that apostles are the foundation of the church and therefore the church is to come into alignment with their apostolic authority? No, it does not!
In Ephesians 2, Paul declares that the union of Jews and Gentiles into one body in Christ and is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. ~ v. 20
Paul is not establishing an hierarchical governmental structure for the collective body of Christ in the text above. Paul is contextually referring to the revelation of the gospel which was given to the apostles and prophets who were called by God to preach the gospel during the inception of the New Testament.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. FOR THIS CAUSE I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is NOW revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ… ~ Ephesians 2:19-3:8
The foundation of which Paul is referring is not that of governmental structure within the collective body of Christ. It is the establishment of the truth of the gospel among the Gentiles. Before Christ, the Gentiles were outside the covenants given to Israel, but now in Christ Jesus have been made fellow heirs with believing Jews and are members of the same covenantal family, for there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. ~ Ephesians 4:4-6
This is a far cry from the message of many who call themselves apostles.
While many who claim to be apostles seek to have the preeminence because they want to be in authority, Paul saw himself as the least of all saints, who was given grace to minister Christ.
The foundation has been laid by those who were called by God in the inception of the New Testament Church. Their testimony and teachings became the scriptures we call the New Testament.
The true ministry of the apostle continues, not in those who think they are the foundation of the church with divinely authoritative revelation, touting their dominion as anointed leaders in the body of Christ. Instead, the true ministry of apostleship continues as humble servants of God sacrifice their lives (often as missionaries) to bring the truth of the gospel to a lost and dying world.
WHAT IS AN APOSTLE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE (Part Two)
The word apostle comes from the Greek word “apostolos” and means, “a delegate, messenger, a sent one”. In the New Testament it specifically applies to those who were commissioned and empowered by Christ to give witness to his resurrection and Kingdom.
It does not mean “top of the pecking order in the Kingdom of God”. It does not mean “in charge”. It does not mean “leader in governmental structure”. It does not mean “you are the spiritual boss”.
There are many people who claim to be apostles, and simply put – they are not. They may be apostles in their world, but not in Christ’s Kingdom. A true Biblical apostle is consumed with the testimony of Jesus Christ and has no desire to be exalted because his mission is to glorify Christ and make men followers of Jesus and not followers of himself.
False apostles are the easiest to identity, because they claim God speaks to them about everything from Jezebel to fulfilling your destiny. They rarely testify of Jesus Christ because he’s not their message. They cannot say as Paul said, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God…” ~ Romans 1:1
Their apostleship is not of Jesus Christ, therefore their message is not saturated with the truth in Jesus.
If any claiming to be an apostle has a problem with their apostleship being judged by the standard of the testimony of Jesus, they prove by this that they are not true apostles.
The apostles who were personally ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ are the New Testament models for understanding what a true apostle is. The New Testament often refers to them as “the apostles”, even though there were other apostles after the inception of the New Testament Church, such as the apostle Paul.
They had a unique calling that no other ministers have ever had, not even the prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah. Their unique calling was that of being personally selected by Jesus, the Son of God (who was God in the flesh,) and they were personally trained by him.
No other ministers have ever had such honor.
Jesus did not train them to be CEOs with Church government structure. There is not a single text in the New Testament where Jesus ever taught them to take a place of authority over other believers because of their apostleship. Jesus taught them the exact opposite.
Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. ~ Matthew 20:20-28
The very thing that many who claim to be apostles boast in (preeminence) is the very thing that Jesus was purging his true apostles of. Jesus trained his apostles to serve and to minister and not to exalt themselves, for there is only “one Lord”.
Those whom Jesus trained in the flesh have a uniqueness to their calling because their apostleship was first to the people of Israel to give witness that Jesus is the Messiah testified of in the scriptures. This witness is authoritatively ordained by God and stands forever as a witness to the world that Jesus is Lord.
Their calling and ministry for Christ should serve as the standard by which we understand the meaning of apostleship.
Paul, who was ordained as an apostle to the Gentiles testified of the same gospel. In fact, Paul went to the apostles who were commissioned by Jesus and shared with them the gospel he preached among the Gentiles to affirm that he was indeed preaching according the gospel given to them by Jesus.
When Paul went to the original apostles, it had nothing to do with “rank and file”. It was all about the message.
That is precisely what is wrong with the modern day apostolic movement – it is their message! Their message about Jesus is not the message preached by the apostles in scripture, and their message about the Kingdom is not the one taught by the apostles in scripture.
Many “apostles” within the apostolic movement think God has given them an “authoritative” position within the Church which rivals that of the original apostles. One of their founding leaders made this claim: “The second apostolic age began in 2001.”
No it did not!
There is no such thing as a second apostolic age.
This same “apostle” claims that you will not fulfill all the destiny that God has for you if you are not submitted to the apostolic alignment they claim to have from God.
That my friends is not the truth. Rather, it is manipulation, or witchcraft, and if you subject your soul to such spiritual deception, you will become a captive to real religious bondage rather than being a truly free person in Jesus Christ. You will be blind to what the scriptures really teach.
Do not submit your soul to such deception. Follow Jesus, and abide in him. Build your walk with God on the testimony and witness of his true apostles who gave us the New Testament, and submit to the humble who serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
A true leader in God’s Kingdom has no desire to have dominion over your spiritual life. His desire is that you become rooted and grounded in Christ. His joy is that YOU stand in Christ.
Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:24
TRUE APOSTOLIC ALIGNMENT
In John 15, Jesus said the following to his disciples whom he called to be apostles:
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. ~ John 15:26-27
Jesus told these men (the apostles,) that they would bear witness of him because they had been with him from the beginning. He says this in view of the coming of the Holy Spirit who would testify of him.
Jesus links the ministry of the apostles to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would testify of Jesus and they too would testify of him.
In Acts 1 we read the following:
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. ~ Acts 1:1-8
Many Christians with Charismatic and Pentecostal backgrounds are familiar with these words from Acts 1, which have often been cited and applied to all believers. There is nothing wrong with this understanding because we are all called to share in the furtherance of the gospel and we need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to do so.
However, we miss out on the Biblical narrative of the calling of the original apostles when we do not allow this portion of scripture to be understood within its contextual setting. Failing to understand the Biblical narrative regarding the calling of the original apostles has contributed to an abuse by some who overemphasize the ministry of apostleship.
If the truth be told, few who know this text have taken the time to think through it within its proper context. Jesus was specifically speaking to the apostles who he had chosen regarding their ministry.
Since we so often read the Bible as if everything is speaking directly to us, we often miss out on what it is actually saying in context and consequently we make a mess of things such as the ministry of apostleship.
The apostles who were chosen by Jesus and given commandments by him have an authoritative testimony about Jesus which is the foundation on which the Christian faith stands. Yet many of today’s so called apostles rarely teach, preach, or minister in accordance to testimony of Jesus give to us by the original apostles.
When God sent Peter to the house of Cornelius, Peter said the following:
And we (the apostles) are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.~ Acts 10:39-43
True apostolic alignment is alignment with the things which the apostles who were ordained by Jesus, preached and taught. It is not this new message being preached by many “so-called apostles” whose message sounds nothing like that which the first apostles testified about Jesus.
Many who call themselves apostles are doing things and preaching things that have nothing to do with the gospel. I am certain that many “so-called apostles” have never even considered if their claim to apostleship even resembles that of the original apostles whom Jesus called.
The men whom Jesus ordained as apostles, along with Matthias, who replaced Judas, were gifted by God with an apostleship which wasn’t for the early church only. The scope of their ministry continues today as true Christians contiune to labor in the Kingdom of Christ building up the body us Christ upon the foundation of Jesus and their testimony about Jesus.
Many who claim the title “apostle” are building on some other foundation than the one established by the apostles who were ordained by Jesus. A true apostle will contiune to spread the the gospel in accordance to the testimony of Jesus given to us by the first apostles.
Just prior to the destruction of the temple, the writer of Hebrews said the following:
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? ~ Hebrews 2:1-4
Those who heard the Lord, to whom he bore witness with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, should be correctly understood as the apostles who were ordained by Jesus.
The authentic ministry of the apostles who gave us the Word of God (the New Testament) is being undermined by so much of what goes on in the name of “the apostolic”. Many of them wouldn’t even qualify as “knock offs” because there is no resemblance to the ministry of the original apostles. They have completely perverted the ministry of apostleship.
The ministry of the original apostles has not ended. It continues through the preaching of the gospel that they gave us. In John 17 Jesus prayed the following on behalf of the original apostles.
6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.
13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word… ~ John 17:6-20
Jesus ordained these men as apostles and their ministry did not end when they died. Their ministry continues as the truth about Jesus, which they gave us, is preached and taught to all nations.
In 2 Peter, Peter (who was one of the apostles) says the following:
This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: ~ 2 Peter 3:1-2
Notice that Peter makes mention of the holy prophets and the apostles. This is a reference to the Old Testament prophets and the apostles who were commissioned by Jesus. It is also who Paul is referring to in Ephesians 2 when he says that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.
The church is not built on the foundation of modern day apostles and prophets. The church is built on the testimony of Jesus which the Biblical prophets declared and the apostles chosen by Jesus affirmed!
Jude also makes reference to the authoritative calling of apostles chosen by Jesus when he says, “But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. ~ Jude 1:17-18
Ironically, the original apostles warned against the very things that some modern day apostles are preaching and doing.
The ministry of apostleship is alive and well, but not in many who call themselves apostles. It is alive and well in those who through the Holy Spirit obey the gospel which was given to us by the men Jesus ordained to establish his Kingdom.
Today’s “so-called apostles” who are constantly preaching about Jezebel, new levels, shifts in the atmosphere, portals, etc. are at best, frauds! They are not authentic apostles. Their message about Jesus and his Kingdom is apostate and not of the truth in Jesus.