Author’s Note: Over the next few weeks I’d like to talk about the apostolic ministry in today’s Church, and how I believe Scriptures reveal it works in the Kingdom of God. I will publish four parts, including looking at Christ, OT prophetic significance, the original 12 including Peter, & Paul.
May God speak to us in regard to these things in a deeper and more precious way!
We are all well acquainted with the Scripture in Ephesians 4: 11,
‘it was He who gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors & teachers…’
It has become a well quoted Scripture in many circles around the world, and thank God that many in the Body of Christ are now embracing it as a present reality in the Church! However, it still produces much disagreement, debate and confusion. And even if many agree with its present truth, much confusion, speculation and even abuse in applying these truths have come.
It is even more so in regard to the apostolic ministry itself, that the truths have become very clouded of late. Not that the Word of God is cloudy on the issue but what men make of the precious word ‘apostolic’ has become cloudy. Thus, abuses abound; who are these people? Men, women, or even both? Are they bishops or spiritual CEOs, or neither? Who has the right to choose or name them? Are there different grades of apostles? Is it an office or a function? Does the ‘apostle’ have the right to ‘make the calls’ and ‘pull rank’ if others disagree?
It is my view that we have to come away from answering these questions, and quarrels in endless debates, and go back to the Scriptures. From there we can see the clear picture the Scriptures portray. (Please be aware that I will not get into the debate of ‘if they are valid ministries for today’, as that question has been answered thousands of times, and I am taking it for granted that the readers will believe it to be so.)
I quote Art Katz in regard to this theme of ‘Apostolic’:
“Like every Biblical word, we will not find the definition in a dictionary. We need rather to be apprehended by the genius of what the word represents… Probably one of the greatest failures of the Church is to be satisfied with verbal statements and creedal affirmations but without the corresponding actuality.”
1. Back to basics. The Apostle as ‘sent one’.
Mark 3: 13 – 15.
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14He appointed twelve—designating them apostles — that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15and to have authority to drive out demons.
The scripture above carries some foundational elements to understanding the apostolic ministry, which are in keeping with Ephesians 4: 11 & 1 Corinthians 12: 28. It is that ‘He’ – Jesus Christ has appointed these ministries. In this Scripture in Mark 3 we see the following:
Firstly, there is a Pattern. While on the mountain in prayer (Also see Luke 6: 12 -13) – Jesus calls and man responds / Jesus appoints & designates – His servants ‘go’. This shows that initiative is God’s, not man’s, in the raising up of this ministry. He by the Spirit imparts the gifts and graces needed. He calls and anoints His servants for such a task. Man’s duty is to respond.
There is also a Meaning. Mark 3 (Also read Luke 6) is the first time in the life of Christ and the disciples that the word ‘apostle’ is used to define a ministry. That means that this initial use of the word should be deemed as key to any future understanding of its meaning. For example, the meaning of the word ‘apostle’ and how that meaning relates to its function today, is to be understood in terms of what we then go on to see evidenced in the life of Jesus and these 12 men in the Gospels from this point. It is also from this significant point that the Lord Jesus delegates the authority and power of this ministry upon the 12 ordinary men; it is from this key moment that this ministry begins to be seen in their lives. We will discuss this more later on, when examining the 12’s particular ministry.
The word ‘apostle’ means ‘sent one’. That is, one commissioned with a Divine mission or message by God to a people. Think of a ship, bearing special cargo, on a mission to take it to a specific destination.
So then, the word ‘sent’ carries a missionary call & dynamic to it. It is a word of action and commissioning; it is also a word of authority and representation from the sender. It is a ‘go-ing’ word! If we remember this, we will rightly understand the spiritual dynamic contained in this ministry.
In the OT, Exodus 3: 10 & 12, God calls and meets with Moses in the Burning Bush encounter. We again see the Apostolic God revealing Himself, calling His servant, commissioning him to His purposes, sending His servant to a particular mission with the sender’s authority and message. It is worthy to note, Stephen in Acts 7 gives an account of Moses calling at the bush, uses the word ‘send’, which is an apostolic word. Moses really fulfils an OT type of apostolic ministry.
There is a message. The Scripture in Mark 3 specifically says that the sending was in connection to them preaching. Preaching is a vital ingredient in the apostolic ministry, but not just any preaching. I believe there is a kind of ‘apostolic preaching’ that brings the authority of the Gospel of the Kingdom to bear in virgin territory, and establishes God’s rule through the building of new communities of faith. This preaching is one of tearing down in order to raise up. It is an appropriating ministry accompanied by signs and wonders that can change a region. This preaching also carries a foundational grace that reveals Jesus Christ both theologically and experientially to the newly formed community. It takes the newest of believers to the depths of discipleship in such a way that, ‘Christ is formed in them…’ and they in turn become a Christ centred apostolic people.
In part 2 of this article we will look at how Jesus Christ began to fulfill Old Testament prophecies as the Great Apostle of our Faith.
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