And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
[Ephesians 4:10-13 NKJV]
Many in the church believe that apostles were for back then, two thousand years ago, but not for today. Other Christian groups, particularly in the last hundred years or thereabouts, actively associate themselves with that leading, naming themselves apostolic, or following Jesus as part of an apostolic company. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians said that Jesus had appointed some to be apostles as part of a ministry for the equipping of the saints. Does this mean that no one can be called to an apostolic ministry now? So, what do we mean by ‘apostle’?
Firstly, the term ‘apostle’ only appears in the New Testament; there was no calling to be an apostle before Jesus’ ministry. What we see in the Old Testament were anointed kings, and the rôle in the spirit may well be the same, or similar at least.
When we look at the meaning of the original Greek, we find that it has the sense of ‘set apart to be sent out on a mission’, which could be said of a king also; but the OT kings required a priest or man of God to guide and advise; apostles hear directly from the Holy Spirit, as priest/kings in one person.
You could easily say, that an apostle is a missionary, and thus it comes down to the purpose, the mission, on and for which the individual is set apart. It is those last two words that hold the key to what it means to being an apostle — being set apart, but also being given a freedom, being set at liberty.
In Biblical terms, this being ‘set apart’ was an honour conferred by Jesus on His disciples, and we have thus come to associate ‘apostle’ with ‘the twelve disciples’. However, Paul is also called an apostle, but his appointment was on the road to Damascus, by a word from on high and after Jesus had already ascended.
But what we can say here is that while an apostle must be a disciple (and Paul became a disciple at the moment of his conversion), it is not the case that every disciple is an apostle. A Disciple is a follower, a pupil and perhaps we can say that an apostle is one who has been taught by the Holy Spirit. What have apostles been taught or ‘set apart’ to do?
And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.
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 10:1-4 NKJV]
This passage from Matthew’s gospel is the first mention of the word apostolos, and it appears to show the precise moment when the disciples became apostles — when Jesus gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. We can infer that an apostle was given a specific twofold power from Jesus — power over unclean spirits, and power to heal sickness and disease — in effect becoming witnesses on earth to the power of God through Jesus Christ. One other factor in the leading for an apostle is revealed in the story of the loaves and fishes — an apostle must “Feed My sheep”, as we read at the end of John’s Gospel. Here is Jesus teaching that message…
But He said to them [the apostles] "You give them something to eat."
And they said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people." For there were about five thousand men.
Then He said to His disciples, "Make them sit down in groups of fifty." And they did so, and made them all sit down.
Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.
[Luke 9:13-17 NKJV]
Jesus embodies all five of the ministries given to us, but it does not signify that because we know Him, we can do likewise. Apostles are likely to to have the characteristics of the other four ministries, but the order of ministry follows the Bible pattern of descending order — though all are equal in the eyes of The Lord — so that someone called to be an Evangelist may also to be a pastor and teacher, but will not be apostolic unless there is a calling to be an apostle first. There is no hard and fast rule … The Lord uses whomsoever He will as He wills.
Next time, we shall look at the prophetic ministry.
g0649. ἀποστέλλω apostellō; from 575 and 4724; set apart, i.e. (by implication) to send out (properly, on a mission) literally or figuratively: — put in, send (away, forth, out), set (at liberty).
AV (133) - send 110, send forth 15, send away 4, send out 2, misc 2;
to order (one) to go to a place appointed, to send away, dismiss, to allow one to depart, that he may be in a state of liberty, to order one to depart, send off, to drive away
A HOLY COMMAND: Oswald Chambers on Love
If we have really had wrought in our hearts and heads the amazing revelation which Jesus Christ gives that God is love and that we can never remember anything He will forget, then worry is impossible.
Notice how frequently Jesus Christ warns against worry. The ‘cares of this world’ will produce worry, and the ‘lusts of other things’ entering in will choke the word God has put in. Is the thing which claims my attention just now, the one thing which God has saved and sanctified me? If it is, life is all the time becoming simpler, and the crowding clamouring lusts have no hold.
[from ‘Biblical Psychology’]
Listen to this meditation by clicking on ‘download file’ below:
“This I Believe (The Creed)” — Hillsong Worship
The Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
[Ephesians 2:19-20 NKJV]