Dan over at Cereleun Sanctum has written a few posts in which questions about apostles today beg to be answered.
Are there apostles today?
If so, who are they and how can we identify them?
He points out that most of the apostles (but not all, i.e. Barnabus) had a personal encounter with Jesus either before He was resurrected (the disciples) or afterwards (Paul).
He lists some characteristics that he thinks apostles should meet according to the Scriptures which he gives for each point.
*Taught by God and please only Him (Galatians1:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:4)
*Proclaim the word of God and divide it correctly (2 Corinthians 2:17; 4:2)
*Minister from the power of God, not the wisdom of men (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1Corinthians 2:1-5)
*Blameless, holy, and gentle (1 Thessalonians 2:7,10)
*Encourage, comfort, and rebuke (1Thessalonians 2:11)
*Endure hardship, loss, and persecution on the Church's behalf (1 Corinthians 4:11-13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-31)
*Revel in the Church (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20; Philippians 4:1)
*Appointed to select groups by God (Galatians 2:7-8)
*Refrain from soliciting money for themselves (Acts 20:33-34; 2 Thessalonians 3:8-10)
He's asked his readers to comment on this topic, but since my comments would take up too much room, I've decided to blog about this important topic myself.
First of all, I absolutely believe there are apostles today. There is nothing in Scripture that denotes otherwise. If we accept the Ephesian 4:11 offices* for prophet, evangelist and pastor-teacher, then we must also accept apostle. To do otherwise is theologically dishonest.
But a problem arises when we give names other than the Bible specifies for various terms. When we do that we can give any definition and characteristics to it. So, it's much better to use the actual terms and definitions in the Bible text itself. First we must define what an apostle does. I personally take the late Kenneth Hagin's definition because Biblically it seems to fit the best. He says that an apostle is basically the combination of evangelist, prophet, and pastor-teacher. Here is where we have gone wrong in the western church IMO. We send out missionaries to do everything. Since the term missionary isn't a ministry in the Bible I'm not sure what these people are supposed to do. Basically most are evangelists. But because the church historically in the past few centuries have not recognized apostles, nor have they usually sent pastors, teachers or prophets once an area has been evangelized for the new converts, these evangelists are expected to do it all. Unfortunately, God didn't equip evangelists to pastor, teach or prophesy. They can do those things but that is not where their specific anointing lies. I believe that is one reason why missions on the whole have not been as effective as they could be in many Third World countries. The other reason is a lack of power evangelism. So, either an apostle who has all these gifts should be sent into unreached areas, or an evangelist with a back-up team of prophets and pastor-teachers until the new converts can mature to do these things themselves.
This was actually the New Testament model and so it should be today.
In my post yesterday I quoted church planter and trainer Natalia Schedrivaya from Russia who said,
"Church growth to me involves spreading the gospel to places where no one goes or wants to go." That is exactly what an apostle does.
Well then where do these apostles come from and how are they identified? Are they really the ones who suddenly suddenly announced to us they are apostles? Are they the ones who sit in air conditioned offices and seek to be over already existing churches? Have they raised the dead and healed the sick? Have they converted hosts of unreached people? I think the answer is obvious. No.
And what happened after the last Apostle died? The churches ran themselves with elders and pastors as overseers. However, they still sent apostles out to the unreached. The point I want to emphasize here is the submission of the apostles to the church sending them forth. We see this with Paul and Barnabus. They were sent out by the church at Antioch and when there was a big question about the Gentiles (Acts 15), they submitted that question to the elders there. Listen to this:
Acts 14:26 (NIV) ..they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.
At that time in Antioch some teachers came teaching that Christians needed to be circumcized. This of course presented a big problem for the new Gentile converts. So, the church at Antioch felt they needed to submit it to the church at Jerusalem.
Now listen to this in Acts 15,
Acts 15:2...so Paul and Barnabus were appointed along with some other believers to g up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
Notice the passive verb were appointed. Paul and Barnabus didn't throw their weight around as Apostles. They submitted to their sending church.
We see an orderly progression here, not self-named apostles trying to get over already established churches (unless the founding Apostle OKayed it).
Who are these apostles then? The list that Dan presented (above) is a very good start. Apostles are sent out by churches AND they are under those churches. The only churches they are over are those they begin themselves with converts, unless perhaps a church invites them. Unfortunately I have personally seen this abused many times because some of these apostles today have a very strong spirit of control.
Apostles then evangelize, and then pastor, teach and prophesy to their new converts until elders and pastors and prophets and evangelists can be raised up within the converted people group. This was the Biblcial model in the first century and should be followed today too.
Here are two examples of apostles.
Saint Patrick. There is documnetary evidence, not just folk tales, that he actually healed the sick, raised at least one dead person and of course evangelized a whole country into Christianity (Ireland).
A modern day apostle IMO is the supervisor of the Foursquare church in Sri Lanka. He is a native Sri Lankan and fits the description both Dan and I have given.
Today, the Third Wave revival apostles (read that the Apostolic Reformation Council) maintain that they should be over all churches in each area. At least that is how I interpret what they are saying.
*Contrary to what we are hearing from the Word of Faith teachers and others today, Ephesians 4:11 is a four-fold ministry, not a five-fold. The Granville-Sharp rule of Greek grammatical interpretation suggests in this text that pastor and teacher are not two separate ministries, but in actuality one.
*Why did I use the word office here instead of gift? The Greek word in Eph. 4:11 is domata, not charis (charis is the word used in both Romans 12:6-8 and I Cor. 12:8-10). Domata denotes more of an office, although many use the word ministry here.
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