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Apostles 1

Last week I posted a blog on our apostolic mandate, and I got a very interesting comment from someone who from the tenor of his response disagreed with the theme of my post, he actually said ‘there are no apostles today and nothing like apostolic succession’. Well I don’t know about apostolic succession, I made no reference or comment about that, to the best of my knowledge, apostolic succession is a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church that teaches that there is an unbroken apostolic chain from the Apostle Peter who the Roman Catholic Church claims was the successor of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Shepherd of the Church to the present day Pope, I don’t believe or teach that.
The main thing that interests me is his assertion that there are no apostles today, I want to address that because it is something of particular importance today and we will see why in a little while.

Let me start by saying flat out that I believe there are Apostles today and i will show you why I say that firstly by the testimony of scriptures and by the present day revelation of the Holy Spirit.

WHO IS THE APOSTLE?

The word apostle is from the Greek word apostolos which Strong’s Exhaustive concordance of the bible defines as ‘delegate, an ambassador of the gospel of Christ, officially a commissioner ( that is one who is commissioned), a messenger, he that is sent.

The word has its roots in Greece practice of delegating an individual to represent a kingdom or city or people, in other words the word is not really an ecclesiastical term but an adaptation of a cultural description.

While the word is  used for the first time by Jesus to describe those that he was sending in his name, there have been people in scripture whose ministries have actually fitted this description. Jesus alluded to them in Luke 11: 49.

Therefore the wisdom of God also said,’I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’
NKJV

The first followers of Jesus were first designated disciples then as their training progressed and there commissioning drew near he called them apostles. (Luke 6:13)

Look at Luke 9:1, here these men were designated disciples

Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3 And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece.
“Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.
Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him; and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again. Herod said, “John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?” So he sought to see Him.
And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. 11 But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing.
Luke 9:1-11 NKJV

But in the 10th verse after they had been sent out and returned they were described as apostles, keep in mind the definition of the word apostle, includes the description one who is sent.

So biblically speaking an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ is one who is called by the Lord Jesus to the office of an apostle and sent specifically to accomplish a certain task or ministry.

The two key elements here are the call and the task

The apostle Paul described himself as an apostle to the gentiles and his narrative of his experience when the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him certainly confirms that fact. ( Acts 26: 12- 19)

The apostle is one of a group of five ministry gifts which we often refer to as the five fold ministry or some call the ascension gifts of Christ to His Church, these ministries are listed in Ephesians 4: 11- 16 and the purpose of their call and service is made plain in the same reference.

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; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Eph 4:11-16 NKJV

These are gifts of men (not spiritual abilities) to the Church.

So the apostle is a person who occupies the spiritual office of an apostle and is called and equipped by the Lord Jesus Christ to fulfill whatever ministry or responsibility he has been commissioned to fulfill.

The first apostles were chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ with the responsibility to establish and lay the foundation of the Church with Jesus Christ as the Chief cornerstone, they are referred to as the apostles of the Lamb in scripture. (Rev. 21:14) These were special men who had walked with Jesus in his earth walk and were eye witnesses of his glory and majesty.

And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles: Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.
Luke 6:13-16 NKJV

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,
Eph 2:19-20 NKJV

SOME IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS

The first issue to consider would be whether there were any other apostles outside the ones chosen by the Lord Jesus himself in his earth walk, because if they were it would mean they were chosen by Jesus after his ascension and by implication would suggest that He could still be choosing such today.
If there were any ,the next question would be at what point did Jesus stop calling men to the office of an apostle if at all he did?

Where there any apostles which Jesus chose after his ascension?

Yes there were, the very first one was Matthias, chosen to fill up the gap left by the betrayal of Judas Iscariot, he was chosen by lot AND prayer, which was an way of seeking the will of God in the Old Testament, notice that this was before the Holy Spirit was given, after this experience there was no need to seek God’s will in such ways.

1. Matthias

And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.”

(Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)

“For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
‘Let his dwelling place be desolate,
And let no one live in it’;
and,
‘Let another take his office.’

“Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Acts 1:15-26 NKJV

By this singular act the Lord chose Mathias to replace Judas and he became one of the apostles of the Lamb.

So Mathias is number one

2. Paul (Saul)

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me,
Gal 1:1-2 NKJV

Paul formerly called Saul was also chosen by the Lord a good many years after the resurrection ( Acts 9 & 13) though he did not begin his apostolic ministry until after about 13 – 15 years later, something about the office of the requires that whoever occupies that office must not be a novice, the development of the apostle Paul indicates the extreme preparation that one who is called to the office of an apostle must undertake, there is usually a time lag between the call and the commission as we see in the life of the apostle.

So the apostle Paul is number two

3. Barnabas

Paul’s companion and associate in ministry, not much is known about when he was called but he was commissioned at the same time as the Apostle in Acts 13: 2,
He is referred to as an apostle in the same breath as the apostle Paul

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.
Acts 14:14-18 NKJV

Barnabas is number three

4. James the brother of the Lord

But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.)
Gal 1:19-20 NKJV

This James was not the apostle chosen by the Lord in his earth walk, the original James was killed by Herod in Acts 12, in fact this James was not even a believer in Jesus during his earth walk.

Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.

Mark 6:1-3 NKJV

After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For even His brothers did not believe in Him.
John 7:1-5 NKJV

Sometime after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, he became a believer and later an apostle and was the author of the book named after him.

So James is number four

5 & 6. Andronicus and Junia

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
Rom 16:7 NKJV

Not much is known about these two apostles but the Apostle Paul had great regard for them, they were somehow related to him, some bible translations refer to them as cousins of the apostle.

Andronicus and Junia are numbers five and six

7 & 8. Silvanus and Timothy,

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.

1 Thess 2:6-7 NKJV

Paul described Silvanus and Timothy as apostles of Christ,

So Silvanus and Timothy will be numbers seven and eight

9. Apollos

In 1 Corinthians 3 & 4 Paul describes Apollos as a fellow apostle.

Apollos was described as eloquent and mighty in scriptures ( Acts 18: 24 -28), over time through the help of Priscilla and Aquila, he developed into an apostle that drew a considerable following particularly in Corinth so much so that some of the Corinthians began to identify themselves as disciples or followers of Apollos, while some others said they were followers of Paul, the result was that there was so much debate about who was the more ‘powerful’ apostle, who was the better speaker etc. Paul the Apostle had to step in and put an end to those divisive talks.

So Apollos would be number nine

From these references we can see that there were at least 9 other apostles who were chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ after his ascension, even though we can trace at least another five or six individuals whose description suggests that they were apostles but for the purposes of this essay these are enough.
This answers our question and tells us that there were other apostles outside the original twelve chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ.

This brings us to the next issue, at what point if at all did the office of the apostle cease to exist?

The truth is this, there is nothing in scripture that suggests that the office of the apostle ceased to exist at any point in time, if there were apostles after the resurrection, then it stands to reason that there are still apostles today being chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Ephesians 4:11, the apostle Paul names five different ministry gifts of the Lord Jesus to the Church, there is nothing that suggests that any of the other offices have ceased, so it makes no sense to single out the office of the apostle as having ceased or somehow gone into extinction. The office of the apostle is as relevant today as it was in the days of the apostle.

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; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

The question to ask would be, has the purpose for which these gifts of men given been accomplished, has the Church been fully equipped for the work of the ministry, has the church come to the stature of the fullness of Christ?
Every generation needs Pastors to Shepherd the people, Evangelists to proclaim the gospel, teachers to teach, what about Apostles and Prophets to establish the Church in the truth AND TO FULFILL SPECIFIC ASSIGNMENTS AS DETERMINED BY THE Lord Jesus?

There is a lot to say about the ministry of the Apostle and it is a needed ministry today.

One of the reasons why some people say that the office or ministry of the apostle has ceased is from a misunderstanding of Ephesians 2:19 where it states that the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ being the chief Cornerstone, they say the Church has already being established so there is no need for apostles and prophets, if that is so by their reasoning then there will be no need for a present day ministry of Jesus!

The mistake here is to assume that the apostles and prophets here are a sole reference to the 12 apostles of the Lamb, but nothing suggests that, agreed that theses 12 apostles had a very unique ministry but we have seen that Jesus chose additional apostles after his resurrection indicating that the ministry of the apostle was one that was an ongoing need in the church because of its nature.

Come to think of it, how many of the apostles of the Lamb actually were used to inscribe scripture by the Lord? We know that Matthew, John, Peter all contributed to the canon of scripture, only three of the original twelve! The major part of the New Testament was given through an apostle who never saw or walked with the Lord Jesus Christ in His earth walk, and that is the apostle Paul. Some of the other instruments through which the scripture was given were not known as Apostles , such as Luke and Mark. So while the apostles of the Lamb were very important in laying the doctrinal foundation of the early Church that responsibility was also shared by shared by some other apostles and people who were not recognised as apostles, but whose spirit led ministry was confirmed by those who saw and walked with Jesus.

What is the obvious conclusion? It is that the Church is built on the foundation of the ministries of apostles and prophets with Jesus being the Chief cornerstone, this is why the ministries of the apostle and the prophet are very important today and this is why the Lord is restoring these ministries to their places of prominence to the Church in this generation.

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