A WALK THROUGH HISTORY
We need to understand that even though Ephesians 4 tells us of the five fold ministries, these ministries were not set in the Church at the same time but were developed by the Lord as the Church grew and the need for the different types of ministry became necessary, for example the first ministry gifts set in the Church were the apostles and prophets( most of the apostles were also prophets), the first mention of the evangelist was in Acts 21:8, though we had seen the ministry gift in action in Acts 8, in Acts Chapter 13:1 we see other prophets who were not a part of the original 12 on the scene , coupled with the ministry office of the teacher, the language of Acts 13:1 would suggest that the individuals were either prophets or teachers and in some cases both because Paul said he was a teacher and a prophet in addition to His ministry as an apostle.
From these we learn that an individual may be set in more than one office or the Lord may move an individual through some other offices in preparation for his ultimate office, in the case of Paul, as an apostle which will seem to be the foremost office because of its nature and responsibility.
This present day confusion over whether the ministry gift of the apostle ( and prophet ) is the result of the centuries of declension during the period which is commonly referred to as the dark ages, a result of the merging of Church and State at the instance of Roman emperor Constantine who reportedly converted to Christianity after a ‘religious’ experience in about AD 324, Under Constantine a statecraft and priesthood laity division began to emerge, the biblical ministry gifts recognised and accepted by the Church began to disappear partly because of the force of the state supported ‘new Christianity’ and the persecutions that the true Church suffered at the hands of subsequent Emperors.
The birth of the papal system marked the death of the true ministry of Christ, the entire ministry gifts disappeared or went underground, a new priesthood which divided the Church into laity and clergy was born which was foreign to scripture and this continued for centuries until the restoration of bible ministry began with the reformation led by the German reformist Martin Luther at about AD 1517. This reformation began the process of restoring the bible to the centre of the life and ministry of the Church, with this restoration and the subsequent restorations that took place over the following centuries the biblical classifications of ministry gifts began to be restored as the Church began to recognise these bible based classifications.
Over time the offices of the Pastor, Teacher and the Evangelist have come to be accepted and recognized in the Church as valid bible ministry gifts of the Lord Jesus, however it is only in the past 15 – 20 years that the ministry offices of the Apostle and Prophet have begun to gain prominence in the Church, to be sure I believe that these offices had always been in the Church since the reformation began but they were not recognized for what they were, most likely they were called by other names, for example I believe that men who were sent to mission fields by the Lord Himself ( as separate from those sent by mission boards or organizations) are apostles according to the bible definition but we did not call them that we called them missionaries.
Now because the Church and even the individuals themselves did not recognize these ministry gifts it was difficult to receive the full benefit of these ministries or for the individuals to minister in the fullness of the authority which this ministry office conferred on them. Have you noticed that the apostles of Christ in their epistles would usually declare themselves to be apostles? It was not a mark of pride but I believe arose out of the need to encourage the people to access through faith the benefits of that ministry. If a man says ‘I am an apostle’ he is saying in effect Jesus sent me to do this or that, in other words he will have specific authority in the field that he was sent to labour in, for which God wants his people to benefit from.
A PROPHETIC WORD
Twenty something years ago, while in worship the Lord said to me, ‘In the last days I will restore the offices of the apostle and the prophet to the Church’ at that time at least in my country it was impossible or very difficult to find a minister of the gospel ascribe such an office to himself or herself, in the following years I have watched with keen interest the emergence of a new generation of apostles and prophets and I believe this to be in line with the word of God and a confirmation of what the Lord said to me so many years ago.
This emergence has come with its own problems for example that of people ascribing to themselves titles and offices to which they were not called or even worse, agents of satan masquerading as apostles of Christ, but this is not a new problem, it was so in the bible days and should be dealt with in the same way it was dealt with in the bible
PROVE THE APOSTLES
This is something we are going to have to take responsibility for just as the people in the bible did
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;
Rev 2:1-2 NKJV
Just because someone shows up and declares himself to be an apostle doesn’t make him so, the office is not in the title but in the power, in the book of revelation Jesus commends the Church in Ephesus for testing or proving those who claimed to be apostles, if we are going to do so today how are we to proceed?
The apostle Paul tells us that there are signs that indicate true apostleship
I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.
2 Cor 12:11-12 NKJV
What are these signs or indicators?
1. A Supernatural Call
Jesus himself gives us the operating indices for calling men to the office of the apostle, he reveals his heart intent for people who must occupy that office of great responsibility.
And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons:
Mark 3:13-16 NKJV
The call to the office of the apostle is a definite call by the Lord Jesus Christ, it must be supernatural and certain, while it need not be spectacular, the individual and people must be able to testify to a true and genuine call.
Jesus himself called those that HE WANTED, no volunteers needed please, a man may desire the office of a bishop but certainly not one of the apostle for nobody should take upon himself this honour except those that the Lord has called.
Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me,
Gal 1:1-2 NKJV
An apostleship ( or any other ministry office for that matter) cannot be conferred by man or angel, it is not the product of learning and education, you cannot be promoted into the office by man, neither can a prophet prophesy you into the office, that is not to say that the ministry of the prophet or any other cannot confirm what you already know of your call, if a person didn’t know he had a call to the office and a so called prophet prophesies him into the office, it is very likely he is not called into that office.
All the apostles of the bible could clearly and definitely relate their call and its certainty.
2. Supernatural equipment and manifestations
Jesus himself tells us that His Apostles will have the anointing on them to heal sicknesses and cast out devils ( Mark 3:13-16) , Jesus himself, God’s apostle, needed the supernatural to attest to His ministry, no less will be expected from His apostles today. This quickly tells us that an apostle will have supernatural signs attesting to his ministry, remember these apostles are official ambassadors of Christ, there must be evidence to support that.
So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
Mark 16:19-20 NKJV
Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.
2 Cor 12:11-12 NKJV
Every one called to the office of an apostle must have the spiritual equipment to fulfil that call, he must be anointed of the Lord to give expression to that call, this is the divine testimony to the call.
3. There must be a definite sphere of apostleship
Every apostle is sent to do something, what is his message, what is the sphere of his apostleship? Apostles don’t have authority over all the Church but only in the spheres of service assigned to them.
As for those who were considered important in the church, their reputation doesn’t concern me. God isn’t impressed with mere appearances, and neither am I. And of course these leaders were able to add nothing to the message I had been preaching. It was soon evident that God had entrusted me with the same message to the non-Jews as Peter had been preaching to the Jews. Recognizing that my calling had been given by God, James, Peter, and John — the pillars of the church — shook hands with me and Barnabas, assigning us to a ministry to the non-Jews, while they continued to be responsible for reaching out to the Jews.
Gal 2:6-9 THE MESSAGE
We aren’t making outrageous claims here. We’re sticking to the limits of what God has set for us. But there can be no question that those limits reach to and include you. We’re not moving into someone else’s “territory.” We were already there with you, weren’t we? We were the first ones to get there with the Message of Christ, right? So how can there be any question of overstepping our bounds by writing or visiting you?
We’re not barging in on the rightful work of others, interfering with their ministries, demanding a place in the sun with them. What we’re hoping for is that as your lives grow in faith, you’ll play a part within our expanding work. And we’ll all still be within the limits God sets as we proclaim the Message in countries beyond Corinth. But we have no intention of moving in on what others have done and taking credit for it. “If you want to claim credit, claim it for God.”
2 Cor 10:13-18 THE MESSAGE
The two texts above illustrate the point, Paul was an apostle but he was sent to a particular people, the non Jews, that was the sphere of his ministry and the results he was getting confirmed this, the apostle Peter on the other hand was the apostle to the Jews and this was recognised by other Church leaders, this brings me to a very important point, others must be able to perceive or recognise the call, it has to because the apostle must work with other ministry leaders.
I believe that apostles can be sent to nations, cities, peoples, or to bring particular messages or ministries to the Church and the nations of the world.
4. The Apostle must have a close and intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus.
The apostle must be a person of intimate and close relationship with the Lord, He is representing the Lord Jesus Christ in a specific, definite way, how then would he not have an intimate relationship with the one who has called him to represent him? Every true apostle no matter what he or she is called to do is an eyewitness of Jesus in that area; Jesus is and must be the centre of his message.
An apostle who does not have this emphasis is representing himself and not the Lord.
Listen to the testimony of the Apostle John
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
1 John 1:1-4 NKJV
Paul said to the Church in Corinthians
Follow me as I follow Christ
In recounting his conversion and call to King Agrippa he said
At midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’
“Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,
Acts 26:13-19 NKJV
The life of the apostle, his message and ministry must show that he has been with Jesus and has been taught of the Lord, he must be stamped with stamp of Christ in all humility and longsuffering. He cannot act and live in a way that is anti Christ and claim to be an apostle of Christ.
5. The message of the Apostle
The apostle must be a man of the word , because he is first and foremost a preacher or teacher of God’s word, he must have clear understanding of the doctrines of the bible, he cannot be immersed in controversial teaching and ‘revelations’.
However one essential characteristic of the apostle is that he is a man taught of the Lord particularly in the area of his apostleship, this means he would have clear and deep insight into the issues he has been mandated to bring to the Church and will have authority to teach it.
Paul the apostle had deep insight into the adoption of the Gentiles or non Jews into the body of Christ, but it was an insight made plain by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, looking back now we can see that all the while God had hidden that mystery in plain sight in the scriptures just waiting for the time of its unveiling. It was not a farfetched revelation; it was scriptural but hidden until God through ministry of the apostles and prophets made it plain.
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles — if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power
Eph 3:1-7 NKJV
Smith Wigglesworth the British Evangelist was generally called the apostle of faith because of the tremendous insight that God gave him on the subject and the mighty manifestations of the gift of faith through his ministry, but he was an uneducated man, a plumber, but it was said of him that teachers of the bible with understanding of the Greek and Hebrew language often marveled at the accurate interpretations of difficult texts and words in his meetings. How did this happen?
He was a man taught of the Lord Jesus.
This is what the anointing does, Peter and John were uneducated men, but they were also men taught of the Holy Spirit, today it seems we are out educating the Holy Spirit and raising men of letters but without the Spirit, while formal education is excellent, it takes more than that to produce apostles and prophets of God.
Jesus said, when the Holy Spirit comes
He shall teach us all things..
We need men taught of the Holy Spirit.