Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Apostle

Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (14) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (15) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (16) from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Much ado has been paid to titles & gifts in the church; some claim titles based on fanciful notions of innate abilities, as well as outright self-centered avarice. But titles come as abilities are given, nurtured, then proven by experience. Like salvation itself, they are not borne from the heart & ability of man, but the purposed will & authority of God. (1 Cor. 1:1, 2 Cor 1:1, Gal. 1:1, et. al.)

The apostle is the highest calling man can have. He is a m
an set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1) & has entire churches as a testament to his “workmanship in the Lord” (1Cor. 9:1-2). Paul spells out more of the traits of the apostle in 2 Cor 12:12- “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.”

Jesus selected only twelve of His disciples to be apostles & gifted them:

Mark 3:14-15 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach (15) and have authority to cast out demons.

Luke 9:1-2 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, (2) and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.

Acts 2:42-43 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (43) And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.

Quite simply an apostle is nothing less than one who possesses, by the appointment (1Tim. 2:7) of God, all the titles & gifts of God in his person. He shepherds, preaches, teaches, prophesies, evangelizes, works miracles, & has complete authority over comparatively large portions of Christ’s church body. All gifts of God are potentially actionable through the office of apostle.

Yet even at this level of stewardship to Christ, such are not perfect. Their faith was sometimes weak (Luke 17:5), & despite their anointing, their authority was sometimes suppressed by this faithlessness (Luke. 9:40-41). The apostle Peter had to be dressed down by the apostle Paul for conduct “not in step with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14). Paul himself confesses that the intransigent old man is still at war against his soul (Rom. 7) & he is powerless (but still joyful) against Satan’s thorn in his flesh as a result (2 Cor 12:7). So perseverant humility & transparency are shown to be more marks of the apostle.

It would seem to have been a requirement to have actually witnessed Jesus Christ for one to be accorded the office, given the statements of Acts1:22-23 & 1 Cor. 9:1. Yet another standard the guy on TV or the strip mall storefront probably doesn’t meet.

Then, further denying the concept of the modern apostle, is the fact that his “workmanship” is taught to be foundational not simply to a church, but the church; that “household of God” that been has passed down for nearly 2000 years…

Ephesians 2:13-22 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (14) For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (15) by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, (16) and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (17) And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. (18) For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. (19) So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, (20) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, (21) in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (22) In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Such a momentous structure as this, a building with no less than Christ as the cornerstone & His apostles & prophets being the very substance for the rest of the foundation, is not the kind of building I could imagine being torn down past the foundation & rebuilt with new apostles & prophets with every generation that passes. As Moses & the prophets were deemed sufficient for the rich man's family (Luke 16:29), God has apparently determined the original apostles & prophets to be sufficient for us.

The Greek “apostolos” means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders” (Thayer) & clearly- according to Acts 1:2- God is their only “commander”. Pretty large person; indeed, so large that Heb. 3:1 even attributes the title to Christ Himself:

Hebrews 3:1-3 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, (2) who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God's house. (3) For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses- as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.

It is the natural man’s typical impetus to crave such power over other men. But I see no man since the days of the early church exhibiting such Godly power, & it may well be until Christ returns that earthly eyes would gaze upon one in possession of such authority again.

So one would be wise to beware of anyone claiming such a title, for pride & deception must surely rule his soul. Possibly, ignorance of the scope of the biblical precedent for apostleship might be the cause for a modern "apostle's" misguided appropriation of such a title, but that biblical ignorance proves as well his improper appropriation.

There is one more way the true earthly apostle imitates Christ- the ultimate Apostle (for He was also "sent"- John 3:16)- the apostle often suffers death for the sake of the Gospel:

Luke 11:49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute.

Church history records that every established apostle but John died for his witness of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:27-28 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
(28) And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

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