Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing a series entitled, “The Anatomy of the Biblical Church”. This intent of this series is to take a biblical look at the goals of the church and how it accomplishes its purpose.
Today, I want to continue down the pathway of discovery regarding the role of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament church by taking a look at one of the offices of the church: Apostle.
In last week’s blog, we found out that the Holy Spirit equips the people of the church for the work of the ministry through five ministry impartations operative within the church.
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 the 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 4:11-13
It is quite easy to see that the goal of the five ministry impartations or offices are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. And, it is also easy to see that this work will continue until we are all perfected. So, this work continues till Jesus returns – agreed?
Now, many of our family members in the body of Christ believe that the gift or work of the apostle ceased after the death of the last first century apostle.
Remember our talk about Cessationists? Cessationists believe that in order to validate His message through certain unique people, God performed miracles through them. God also sent the gift of tongues to reveal to the Jews that the gospel was being sent to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Once the cornerstone of doctrine from which we get our Bible was given, the miraculous was no longer needed and ceased to operate.
Last time I spoke to you, we looked at the scriptures used to validate the ceasing of tongues and prophecy. We’ll talk more about that on a later date.
But, what about the five-fold ministry of the apostle? Did it truly stop after the death of the final apostle? If so, have miracles ceased as well?
One of the reasons Ceassationists believe in the ending of the apostolic gift or office is that they believe that the role of an apostle is to create doctrine. If apostles still exist, then doctrine is still being created, therefore the Bible as we know it is incomplete. If apostles are still around, then the Bible is being added to when they teach or make decisions.
I believe that the original twelve apostles held a special role in the founding of the faith. I believe that one of their unique callings was to record the words of Jesus and to pass them along to the world.
When giving the good news to the Ephesian believers that Gentiles were now included in the body of Christ, Paul stated in verse 20 that they were joining a household of God which was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ being the Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).
For a house to be going up, the foundation must be finished. I do believe that this scripture is speaking of the original twelve apostles and the prophets whose words became scripture. When describing the New Jerusalem he saw coming out of heaven, the apostle John stated that the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14). Acts 2:42 states that the church continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine.
The twelve hold a unique place among us because God used them to create the unchanging foundation of our faith.
Turn to Romans 16:7.
As Paul is writing his goodbyes to the church of Rome, he says the following:
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
When was the last time you read the Chronicles of Andronicus? Or, how about the Gospel according to Junia? These men created no doctrine we recognize as Scripture.
The Bible calls Paul an apostle. Was he one of the twelve? Some say he actually was the twelveth apostle who replaced Judas. Where is that written? We do know that Peter believed Paul’s writings were sacred according to 2 Peter 3:16. But, was he one of the original twelve? Galatians 1:19 tells us James, the brother of the Lord was an apostle. Acts 14:14 tells us that Barnabas was an apostle.
And, one of the most intriguing scriptures is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7:
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.
Wait a minute! Who are these spoken of at the end of the scripture? They are called apostles but are not of the twelve!
The word “apostle” literally means “one who is commissioned or sent forth.”
Could it be that the twelve (and Paul) were called to reveal doctrine and the rest of the apostles were commissioned to uphold revealed doctrine? Could it be that they were sent out to have sons and daughters in the faith through adherence to Christ’s teachings?
Could it be that the apostolic calling is more than the creation of doctrine but the enforcement of it?
Did the apostolic disappear upon the death of the last first century apostle? Or, does the commission to be sent to the world continue with the responsibility to accurately represent the One who sent them?
What about the ceasing of the miraculous?
Could it be that the “failure” of Paul to heal Epaphroditus, Trophimus, and Timothy was not a failure at all but simply the sovereignty of God that each of us experience? Or could it be that instead of an instantaneous miracle, God performed a transformational healing?
Luke 9:1 and Mark 6:7 tell us about Jesus’ impartation of power to the apostles. Yet, Luke 10:1-17 tells us about 70 others that were sent who experienced miraculous power. It’s easy to miss, but in verse 2 of that chapter we see Jesus telling us to pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send out more of these same miraculous laborers into the harvest field.
What about the belief that miracles were primarily limited to three periods?
What about Joshua and the walls of Jericho? What about when he spoke to the sun and moon in Gibeon instructing them to stand still?
What about Stephen the deacon? What about Philip the evangelist? Not apostles. What about the two witnesses in Revelation?
One exception creates a new rule.
Just something to chew on. Next time, we’ll talk about the prophetic.