The spiritual gift of apostleship is sometimes confused with the office of Apostle.
The office of Apostle is not a biblical term and becomes confusing to the people of the Church. The problem with this term is that it wreaks with authoritarian controls. It is not a term that explains the servanthood that apostleship requires.
However, when someone uses this term I like to have it defined, as many people have a pretty good definition of what “office of the apostle” means.
Apostleship is a gift from God to the body of Christ. When these gifts are received by the people whom God loves, this gift begins to manifest the spiritual nature of the Kingdom of heaven and manifest the ministry of Jesus Christ through the Church unto the world.
“And He gave some as apostles,
and some as prophets,
and some as evangelists,
and some as pastors and teachers,…”
The key herein is that, “He gave.”
Who is the gift?
Apostleship is held by a limited number of men & women who are chosen by Jesus and given to the people whom He loves. Just as the original twelve were called, chosen and named, so, apostles are today and throughout history.
(Luke 6:12-13 NASB)
“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:”
Saul of Tarsus, also called Paul, describes his call this way:
(Romans 1:1 NASB)
“Paul, a bond- servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…”
Paul then greets other apostles whom he relates to. One of them being a woman apostle, noting their outstanding works or positioning amongst the active apostles of the season.
(Romans 16:7 NASB)
“Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.”
The requirements given for the original 12 apostles included being a “witness” of Jesus’ ministry and His resurrection – His state of being alive and not dead – as well as being individually called/chosen/named by Jesus & God the Father.
Many have argued that the original twelve apostles where the only ones whom Jesus named and gave. This is religious bondage. Yet some take the appointment of Matthias to take the place of Judas as the strict code for all apostles. This too is religious bondage and a lack of scriptural knowledge.
The important apostolic structure and the number of the twelve had to be maintained. Twelve is an important spiritual number. (The 24 elders in revelation consist of the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel and the fathers who were the 12 apostles who walked with Jesus.)
(Acts 1:21-26 NASB)
“Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.”
(1 Corinthians 9:1-2 NASB)
“Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?
Are you not my work in the Lord?
If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you;
for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.”
(Galatians 1:1 NASB)
“Paul, an apostle ( not sent from men nor through the agency of man,
but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead)…”
Apostles are given authority by Jesus to cast out demons, heal the sick and even raise the dead. They are also given the power to found and establish the ecclesia. The original apostles wrote love letters to the different ecclesia’s which became our scriptures. Miracles abound through and around an apostle’s life.
The gift of apostleship continues throughout generations as a necessary structural alignment of the Kingdom of heaven upon the earth. The increasing, yet unconstrained, authority of the apostle, is found in the realms of sickness, poverty, disease, spiritual darkness actively usurping God’s creation in every way.
(2 Corinthians 12:12 NASB)
“The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance,
by signs and wonders and miracles.”
The true apostle seeks to know his activated authority over every work of evil that binds the people of God.
The Ascension Gifts
Jesus gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers at His ascension, and these represent a distinct organization of the Ecclesia. These also have different purposes in the sense of establishing the ecclesia, equipping the ecclesia, giving the ecclesia its purpose and maintaining its life and growth.
(Ephesians 4:7-13 NASB)
“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,
‘When HE ascended on high, He led captive A host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.’
(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
The mission for those who are the gift of the apostle today, in general but not exclusively, is:
- to plant new ministries and churches,
- go take the gospel of the Kingdom to the nations,
- reach across cultures to establish ecclesia’s for all people groups
- to bring breakthrough in challenging environments,
- raise up and develop leaders,
- call out and give leadership to shepherds of God’s flock,
Apostles often operate in many of the Holy Spirit gifts allowing them to fulfill the needs of ministry. They are leaders of leaders and ministers of ministers.
They are influencers.
They are typically entrepreneurial and are able to take risks and perform difficult tasks.
Multiple Roles Of Apostolic Character
The Apostle Paul introduced himself as an apostle and a teacher
The Apostle Peter was first told by Jesus, when He appeared to them after He rose from the dead, that Peter was to shepherd God’s sheep. This arguably made Peter and apostle/shepherd.
Although I don’t think that there is a hard rule of multi-character gifting, I do believe the scripture gives an image of apostleship having individual diversity of ministry character.
Apostles by calling and choosing are also named.
Apostles can also become the gift by inheritance from an apostle, (i.e. Timothy)
In the founding of the Ecclesia, it is rather clear that the foundations of the house of God are built upon the ministry gifts of apostles and prophets.
(Ephesians 2:19-22 NASB)
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together,
is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are
being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
The blueprint for the ecclesia is also given by the ministry gifts of the apostles, prophets and teachers.
(1 Corinthians 12:28 NASB)
“And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.”
Yet there are false apostles and Jesus gave encouragement to the Ecclesia of Ephesus for testing those who were false and not tolerating such falseness. “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;…”
(Revelation 2:2 NASB)