The word Apostle has a number of meanings. An apostle is a delegate, an ambassador of the gospel, a messenger, and officially a commissioner of Christ, and is usually reserved for those selected for a particular function in the church. In Luke 6: 12-12 after a night spent in prayer, Jesus chose twelve out of a large number of disciples and called them Apostles. Mark emphasizes that the origin of mission and apostolate of the Twelve had been commissioned by Jesus Himself.
- “Govern and influence everything from doctrinal questions to the practical issues of living for God.”
- “Establish doctrinal harmony in God’s word and unity amongst themselves.”
- Make decrees with the approval of the Archbishop
- Ordain deacons and elders into their offices
- Delegate authority to other leaders under them
- Doesn’t everyone know what an apostle is? Isn’t that the highest rank of church leadership? That may be how the word is sometimes used, but the word had a different meaning before the church existed. It originally meant “one who has been sent” — an ambassador or representative. This general meaning is seen in some New Testament uses.
- Jesus used the word in a general sense when he said that a “messenger” is not greater than the one who sends him (John 13:16). Similarly, Paul referred to some apostles whose names were not given; the NIV calls them “representatives” (2 Corinthians 8:23). That was the general function of an Apostolos. When Paul called Epaphroditus an Apostolos, he may have meant simply that Epaphroditus was a messenger of the church at Philippi (Philippians 2:25).
- Jesus, who was sent by the Father, was an apostle (Hebrews 3:1). The 12 disciples, who were sent by Jesus, were also apostles (Mark 3:14, etc.). The disciples are not in the same category of authority as Jesus, but the same Greek word is used. Barnabas and Paul were also sent out, and they were called apostles (Acts 14:4, 14).
- The 12 disciples and Paul used the term Apostolos as the name of their leadership office in the church (Acts 15:23; Romans 11:13; Galatians 1:1; etc.). Authority came with the sending — a messenger sent by Jesus Christ had an authoritative understanding of that message.
- James may have been an apostle, too — in one verse he is distinguished from the apostles, and in another, he is included (1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19). Similarly, Timothy is excluded sometimes (2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1) and included once (1 Thessalonians 2:6) — but in this latter verse, Paul may have been using the term in a general sense of messenger or representative.
- The reference in Romans 16:7 is debated. Some say that Andronicus and Junias (or Junia)1 were apostles; others say that the verse simply means they were esteemed highly by the apostles. Even if they were apostles, however, it is likely that they were messengers rather than having a permanent position of authority in the church. (If they were apostles in the same sense that Paul was, it is odd that we know almost nothing about them, either from the Bible or from church history.)
- Some people falsely claimed to be apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13; Revelations 2:2). Paul facetiously called them “super-apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11). Although he was the least of the apostles, he was not inferior to the self-proclaimed apostles (1 Corinthians 15:9).
- God appointed some people to be apostles (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11). This was part of the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20; 3:5). What role did apostles have in the church? The Twelve and Paul were instrumental in beginning the church. Soon after Jesus had ascended to heaven, the disciples said that a requirement for their “apostolic ministry” was to have been with Jesus during his ministry (Acts 1:21-25). These apostles not only preached but also exercised some administrative leadership. They laid hands on deacons whom the people had chosen (Acts 6:6) and they made decisions with the elders (Acts 15:22).
- Paul mentioned some of his qualifications to be considered an apostle: seeing the Lord and raising up churches (1 Corinthians 9:1). His converts were the “seal” of his apostleship — evidence that he had been sent, at least to them (v. 2). He noted characteristics that marked an apostle: “signs, wonders and miracles” (2 Corinthians 12:12). An apostle preaches the gospel as a faithful messenger of the Lord. He is an official representative of Jesus Christ, more exclusive and authoritative than elders.
WHO IS AN APOSTLE
A.) An Apostle is identified by his spiritual authority.
Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. (2 Corinthians 12:12)
B.) An apostle is called by God, not men.
But from those who seemed to be something–whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favouritism to no man–for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and them to the circumcised. (Galatians 2:6-9)
There are various signs and attributes of an apostle:
A.) They are taught by God
But I certify you, brethren that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12)
B.) They minister in the power of God, not the wisdom of men
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. (Mark 16:20)
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with Excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in a demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)
C.) Their fruit manifests the living God
Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. (2 Corinthians 3:1-3)
D.) They lead by Christ’s example
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Ghost: So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. (1 Thessalonians 1:5-7)
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you… (2 Thessalonians 3:6-7)
E.) They please God, not men
But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so, we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)
For do I now persuade men or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
F.) They don’t flatter men
For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is a witness: (1 Thessalonians 2:5)
For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:17)
But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by the manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2)
G.) They are gentle with the saints
But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: (1 Thessalonians 2:7)
H.) They are often self-supporting (a lack of funding from others does not deter them from their mission)
For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. (1 Thessalonians 2:9)
Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:8-10).
I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. (Acts 20:33-34)
Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? I desired Titus, and with him, I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? Walked we not in the same spirit? Walked we not in the same steps? (2 Corinthians 12:17-18)
I.) They are holy, righteous, and blameless
Ye are witnesses and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: (1 Thessalonians 2:10)
J.) They exhort, comfort, and chasten as necessary
As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged [chastened or scourged] every one of you, as a father doth his children. (1 Thessalonians 2:11).
And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterwards, it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:5-8 and 11).
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5)
K.) Their glory is the glorious church
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy. (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)
As also ye have acknowledged us in part that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus. (2 Corinthians 1:14)
Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. (Philippians 4:1)
L.) They endure hardship and persecution for the church’s sake
Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. (1 Corinthians 4:11-13)
To the present hour we both hunger and thirst and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labour, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now. (1 Corinthians 4:11-13).
Are they ministers of Christ? –I speak as a fool–I am more: in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness– besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, know that I am not lying. (2 Corinthians 11:23-31).
Responsibilities of An Apostle
- Most apostles do not start out as apostles. The initial characteristic of the apostolic call is first and foremost is that they are a preacher and teacher of the Word of God. Everything they preach and teach is based upon the revealed truth in scriptures – I Timothy 2:7. Most apostles start out in other areas of ministry first and then once they are proven in that area, if the apostolic call is upon them, then God moves them into that level of ministry.
- II Timothy 2:1-2 – Apostles train and equip faithful men who in turn train and equip others. The Apostles’ heart is to see people grow and function in their callings.
- II Timothy 1:6 – An Apostle is able to activate, stir up, and release the gifting in peoples’ lives. An Apostle is able to impart the grace and anointing needed for someone to walk in his or her calling. He is able to release gifts and ministries within a believer in order to set them on course for their own ministry. An Apostle is able to impart what is lacking so the believer can rise to full maturity.
- I Timothy 4:14 – Apostles are spiritual fathers. As fathers they birth, protect, teach, and mentor sons. An Apostle has the ability to attract sons he can reproduce himself in through apostolic impartation. An apostle is able to help people grow into their full potentials in Christ. Impartation – the ability to plant in a seed form in the spirit of others what the apostle possesses in his life, call, and ministry. With the impartation comes multiplication of the apostle’s ministry. The sons he is training are reproducing his work. He is extending himself through them. So now his ministry goes to more places and touches more lives even though he is not there himself.
- The Apostles that we see in scripture laid the foundation of Kingdom principles that we now have. Modern-day Apostles do not write scripture or expand on the scripture that is written. They build upon the foundation that has already been laid in Christ. The Apostle promotes Christ as the firm foundation for life. Apostles lay the foundation in the lives of God’s people, in order to prepare them for the coming moves of God.
- Apostles are people of character – Philippians 3:8-10; Paul aspired to be like the Lord Jesus that he had encountered on the Damascus Road. He desired this not only for himself but for all those who were under his apostolic oversight – Galatians 4:19. He had a passion to see Christ formed and reproduced into his spiritual sons.
- Apostles have received the grace to suffer for Christ – Acts 9:15-16; Acts 20:17- 24. Paul recognized that suffering and affliction went along with the call and he was willing so that the Word of God would multiply in the lives of others. Along with the suffering comes the wisdom and stamina to deal with it.
- Apostles have access to revelations and the unfolding of mysteries – Galatians 1:11-12. This is how Paul received his calling and was able to write 2/3 of the New Testament. The apostles were given the revelation of the hidden mysteries concerning the believers in Christ and Christ in the believers. Apostles were able to bring an understanding of the Old Testament. Scriptures and interpret them for the relevance of their day. Acts 2:14-21 – Peter took the Old Testament prophecy by Joel and was able to bring understanding and revelation to that day. Apostles are able to bring insight to the Body of Christ concerning the purposes and plans of God.
- Apostolic ministry doesn’t just affect the local church but it affects cities, regions, and nations. Paul’s ministry affected city after city. Signs and wonders followed in each city. Acts 19:8-12. Not only does the apostolic affect the people in a city or region but also the Spirits that govern that area. An apostle who is sent to a city has governmental authority in that city in the spirit over those demons there. The apostolic anointing can free up a city, region or nation from demonic strongholds.
- Apostles bring order and government to the Church. Government is necessary to facilitate the flow of God’s power and anointing. Titus 1:5.
- Apostles are wise master builders. They help to build strong churches. They are responsible for overseeing the building and construction of the house of God.
- Apostles bring judgment and correction to the Church. They issue sentences and verdicts against false teaching and incorrect behaviour. I Corinthians 5:1-5.
- Apostles are bishops. To be a bishop means to oversee. Apostles oversee churches.
- Apostles ordain and set in place qualified leadership with the consent of the Archbishop and the approval of the Patriarch. This includes selection and confirmation.
- The apostolic anointing is a confrontational anointing. Apostles confront false teaching, witchcraft, immorality and anything that will keep the church from fulfilling its purpose.