THE RESTORATION OF TRUE APOSTOLIC MINISTRY – Part Four

THE APOSTOLIC MANTLE 

Last time introduced the idea of “The Apostolic Mantle” and looked, as well, at “Apostolic Authority.” Let’s continue today and look at “The Anointing and Sphere of the Apostle.”

ANOINTING 

The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus as He came forth out of the waters of baptism (Mark 1:9-10). Our Father affirmed Him in an audible voice. Then, the Holy Spirit came upon Him and Jesus was baptized in the Holy Spirit … empowered and enabled for ministry. The Spirit then led Him around in the wilderness for forty days of temptation. Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14), and began His public ministry. He came to Nazareth, entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and read from Isaiah: 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach
the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favourable year of the Lord.”      (Luke 4:18-19).

He concluded His reading with these words … “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21). 

The apostle must know to whom he has been sent, the purpose for which he has been sent, and that God has anointed him, empowered him from on high, for the task. The apostle’s confidence is not in himself, it is in the enablement of God which comes by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. 

This divine enablement gives him words to speak in the moment of need (Mark 13:11), the grace to remain silent (Isaiah 53:7), the ability to discern spirits (Acts 16:16-18), supernatural knowledge and the wisdom to know what to do with it (Acts 14:8-10), healing virtue (Acts 3:1-10), power over all the power of the devil (Luke 10:17-19), and much more. (See 1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

This Holy Spirit anointing (empowering) enables the preaching of the gospel to the poor, the release of the captives, the recovery of sight to the blind, the freeing of the oppressed, and the proclamation of the favourable year of the Lord, as He leads. As His architect, master builder in His house, the apostle is enabled to properly lay the foundation of the house. 

The anointing is not a feeling or emotion, although many times there are feelings and emotions which accompany the working of the Holy Spirit in and through His people. The anointing is not a loud voice. The Holy Spirit can lead one to shout or to whisper. 

The anointing does not come and go, now and then. The anointing abides in you: The anointing which you have received from Him abides in you (I John 2:27). 

The Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ (along with all of His divine enablement for each believer’s particular appointment and sphere of authority) always abides within. The apostle needs only to walk in the Spirit and, in faith, to fulfill his ministry. The Holy Spirit responds to faith, not feelings, and provides the power to fulfill the will of God in any given situation. Whatever the need, it is provided to the faithful servant who walks in faith and anointing. 

SPHERE 

We all have boundaries. Much trouble and contention can arise from involving ourselves beyond our boundaries. Our judgments are without proper inspiration and anointing. This was the pharisees’ main problem. They would use the Word of God in an attempt to conform people to their own ideas of righteousness. However, since we all know in part and prophesy in part, righteous judgment requires inspiration and anointing. It requires both the Word and the Spirit. 

Operating beyond our boundaries does not produce life, because the source of our conclusions is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, not the tree of life. We build with wood, hay and straw, and suffer the loss of much wasted time and effort. We waste our seed. It is important to know and operate within our God- given boundaries, our sphere. 

For example, I have no authority to correct another’s child, unless the parent(s) give me temporary authority. I have no authority over another farmer’s field. I have no authority in another’s home, business or local church. 

I have no authority to correct those who are over me. Direction and correction flow through proper order. Timothy and Titus did not send letters of instruction to Paul. He was not within their sphere. They were within his sphere. Yet, Paul did instruct Timothy to appeal to an older man as a father (I Timothy 5:1). Leaders must remain approachable. 

The apostle must understand and operate within his boundaries, the measure of his sphere, lest he labor in vain in another man’s vineyard. 

We will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you, for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ; not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labours, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another. (2 Corinthians 10:13-16)

The twelve apostles of the Lamb were given boundaries by Jesus: Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6). These boundaries were in force until the Holy Spirit sovereignly enlarged the sphere of Peter by giving him a vision and instructing him to accompany three men to the household of an Italian centurion. Acts 10 records the account of the Gentiles hearing and responding to the gospel for the first time. 

Generally speaking, Peter’s measure was the Jewish people, and Paul was sent to the Gentiles: “I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”  (Romans 15:15-16)

The apostle is given grace to minister within his measure of rule, his sphere. Some are apostles over local churches which are also apostolic work centers. Others are apostles over cities and regions. Still others have national and international influence. Each one must be faithful within his sphere. The faithful apostle is clothed in the mantle of God’s authority and anointing for fulfilling his ministry within his sphere. 

THE RESTORATION OF TRUE APOSTOLIC MINISTRY – Part Three

THE APOSTOLIC MANTLE – Introduction

Authority, Anointing and Sphere 

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honour than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Hebrews 3:1-4 

In the above verses, Jesus is identified as the Apostle and High Priest whom we confess as Lord of our lives. He is also identified as the Builder of all things. He abides in believers and chooses to reveal Himself in different ways in different people through a variety of manifestations of His Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 14:12; Ephesians 4:12). 

Each believer is anointed (empowered through impartation) to do certain tasks within the will of God and the kingdom of God. Jesus, for example, was authorized and anointed to preach the gospel to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favourable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19). His sphere was to the entire world. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16)

Jesus began a process of Kingdom delegation and multiplication of ministry which continues today. He gave some as apostles (Ephesians 4:11). God has appointed in the church first apostles (I Corinthians 12:28). He gave them clear understanding of their authority, sphere and anointing. It is these three areas of apostolic ministry we want to look at over the next few days.

Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” (Matthew 10:1, 5-6).

It was quite clear to these twelve, who would become the apostles of the Lamb, that they were authorized to preach the Kingdom, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Their sphere was clearly delineated: the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Their anointing was confirmed as people responding to the gospel were healed, raised from the dead, cleansed and set free. The apostle is to understand his authority and sphere, and to trust in the anointing. 

AUTHORITY

What is the nature of spiritual authority. Jesus contrasts spiritual authority with gentile authority that served: 

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many.”   (Matthew 20:25-28). 

Egocentric dictators who rule by intimidation, coercion, pressure, manipulation, have no place in the kingdom of God. Apostles do not lord it over God’s heritage. They exercise themselves in serving, not in authority. Their God-given authority flows as they serve. 

Jesus is the prototype of apostleship. True apostolic authority is proven by laying down one’s life in serving those within your sphere of authority. A true apostle is simply a man of flesh, a clay vessel, through whom Jesus manifests Himself as Apostle. Whether He is being a “lion” or “lamb” at the moment, selfless love will be the motivation, humility will be the attitude, and servitude will be the methodology. Today’s apostle “washes the feet” of those who follow him and to those to whom he ministers.

He is a messenger who is sent by God to those who have ears to hear. The apostolic vision will move the hearts of people to follow. God’s authority is inherent in His Word, and the anointing to build His house is upon His messenger, the apostle. Those whose hearts bear witness to the message and the messenger willingly submit to the ministry. Their submission makes spiritual authority function properly. 

Jesus says this regarding a shepherd of the sheep: When he puts forth his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10:4). He goes ahead of them and they follow; he doesn’t get behind them and drive them. 

The origin of apostolic authority 

Deacons and elders were appointed and ordained by apostles. (Acts 6:2-3; 14:23; Titus 1:5.) Within the local church, elders delegate authority consistent with designated responsibilities. Who appoints and ordains apostles? What is the origin of apostolic authority? 

“And He (Jesus) went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed the twelve.”     (Mark 3:13-14)

I”t 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.”       (Luke 6:12-13). 

Jesus appointed the twelve after much prayerful agreement with the Father, who sees the hearts of all men. These men were a major focus of Jesus’ prayer recorded in John 17. Jesus totally subordinated His will. He came to do His Father’s will. He appointed whom He wanted because He wanted whom His Father wanted. Perfect unity and harmony prevails among the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are One, and apostles are to be one with Them. 

Paul testified that he was 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 – (Galatians 1:1). He clarified who gave him his authority, and for what purpose: “For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you…” (2 Corinthians 10:8). Paul directed Titus, a young apostle under his oversight, to exhort and reprove with all authority (Titus 2:15). 

He reminded Timothy, the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (I Timothy 1:5). Such counsel can keep the young apostle’s ministry consistent with the true nature of spiritual authority. Divine authority is marked by love from a pure heart. 

However, we need to observe that divine appointment to divine authority needs the witness of the church: 

“While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 13:2-4). 

The word “apostle” simply means “sent out one.” And, when a church receives the ministry of an apostle they, in time, share the apostle’s anointing and become apostolic – sent out to minister outside the building and outwardly focused on the lost, the least, and the last. 

So, in Acts 13 we see that although clearly called and appointed by Jesus Christ and God the Father, and sent out by the Holy Spirit, the local church laid hands upon them and sent them out. They were commended to the work by the presbytery and local church and reported back to the presbytery and local church. 

THE RESTORATION OF TRUE APOSTOLIC MINISTRY – Part Two

God had set the stage for the next phase of His restoration of all things. The 1990’s was the decade for the reintroduction of the role of the apostle. Men began to emerge with government in their bones. (Apostles have the government of God in their bones.) Apostles impart God’s order and peace. Apostles understand the blueprint for building God’s house. True apostles walk in an anointing which includes the revelation of the mysteries of God (Ephesians 3) and the wisdom to know what to do with it. 

God appointed in the church, first apostles, (By wisdom a house is built,) second prophets, (And by understanding it is established;) third teachers … (And by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.) I Corinthians 12:28 and Proverbs 24:3 

God appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers (I Corinthians 12:28). That is God’s divine order. The order is reversed in God’s restoration process. God began by restoring the teachers first, the prophets second, and thirdly the apostles. 

In restoration, the first became last. The apostle is the last of the gifts (Ephesians 4:8) to be restored, bringing to fulness the fivefold gift variety which is to mend, mature and equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16). Appointed first in the church, restored last to the church, the apostolic movement is just now gaining understanding and momentum in the church. 

All of the ministry gifts are now present although not always accepted. But, there remains the task of bringing them into order. The prophets need to come to grips with being appointed second, the teachers third. A deeper understanding of the apostolic ministry will release these gifted and called men and women to come alongside, rightly relating to the apostles. Then there will be a fuller release of equipping which will result in the saints finding and functioning in their respective ministries. 

When the whole body is being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, when each individual believer is properly working in his or her anointed sphere and gifting, the body will build itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16) and the church will be restored. Then the greater work of extending the kingdom to the ends of the earth (Matthew 24:14) will experience an exponential increase. First, the apostles must be given their rightful place in God’s order. The body of Christ will rise up, united in God’s purpose. The prayer of Jesus will be answered, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). 

My focus is to show the heart and vision of the apostle, more than the technical out-workings. I am convinced that focusing upon the technical tends to draw us away from the spontaneous inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The biblical record of the apostles reveals to us how they were led by the Holy Spirit. My heart is to see Spirit-led apostolic ministry replicated. It is not enough for modern day apostles to mechanically or technically replicate their predecessors. 

THE RESTORATION OF TRUE APOSTOLIC MINISTRY – Part One

The First Shall Be Last … Matthew 20:16
And God has appointed in the church, first apostles … I Corinthians 12:28 

We are in the latter days of the restoration of the church to her New Testament pattern, purity and power. The Word of God promises a restoration of all things before heaven releases King Jesus (Acts 3:19-21). The church is to proclaim and demonstrate His glory and kingdom in the earth (Ephesians 3:10). Therefore, the church is being restored so that she may be God’s agent in the restoration of all things. 

Creation cries out for the manifestation of the sons of God (Romans 8:19). Jesus is the firstborn of many sons whom God is bringing to glory (Romans 8:29-30; Hebrews 2:10). Not only mankind, but all of creation will enjoy the Creator’s beauty and purpose when released from the bondage of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When the glory of God is seen in and upon the sons of God (male and female), their testimony of Jesus Christ will cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess Him as Lord. This will bring freedom and the power of the Holy Spirit in fulness, and all of creation will rejoice. Even the mountains and hills will shout, and the trees will clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12). 

When God initiated the New Testament church, He began with apostles (I Corinthians 12:28). Jesus began by discipling twelve men who would be the pioneers of the early church (Mark 3:13-19). These men experienced their first apostolic mission with specific instructions and perimeters from Jesus (Matthew 10). He carefully brought them along under His ministry for nearly three years. Then they suffered the despair and disillusionment of Calvary. 

Following His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the remaining eleven young apostles (Judas, by this time, had committed suicide). He concluded His final instructions to them with the command to stay in the city until they were clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49). The fulness of their apostolic authority, power and purpose began to unfold and the church was born at the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2). The Holy Spirit empowered them, giving them words for the hour. It was a fruitful day (Acts 2:37-41). Through the faithful, anointed and obedient ministry of these twelve men (Matthias, by this time, had been chosen as the 12th apostle), the first representation of the New Testament church came into its own (Acts 2:42-47). 

Biblical accounts of the early church reveal the apostles on the forefront of a movement that changed the face of the earth in a few years. The New Testament canon contains the revelation of Jesus Christ as given to apostles under the divine inspiration of the Spirit of God. Our guide for faith and practice as followers of Jesus Christ has been penned by simple men who were born of the Spirit of God and anointed to write the apostolic message out of apostolic hearts with apostolic purpose. 

Yet, after only a relatively few years, the vibrant, Spirit-led apostolic ministry gradually slipped out of sight as Life gave way to tradition and form. And the church went nearly 2000 years without this fundamental and foundational ministry being generally acknowledged (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 2:20). A close examination of history will reveal men who were apostles. But, they were not acknowledged as apostles, probably didn’t understand themselves to be apostles, and certainly did not fulfill the criteria that is being called for in today’s apostles. For the most part, apostles were replaced by institutionally positioned and man-appointed bishops and administrators. 

Praise God for restoration! From the days of Martin Luther to our present time, God has been restoring the church (Acts 3:21). The church has only recently begun to acknowledge the validity of apostles and apostolic ministry. A restoration of the revelation of holiness was prompted by the Wesleys in the 1800’s. In the early 1900’s, the pentecostal experience along with the gifts of the Holy Spirit were restored. The understanding that every believer is a priest and has a ministry was the fruit of the charismatic renewal movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. 

Up until that time, the pastors and evangelists were the generally acknowledged church leaders. Pastors were those who stayed home and cared for the churches, and evangelists traveled. In actuality, many who traveled were not evangelists. Some were prophets. Some were teachers. But, during that period of time they were generally called “evangelists.” 

With the charismatic renewal came a significant hunger for the Word of God. Local pastors could not satisfy that hunger. People would travel for many miles – Bibles, notebooks and pens in hand – to hear the Word proclaimed by emerging teachers. This new emphasis upon the teaching gift and the ministry of the five-fold teacher (Ephesians 4:12) in the 1970’s was a significant step in the restoration process. 

Hearing what the teachers were saying about the Word of God resulted in a new hunger. People wanted to hear from God for themselves. This void began to be filled in the 1980’s, as God began to restore the prophets. This fourfold ministry, the prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, equipped the saints. The present day ministry of the five-fold apostles had yet to come back on the scene or be accepted by the Church. The priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:9), began to gain momentum in knowledge, insight and understanding into the Word of God. 

Yet the infant church lacked the vision of God (Proverbs 29:18)  and revelation of how the Church was to be built (Matthew 16:17-18) which would motivate people into the purposes of God. People were hungry, eating, but had not yet begun to see themselves being built together (Ephesians 4:16; I Peter 2:5). The church was like a body which is full of life but has no bones. There was no infrastructure. There was no order. There was no divine revelation of the government of God for the New Testament church. Left with man-made organizations, institutions and governmental forms, some rebelled only to form their own man-made structures. And, so God began to add back the ministry and governmental role of the apostle. 

Apostolic Character

A new day is coming to the body of Christ, the Church that Jesus is building. It will be marked not only by an unprecedented release of God’s power and supernatural gifts, but also by a new level of reality. The Gospel message will be well received because the Gospel will be something we are living. Right now, in many places, there is a great difference between the message we preach and share and the way we live. You know, like someone who is 150 pounds overweight selling a new miracle diet pill that will help people lose 30 pounds in 30 days. There is a disconnect and thus no reality to the sales pitch. Many times it is the same today with the church.

A tremendous impact is released with there is a consistency between our walk and our talk, our behaviour and our beliefs. Neither God nor the world expects perfection from us – but they do expect integrity. Throughout the centuries , nothing has been more deadly to evangelism than hypocrisy. In recent decades this ‘hypocrisy bug’ has bitten many high-profile leaders in the Church. Though they may have had a compelling Gospel message, accompanied by impressive signs and wonders, their ministries were tarnished by scandals in their personal lives. They could have been noteworthy examples of apostolic leadership in the realm of evangelism, but their ministries were instead undercut by a lack of apostolic character.

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13 Essential Characteristics of an Apostle

Apostles have some basic characteristics that are essential to the fulfillment of the call upon their lives. These characteristics enable them to do what The Lord has called them to accomplish.

1> Visioning capacity – they need to be able to “see” what The Lord has called them to accomplish in the ministry they are currently undertaking. This ‘vision’ is part of a wider vision they will have of what the Church of Jesus Christ is going to look like in the future (the end product of the work they are undertaking for The Lord). So, they will have a vision of the local church they are working with or currently planting, a vision of the Church Jesus is building, as well as the bigger Kingdom picture.

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Paul’s Advice

I believe Paul would have a fair amount to say to the Church today. First he would comment lovingly that if we really are apostles or prophets, it is likely that someone will figure it out without reading it on our business card. We need more people functioning with apostolic and prophetic impact, and fewer people worrying about having the titles. Paul never called himself “apostle Paul” making his call from God and his role in the church into a ‘title.’ He recognized that it was a job description and so he would write “Paul, an apostle of The Lord Jesus Christ” or simply call himself a bond-slave of The Lord. (Romans 1:1)

Secondly, he would without doubt warn us about the false notion that apostolic ministry is characterized by prestige and honor. He would also point out that apostles are likely to be persecuted, slandered, and treated as the scum of the earth (1 Corinthians 4:9-13; 2 Corinthians 6:4-10)

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The Scriptural Role of Apostles

When we look at the role of the apostles in the early church we see that they served six main functions.

1> Taking the Gospel to the unreached areas. Paul wrote to the Romans, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Romans 15:20) Although first-century apostolic ministry was not limited to unreached areas, a central apostolic passion was clearly to preach in places where Christ was not yet known.

2> Planting churches upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11: “According the the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation and another builds upon it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ.”

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The Missing Ingredients

Have you noticed how few people are being converted today in our “Spirit-filled” churches? It seems that we are heavy on the ‘theory’ and the ‘theology’ but light in the ‘fruit’ category. I believe that it is time for those of us from charismatic, prophetic, Pentecostal, renewal, and five-fold apostolic backgrounds to wake up to a painful reality: Non-Spirit-filled people often have more passion for evangelism than we have – and thus more fruit. But, you might protest, some of the largest churches in the world are charismatic or Spirit-filled. This is true – but, many of the big churches we see today are growing primarily from transfer growth – attracting converts already won by other churches and ministries.

The statistics, for example, of the church in the United States are shocking. Eighty percent of the churches have either plateaued or are declining in membership. Fifteen percent of the churches are growing but primarily through transfer growth as people leave churches they deem less spiritual. Less than five percent of the churches are growing because of conversion growth. This is, in reality, a terrible situation. Fewer than five percent of the churches in the United States are successfully reaching the lost!

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Biblical Apostolic Ministry Today

One of the key places to study the ministry of the apostle today is found in the Book of Acts, chapter 13. In the next few blogs in this series I want to look closely at Acts 13:1-5 and see what we can learn about apostolic ministry and apostles today from the work of the Church in the city of Antioch.

Many sincere Christians would vehemently contend that apostolic ministry is no longer needed in the Church today, yet they are strong advocates of missionaries being sent out to work in areas that have not heard the Gospel of the Kingdom. This is somewhat amusing, when we remember that the Greek word for “apostle” (apostolos) means exactly the smae thing as the Latin word from which we derive the term “missionary” (missionari). Both words mean “ones who are sent,” and the Latin word simply came into prominence when Latin became the standard language of the Roman Catholic Church.

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