The Bible sets things in order for us. In respect to apostles in the Church it states:
1 Corinthians 12:28 : And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. The English word “first” in the Greek is “proton” and it means “first in time, place, and rank”. This means that apostles are first – preceding all others in time, order, or importance. Practically, that means they are the chief component or instrument God uses in the Church. It means, one who arrives before all others. The apostolic grace on a person’s life will propel them to go first and be first in the situation. They should be first in the church planting situation; they should be first on the scene when placing men and women into leadership positions; first when there is a leadership conflict that needs resolving; first when there is a need for biblical understanding or theological insight into a topic or subject about which local leaders are in disagreement.
Apostles are set in the church according to this verse. The word “set” in the Greek is ‘tithemi’ and means – fixed, established, ordained, placed, put and appointed. This is God’s task – to ‘set’ apostles in place within His Church. This is exactly what He is doing in this current move of the Holy Spirit. And, if the New Testament Church is to be effective and successful in making solid disciples of Jesus Christ and completing the Great Commission, then we must allow the Holy Spirit to set it in divine order. That is beginning to happen with apostles first and then prophets.
This does not make apostles more important than any other gift. This would be against Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 12. However, the most prominent gifts in the early New Testament Church were apostles. In the last days, it will be the same. Apostles will become very prominent in what the Holy Spirit is doing today in and through the local church.
Apostles are leadership gifts. They are given to the Church to equip every believer for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12) and are set in the Church to impart that which is lacking in training and governmental structures. Along with the prophets they are the key foundational gifts needed in every local church and every church plant.
Ephesians 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
We must be careful to always guard these foundational gifts. The Psalmist states:
Psalm 11:3 When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
If the gifts of apostle and prophet are ignored or destroyed (or changed by religion into something other than the Bible understanding of them) then the foundation of the Church will be weakened or, worse still, destroyed. It takes these two ascension gifts working together with the evangelists, pastors and teachers to build and mobilize the local church. Maybe this is why apostles are mentioned 83 times in the New Testament.
An apostle is a messenger – a sent-one – who goes forth from a local church and reports back to a local church as was true in the Church in Antioch. They recognized the call on Paul and Barnabas and thus sent them out (Acts 13). We see in Acts 14 and 15 where they report back to the sending church as they are accountable to this local church, being a part of that local church’s five-fold ministry team.
The actual word “apostle” is derived from the Greek word ‘apostello’. Two Greek root words ‘apo’ and ‘stello’ make up the English word apostle or messenger. ‘Stello’ means to be dispatched on an expedition as one who has been commissioned and sent out on a journey. ‘Apo” means to be sent out and away from…
So then, ‘apo-stello’ (messenger) means: to be sent forth, out of, away from, and on assignment. An apostle is an ambassador, a delegate, and a sent one. ‘Apo’, the place that the messenger is sent out from, is, in fact, the local church. Since all five ascension gifts are ‘set’ (tithemi) in a local church, one cannot be apo-stello who is not an active member of a local church. There are no isolated, lone-ranger, independent apostles.
This leads me to the last point for this edition – although apostle is a direct calling from the Lord, it must be recognized by the local church and other five-fold ministers within the local church. You are not an apostle because you think you are – you are an apostle because you have been called by God and the grace of God for this calling is not only upon your life and ministry but it has been recognized and released by other five-fold leaders locally and trans-locally.