Currently in the Church world there are three teachings with respect to the ministry of an apostle. The first says that the ministry of the apostle ended after John the Beloved died in Ephesus in 101 C.E. This is the dispensationalist viewpoint. The second uses the word “missionary” in place of the word ‘apostle’. This is the case in many born again, main line denominations. It is interesting that other groups use the word ‘missionary’ to replace the word ‘evangelist’. ( ‘God’s Word’ edition of the Bible from World Publishing. See Ephesians 4:11) The third view is that apostles are Jesus’ ARCHECTITON ascension gifts to the Church provided to perfect every believer for the work of the ministry as stated in Ephesians 4:11-16 and still very much needed today as we have not reached maturity or unity as yet.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
The Word of God teaches us that there are four types of apostles.
- 1. The Lord Jesus Christ is THE CHIEF APOSTLE of the Church and was “sent” as an apostle by the Father to His Church. The Church belongs to Him and He demonstrated the ultimate pattern of the work of an apostle. Often we study the life of Paul to determine what an apostle is and what an apostle does. However, our best example and our current standard, even today, for the ministry and role of an apostle is Jesus Christ Himself.
Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.
- 2. The second type of apostle are those who were called by the Lord to be the original 12. These are, at times, referred to as THE APOSTLES OF THE LAMB. Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew (Levi), James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot.
Five of the apostles were fishermen, one was a publican or tax collector, and the occupations of the others are not mentioned. The twelve apostles of the Lamb were called to be witnesses of Jesus’ work as the Lamb of God, including His death, burial, and resurrection from the dead.
Acts 10:39-42 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.
These twelve (with Matthias taking Judas’ place – Acts 1:26) are also known as THE “Foundational” APOSTLES. They were used to lay the doctrinal foundation of the Church.
- 3. THE TRANSITIONAL APOSTLES are the third group recognized in scripture. They include the apostle Paul, Jude, Barnabas, Mark, Luke and others. They were also involved with the laying of the doctrinal foundations for the Church. However, they were mightily used by the Holy Spirit to transition the people of God from an Old Testament Church into a New Testament Church.
There are no foundational and transitional apostles today laying new doctrinal foundations in the local church. These early apostolic pioneers have already laid the foundation and the Canon of Scripture is complete.
- 4. The fourth type of apostle is still very much active today and is, in fact, being reintroduced into the Church right now. THE ASCENSION GIFT APOSTLES are all those apostles who were called after Jesus ascended into Heaven and gave gifts (doma) to men. (Ephesians 4:10-11)
The Apostle Paul, who was both foundational and transitional, is also a good example of an ascension gift apostle.
The word ‘apostle’ (apostolos) means God’s builders (architekton) of the Church of Jesus Christ. Words associated with the apostle today include:
Trailblazer / Pioneer
Apostles are the most panoramic of the five-fold ascension gifts. They have the ability to see the whole picture. Whereas the pastor might be more local church-minded, the apostle has more of a world (universal) Church vision. His or her heart is to mobilize the local church into a fine-tuned, invading and occupying army working world-wide.
The grace on the apostle is to impart to the believer a heart to build Jesus’ Church here at home and around the world.