Many today have been taught that after the apostle John dies, the “apostolic age” officially ended and we entered the “church age.” They teach or, at least, imply that therefore all valid apostolic ministry ceased. This view is based on two wrong assumptions.
The first of these assumptions is that the apostolic role was limited the the original 12 apostles chosen by Jesus. A careful reading of the New Testament will show that additional leaders are also referred to as apostles including Matthias, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Andronicus, Junias and Epaphroditus. The original 12 indeed are said to have a special role in God’s purposes (Revelation 21:14; Matthew 19:28), but that certainly does not mean they were the only apostles.
The second assumption is tat there is no need for apostles today. This objection can best be answered by looking again at the list of functions of an apostle (see the previous few blogs under the heading of “The Scriptural Role of Apostles”). Are the functions still relevant today?
1> Penetrating unreached areas. Although the Gospel has gone out to practically every nation, there are still thousands of unreached people groups that, because of geographical or linguistic isolation, have never even heard of Jesus Christ.
2> Church planting and foundation laying. God-gifted, church planting apostles are desperately needed in North America and all over the world. In addition, many existing churches have been built on human traditions and opinions rather than on the solid biblical foundation that apostles can provide.
3> Appointing and training leaders. Today the apostolic function of training leaders has been largely replaced by seminaries and Bible schools. Appointing the leaders of local churches generally has become a matter of congregational voting, selection by denominational hierarchy, or the increasingly common practice of aspiring preachers simply starting their own churches and appointing themselves as the pastors.
Whether they attend seminary or not, today’s young leaders are unlikely to receive the type of personal training and character development that Timothy received from Paul. As in the first century, there are countless tutors today, but the cry of the hour is for true spiritual fathers and mentors (see 1 Corinthians 4:14-17).
4> Addressing unresolved problems. Almost every church encounters an impasse that is difficult to resolve without outside assistance. Who is available to furnish local pastors with wise input about these thorny church problems?
There is still a need today for trans-local apostolic men who work with apostolic anointing and authority who can provide accountability and pierce through blind spots, ignorance, and pride. We still need leaders able to courageously apply the Word of God to areas of sin, imbalance, false doctrine, and division.
5> Promoting unity. The disunity of the body of Christ is still a scandal that robs us of the full blessing of God and undercuts our testimony to the lost. Ministers who have genuine apostolic hearts are burdened for God’s people to care for each other as a united family, ready to reach the world as a united army.
Local congregations frequently are deficient in seeing the “big picture” of the Church around the world and sensing the Lord’s desire for His body to be functioning interlinked. This vision of unity is sorely needed in the Church today, and only those with apostolic insight and authority have the necessary gifts to bring it about in a significant way.
6> Demonstrating and imparting the supernatural. We live in a day when God is working mightily to restore signs and wonders to the Church. For too long we have relied on our intellect, human wisdom, and persuasive words – the very things Paul refused to put his confidence in: “And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)
Today more than ever – because of our society’s increased interest in Satanism, the occult, and New Age practices – the Church needs to be able to display and dispense God’s power. The Church without the apostles is like a car without all of its cylinders functioning: It may still move, but it is likely to sputter and lack the power it is suppose to have.
We would be horrified if someone suggested that pastors, teachers and evangelists were no longer valid ministries of the Church. Nevertheless, we often allow ourselves to be robbed of the ministries of apostles and prophets, which are found in the same list of ministries in Ephesians 4:11.