About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
He An Apostle?
In typical western world
Evangelical tradition a young man graduates from Bible College, gets hired
on as a youth pastor and in a couple of years is promoted to assistant
pastor. As time goes on he
becomes dissatisfied with the direction things are heading so he and a
number of others leave the congregation to plant a new church where he has
been for two decades. He now
considers himself an apostle because as is often understood these days, an
apostle is a church planter.
Our English word
"apostle" is transliterated from the Greek word
"apostolos", which means "one who is sent".
Inherent in this word is the idea of moving from place to place.
Apostolos wasn't a religious word.
If a mother sent her son to the market to buy bread, he would have
been on an apostolic mission. It's
that simple. Let's learn a bit
more about apostles by asking a few questions about one important apostle
in history. If I had a human
hero, it would be the Apostle Paul.
Who sent Paul on his
apostolic journey? After
praying and fasting the leaders of the Antioch community of believers laid
hands on Paul and Barnabas and sent them off on their first mission (Acts
Why did these leaders
send Paul and Barnabas out as apostles?
The Holy Spirit told them to set Paul and Barnabas aside for the
work of the Lord (Acts 13:2).
Who appointed Paul as an
apostle? Jesus appointed Paul
to be an apostle (Acts 9:15 - 16), or, as Paul put it in 1 Timothy 1:1,
Jesus commanded him to be an apostle.
What was Paul's apostolic
mission? Jesus told Paul that
he was to proclaim His name to Gentile kings and to the children of Israel, and in the process he'd suffer greatly (Acts 9:15 - 16).
In short, Jesus commanded
Paul to proclaim His name as an apostle.
The Holy Spirit told him when to begin his apostolic journey.
The leaders in Antioch
sent him on his way.
How did Paul view his
apostleship? "Paul, a
servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle … (Romans 1:1)."
Paul viewed his apostleship as being a servant of God.
Did Paul have apostolic
authority? "This is why I
write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be
harsh in my use of authority - the authority the Lord gave me for building
you up, not for tearing you down (2 Corinthians 13:10)."
"… the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather
than pulling you down … (2 Corinthians 14:8)."
Paul had apostolic authority.
Did Paul use his
authority in a dictatorial fashion? "I
am not commanding you … (2 Corinthians 8:8)."
"I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and
with many tears … (2 Corinthians 2:4)."
Paul did not abuse his authority.
He was not a dictator. He
was a care giver, encouraging, teaching, and admonishing those belonging
Did Paul have the mark of
a true apostle? "The
things that mark an apostle - signs, wonders, and miracles, were done
among you (2 Corinthians 12:12)." Paul's
apostleship was validated by miracles.
See also Acts 19:1- 7 and Acts 28:1 - 6.
Was Paul's mission as an
apostle to plant churches? Jesus
specifically called Paul to proclaim His name (Acts 9:15 - 16).
Of course, Paul's hope in preaching Jesus was to lead people to Him
which would give birth to communities of believers.
Only then did he concern himself with church structure and ask men
like Titus to appoint elders in these communities (Titus 1:5).
To be Biblically precise;
I believe Paul's apostolic priority was to preach Jesus, not plant
churches. Similarly, Jesus
commanded the eleven apostles in Matthew 28:18 to do the same.
The creation of Christian communities was a result of Paul's
apostolic mission. It wasn't
the goal of his mission. I
don't believe I'm splitting hairs here.
I've seen, and have been involved in, so-called church plants that
have not been successful because of the preaching of a particular style of
church and not the preaching of Jesus.
So, was our pastor friend
in my opening paragraph an apostle or might have he been a pastor?
Was he sent out on a journey by the leaders of his congregation
after being told to do so by the Holy Spirit?
No. He left on his own
accord out of frustration. Did
Jesus command him to be an apostle? I
don't know, but if He did, I suggest that he should not have stayed in the
same locality for two decades. By
definition, an apostle is one who is on the move.
Did he plant a new church from scratch?
No. He had a ready made
church consisting of those he took with him from a church split. You can
decide whether he was an apostle or not.
There are many apostolic
movements these days. I've met
some of their leaders. I do
believe the apostolic ministry is a valid ministry in the Body of Christ
today. I also believe that if
we are to follow Jesus' instructions concerning apostles, and really,
concerning all of the Ephesian 4:11 ministries, we should try our best to
understand His instructions as He understood them.
Not everyone who calls himself an apostle is an apostle.
In somewhat of a sarcastic tone, Paul called some so-called
apostles "super-apostles" (2 Corinthians 11:5, 12:11).
As in every generation, there are some super-apostles who enjoy
exercising their dictatorial authority.
Jesus doesn't appoint "super-apostles".
He appoints "servant-apostles".