About Jesus - Steve Sweetman 

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Is 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 13:3). 


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 to Jesus.   


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".  




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