The term “apostle” comes from the Greek word “apostolos” which simply means a sent one, a delegate, an ambassador of Christ and of His Kingdom. An apostle is an emissary. In the New Testament, this word “apostles” described those “sent” out by the Lord Jesus to preach the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 10:1-3).
The restoration of the apostolic ministry is hindered by dispensational doctrines that negates against the ministry of the apostles and prophets. During the dispensation, after the first century or so, very little is heard of the ministry of the apostles and prophets, and most of what is seen are pastors, teachers and evangelists. The Church was taught that apostles and prophets were not for today because they all died along with the early Church in the book of Acts of the apostles; therefore as the ability to recognize a true apostolic or prophetic ministry was gradually lost, leaders in the church were given other names and titles such as the institutional Bishops and Reverend. Consequently the Church experienced apostasy during which the power of God, together with a clear revelation of His purposes, and the ministry gifts was also lost. Although not always functioning in the reality of their calling, apostles have however always been in the Church through the past moves, but the lack of understanding and acceptance of the apostolic and prophetic gifting within the Body of Christ have brought ignorance of the identity of these ministries, causing their office and function to be restricted.
There are two (2) different kinds of apostles revealed in scripture:
(1). The Apostles of the Lamb – These were the first twelve men the Lord Jesus selected to carry out the work of the gospel with Him. There will not be any more of these. They are unique and were appointed during the earthly ministry of Jesus. They are the eternal foundation ministry of the Church and the only apostles of the Lamb.
“And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:14).
(2). The Ascension Apostles – These apostles were appointed after the ascension of the Lord Jesus, and they continue to operate to this day. The Lord is still appointing them. Apart from the original twelve apostles of the Lamb, all other apostles mentioned now, and in scripture are ascension apostles.
a. Paul (Ephesians 1:1)
b. Barnabas (Acts 14:14)
c. Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25)
d. Andronicus and Junius (Romans 16:7)
e. Others were noted by association such as Timothy and Titus.
“Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers [word used in the Greek is “apostolos”] of the churches, and the glory of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 8:23 brackets mine).
Every believer has a measure of an apostolic grace and commission in their life, but this does not make everyone an apostle. Jesus declared, “As the Father has sent (apostello) me, so I send you” (John 20:21). This makes every believer apostolic in nature, but not in calling. This is where the concept of the global Church becoming apostolic in nature and function is birth from.
Apostles are not officials of the church congregation, but they are officials of Christ by whom the Church is built. An apostle is an emissary who initiates or first advocates a great reform. They are pioneers. It is not primarily about a governmental position of being first as in hierarchy, which is the popular understanding being proclaimed and taught by many, that is causing much confusion and division in the Body of Christ in this season of apostolic reformation. The ranking of the five-fold ministry gifts in series, is a doctrine and pattern that has been instituted or derived from church denominational system of a ruling body of clergy, organized into ranks or arranged in a graded series. This is the order and pattern of men, and not of God.
One of the purposes of the present apostolic reformation is to equip the Church with knowledge and understanding of both the “order of ministry” and the “order of government”. Both are distinctive order and we need understanding of this.
The five-fold ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelist according to Ephesians 4:11 is an “order of ministry” to the church, and not an “order of government” for the church.
The order of government for the Church is 1 Corinthians 12:28, and there is a distinct difference between Ephesians 4:11 in terms of functions.
“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28).
The Ephesians 4:11 five-fold ministry gifts is not given by God to play governmental positions, but it is an order of service or ministry to the Body, as a gift to serve and be used by the Church for her benefit to mature the saints, but out of this ministry gifts there are some who are going to be graced to function in governmental positions who will play the role of 1 Corinthians 12:28. Not all apostles, prophets or teachers are called into governmental positions, but all are given as gifts to the Church to be used by the Church to walk into the fullness of the stature and knowledge of Christ.
“God has set some”, not ALL.
First apostles! The teaching concept that God have made the apostles the headship of the Church is a wrong and false doctrine. All apostles should have the grace and impartation to lay foundation in the Church, but not all apostles become the first in “government” if we may use this term. Apostles are first in terms of being in the forefront of establishing and setting foundation before others, and not in position. To lay foundation is the first part of every building effort and process, and because an apostle has a primary function to do this, it makes him or her first to initiate the building of the Church. The apostles have been set by God as the first to establish the Church in foundational doctrines that gives the Church an apostolic expression, dimension and pattern in Christ. To lay foundation in the local assembly is done by the presbytery that consists of both the apostles and prophets. Not by apostles only. Both ministries (apostles and prophets) should be recognized in this part of laying foundation, as this is their job description.
“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:20-22).
Apostles are not called to control and have dominion over the Church, but to bless the Church and to have dominion over the enemy. The apostolic movement is not given by God to lord over the people, but to free them so that they can have an expression of liberty towards God. The position and place of apostles is not a hierarchal position of pre-eminence and supremacy. They are not the greatest even though the scripture points them out as first! The original concept is to first establish a work while others are to follow. The idea of superiority and dominance is a witchcraft doctrine, and crafty mentality of developing a religious kingdom cult of self and pride that brings control over the people of God.
Any of the five-fold ministry gifts of God can and should administer the Church. Nowhere is it written in the scriptures that a pastor is the head of the Church or that the apostle is the head of the Church. Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. The order of God’s pattern is that when a pastor, an evangelist or a teacher plants a church, there must be the establishment of basic foundation, which is only done mutually by the apostles and prophets. This means that foundational ministries must be deployed, which consist of apostles and prophets, because both ministries is delegated by God as a twin foundational builder. When this is done, the other ministry gifts (pastor, evangelist or teacher) can continue the administration of that church, building upon the foundation and apostolic doctrine that has been laid by the apostles and prophets with plurality of elders, or what is known as the apostolic presbytery.
A careful study of the Book of Acts will prove that other ministry gifts had oversight over the Church, but there was an input of apostles and prophets that came on a constant basis to spend time with the young congregation so they could be built up and established in apostolic and prophetic foundations through the apostles’ doctrine which is the teachings of Christ according to the four gospels.
The motive behind the teachings to make the apostle the headship of the Church is an attempt to bring domination, lordship and control over other works that are planted and administrated by faithful pastors, teachers and evangelists. The understanding from the scripture is that there must be a plural eldership, and leadership over a local church that consists of the complete five-fold ministry gifts. Nowhere in the early Church record will you find a local church that was run by an apostle, pastor or an elder as a singular leader, it was a plural eldership. That was why Paul the apostle appointed that the things that are wanting be set in order, and elder(s) be ordained (Titus 1:5). This brings into play the apostolic council and presbytery that networks towards the purposes of God in establishing the Kingdom.
The word “first” comes from the Greek word “proton” which means in time, place, and order or before, at the beginning or chiefly. This means they are catalysts and pioneers who as a principal rule, first step into a place to initiate and establish the order of God, and to declare the revelation and purposes of God. Apostles and prophets are relevant spiritual engineers and master builders who can build and erect on primordial patterns and principles for Kingdom establishment.
Some apostolic leaders in this present apostolic reformation may reject this, or it may be difficult for them to receive as it may conflict with their interpretation and understanding of 1 Corinthians 12:28. But to say the apostle is the headship of the Church and first in rank among the other ministries is to say they are not equal in gradation or position of dignity and eminence.
Jesus is the head of His Church. The apostles have not been given any hierarchal position of headship over the Lord’s Church. Jesus is still carrying the headship of His Church as the only Chief Apostle. The apostolic is not a new hierarchical structure of ministry or just about government; it is a revelation of the knowledge of God to reveal Christ in the earth. The apostolic mindset should be one of servant-hood and unassuming nature that flows from a Spirit of love and care, motivated to see others serving the purposes of God in the Church.
“…..Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the Body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ.…” (Ephesians 5:23:24).
No gift makes anyone more important than the others. We are equal in Christ. The five-fold ministry gifts are equal in Christ and their standing with God, but there is a distinction of the flow of grace due to their function. That makes the apostles first as pioneers in the work, but not in controlling the others or in position of ranking, though there must be submission and recognition in the work and the grace in the ministry in order to function effectively and corporately as a team. Being the pioneer does not make us higher in rank. We cannot confuse ourselves by saying we are equal, yet we rank our office and ourselves in the Body of Christ. We must not go beyond the limit and overstep the spheres that have been set in place in the order of God. The importance of the work of the apostle must be clearly recognized in giving place for them to pioneer and navigate to establish the set orders and foundation, so we can all build upon that which is being laid accurately in an apostolic order. It is like the building process of a house. The foundation builders, the carpenters, the electricians, the painters are all needed to complete the house; but the painter, the electrician or the carpenter cannot take the blue print and begin his work first as a matter of priority, but the foundation builders must first lay the foundation, and the structures must be set in place before the others can begin their work, until the house comes to a finishing point. This is exactly what 1 Corinthians 12:28 is about. The apostles are foundational builders who must first do their work before the others come in. This is why the scripture says they are first. The apostles are not a different kind of people, or those above and beyond the other ministry gifts in the Body of Christ. Neither is their calling meant to elevate them to a higher position of hierarchy, honor and reverence than the others. They are very much a part of the greater Body of Christ and they are servants to the entire Body.
We do not need one, two or three ministries to establish the divine order and purpose of God, but all five-fold ministry gifts must operate in set order to establish God’s purpose and plan in the earth. They are all important and necessary to perfect the saints in fulfilling the great apostolic commission of the Church.
Church leaders must highly and extremely evaluate the systems and patterns we have held or are holding so dearly, and begin to courageously face the truth and admit that there have been lies and false doctrines that lay within our own lack of knowledge. We need a radical change as we put aside every outmoded and obsolete way and tradition of men!
The Church cannot function apostolically without the full release and matured functioning of the apostles. An apostle is not one who simply plants churches, but the primary function of the apostle, as well as other five-fold ministry gifts, is to plant the colony of heaven on earth. This is why they are also called ascension gifts. This is far larger than just planting new churches. It encompasses this, but has more to do with the increase and establishment of the Kingdom of God in the Church and in the earth.
“And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.” (Isaiah 51:16).
The hand represents the five-fold ministry gifts of apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist and teacher. God has placed His word in the mouth of these ministry gifts in order to plant the heavens in the earth.
Every apostle carries a unique word and has a specific mandate. The call determines the revelation. The apostle Paul was sent to the Gentiles while Apostle Peter was sent to the Jews. Paul’s revelation was so unique that he could describe it as ‘my gospel’.
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11-12).
“But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:” (Galatians 2:7-8).
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen;” (Galatians 1:15-16a).
Copyright © 2017 by Israel Onoriobe
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