Purpose of this Session
From a study of history and the Scriptures we can define some common attributes that characterise the calling and ministry of the apostle.
1. An apostle is called by God
“The apostolic calling is a summons to believers that issues from the Father through Jesus. It is the voice of God alive in our spirits, saying, “Come and follow Me.” It is a call for the Church to go to the nations, issued to apostles and apostolic people alike. It is both an invitation and a command to become like Christ, and to embrace His desires for the world.” David Cannistraci in ‘The Gift of the Apostle’, p46
The Apostle is called by God, not man. Just as the disciples were called from their nets and their tax booths to leave all and follow Christ, so the apostle is called to separate themselves unto God’s purpose.
Paul refers to the divine origin of the apostolic call in several of his letters:
“Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),” (Galatians 1:1)
These men and women are specifically called by Christ, and given to the Body. No one can call him or herself an apostle.
Because of the divine origin of the call it carries an inherent power to change and transform the one whom is called (Saul, later called Paul, is a perfect example of this). The outworking of the Apostolic call not only transforms the individual who is called, it also results in the formation of apostolic communities through them.
The call of the apostle is later recognised and sanctioned publicly by recognised leaders. An example of this is found in the Antioch church in Acts 13 where Paul and Barnabas are pointed out by the Holy Spirit, then recognised and sent by the Church to fulfil their ministry. The sending again is of God (Acts 13:4), not of men or denomination. It is a call, a separation and a sending of God.
2. An Apostle is Anointed by God
The Holy Spirit Himself is Apostolic in nature. He was sent by Jesus to speak His words and carry out His will (John 14:26;16:7-8;Acts 2:4). It is entirely through the work of the Holy Spirit that the apostolic is released and the apostle is formed.
• The apostle is separated to service by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2; Rom 1:1). This separation includes the thought of an appointment to a spiritual office, a territorial boundary within which an apostle is given authority, and a setting apart to a life of practical devotion and holiness.
• The apostle is sent by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:4). The anointing and validation of the apostolic ministry in powerful signs and wonders is essential. The original apostles were warned by the Lord not to attempt ministry apart from the anointing of God (Acts 1:4-8)
• The apostle is supervised by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6-10). The Holy Spirit is the One who directs and guides apostolic efforts. His leading can come in many ways, through visions, dreams, prophecy etc, but it is His direction that is necessary for fruitful apostolic ministry.
• The Holy Spirit is the Source and Seal of apostolic ministry (Acts 1:8; 1 Cor 9:2; 2 Cor 12:12). Apostolic ministry flows from the apostolic Spirit, and with attendant proofs in signs, wonders, miracles, and changed lives. Paul spoke of the changed lives in Corinth as the seal and proof of his apostolic calling and anointing (1 Cor 9:2)
• The character of the Apostle will be formed by the Holy Spirit and display His fruits.
Just as the elder and deacon are characterised by certain traits (see previous lesson), the apostle and all ministries in the five fold will display those same characteristics of holiness, faithfulness etc.
Additionally the apostolic character will also display the following:
• A Father’s Heart (1 Cor 4:15; Phil 2:22)
The Father’s anointing flows through the apostle whom He sends as His representative, and he/she will nurture, admonish, love and build God’s people. To the apostle the church and those in it are not just converts, they are sons and daughters, and his or her heart will yearn for their development into full and responsible sons and daughters in the household of God.
“Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember, brethren, our labour and toil; for labouring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”
(1Thessalonians 2:6-12 NKJV)
Like a father, Apostles reproduce themselves, they bring forth new life.
Paul himself lamented that there were many instructors but few fathers, in the same way that Jesus grieved over the lack of true shepherds. As fathers and mothers in the household of God, these men and women care for, protect, provide for, nurse, cherish, instruct, discipline and correct, and bless and impart to those under their care.
We must be careful to point out that they do not seek to usurp the place only our Father in heaven can take however. Jesus warned us to call no earthly man father, for we all share one Father (Matt 23:9). A true apostle will not presume to stand in the place of the Father, or foster unhealthy dependence upon their own presence. Rather, we are here talking about a quality and depth of love and care that can best be described as paternal or maternal love. It goes beyond mere ministry. As Paul said to the beloved Thessalonians, he and his fellow apostles did not impart only doctrine and instruction, but their very lives.
• A deep love for and loyalty to the church (1 Cor 13; 2 Cor 11:28)
The apostle is called to plant, nurture and love the Bride of the One from whom He is sent.
• An apostle will display the fruit of patience (2 Cor 12:12). As a good farmer waits for the harvest and the fruit, and a good builder patiently works to see the house developed, an apostle will walk in pace with those he is discipling, until they come to maturity. As a mother nurtures her children (Gal 4:19; 1 Thess 2:6-8) the apostle will gently love and rear those he or she is developing in Christ. The apostle must also be able to endure hardness and suffering. Paul spoke of the scarring on his body (the result of severe persecutions and trials) as marks of successful apostleship (Gal 6:17; 2 Cor 6:4-10)
• An apostle will display deep humility (1 Thes 2:6). Because of the abundance of revelation and spiritual authority invested by God in His apostles, an equal and deeply rooted humility must of necessity be resident in the apostle’s life. It is interesting to note that often the preparation and ministry of the apostle is very stringent and fraught with challenges. Paul for example, although an extremely capable man in the natural, was genuinely and thoroughly convinced that apart from Christ he could do nothing at all (1 Cor 15:10).
Apostles in the New Testament attributed all of their success to God, and would not take any credit for supernatural works wrought through their hands. (Acts 10:25-26). They also displayed humility in their flexible, and willing accountability to one another.
• The apostolic ministry is attended by mighty signs and wonders
“Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.”
(2Corinthians 12:12 NKJV)
As well as the clear character traits resident in the apostles life, there are also wonderful demonstrations of God’s supernatural anointing. Paul pointed to these as proof of his apostleship, and contrasted the powerless persuasions of impostors claiming apostolic authority with the clear and undeniable proofs in his own:
“But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” (1Corinthians 4:19-20 NKJV)