Purpose of this Session
Although no two New Testament apostles did exactly the same thing, and God’s call and anointing are uniquely tailored to the individuals He calls, there are characteristics common to every apostolic endeavour, and traits of ministry that are almost always present to some extent in all apostolic work.
David Cannistraci in ‘The Gift of the Apostle’ groups these under two broad headings;
planting and watering
“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.” (1Corinthians 3:5-9 NKJV)
Planting includes the following:
a. Breaking new ground and establishing new life.
An apostle will be sent by God to a place, break up the spiritual ground through prayer and evangelism, and then sow the Word of God into the soil of people’s hearts, until the seed of the Word begins to bring forth new life
b. Planting churches
What do apostles plant? They plant churches.
Throughout the New Testament this is the pattern. Apostolic teams would penetrate a new area and found new congregations. They would remain there until a new and self-sustained church body was established. After coming home to rest and report, they would move on to other fields and repeat the process.
Watering includes the following:
a. Nourishing and sustaining that which is planted
Apostles would continue in close relationship with the works they had planted, providing ongoing strength, refreshing, advice and support. Paul taught in the Antioch church for a whole year (Acts 11:26) and stayed in Corinth for 18 months (Acts 18:11) nourishing the churches with the Word of God. He stayed in Ephesus for 2-3 years doing the same (Acts 19:9; 20:31).
b. Once the church plant is capable of sustaining itself spiritually, the apostle moves on, revisiting the work at regular intervals.
F.F.Bruce observes, “When those churches had received sufficient teaching to enable them to understand their Christian status and responsibility, the apostle moved on to continue the same kind of work elsewhere.” F F Bruce, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, Eerdmans
At this time the work would be handed over entirely to local leadership. The relationship would most often continue with the apostle, who would provide fatherly covering and advice for the ongoing work. They would often revisit planted works to encourage them, and to set things in order. The work itself however, was no longer directed by the planting apostle, but by those whom he had raised up in the locality.
Part of the proof of genuine apostleship are established people and congregations.
Like farmers investing their seed into the ground, expecting a harvest, the apostle sows their life, energy, finance and anointing diligently into the hearts of people, expecting God to bring increase.
Common responsibilities of apostles include:
1. Planting churches
2. Overseeing and strengthening churches
3. Developing leaders
4. Ordaining elders and other ministries (Acts 6:1-4,6; 14:23)
5. Supervising and Coordinating ministries
6. Managing crisis in the church and settle doctrinal questions (Acts 15:1,2,6)
7. Make decrees (Acts 16:4)
8. Ordain and put things in order (1 Cor 7:17; 11:34; 16:1)
9. Networking with other ministries for the upbuilding of local bodies of believers.
The authority to do all of these things flows from the authority of the Father inside, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who alone is the leader of the church in this dispensation. When the true marks of an apostle are present their authority is apparent, yet they do not and cannot demand obedience.
Submission to apostolic authority was and is not based on hierarchial principles nor successional authority (eg: the false doctrine that Peter’s line is the line of authority in the church). It is a voluntary submission, and interdependent cooperation and a mutual accountability. Where such authority is in place, people will submit to one another in a spirit of grace and humility (Eph 5:21), and the local church will remain autonomous yet totally open to apostolic and prophetic guidance.
Recognising and yielding to apostolic authority however is wise and ordained of God.
Paul made it clear to those he ministered to and oversaw that they were not under his dominion, he did not control them, but rather they were fellow workers for the glory of the gospel (2 Cor 1:24), and that his authority and desire was their joy and well-being. The opposite of this, and anti-apostolic authority if you like, is the Nicolatian spirit rebuked by Christ in Rev 2:6,15. The Greek word ‘nikao’ means “to conquer”, and the root word “laos” means “people”. True apostleship never seeks to dominate and control the saints, but rather lift up, promote, and sustain them.
“But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”
(2Corinthians 11:12-15 NKJV)
Wherever the genuine exists in Christ, the anti-Christ has a twisted and crude counterfeit, driven not by the love of Christ, but by self-serving motives. This is true of all the five fold gifts. In the New Testament we find that there are warnings about:
I. False Prophets, appearing in sheep’s clothing but underneath like ravenous wolves (Matt 7:15; 24:11)
II. False Shepherds (pastors), hirelings who kill, steal and destroy the sheep for their own gain, and abandon and scatter them (John 10:10-13)
III. False Teachers, (2 Tim 4:3-4; 2 Pet 2:1) bringing in heresies to the destruction of those who hear and follow them.
IV. False evangelists spreading false gospels (Gal 1:9)
V. False Apostles (Rev 2:2) falsely claiming apostolic authority.
Tracking right back to the beginning of our study of the apostle, we quoted Peter who spoke about the restoration of all things. The apostolic is one of the final and key elements in this restoration before the return of Christ.
We are privileged to witness this restoration taking place before our eyes.
A great apostolic movement is now swelling throughout the earth, and a mighty apostolic company is being raised to displace the powers of darkness. As the church returns to New Testament patterns of worship and divine order, a great harvest will surely result. Paul and the early apostles may have planted, generations may have watered, but we now enter into their labours to reap a great harvest (John 4:38) before the return of Jesus Christ.