“And he himself gave some to be apostles…” Ephesians 4:11
As I started to prepare to write this post on verses 11-13, I began to research each of the giftings that Paul lists. I started with apostles and prophets and decided that I needed to do an entire post for each one. Are these giftings that we still have today? Were they unique to the first century church? I want to be careful to only use scripture to back up whatever conclusion I come to.
Let’s start with apostles. Apostle means ‘to be sent off.’ The word ‘apostles’ is used 58 times total in the New Testament. The word ‘apostle’ appears 19 times. Let me first clarify how I did my research. I am using the Christian Standard Bible in the Blue Letter Bible app on my phone. You may get different results if you are using a different version. I then looked at the verses to see how they are used. In the majority of these verses, the word is being used to describe the Twelve Apostles appointed by Jesus. There are a couple of instances where Paul describes himself as one of the apostles. The word apostle is mainly used by Paul to describe himself. Peter uses it twice to describe himself. There are only a few verses that vary from the above examples, and I want to focus on these.
First, we’ll look at 1 Corinthians 12:28-29. “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, leading, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all do miracles?” This is very similar to the verse we are looking at in Ephesians 4. It is even in the same order, with apostles first and prophets second. It is interesting to me that the wording here is that God has appointed the first things, then he mentions gifts. I am not sure if this is significant or not. In Ephesians, “he gave some to be apostles…” along with the other four jobs listed. Earlier in the letter, Paul is clearly referring to the Twelve. He is referring to the New Testament writings in Chapter 2. The Twelve who held the office were appointed by Jesus (see Mark 3:16-19). Later, Matthias was chosen to replace Judas (see Acts 1:20-26). And Paul was chosen by Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:8-9). Because the word means “to be sent off” and the apostles were the one that were sent off and built the foundation of the church, I am not convinced that this is a gift that is still for today.
Let’s look at some more verses. 2 Corinthians 11:4-5 says, “For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel, which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly! Now I consider myself in no way inferior to those ‘super-apostles.’” Paul then goes on to say in 12:11, “I have been a fool; you forced it on me. You ought to have commended me, since I am not in any way inferior to those “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing.” In Revelations, the church at Ephesus is commended. “I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil people. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars.” These verses clearly warn against people who claim to be apostles but are not.
We don’t have very many verses (other than the many about the Twelve) about apostles other than what I have listed above. But today, we have a huge, and I’m talking millions and millions, of Christians who are falling into a belief system where they think that they need to be under the authority of an apostle. In the last fifty years, there has been a movement that claims that the office of apostle has been restored to the church. Bethel Church in Redding is an example of one of these churches. I found an excellent definition of the movement that I’m going to share here: “We’ve entered a “2nd Apostolic Age” that is marked by increasing Signs & Wonders. In order for the Church to accomplish its mission, we need to be under “Apostolic Alignment,” which means that God will fully function once the new instructions from these new apostles and prophets are obeyed.” There are some excellent resources available if you are interested in doing more research. Holly Pivec has done a lot of research and her website has quite a bit of information. In addition, she has written two books. The first is an overview of the movement titled “God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement.” Her other book is a little more detailed (and is the one I read). It is an excellent resource if you want to really dig in. It is titled “A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement.” Another good overview of this movement can be found here: The ’Prophets’ and ’Apostles’ Leading the Quiet Revolution in American Religio… | Christianity Today
Let’s look at what some of these “apostles” say. One of the things that concerns me most is their low view of scripture. As long as personal experience and revelation are valued above the Word of God, anything goes! Bill Johnson says, “It’s difficult to expect the same fruit of the early church when we value a book they didn’t have more than the Holy Spirit they did have. It’s not Father, Son and Holy Bible.” He also teaches, “All of the people of God [are] carrying prophetic anointing.” This goes directly against 1 Corinthians 12:29 where Paul asks if all are apostles or prophets. Che Ahn, another “apostle”, was on Facebook recently, holding up his book saying that Jesus appeared to his friend and prophet, James Goll, and said that “This was the most important book of this hour.” Silly me! I thought that title belonged to the Bible! Another heresy that Bill Johnson teaches is that it is always God’s will to heal someone. You can see that here: Healing – Bill Johnson Ministries (bjm.org) That is not what the Bible teaches. Another huge concern that I have with these apostles is that they have set themselves as the power and authority to carry out God’s plans and purposes on earth. They equal themselves with the original Twelve apostles. They claim they hear directly from God and many claim that Jesus visits them in person. They claim to get extra-biblical revelation. Because they have been appointed by God, nobody is to question them.
I think that it is safe to say that these apostles fall into the category of super-apostles that Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians. Remember what he wrote. “For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel, which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly!” And that is what we are doing. We are putting up with it splendidly. And that is not a good thing! Because we do not know the Word of God, we put up with unsound teaching and foolish doctrine. We want our ears to be tickled and to be entertained. We need to wake up! 2 Timothy 2:2-4 says “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
My conclusion is that when Paul wrote about apostles, he was talking about the original Twelve, Matthias and himself. This is not a gifting that is for today. I did not see any examples of other apostles, and I didn’t see any instructions on how this gift was to be used. My next post will be on prophesy.
Grace be with you!
2 responses to “Apostles”
Ohhh Kim! So so good!
Thanks Edie! I’ll post the Prophets post tomorrow. This has been on my mind for a while!
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