This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
Apostles: God’s Master Builders
God’s pattern of church order requires people to make up the Church and the problem, as you know, always is the people. That’s where problems begin. No people, no problems. And the character requirements laid down here are summed up really in that second verse, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance. Perhaps they could be summed up into one word, humility.
In verses 9 and 10 we have the pattern of Jesus, the one who went up far above all things was the one who first went down into the lowest parts of the earth. In other words, the principle is the way up is the way down.
Then in verses 3, 4, 5 and 6 we have the seven great basic unities on which the Church is founded. One body; one Spirit; one hope which is heaven; one Lord, Jesus; one faith, the gospel; one baptism into Jesus Christ, his burial and resurrection; one God and Father of all. These are the seven basic unities.
Then Paul unfolds out of the unity the diversity in the five ministries. Verse 7 and 8 he said when Christ ascended up on high, then he gave gifts to his Church. And the gifts are the five ministries stated in verse 11 apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. I did not point out yesterday what should be emphasized that it is only after Christ ascended on high that He gave these ministry gifts. In other words Paul is not referring primarily to those that were appointed while Jesus was ministering on earth. These appointments were made after He had ascended up on high, after His ascension back into heaven. And notice the first ministry gift is apostles. In other words, there were apostles appointed by Jesus after His ascension into heaven; likewise prophets and the rest. We’ll see today as we come to study the apostolic ministry that there are about twenty-eight persons named as apostles in the New Testament.
Going on we notice in verse 12 the two main functions of these ministries. The first is it to equip the believers for their work of service. The second is to build up the body of Christ. Verse 13 we have the goal that we come into the unity of the faith, unto maturity, and unto completeness. These are the three great goals; unity, maturity and completeness.
In his previous study today Brother Charles reminded you that we can be in the unity of the faith but we are still moving into, in the unity of the Spirit but we are still moving into the unity of the faith.
Then we had in verse 14 the alternative. If we do not go God’s way what is the alternative? It is retardation, instability and deception. And then verses 15 and 16 we have the climax; completeness, unity, strength, every joint and every part doing its job. And in this way the body builds up itself.
There was one beautiful Scripture that I had in our outline that I did not give you yesterday and I’m determined to give it to you today. If you just keep you finger in Ephesians, we’ll probably go back there, and turn to Isaiah 52 verse 8. This is about the time of restoration in which we are living. Isaiah 52:8—God says to His people at this time,
Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.
The bringing again of Zion is the restoration of God’s people which is the period in which we are living, which is the theme of our ministry and teaching—the restoration of the Church. And notice in this time of restoration, the watchmen, those who are on the watch, those who are looking out for what God is doing by His Holy Spirit, those who are open to the revelation of God, notice what’s going to happen. They’re going to sing together and they’re going to see eye to eye. Singing together is harmony. Seeing eye to eye is single vision. God is going to bring back the leaders of the ministers of His people, back into harmony and into singleness of vision at the close of this age. You see the four preachers that you have here ministering to you with Video Ministries, ten years ago we could not have been together. There would have been too many things that divided us—denominational, doctrinal, and so on. Today I can minister together with brothers from almost every section of the Church—Catholic and Protestants—and basically we have the same vision. We are in harmony because the Lord is bringing the back the captivity of His people Zion. This is something that God is doing and we have to say it is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.
Now let us go on to the material for the second study having just laid that basis of recapitulation of previous material. We’re going to deal today with the universal Church and then we’re going to start dealing with the ministries that are related directly to the universal Church. Now by almost common consent it has been agreed amongst Bible expositors and others that we find the Church of Jesus Christ presented in two main aspects; the universal and the local. The other word for universal is Catholic. Many people do not realize that the word Catholicmeans universal. So we’re speaking first of all about the universal Church, the church made up of all true believers of all ages, races, denominations, and backgrounds. Then later on in these studies we’ll deal with the other aspect of the Church; the Church in a given locality. But today we’re going to deal with the universal Church. And I’m going to say just a few introductory words about the meaning of the word church. The Greek word for churchis ekklesia,which gives us such English words as ecclesiastical and so on. And it has a definite specific meaning. It means an assembly formed by calling people out from a larger group. The root verb is __________ which means to call out.
Now the word ekklesiahad a meaning in secular Greek literature in the days of the writers of the New Testament. In fact, it is used with a secular meaning three times in the 19thchapter of Acts. The reference is given in your outline but it’s not necessary to turn there. Three times in this 19thchapter of Acts this word ekklesiawhich we normally translate churchis translated assemblyand it refers to the assemblyof the city of Ephesus. The official assembly of the city of Ephesus.
Now notice that the assembly of the city of Ephesus was not the place where they met, but it was the people who met there. Because in that 19thchapter of Acts it’s stated that they met in the theatre. So the principle is there right from the beginning that the Church is not the place but the people who meet in the place. And the place where they meet is entirely secondary.
Now in the city of Ephesus not everybody was entitled to attend that assembly. People who were not resident in Ephesus were not entitled to attend. People who were slaves were not entitled to attend. The assembly of the city of Ephesus was made up of free citizens of the city. So it was a gathering formed by calling out people who fulfilled certain qualifications, and those people then met in a certain place, which happened to be the theatre of the city of Ephesus.
Now all this is true of the Church of Jesus Christ. It is a gathering formed by calling people out from a larger group, the whole world, the human race—this group, the Church, is called out but those who are called out to meet in this assembly must fulfill certain requirements, just as the people in the assembly of the city of Ephesus had to fulfill certain requirements. So the important thing to see, first of all, is what are the requirements that a person must fulfill in order to participate in the true assembly of the people of God.
And for the first answer to this question we will turn to Matthew chapter 16 and read verses 16 through 18. The background of this passage is that Jesus had asked His disciples whom they thought He was. First of all He asked them, “Whom do men say that I am.” They answered, “Some say your John the Baptist, risen from the dead, some say you’re Elijah, some say you’re Jeremiah, one of the other prophets.” Then He faced them with this question.
Whom say ye that I am? [Now let’s read the answer. Verse 16, 17 and 18.]
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Now, of course, volumes of controversy have been written on those verses. But let me say immediately that Peter is not the rock, and the word rockis never applied to the Apostle Peter. The rockis that into which Peter was led by Jesus. It’s a relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. I think the easiest thing to do is to illustrate it by a kind of simple diagram, which I have here in this outline. We have here four phases of this relationship between Peter and Christ. First of all, in Greek the name Peteris petroswhich means a stone. There’s no question about this, it does not mean a rock, it means a stone. The word that’s translated rockis petra,which is a different word. So when Jesus said, “Thou art Peter [petros] and upon this rock [petra] I will build my church,” He was not comparing Peter to the rock, he was contrasting Peter with the rock. “Thou art Peter [petros—a stone] and upon this [petra—rock] I will build my church.”
Now the word petra—rock—is used specifically of Christ in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 4 where Paul is comparing the experience of the Israelites coming out of Egypt through the wilderness—keep your finger in Matthew 16 for a moment and turn to First Corinthians 10—and he speaks about the various typical experiences through which the Israelites passed.
He says they were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
First Corinthians 10 verse 2, verse 3,
they did all eat the same spiritual food.
Verse 4, They did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ,
The word is petra. This is very clear. Christ is the petra, Peter is the petros, the stone. Now we look at the relationship which brought Peter to build on the petrathe rock. And we find a direct, personal confrontation between Peter and Christ. There was no one in between, no mediator, no angels, but a direct confrontation—Peter face-to-face with Christ. After the confrontation came a revelation granted by the Father through the Holy Spirit, where Jesus said, “Flesh and blood—natural senses—have not revealed this unto you, but my Father which is in heaven.” And He called Peter at that point—if you’ll notice in the text—barjona. Now barmeans son ofand jonais the name that’s give to the prophet who went to Nineveh in the Old Testament. But the literal Hebrew meaning of the word jonais doveand the dove, of course, is always the type of the Holy Spirit. So He said,
Blessed art thou, Simon Peter barjona—son of the dove. Because at this point the dove of the Holy Spirit has opened your heart to understand who I am.
The revelation is not granted by the natural senses. “You’ve known Me for a year and a half as the carpenter’s son. Now the Spirit of God, the dove, has revealed you whom I am eternally in My divine eternal nature, I’m the Messiah the Son of the Living God.”
This revelation came by the Holy Spirit. So it’s particularly appropriate that that at the moment Jesus calls Peter “Simon, son of the dove.” In a certain sense this is a type of the new birth—being born of the Spirit by the revelation, the personal revelation of Jesus Christ.
Now when Peter was granted the revelation he had to acknowledge it. He had to accept the revelation that was granted, and finally he had to confess it publicly. There is no entrance into the kingdom of God without public confession. So the rock on which the great assembly of Jesus Christ is founded is here set forth before us in this encounter between Peter and Christ.
Notice the four elements which must be present in the experience of every person who’s admitted to the Church of Jesus Christ. There is no admission accept by this route. You must come face to face with Jesus Christ. You cannot bypass Jesus Christ and come into His Church. There must be granted to you a revelation by the Spirit of God of who Jesus is—not in history, not in time—but in eternity in His divine nature.
Thirdly you must acknowledge the revelation and fourthly you must come to the point of making an open public confession. Jesus said,
Whosoever will confess me before men, him will I confess before My Father. Whosoever will deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father.
In this point of confrontation neutrality is ruled out. From then on it is he that is not with me is against me. You either confess me, or you deny men, but neutrality is no longer a possibility. So this in very brief outline is the great rock on which the true assembly of God’s people, the Church of Jesus Christ, is founded. It’s a direct confrontation and personal relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. The four elements of this relationship are confrontation, revelation by the Spirit, acknowledgment by the believer, and public confessions. And Jesus said, “On this rock [petra] I will build my church.” Anybody that has not come that way is not qualified for the admission to the assembly of God’s people.
So you see this really wonderful truth. The Church of Jesus Christ is of such importance that in order to obtain admission you have to come into a relationship with each person of the Godhead. The Father, by the Spirit reveals the Son. And on the basis of that relationship to Father, Son and Spirit, you qualify for admission to the true Church of Jesus Christ—the assembly of called out ones.
Now let’s turn to another passage in John chapter 10 and see the same truth brought out there and I’ll seek to show you on the diagram how exactly parallel these two passages are. This is, of course the, what’s called the Parable of the Sheepfold. Let me say, first of all that the sheepfold is the company of a called out ones on earth. It’s not the company in heaven. Now we know this because Jesus speaks about the possibility of thieves and robbers coming into the sheepfold. But in the Sermon on the Mount He says there are no thieves or robbers in heaven. So this is the company of God’s people not as they will be finally redeemed in heaven but on earth. And there is the possibility that by some unorthodox and uncommitted route, false believers, thieves and robbers may come into the company of the true believers who are the sheep.
Now let’s read a few verses from this and then pick out the truth relating to admission to the sheepfold which is exactly the same as admission to the Church of Jesus Christ. Matthew 16 and John 10—these verses give exactly the same truth in parallel outline. I’ll read some of the verses from John chapter 10 beginning at verse 1, not reading them all. Jesus is speaking in verse 1, He says,
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door in the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.”
You see it is possible to climb up without going through the door, but that marks the person who does it as a thief and a robber, one who has no legitimate right to be there.
“But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the porter [I prefer to say doorkeeper] openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
[Verse 7 going on a little bit.] Then Jesus said unto them again, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers.”
Anybody who ever claimed to get entrance into the company of God’s people on earth before Jesus Christ, all are thieves and robbers. That includes many famous names—Buddha, Plato, Socrates, many others. They are all thieves and robbers. Very, very solemn vital fact for the people of God to understand. Many professing Christians today are half followers of thieves and robbers.
All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
[Verse 9] I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:
The thief in singular is the devil. And if the devil comes remember he has only three object; to steal, to kill and to destroy.
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
I am the good shepherd:
There are the basic facts of this parable. Now let’s try and relate Matthew to John, and I’m going to fill in a little with your help on the board. We have in Matthew the Father through the Spirit reveals the Son. And there is a double revelation of Jesus Christ which fits in perfectly with the passage from John. Jesus crucified and then Jesus risen from the dead.
Now in John we’ve got to fit in the shepherd, the door, the doorkeeper and by implication, there is what you might call the Lord of the Manor—the one who is the Lord of all. Then there’s the doorkeeper, the sheepfold, the door and the shepherd. We’ve got to fit in all these different parts of the parable and they relate directly to the truth of Matthew 16.
Now the Father is what in this truth here? He’s the Lord of all, isn’t He? Jesus said, “I thank Thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” The Father is the Lord of all. Now the Holy Spirit in the parable of the sheepfold—what is the Holy Spirit’s function? He’s the doorkeeper. He’s the one who decides if you qualify for admission or not. You can’t get past the doorkeeper, you can’t get in.
Now we have two more things to fit in. We have the door and we have the shepherd. Now I don’t know whether you’ve ever noticed in this parable Jesus says He’s both. He says I’m the door and I’m the shepherd. How can one person be the door and the shepherd? Well my answer is very simple and I hope it will satisfy you. Jesus Christ crucified is the door. Risen from the dead He’s the shepherd of the sheep. You have to come by the door before you have Him as your shepherd. You see the perfect correspondent. Matthew 16; the foundation, the rock, the Father through the Spirit reveals the Son.
John 10 the entrance into the sheepfold—the Father who is the Lord of all, through the doorkeeper admits the one who comes by the door, which is Jesus crucified. When you come by the door you enter into the sheepfold, you become one of the sheep and then you have as your shepherd, Jesus risen from the dead.
Now the point that I want to bring out is that entrance into the church, the true assembly of God’s people, depends on a direct relationship with Father, Spirit and Son. It is so important that no person of the Godhead will step back and say you can get into the Church without Me. You have to be related to Father, Spirit and Son to be in the Church.
I heard Brother Charles in the concluding part of his message that preceded this—he was emphasizing that the Church is the central vehicle of divine revelation to the universe. That by the Church might be known unto the principalities and powers in the heavenlies, the manifold wisdom of God. So important is the Church of Jesus Christ that Father, Spirit and Son are all directly, personally involved in admission. And there is no other way.
Now you can climb up into the sheepfold. If you don’t come by Jesus the door, you can clamber up some other way and get in amongst the sheep and pose as a member of the true Church and be in the congregation and sit in the services, sing the hymns and use religious language, but if you haven’t come by the door, all you are is a thief and a robber. And the blessings that you claim to appropriate are stolen blessings.
There are cults today which deny the necessity of the shed blood of Jesus, and I’m thinking to be honest and frank about Unity particularly. They talk about love, they talk about peace, they talk about unity. But the love and the peace and the unity that they have are stolen, because they’re thieves and robbers. They don’t come by the door. Now this is not an attack because I’m not saying that there’s nobody in that group that does not come by the door. What I’m saying is anybody in any group that does not come by the door - Jesus crucified for our sins and by the shed blood and finished work of atonement on the cross—anybody that claims to be in the company of God’s people by any other avenue or route, Jesus said, “He’s a thief and a robber.” And the blessings that he claims to have appropriated are stolen blessings.
So much then for the Universal Church and the conditions and way of entry into it. Now nothing that I’m going to tell you will ever be more important than what I’ve said about that. But now I want to go on to the ministries that God has set in the Universal Church. Turning back to Ephesians again, which will be our key Scripture for most of what we’re teaching, Ephesians 4 verse 11, we have now this statement.
And he [Christ] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers;
Now I make a division which is made by many Bible commentators and teachers—it’s not original with me—between the universal and the local church. And side by side with this I make a division between the ministries which are set in the Universal Church, which are to the entire body of Jesus Christ, and those which function in the Local Church which are resident in a locality. And out of these five ministries it is my opinion that four are primarily ministries to the Universal Church, the whole body of Jesus Christ. One is primarily a ministry to the Local Church in a given locality. The one that is primarily to the Local Church is the shepherd or pastoral ministry. The other four ministries are primarily to the Universal Church. That is apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers are primarily ministries to the Universal Church, the whole body of Jesus Christ.
And I want to deal now with these universal ministries. Then I want to go on in subsequent studies to deal with the Local Church and the ministries that are appointed by God in the Local Church. But we will deal now with the ministries that are in the Universal Church. And of these ministries we will deal in the remainder of this study with the first one mentioned by Paul which is the ministry of the apostle.
I said already but I will repeat it again that apostle is literally one who is sent forth. A person who is not sent forth is not an apostle. There’s many interesting facts about that. First of all it implies there must be somebody to send that person. You cannot be sent without somebody to send you. Confirmation for this if you wish it can be found in John chapter 13 verse 16 where Jesus says, “He that is sent is not greater then he that sent him.” That’s the Kings James Translation, but the word in the Greek is, “The apostle is not greater than the one who sent him.” In other words the King James translators bear testimony to the fact that the root meaning of the word apostle is one who is sent forth.
Now there are approximately twenty-eight persons mentioned as apostles in the New Testament. This is very startling news for some people who haven’t looked into the New Testament in some detail about this matter. There are fourteen apostles mentioned before Pentecost, and fourteen apostles mentioned after Pentecost. I’m not going to give you them all because it would be too laborious, but I’m going to take some of the most important examples.
Now the first great apostle of all is who? Jesus. That’s right. Turn to Hebrews chapter 3 verse 1. Hebrews the third chapter and the first verse.
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider [set your eyes upon] the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Jesus Christ;
Notice incidentally no profession, no high priest. Did you notice that? Jesus is the High Priest of our profession. If you don’t make the right confession or profession, then Jesus’ High Priestly ministry is not valid on your behalf. It’s so important what you say. He’s the High Priest of your confession. This is not part of my study, but I just throw it in for no extra charge. You make the wrong confessions, you make the confession of fear and unbelief, you silence the lips of your Advocate and your High Priest in heaven. He cannot speak on your behalf unless you make the right confession. He’s the High Priest of your confession.
All right. Now Jesus here is presented in two ministries; the apostle, the high priest. The apostle is the one who was sent forth from the Father. The high priest is the one who returns to the Father. He was sent forth from the Father to fulfill a certain task which no one else could do. Having fulfilled that task, He then returned to the Father and became our High Priest, the one who now represents us in the presence of the Father. The fact that Jesus was sent forth by the Father in an apostolic ministry is further confirmed in John chapter 10:36. John 10:36. Now I don’t want to go into the background of this. This is a controversy between Jesus and the Jews. Let me just say John 10:36, Jesus says this.
Say ye of him, [Jesus is speaking of Himself] whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world…
So there was a time when the Father sanctified Jesus, that is set Him apart for a special task, having sanctified Him, having set Him apart, He sent Him forth. Now the Greek verb is apostello—He sent Him forth as an apostle. He became the apostle of our profession. John chapter 20 verse 21, you can find this truth is again confirmed in the words of Jesus Himself. John chapter 20 verse 21,
Then said Jesus to them again, “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, [the word is apostello] so send I you.”
Jesus was the first apostle sent forth by the Father to fulfill a task which no one else could do. After that, while He was on earth, as you know He appointed twelve apostles. Let’s look in Matthew chapter 10 and see the account there given of the appointment of these twelve apostles. Now until they were sent forth they could not be apostles. Before they were sent forth they were amongst a larger category described as disciples. But when they were disciples that had been called to Jesus, commissioned and sent forth, then they became apostles. It’s most important to see how and when a person becomes an apostle. Reading then in Matthew 10 verse 1.
And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.
Now the names of the twelve apostlesare these; [now we won’t read the list of names. But notice verse 5.
These twelve Jesus sent forth,…
Before he sent them forth they were just disciples. After He had called them, commissioned them and then sent them forth, then they became apostles. Here is the transition from disciples to apostles when they were sent forth.
Now as you know fell by transgression. Judas was unfaithful. And in the interlude between the resurrection and the day of Pentecost another man was appointed by lot, Mathias, to take the place of Judas. So the number twelve was made up again, but we actually have fourteen persons mentioned as apostles; Jesus, the twelve—that’s thirteen—plus Mathias. So there were fourteen apostles before Pentecost.
Now the Holy Spirit bears testimony to the fact that Mathias’ apostleship was valid, because it says on the day of Pentecost that Peter stood up with the eleven—the other eleven. So that the validity of the appointment of Mathias to the number is authenticated by the Holy Spirit in Scripture. Some people think that that appointment was not valid, but that’s not so. The Holy Scriptures authenticate the appointment of Mathias. So we have fourteen apostles appointed before the day of Pentecost.
Then Jesus ascended up on high and after He had ascended, as it says in Ephesians chapter 4 verse 8, and verse 8, He gave these gifts to men. These gifts that we’re talking about are given by the ascended Christ, and the first one in the list is apostles. Now I’m going to show you how some of the subsequent apostles were appointed. I’m not going to deal with all the fourteen, though I could but time does not allow it, but I’m going to take the specimen cases—the ones that are typical and significant—and deal with them. Let us turn therefore to Acts chapter 13 and read verses 1 and following. Acts 13. This is a key passage. In fact Acts 13 and 14 are two vital key chapters for understanding the operation of the ministries. Acts 13:1,
Now there were in the church [the assembly] that was at Antioch [a local church in the city of Antioch] five men who were called prophets and teachers;
Notice that. “…certain prophets and teachers…” What were they? They were prophets and teachers.
Now they [verse 2] ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me two of these men for a special work, Barnabas and Paul.
[Verse 3] They fasted again [that church at Antioch certainly believed in fasting didn’t they? And they didn’t do it all in private because this was public, collective fasting.] They fasted again, prayed, and laid their hands on them, [and notice the verse] sent them off.
[Verse 4] So they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit,…
Who sent them forth? The Holy Spirit, but He didn’t do it without human help. The Holy Spirit has no arms, He has no hands, He doesn’t lay hands on people. Somebody has to do it as a representative of the Holy Spirit. They were sent forth by the Holy Spirit but it was through human agencies.
Now before they were sent forth what were they? Prophets and teachers. After they were sent forth what were they? Apostles. All right. Now look in the 14thchapter you’ll see this word is used twice. Acts chapter 14 verse 4 speaking about Barnabas and Paul it says,
But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.
And verse 14 is even more clear, Acts 14:14,
Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes,…
So Barnabas and Paul are now apostles. When did they becomes apostles? When they were sent forth from the local church of Antioch, by the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of the leading brethren in the church Antioch. This is such a clear and wonderful pattern. They could not have been apostles unless they were sent forth. You cannot be an apostle unless you are sent forth. And in order to be sent forth you must have someone to send you.
Now notice that this—they were sent forth by a local church. The organism that brought them forth in their ministry and sent them forth was the church at Antioch. Now notice that this is a regular pattern of Scripture. Unfortunately the King James Version sometimes does not translate the Greek word apostleby the English word apostle. It translates it messenger. And many readers of the English Bible have failed to see for this reason, how many apostles there really were in the New Testament church. I’m going to give you two passages of Scripture where the King James uses the word messenger, but where the Greek word is apostle.And when you read it that way, and you can check on it in any concordance or translation or anything you like to satisfy yourself that I’m right, when you read it that way it will give you a totally different picture of apostleship. The first one is in Second Corinthians chapter 8 verse 23. 2 Corinthians 8:23, the Apostle Paul is talking about those who traveled and ministered with him. And he says this,
Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren [and he’s speaking in the plural of some who he does not name] be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches…
But where the King James says messengers, the Greek says apostles.
They are the apostles of the churches and the glory of Christ.
In other words they are the ones sent forth from the churches as apostles. Then again in Philippines chapter 2 and verse 25 we have the similar language used. Philippines 2:25 Paul is speaking about a man named Epaphroditus and he says,
Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger,
But the Greek is apostle. If Epaphroditus was the apostle of the church at Philippi to which Paul was writing this epistle, he says “Epaphroditus was your apostle—the one sent forth from your church.” So we have this principle that after the day of Pentecost apostles were sent forth from local churches by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit through human instruments. I think I’d better say that again. It’s so important. From the day of Pentecost onwards apostles were sent forth from local churches by Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, through the Holy Spirit with human agency doing the work. Now this is theunvarying pattern.
Notice also that when apostles were sent forth from churches they returned having completed their task and reported back to the churches which sent them forth. They were subject to the authority of those local churches. They were not lords over the churches, but they were the sent-forth representatives of the churches. Turn to Acts 14 verses 26 and following. It says having completed this first missionary which is recorded in Acts chapters 13 and 14, it says,
They thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.
How were they recommended to the grace of God? By the laying on of the hands of the leading brethren of the church of Antioch. They were recommended to God for a work. Notice the apostle has a task. They fulfilled the task for which they were recommended to God, then they returned to the local church and reported what they had done. Verse 27,
And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
So that the apostle is the product of the local church, through the Holy Spirit but with human agency he is sent forth as a representative of that local church. Paul said of Epaphroditus to the church of Philippi, “He’s your apostle. He’s the one whom you sent forth.” The local church was responsible for that man; for his ethics, his morals, and his doctrine. If he ever went astray that local church was entitled to withdraw their endorsement on his apostolic ministry. Having completed whatever task they were sent forth to fulfill, they had to return and report to the local church that sent them forth. You see this is a very, very different picture of the apostolic ministry from that which some people would have us believe in today. The apostle is not the autocrat. He’s not the dictator. He doesn’t walk around laying hands on people saying you do this, and you do that. He’s the product, the offspring of the moving of the Spirit in a local church, he’s sent forth from the local church with the laying on of hands of the leaders, he goes forth to fulfill a task, and he returns to the church which sent him forth with a report of what he’s done. He is subject to the discipline of the Body of Christ represented by the local church which sent him forth. This is such a vitally important principle that I am doing my best to emphasize, because it is unscriptural for people to go around on their own without being sent by anybody, without being authorized by anybody, without anybody to whom they’re accountable, and declare that they are apostles and have authority. It is totally contrary to the Spirit and letter of Scripture.
Now then let’s look at the main task of apostles. And I will turn again to my diagram just to try and make it simple. First of all by definition an apostle is one sent forth. His task is summed up in the word master builderor architect. It’s to set up and than to maintain church order. The seal of an apostolic ministry is a completed local church. The signs of an apostolic ministry are twofold; first of all endurance, secondly miracles. Now let’s look at the Scriptures which authenticate these statements. The task is stated in First Corinthians chapter 3 verse 10. 1stCorinthians chapter 3 verse 10. The Apostle Paul is speaking to the church of Corinth. You must bear in mind that the church in Corinth was the product of Paul’s ministry. Bear this in mind. Paul went to Corinth when the gospel had not been preached. There were no believers. He preached the gospel, the people came to the Lord, they were baptized in water, baptized in the Holy Spirit, entered into the life and gifts of the Holy Spirit, had their own local leaders appointed, were established as a complete self-sufficient self-governing local congregation; that was the ministry of Paul that produced that in Corinth. Therefore Paul had a specific personal relationship to the Church of Corinth and the words that he uses of them can only be understood on the basis of this fact of what his ministry had accomplished in Corinth. Let’s look. 1 Corinthians chapter 3 verse 10.
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation,…
The apostle is the masterbuilder. The building is the local church. The apostle understands every phase of the building; the foundation upwards to the roof. If necessary he can do the whole task and if it’s not he who does it he can come say if it’s being done right or if it’s being done wrong, what corrections are needed. He’s the masterbuilder, the architect, the one who understands the whole building process from foundation to roof. That’s the ministry of the task of the apostle.
Now the seal of apostleship is stated by Paul in First Corinthians chapter 9 verse 2. 1stCorinthians chapter 9 verse 2. Paul says,
If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.
The seal is the outward authentication which can be seen by anybody who cares to look. The outward authentication of Paul’s apostleship was the church at Corinth, because the whole building had been made by him. He had laid the foundation and left it with the roof on. And he said any person that can do that has the seal of apostleship. This is the apostolic ministry. It’s the ministry of the masterbuilder. “If anybody questions my apostolic ministry,” notice he said, “That I can refer them to the church of Corinth because there’s the seal, the outward evidence of my apostolic ministry.”
And then he spoke about the signs in Second Corinthians chapter 12 verse 12. 2ndCorinthians 12:12. He says,
Truly the sings of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
The signs of an apostle is definitive. It indicates that every true apostle has these signs. The first one, please notice, is character, endurance. When everybody else gives up and gets discouraged and turns back, the apostle holds on. You see Paul, when everybody forsook him in prison, he held on. Please bear in mind the first requirement to be apostle is not the miracles—it’s the character, endurance and then come the signs and wonders and mighty deeds.
So we have this little brief summary which I’ll just go through once again of the apostolic ministry as presented in Scripture. The meaning or the definition is one sent forth. The task the masterbuilder or the architect who can set up a church if it’s not set up, or if it’s set up maintain it. And if there’s anything wrong in the order correct it.
The seal of an apostolic ministry is a completed local church. The signs that accompany the ministry are first of all the signs of character, steadfastness, endurance, holding out, secondly the miraculous attestation of the ministry. This is the picture of the apostolic ministry.
Now let me point out a further vitally important fact. It is unscriptural to speak of an apostle working as an individual on his own. There is no example of this that I can find anywhere in the New Testament. Apostles worked in teams. Let me say this and we’ll go into it further. Of the five ministries that we have mentioned, apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, there are three that are always plural—apostles, prophets and shepherds. It’s never theapostle, it’s theprophet, it’s never theshepherd or pastor, they are always plural. There are two that may operate in the singular, the evangelist and the teacher.
Now you say, why is the difference? And I believe, myself, and I’ll come into this later, it’s because the apostle, the prophet, and the shepherd are concerned with church order. And this is so important that God has never committed it to a single individual. It us unscriptural for one person as an individual to operate on his own as an apostle, a prophet or a shepherd. There is no justification for that in the New Testament.
Let’s look now at the apostles. We’ll go very quickly. The references are in your outline. Acts chapter 8, Acts the 8thchapter—notice that at the beginning of this chapter one man went down to Samaria. Who was he? Philip. What was he? An evangelist. Now the evangelist operated on his own. Philip didn’t have a committee. He didn’t have anything. He didn’t have a welcoming band, he didn’t have the mayor, he didn’t have the police chief, he just went down to Samaria and turned the city upside down. We was an evangelist. But he did not finish the building of the church. He brought those people into two experiences—salvation, water baptism. He did not bring them into the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Listen now. This is fantastic when you consider it. Reading from verse 14.
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
One evangelist, but two apostles you see. The apostle never went on his own. He was always a member of a team. Now looking on, Acts 13. We don’t have to turn to all these. We’ve already seen when the Holy Spirit sent out from the church at Antioch he sent not one man but two—Barnabas and Saul. Acts chapter 15, if you want to turn there quickly we find that the end of this chapter some more apostolic teams went out. Acts 15 verse 37.
Barnabas took with him John Mark and they went off.
Paul wouldn’t take John Mark so verse 40, Paul chose Silas and they went off. And the beginning of chapter 16 we’ll come to this in greater detail later on, they gathered one other person to join them. That other person was Timothy. So in this team there was Paul, Silas and Timothy. Now keep your finger there if you’ve got a finger to spare, and turn to First Thessalonians for a moment and I’ll show you a very fascinating truth out of the word of God. 1stThessalonians chapter 1 speaks about this team that was gathered and is recorded at the end of chapter 15 and the beginning of chapter 16 of Acts—this team of Paul, Silas and Timothy. It says there at the first verse of the first chapter of First Thessalonians,
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus…
Those are different forms of the names Silas and Timothy. Paul, Silas and Timothy were the three persons who jointly wrote this first epistle to the Thessalonians. Is that clear to you? The epistle was not written by Paul alone. It was written by Paul, Silas and Timothy. Now notice what they say about themselves in the second chapter and the sixth verse. 1stThessalonians chapter 2 verse 6,
Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.
You see all three of them were apostles. When did they become apostles? When they were sent forth. Where were they sent forth from? Paul and Silas from Antioch, Timothy from Lystra. The same pattern all the way through. And never did apostles operate as individuals on their own. Galatians chapter 2 you find again another apostolic company. Galatians 2:1,
Then fourteen years after [Paul says] I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
Paul, Barnabas and Titus. In Jerusalem they had a confrontation about this matter of circumcision of the Gentiles, and they were confronted by another apostolic team which is stated in Galatians 2:9; James, Peter and John. These two teams met. They settled their differences, they give each other the right hand of fellowship and then parted. Notice there was an overall framework of fellowship, but in this overall framework that embraced the whole body, there were certain specific teams given certain specific tasks. Peter, James and John were the apostles of the circumcision, the Jews. Paul, Barnabas and Titus were the apostles of the uncircumcision, the Gentiles. You see each within the total area, each team brought together by God, had its specific task to fulfill. This is all a principle that goes through the whole of Scripture.
Now let us notice three closing facts which we’ll deal with very quickly. Second Corinthians chapter 11. 2Corinthians chapter 11 and verse 5, Paul says,
For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.
And in 2Corinthians 12:11 he says,
I’m nothing behind the chiefest apostles…
Now if there are chief apostles, by implication there are not so chief apostles.They’re not all Paul. Just as not all prophets are not all Isaiah’s or Jeremiah’s. But they are nevertheless genuine prophets. So it is there are apostles that are not the level of Paul and Silas and Peter and John, but they are genuine apostles.
Secondly Paul says there are false apostles. Second Corinthians 11 verse 13, such people are false apostles.
And finally in Revelation chapter 2 and verse 2, Jesus commends the church at Ephesus because they tried those who said they were apostles but were not, and found them liars. So it’s most important that we understand that we must be able to recognize apostles, check them by Scripture, see that they have the seal, see that they have the signs, that their ministry meets the requirements and the standards, before we acknowledge them as apostles.
Well, we got through it all. Don’t say it wasn’t hard work, but we did it. Praise the Lord. This is to be continued in our next. Tomorrow we’ll deal, the Lord helping us, with the other three universal ministries—prophets, evangelists, and teachers.
I was speaking to a group of young people once and I suggested that some of them would be called straight into fulltime ministry. They might never even go to Bible College or find secular employment. So a man wrote to me afterwards from that city and he said, “You were encouraging those young people not to work, just to go out and preach. Surely that isn’t good for them.” And I wrote back and said, “Brother, you’ve forgotten one thing. Preaching is work.” A lot of people don’t realize that.
All right. God bless you, keep the victory, we’ll see you tonight.
A free copy of this transcript is available to download and share for personal use.