The Office of an Apostle
By Doug Cook
There is much confusion that centers on the definitive calling of an apostle these days up to and including if such a calling still exists. I used to be one of those that thought there were only twelve original apostles and after they passed this life there were no more. After all, my thinking was that only the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb were inscribed on the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem, right? (Revelation 21:14) Boy, was I wrong! A study of the New Testament reveals there were at least 12 more men, in addition to the original 12, such as Timothy, Titus, and Barnabus, considered to be apostles, and possibly more. I also did not pay close attention to the verse I read many times in Ephesitians 4:12-13 that says "And he gave some, apostles ... For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:" Paul said all five of the five fold ministry offices were given until we ALL come into the unity of the faith and the fullness of Christ. We can observe a lack of unity in the body of believers today, which means all the ministry offices are obviously still needed.
For many years I knew I was called to teach and pastor and truly believed pastoring was the extent of my calling. That is until one day I received a phone call in November of 2004 from a prophetess colleague with a word from God saying "Doug, you are limiting God in your calling!" It so surprised me that she captured my complete attention. She then proceeded to advise me my calling was more like the office of an apostle. I was still bound under a doubting mindset, questioning if there were more than twelve. I immersed myself into several months of in-depth study of the office. I discovered a lot of the things I was doing, but not understanding how they fit into ministry, began to make sense. I did not totally understand the whole concept because of my lack of knowledge about the apostolic office and the oversight it provides.
I have since received confirmation of my calling to the office of apostle from several other prophetic believers who knew nothing about what God was doing in my life (a matter is established out of the mouth of two or three witnesses). Through these confirmations and my research I discovered that God, over the past decade or two, has been in the process of rebuilding the office of apostle along with the full restoration of all the five fold ministries. I am not saying there have not been apostles among us through the two thousand years since Christ's death, because there have been many, but very few Christians know the office is still operational; much less have an understanding of how the office is supposed to function within the body.
How to recognize an Apostle
As Spirit filled believers, we need to discern the true from the false callings so we are not misled by deceptive half-truths. Jesus commended the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2 for trying those that said they were apostles, and found them to be liars. Like it was during the time of the church of Ephesus, the church will always be plagued with false apostles as well as false prophets, false teachers, false evangelists, false pastors, false worship leaders ... etc. operating within the body. The devil is determined to keep these tares sown among the wheat.
An apostle will probably be hard to recognize because they look like the normal everyday brother in church. They will no doubt have volunteered in one or more of the ministries in the local church, probably even serving in the helps ministry for a season, doing anything they can just to be available to serve, and will enjoy giving of themselves for others. They will not be anyone special, seeking a prominent position in ministry and will seem like every other person in the church -- just a regular church member. They won't look anything like you may picture an apostle should look like, and will most likely be the last person you would expect to fill a position with that much God-ordained authority in the church. This is God's way of preparing them to be a servant leader.
As an apostle begins to mature, they will begin expressing things God is showing them that seem not to fit in with the status-quo "church" programs, practices, and beliefs. Their passion is to understand God's heart on all aspects of His church, giving them the ability to see methods, motives and rituals being carried out that are not of God, while conversely understanding things that are not included or addressed that are vital in the eyes of God to Christian growth. Their insights will often be seen as controversial, and sometimes questionable, and they will most likely be accused of "not lining up with pastors vision," because a maturing apostle will not blindly follow the direction of a pastor who is not utilizing the counsel of an apostle. The more God authorizes, anoints and releases them to express His true heart, the more likely they will be shunned and ignored by most of the leadership and other "mature Christians" in the church. Some believers in these church systems are generally so preoccupied with obeying the "one-man-authority-rule" in the corporate body of believers, they easily miss the true God-ordained five fold ministry authority operating in their midst. The mature apostles have a good understanding of how God is moving, because He is revealing Himself to them, and He is expecting the apostolic office to lead others into that revelation as well.
Apostles receive their appointment directly from the Lord Jesus. They are not "licensed or ordained" by a seminary, denomination or even another apostle or five fold minister. Neither is there a list of qualifications to achieve in order to operate in this office. They receive a lot of their training from Jesus himself, not from a bible school. Completing an "apostolic" curriculum in an "apostolic" training school does not necessarily make an apostle either, although I am very much in favor of mature apostles training the up-and-coming young apostles Jesus is raising up. The original 12 were matured by Jesus Himself while he was on earth for 3 years, and they were all from the ranks of the unlearned fishermen and tax collectors, not from the Hebrew universities. Paul received his apostle schooling in his 3 years in the desert -- even though he previously had an in depth knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures. Gal 1:12 says Paul “neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
As He did with Paul, Jesus separates apostles from the existing apostate religious system of denominations (Gal 1:15) for a season to reveal Himself directly to them through The Word, words of wisdom and words of knowledge. They will go through a wilderness type experience for many years to allow time to become a seasoned veteran of His Word. This process of training for this calling takes many years – there are no shortcuts. They will have spent years in the church under authority of other leaders learning submission. 20 to 30 years of preparation is not an unusual amount of time for God to shape them in the molding process before releasing apostles fully into their office. Although, I believe however, the younger one is when they surrender to this call, the less amount of time might be required to “unlearn” wrong beliefs.
The bible says that Barnabus and Saul were elevated as an outgrowth of tutelage from the offices of prophets and teachers (Acts 13:1-3). I too began ministering in the offices off a teacher before God elevated me several years later. The apostle has the ability to minister in all of the five fold offices, kind of like five ministers rolled into one, although he may have 1 or 2 dominant offices that he excels in. More than likely an apostle may begin by operating in one or more of the other five fold ministries, and then be set aside in the office of apostle as Jesus Himself determines the time these callings are manifest. You will also find most apostles have a passion to focus on maturing believers that are called by God to operate in one of these five fold ministries, which is why they need to be able to function in each office. During the early church, the apostles were the ones that were entrusted to ordained elders and other five fold ministers, not the local pastors or seminaries (Titus 1:5, Acts 14:23).
There are other apostles and elders that claim you need to have seen Jesus through a personal encounter (as Paul did) or have at least seen a manifestation of Him in a vision, to operate as an apostle. In 1 Cor. 9:1 Paul, in defending his office of apostle claims, “Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” (Referring to his road to Damascus experience). This verse along with the fact the original 12 disciples walked with Jesus personally is used to support this apostolic requirement by these brothers and sisters. By experience, I can say that I do not believe this to be true in all cases. I know for a fact I have been called to this office -- I didn’t know anything about the office, nor was I seeking it -- God had to use three prophets to convince me beyond a shadow of a doubt it was the position He wanted me to function in. But I have yet to have a personal visitation by Jesus in a dream or vision, even though I have asked Him for this on many occasions. Jesus may use personal visitations with some of the apostles, but it is not necessarily a doctrinal requirement to operate in the office.
Apostles will be recognized by their patience, signs, wonders and mighty deeds (2 Cor. 12:12). Although, like any other Christian maturing in their walk, they will have a learning curve to develop their gifts. A young apostle may not display as many signs and wonders as a fully matured apostle should. Notice the word patience is listed first in verse 12. The reasons for this are the infirmities, reproaches, necessities and persecutions they have to endure (2 Cor. 12:10). Like our Lord Jesus, apostles are set apart as sacrificial lambs, so to speak. They are called to lay down everything, a complete death to self, to become part of the solid foundation of the church. They are the ones that are called to lead solders into the battlefield, and are the first “sent ones” to confront the enemy head on. If there is a river to cross, they will be the ones that must go first to find out how deep the water is, and which path is the best to take, to get to the other side.
What I refer to as "an apostles job description" is found in 1 Corinthians 4 (the whole chapter.) "... being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it ... we are made as the filth of the world, and the offscouring (scum of the earth) of all things unto this day." Many established Christians will find it difficult accepting apostolic teachings. They will be disliked, even hated by some. They will be criticized, scorned and ridiculed by many. And most of this reviling and persecution comes from the religious people within the church, not from the people of this world. It requires extreme patience to endure this, which they do willingly with strength and humility, all the while returning compassion and understanding towards these misled brothers and sisters. However, as they become more like Jesus, you may also see them drive the money changers out of the temple with a whip -- rising up in righteous anger.
They will not minister in the doctrines of men, but will help people to understand the true heart of Jesus. They will be a father figure in the areas they have oversight, forming the churches into a closely knit family type atmosphere. They will be above reproach in their actions and dialogue, not calling for submission from "the laity," but treating everyone as equals in the body of believers, referring to Jesus as the only Master.
God is bringing the church full circle back to the way it operated in the first century, with all five fold ministry offices fully functioning the way He originally designed the church to operate. His first century church was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, (Eph 2:20) beginning with apostles. I Cor.12:28, “And God has set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily Prophets, thirdly teachers ...” Jesus is restoring the order of spiritual government within His bride.
To facilitate God's divine governmental organization in the church; it will require the Body of Christ to come together into ONE doctrine. This obviously is not happening. Observe the number of diverse denominations that exist today -- several thousand at last count. The Church must come to understand what the Lord gave to very ordinary human vessels to enable them to become living stewards of the grace of God. I Cor.4:1, “Let a man so account of us (apostles), as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” In Eph. 3:4-6, Paul spoke of his “knowledge in the mystery of Christ,” which has not been known in earlier ages, but “is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” The apostle is the one called to deregulate doctrines and traditions among believers which, a lot of the time, is in opposition to established teaching and considered to be a "negative attitude" by the religious, status-quo ministers who have great difficulty accepting the changes God is bringing. This office will catch a lot of the heat as God begins to draw believers outside of "churchianity" as we know it and transition them to one body of believers looking very similar to the first century church in the book of Acts. But then, to whom much is given, MUCH is required!
God gives every vessel (all believers) a specific measure of grace to function in the office for which they are called. Eph.4:7, "But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." Apostles were given the grace to bring pure doctrine and truth to the Church through the Headship of Jesus Christ. Jesus sets living apostles (not only biblical apostles' examples and words) within the body of believers to continually oversee the purity of His doctrine. This oversight is not done for money (filthy lucre), neither so today's apostles can be lords over God’s heritage, but by being examples (1 Peter 5:2-3). Apostles, along with other elders, also brought structure to the Body of Christ with Jesus Himself as the chief corner stone (Eph. 2:20). God uses living apostles and elders today to establish and maintain His government within the church, along with the truths in the inspired scriptures instituted by the original apostles.
One final observation: I have not been able to find anywhere in scripture where Jesus chose a woman as an apostle, elder, bishop or overseer. Neither have I found where any of the other apostles listed in scripture chose, appointed or ordained female elders, overseers, bishops or head pastors of a church (Husband of one wife! 1 Tim. 3). I have heard all the arguments (including other apostles and elders) supporting women in authority roles, but have yet to hear one of them establish undeniable biblical proof; and the "Apostle Paul was going along with the culture of his time" argument is a biblically unsupported personal philosophy. Do the research on the biblical support for both sides of this controversial topic and then take it to God for direction. There are too many Christians trying to link up with a leader who tells them what they want to hear in the flesh, rather than asking God and being obedient to His instructions, even if it completely opposes the cultural relevance doctrines of the day.
Listen To our three part interactive teaching on "Women in Autority"
Women in authority Pt1
Women in authority Pt2
Women in authority Pt3
Other links that may give more insight into this topic:
Women Leaders from a Christian females point of view
Women in Authority, by Rick Porritt
The Word, Women and Authority by David Eells
2001 Prophetic word by Steven Crowder - The Spirit That Strengthens All Things Feminine
Yes, I know there are female head pastors of churches, and I am not saying they are of the devil, but they are deceived. There are churches with male head pastors who are actually called to a different ministry position in the body, yet they continue to pastor. God can still move in these pastors and churches because He works in all situations, even though the leadership is not structured according to His standards. There are just as many (if not more) men as there are women, out of sync with their God-ordained positions in the church, because their flesh wants to be in charge. When believers mature enough to truly understand their relationship with Christ Jesus, there is only a desire to serve wherever Jesus wants them, because they have crucified self and their own fleshly desires. Our desire should be to line up with The Word, not the current culture of the world.
When Christians fully understand what the apostles provided for the early church in the first century, then they will begin to realize what apostles do and what believers in the body of Christ have been missing. May God help all believers to embrace the restitution of all ministry offices in the body, with all of us functioning in our predetermined gifts and callings in a spirit of unity and humility.
I bless you all in Jesus name.