Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Continuing In "Apostolic" Ministry

The term "apostolic" can be debated today. Are there still Apostles? Is there are difference between Apostles and apostles? If so, what are the differences? More importantly, what would the similarities be? Do we in any way carry on the apostolic commissions?

Consider Paul's statement:

For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.--1 Timothy 2:7
Similarly, he says:
for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.--2 Timothy 1:11
Since Paul only uses preacher (κῆρυξ) twice, and each time it is accompanied with apostle and teacher, let's consider the three titles from Paul:

Apostle


Though the process was unique for Paul, his office as an Apostle was not. Paul understood that some people would question this title, so he reenforces his claim with "I am telling the truth, I am not lying." We know that some denied his Apostleship, but Paul knew that those who had experienced his ministry would not.
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.-- 1 Corinthians 9:1-2
Paul's authority as an Apostle was built upon the fact that he had seen the Risen Christ, however unique the timing may have been (1 Corinthians 15:6-8). Yet, this claim is hard for others to verify, so Paul calls upon his audience to confirm his calling.

At this point, it is interesting to note that Paul does not refer to his miraculous works. He does not reference snake bites or his amazing survival of massive persecution. He calls the Corinthian church to consider their regenerate faith as evidence of his apostleship. And for his apostleship to result in their conversion, what must have been at the heart of his apostleship?

Preacher


First, Paul mentions he has been appointed as a preacher. He has been set in the position of a preacher or a herald. Strong's defines preacher as:
a herald or messenger vested with public authority, who conveyed the official messages of kings, magistrates, princes, military commanders, or who gave a public summons or demand, and performed various other duties. In the NT God's ambassador, and the herald or proclaimer of the divine word.
Since many of the Apostles participated in the formation of more Scripture, prophesied to future things and received divine instructions in specific situations, we can often think of Apostles as creatures of original works. At first glance, we may consider the Apostle as one who helped usher in the new. However, this is not the role of a preacher.

Paul had been appointed to be a herald. This specific form is unique to Paul (in the above passages) as well as a description of Noah in 2 Peter (see: The Success of Noah's Sermons). Like the prophets of the Old Testament, the herald does not present his own message, but a message from the Lord. Noah proclaimed God's message of His righteousness. Paul chose not to proclaim his own ideals, but chose to preach of Christ, and Him alone (1 Corinthians 2:2). When Paul says, "For this I was appointed," the message of Christ is the this. For in the above verses, Paul establishes that God desires salvation for all through Christ, the Mediator between God and man, who offered Himself as a ransom for our sin. Paul makes it clear that his appointment is for the gospel message--not his message or his creative expression, but for this message--which has already been given.

Teacher


The preacher and the Apostle are not called to serve as motivators, nor do they seek to manipulate the will of the listener. The result of their ministry should end in the teaching of the audience. There should be instruction attached. His ministry will result in doctrine. This can be seen in the two words which reference his teaching.

Faith--Paul speaks often of faith. Often Paul uses this term to refer to our fidelity and faithfulness. One can observe our faith, by our outward workings of that faith. This should not surprise us, for James speaks that our faith must result in works. We are reminded of the words of the reformers, "We are saved by faith alone, but not faith which is alone." We understand that Paul speaks of faith, he often means our faith made visible to others through our actions.

However, it is critical to realize Paul never means our actions apart from faith. He has instructed the Roman church that "whatever is not from faith is sin" (14:23). There is no outward action which can be pleasing to God apart from the proper motivation of faith directed toward God. How then can a person see this faith working in us apart from instruction?

Truth--Thus Paul tells us he taught the Gentiles in truth. His instruction comes in the form of objective teaching. He is not merely calling the church to "be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1) as outward expression alone. He is not impressed with outward actions when not accompanied with faithful understanding, in fact, he finds them damning (see: Galatians). Therefore, his work amongst the Gentiles included his life and character, but also the teaching of the source of his faith. Paul had lived a life of "faithful deeds" in the past, which he found worthless apart from Christ (Philippians 3:2-7). Instruction must be attached to life.

And in the 21st Century?


The Apostolic office has not carried on. The Apostles heard from Christ and then gave that message to the next generation. Hebrews 2 uses very clear "us" and "them" language which reminds us we are not carrying on the Apostolic office. It is so easy for the church to misunderstand this dimension and error in one of two directions. A) We seek out those Apostolic gifts which God testified with them, thinking they can be applied to us. or B) We neglect the commissioning and the greater ministry of the Apostles.

As Hebrews 2 reminds us, the focus was never intended to be the miraculous works or the signs that accompanied the Apostles teaching, but the spoken word of the Apostles. This word Paul instructed Timothy to preach. This word Timothy was then to instruct to faithful men who would pass it along.

Paul was appointed an Apostle, but not because Asia Minor desperately needed miraculous works. Paul was commissioned an Apostle because Asia Minor needed the gospel of Jesus Christ. And though we are no longer appointed as Apostles, the commission to preach and teach Christ crucified remains.

Today, many church leaders decry an anemic and ineffective church. In desperation, they seek out new, fresh and creative ways to infuse life in their Body. Our solution is not found in finding something new, but returning to that which has been neglected. We may not have the title, but we do have the message. If we'd like to see "apostolic power" unleashed in our churches, we should continue in the genuine apostolic ministry of preaching and teaching the message entrusted to us.

3 comments:

Keith said...

A word study throughout the NT will reveal at least these 3 categories of use of the words apostle in its noun and verb forms: (1) APOSTLE - Jesus Himself, (2) Apostle - The Twelve plus Paul as a transition between the #2 and #3, (3) apostle - used of many others in church establishment roles; the Latinized version is "missionary". There is a 4th, broader sense in which we can say that all believers have been sent (for the work of evangelism), but this can destroy the power of #3 when it is stated that "every Christian is a missionary" - very broadly yes, but specifically no.

So, do today's preachers preach the apostolic message? Yes, we must!! We have no message that originates from ourselves. When people tell me they appreciate that I stick with the Bible, my response often is, "That's all I have - I don't have anything else." Are all of today's preacher "apostles"? In the sense of #4 maybe. In the sense of #3, some. In the sense of #1 and #2, none.

A study of the word "prophet" will yield similar results. Maybe that is your next article?

danny2 said...

not the next series...but i good idea for down the road!

jim said...

You might want to review http://anonapostle.blogspot.com/ to reconsider the thought that apostles are not called forth by God today.