Definition of an apostle:
An apostle is a Christian leader gifted, taught, commissioned, and sent by God with the authority to establish the foundational government of the church within an assigned sphere of ministry by hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches and by setting things in order accordingly for the extension of the Kingdom of God.
Gifts and Ministries of an apostle:
Apostles, by definition, have been given the spiritual gift of apostle by the grace of God. This gift is listed among many others in 1 Corinthians 12. The same chapter, however, indicates that not all of those with the same gift have the same ministry, and not all those with the same ministry have the same activity (see 1 Cor. 12:4-6).
These are God’s generals who have spent time with their Commander-in-Chief and know His ways. They began as disciples who followed, served, and learned from their Master. Then they became apostles, or “sent forth ones.” They have been sent from their place of learning from Him, to their place of service for Him, where they will implement His divine plans. They are, in short, the chief administrators of the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth. They will usually have other strong giftings in one of the other four ministries, and bring those giftings with them in their service as apostles. Thus they may be prophetic apostles, teaching apostles, etc.
Many apostles minister primarily in the nuclear churches, which takes the shape of congregations of believers that meet on Sundays or groupings of such congregations. These would be termed “nuclear church apostles”. Others minister primarily in the extended church, which is the church in the workplace. These would be termed “extended church” or “workplace apostles”.
Some are territorial apostles to whom God has given authority covering a certain geographical area such as a neighborhood, a city, a state, or a nation. Others have authority in a certain social arena such as government, finances, or media, etc.
Among those with the gift of apostle, some have the ministry of vertical apostle. This means that they are in an apostolic
leadership position over a network of churches and ministries or a network of those who minister in a certain affinity sphere such as women, prayer, youth, or worship, etc. Others are horizontal apostles who have a ministry of convening and connecting peers such as other apostles, pastors, or prophets, etc.
Gifts and Offices of an apostle:
The gift of apostle, as in the case of all spiritual gifts, is given to believers by God as He pleases (See 1 Cor. 12:11,18). Spiritual gifts are given only by the grace of God.
However an office, such as the office of apostle, is not given by grace alone. It is given as a result of works that have demonstrated faithfulness in stewarding the gift. If God has chosen to give a man or woman the gift of apostle, the fruit of that gift will be evident to others and in due time the body of Christ will confer the office of apostle on that person. This act is most often termed “commissioning,” and it is performed by peer-level apostles, as well as prophets, representing the church and laying on hands. The title “apostle” is ordinarily used only by those who have been duly commissioned into the office, although this principle has not yet been formalized in many situations.
There is no such thing as an apostle to the whole church. God assigns to each apostle certain spheres in which they exercise authority. Paul makes this clear in 2 Corinthians 10:13-16. There he says, “We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us” (2 Cor. 10:13). Apostolic spheres can be ecclesiastical, functional, territorial (geographic), cultural, or workplace.
Qualifications of Apostles:
Certain qualifications apply to all apostles, regardless of the different ministries or activities that may have been assigned to them by God.
· Extraordinary character. Apostles fulfill the leadership requirements outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. They take seriously the warning of James 3:1 that they will be judged with a stricter judgment than most other believers. They are holy (l Peter 1:15).
· Humility. Jesus said that only those who humble themselves will be exalted. Since apostles are exalted by God (1 Cor. 12:28), they must be humble in order to qualify.
· Leadership. Not all leaders are apostles, but all apostles are leaders. Apostles must have followers to verify their leadership role.
· Authority. The characteristic that most distinguishes apostles from other members of the body of Christ is the authority that comes part and parcel with the gift of apostle. They gain their authority through fatherhood, not through arrogance or imposition.
·Integrity. Apostles are expected to display the integrity that will cause them to be “blameless” (1 Tim. 3:2) and “have a good testimony among those who are outside” (1 Tim. 3:7).
· Wisdom. True apostleship does not come without maturity, and maturity brings wisdom. Apostles have the God-given ability to see the big picture and to help others find their place in God’s plan.
· Prayer. While not all apostles would be intercessors per se, all have close contact with God through a disciplined and effective prayer life (Acts 6:4).
What All Apostles Do:
· They receive revelation. Apostles hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Some of this revelation comes directly to them, some of it is received together with
prophets, and other times through proper relationships with prophets.
· They cast vision. Their vision is based on the revelation they receive.
· They birth. Apostles are self-starters who begin new things.
· They impart. God uses apostles to activate His blessings in others (Rom. 1:11).
· They build. Apostles strategize and find ways to carry a project along its intended course, including the funding that is required.
· They govern. Apostles are skilled in setting things in order. Along with prophets, they lay the biblical foundation of the Kingdom (Eph. 2:20).
· They teach. Early believers “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42).
· They send. Apostles send out those who are equipped to fulfill their role in extending the Kingdom of God.
· They finish. Apostles are able to bring a project or a season of God to its desired conclusion. They are uneasy until the project is done. They seldom burn out.
· They war. Apostles are the generals in the Army of God.
· They align generations. Apostles have a long-range perspective on the purposes of God, and they raise up second tier leadership for the future.
· They equip. Ephesians 4:12 says that apostles equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
What Some Apostles Do:
Given the differences in temperaments, in ministries, in callings, in activities, and in geographical locations, many, but not all, apostles will be characterized by:
· Having seen Jesus.
· Performing signs and wonders.
· Exposing heresy.
· Planting new churches.
· Imposing church discipline.
· Ministering cross-culturally.
· Taking back territory from the enemy, converting it to the Kingdom.