A True Apostle
Normally I’m not quick to un-friend fellow believers on Facebook. I recognize all of us are at different levels of spiritual maturity. Still, one disturbing trend I’ve noticed is professing Christians posting profanity online. Earlier this year I issued a statement on my wall rebuking those who repeatedly engage in such activity. In response, a (now former) friend wrote, “I train my kids to say s*** like a true apostle.” I was shocked to read this. My mother would have washed my mouth out with soap if I said a word like that to her!
Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines apostle as “a person deputed to execute some important business; but appropriately, a disciple of Christ.” The Greek word for apostle is apostolos, which means “one who is sent”; “messenger”, “envoy”, and “ambassador.” Apostolos was derived from a sailing term meaning to send a particular ship or group of ships, a marine expedition, or the leader of such.
In Revelation 2:2, Jesus commended the church of Ephesus because “…you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars.” 2 Corinthians 11:13 also warns against “false apostles.” Years ago I briefly stayed with a man who insisted I address him as “Apostle So-and-so.” At the time, the only ministry I saw him involved in was occasionally helping out in a food pantry. One day when I worked with him there, another person asked how I could handle being around this self-proclaimed apostle who was really bossy (believe me, he was not an easy person to live with). 1 Thessalonians 2:6 says, “Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.”
The position of an apostle is not something one can aspire to obtain. At the beginning of his epistle to the Galatians, Paul called himself an apostle “not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead.” In his greeting to the Ephesians, Paul said he was “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.”
So what is a true apostle? 2 Corinthians 12:12 says, “Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.” One walking in true apostolic authority obeys the Great Commission. His calling is confirmed with signs following that lift up the name of Jesus.
A true apostle also demonstrates humility. Paul is often considered Christianity’s greatest apostle. Yet he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:9, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
Some of you might remember “The Apostle”, a 1997 film written and directed by Robert Duvall, who also starred in the title role. Duvall played a troubled minister named Sonny who moves into a new town and starts up a church to be taken over by another pastor. A modern-day apostle typically functions as a church planter.
Nevertheless, some ministers will argue there are no apostles and prophets today. One man emailed me claiming, “There will always be 12 apostles...Period.” It would be helpful for him to read Ephesians 4...
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ
The Body of Christ certainly hasn’t “come to the unity of the faith” yet. Therefore, God is still using apostles today. Some ministers referred to as missionaries are really apostles since they are sent out for the purpose of starting a new work for the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” All believers are representatives of Jesus Christ whether or not they are called to the five-fold ministry.
How are you representing Him?
“in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” - Titus 2:7-8