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Monday, November 25, 2013 | Comments (13)

by John MacArthur

Have you ever met an apostle? Considering the vast number of people today who have laid claim to the highest of biblical offices, it’s entirely possible you have at some point. Some people have even tried to label me an apostle for this generation.

But has the apostolic office truly continued throughout church history till today, or have these modern apostles usurped authority that does not belong to them?

The continuation of the apostolic office is a key feature of the charismatic movement. Why? Because Scripture is clear that signs and wonders were given by God to verify the authenticity of His apostles. And if—as charismatics believe and teach—those apostolic gifts continue today, so must the office of apostle. And while not all charismatics recognize the authority of apostles in the church today—and while many continuationists disavow modern apostleship altogether—many of the most important figures in the charismatic movement today are self-professing apostles.

The fact is apostle is not just a generic term for the church to throw around and apply as it sees fit. The term signified specific people doing specific work at a specific time in the life of the church. And in order to understand the full significance of what the title means—and to hold accountable the men and women who would lay claim to it today—we need to examine the biblical marks of an apostle.

To begin with, apostles in Scripture did not simply self-apply their title. They weren’t required to submit an application or letters of recommendation. And there weren’t any extravagant membership fees.

Instead, the New Testament apostles were personally chosen by God. Paul spends most of 2 Corinthians defending his apostleship and comparing his own ministry to some false apostles who had invaded the Corinthian church. He opened the book with a familiar greeting that highlights where he received his apostolic calling from: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 1:1). He began his first letter to the Corinthian church with similar words: “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (1 Corinthians 1:1). And he echoed that same idea in Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, and 2 Timothy 1:1. The clear testimony of Paul’s writing is that he was an apostle because he had been chosen for that role by God.

He went into even more detail in Galatians 1:15-16, where he wrote, “When God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles.” Paul’s ministry was not his own achievement—he gave all the credit for his apostolic work to God. It was the Lord who ordained him before he was even born, setting him aside for salvation and the work of the gospel. And by identifying that God’s ordaining work took place while he was still in his mother’s womb, Paul illustrates just how passive a part he played in his apostolic calling.

Furthermore, in 1 Timothy 1:1, Paul writes that he serves as “an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus.” Paul had a direct charge from God the Father and Jesus Christ to carry out his ministry. The language he uses refers to a royal command that is not negotiable. It was a divine mandate on his life.

That was the true nature of the apostolic calling. It wasn’t a special club you joined. It was God’s divine ordination on specific men, setting them aside for specific work He chose to accomplish through them.

The apostles were chosen by God. But even that was not their only necessary credential. As we’ll see next time, they were also appointed by Christ.


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#1  Posted by Tumi Makhalane  |  Monday, November 25, 2013at 1:19 AM

Amen. The Apostles were handpicked by God Himself. Thank you Pastor John. We are completely safe in trusting the Apostles doctrine; even the word "Apostle" carries a great significance with regard to the Message God wanted to bring to the church. These were men who were chosen to bring that message alongside the prophets; and we all have that message and nothing more since they gave it to us 2000 years ago. None of us has anything new. We are all gazing as in a mirror. And what we are beholding is the glory of Christ as revealed in the Scriptures/the apostles' doctrine. We praise God for this Incorruptible gift of His word(1 Peter 1v22-23) :-)

#2  Posted by Bongani Mkhabela  |  Monday, November 25, 2013at 2:50 AM

Thank you pastor John for this post, we who sit under your ministry already know that Apostleship office ceased with the last of the apostles in the New Testament.

My concern is in a form of questions:

What is the significance and the implications of this title when my pastor in my church adopts this term whether as as a title or official title? What role can I play to correct this? More over, in your views, what is the motive behind some of these pastors to call themselves apostles in the first place?

I will be happy to hear from all of you guys.

Bongani.

South Africa

#3  Posted by Matt Tocco  |  Monday, November 25, 2013at 4:41 AM

Maybe this will be cleared up more in the next post, but I thought that in the past you indicated that these "leaders" within the charismatic movement also have claimed to be chosen by God as profits. Couldn't they be using Paul's own words and apply it to themselves, saying things to the people who are listening to them like "I, like Paul, this" or "I, like Paul, that"?

#4  Posted by Jennifer Phillips  |  Monday, November 25, 2013at 5:15 AM

Did the apostles have different levels of authority in the early church, even amongst each other? I am curious why in Acts, after Philip had preached in Samaria, the apostles at Jerusalem sent Peter and John to pray for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit. It states in Acts 8:14-17 that Peter and John had to lay hands on them. Why did Philip not do this instead of Peter and John?

Also, when the charismatic movement states commands to the apostles were also commands to the church of today to be continued, does it not leave a door open to make assumptions about all sorts of abuses?

What portion of the books of Acts is to be taken as instructions to churches today, and what portions are only historical? Are we to look to specific books of the Bible instead of Acts for instructions to our current day?

#5  Posted by Daniel Beck  |  Monday, November 25, 2013at 6:54 AM

I may have missed something, or misunderstood something, along the way, but can someone please tell me if true apostles exist today, in modern times? If someone can correctly answer my question I would greatly appreciate it. God bless.

#6  Posted by Ron Collard  |  Monday, November 25, 2013at 8:00 PM

Good reading

So that would confirm that the only Apostles alive today

are the false Apostles. There has certainly been a succession of them.

They are living proof by there own admission

that they continue the tradition Paul spoke of.

Being the office of a false apostle.

Avoiding them might be a good Idea.

Confronting them even better.

Of course that is what this article is all about.

#7  Posted by Ryan Vickers  |  Monday, November 25, 2013at 9:00 PM

Daniel I would read Revelation 21:14 for clarification of how many apostles of the Lamb there are.

#8  Posted by Ben Enders  |  Tuesday, November 26, 2013at 9:35 AM

Daniel,

No...there are no apostles today, nor have there been any for aproximately 1900 years. There are pastors, teachers and elders but the apostolic era is over without question.

#9  Posted by Daniel Beck  |  Tuesday, November 26, 2013at 11:10 AM

Hi Ben,

Thanks for answering and clarifying that for me. God Bless You.

Daniel

#10  Posted by Daniel Beck  |  Tuesday, November 26, 2013at 11:12 AM

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for answering me and referring me to Revelation. God Bless You.

Daniel

#13  Posted by Dave Jarmuz  |  Wednesday, November 27, 2013at 1:41 PM

Good Reading My Friends...Good Reading...

Learning A lot When I get onthis Blog...

God Bless You All...

#15  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Thursday, November 28, 2013at 6:23 AM

In agreement with Dave (13). I have grown by leaps and bounds from the ministry of GCC, GTY, and all the resources available.

It is truly a ministry that Christ has blessed and His church can be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day 2013. Praise the LORD all ye who hope in Him! Praise the LORD.

#18  Posted by Beth Varley  |  Sunday, December 01, 2013at 8:11 PM

Amen!!! It gets so depressing seeing church's and the members fall, almost unaware and baby step by baby step, into the abyss. My husband and I were rescued by God out of the charismatic mess and we can't seem to warn loudly enough to make a dent. Its as if they are in some sort of trance or free fall. And I'm talking about mainstream denominations who at one time would have run these people out on a rail. Thank God for the voice in the wilderness--GTY! Thank you for your sound teachings and their availability.