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Apostleship a Foundational Gift
There is much confusion today over certain spiritual gifts that were given to the Body of Christ when it first began, which some believe are still in existence. Others believe they have ceased. Two of these gifts are that of apostleship and prophecy.
Fortunately, if we look carefully at the Scriptures, we will find that there is no need for any confusion. We will see that these were meant to be temporary gifts given specifically to lay the foundation of the Church. Once the foundation was laid, there was no longer any need for them. In this article, we will look specifically at the office of apostle. In the next article, we'll look at that of prophecy.
I. Specific Apostles Were Chosen
The word "apostle" means one who is sent. In that sense we still have people being sent into the world by the Lord today. Missionaries are examples of this. However, that is not what we are referring to when we talk about this particular gift. The apostles were specific individuals chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself for a specific purpose. In that sense, there have only been 14 men chosen in history for this office.
Jesus, while on earth, chose 12 men. Unfortunately, one of these men, Judas, betrayed Him. So, with prayer and the leading of the Lord, by the casting of lots, Matthias was chosen to replace Judas (Acts 1:24-26).
There had to be twelve, because during the Milennial Kingdom these men will have the job of judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:27-30). Some say that the other Apostles were jumping the gun in choosing Matthias, because the Lord later chose Paul. However, Paul was chosen to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, who revealed the Mystery concerning the Body of Christ to the world (Acts 9:15; Romans 11:13; Ephesians 3:3-10). Thus, he was picked by our Lord for a different reason than the twelve. Also, the Apostles asked the Lord to show them who to choose first. They didn't choose Matthias of their own volition.
II. Requirements of An Apostle
Scripture indicates that there are specific requirements for a person to be called an apostle, in the sense of the 14 that were chosen by the Lord. And these requirements show that no one today could fill that office.
1. An Apostle Personally Witnessed the Resurrected Lord
The first requirement is found in Acts 1, where the 11 other apostles chose Matthias. The man that was chosen had to have first hand experience of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Acts 1:22 says: "One of these (apostles) must become a witness with us of His resurrection." Paul also defended his apostleship by saying that he too had seen the resurrected Christ (I Corinthians 9:1; I Corinthians 15:6,7). No one today has personally seen the resurrected Christ. He is in Heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father.
2. An Apostle Did Miracles to Validate His Ministry
The second qualification for being an apostle was that they had to do miracles to validate their ministry. Paul gives evidence that he is a true apostle because God had given him the supernatural power of miracle gifts. He told the Corinthians that the "signs and wonders of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverence, by signs and wonders and miracles" (II Corinthians 12:12). And it is consistent throughout the the book of Acts that every time a miracle is done, it is in connection with the ministry of one of the Apostles.
If we look at Scripture, miracles are not things that happened all the time. They actually happened rarely in the history of Israel. I talked about this in another article entitled Sign Gifts. Miracles and sign gifts were given for specific purposes throughout Israel's history, and when the purpose was complete, the miracles ceased. In this case after they validated the ministries of the 12 Apostles and Paul, they ceased. And further, we have the completed revelation of Scripture which these Apostles were given (I Corinthians 13:8-13). So we no longer have miracles validating any ministry today. Though God still is more than capable of doing miracles, He doesn't give that specific gift to men. That type of validation ended with the death of the last apostle chosen by Christ, and the end of the apostolic age.
III. Apostles and Prophets Laid the Foundation of the Church
The gift of apostleship was one of the most important Spiritual gifts given to the Body of Chirst (I Corinthians 12:28). They and the prophets laid the foundation of the church. We see this in Ephesians 2:19,20. Paul states:
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens, with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone..."
Just like you only have to lay the foundation of a building once, so, in a spirtual sense, there is no need to keep laying the foundation of the church over and over again. The apostles did this, and it is now settled and secure. We today continue to build on that foundation. But now the gift of apostleship is completed.
Paul was the last man to meet all of the qualifications of an apostle. He witnessed the resurreceted Lord Jesus, who appointed Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Then Paul validated his ministry with the miracles that he did. The apostles did their foundational work, and we now have the completed Word of God to which we can refer. There is no need for further revelation. We can thank God that these men were faithful, even unto death. And we now have a firm foundation upon which we can build, until our Lord returns.