Apostleship Defined

This is the second installment of my five-part series on the role, reality and realm of an apostle.


this ministry, like the others listed in Eph. 4:11. These ministries are made possible by the transfer of all authority, in heaven and in earth, to Christ (cf. ἐξουσία – Matt. 28:18f) and by virtue of his Resurrection bodily from the dead (cf. δύναμισ – Rom. 1:4).  This authority and power is a gift from our Lord to his Body. Apostleship is a grace which so inspires a man that he is able to fully represent Jesus with his whole being.  Thus he is entrusted with the mysteries of God (I Cor. 4:1) and the preaching of the Gospel (I Cor. 9:16), the effect of which is to make disciples.

Sent by God with a Message

The primary meaning of the apostle (ἀπόστολος) is: one sent by God with a message.  Within this sending he represents Christ to the world.  He is enabled to do this by sharing in Christ’s Spirit (Eph. 1:14), his nature (II Peter 1:4), his Body (I Cor. 12:13), his mind (I Cor. 2:16), his image (Rom. 8:29), and his mission (Matt. 28:19).  To say it again, His apostleship (ἀποστολὴ) is a gift that stands by virtue of Jesus’ Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension, and the out-pouring of the Spirit, which is the power behind his commission.  To summarize, he is an apostle by the will of God (I Cor. 1:1 and Gal. 1:1).

The Principle Gift

The apostle is the principle and primary gift Christ gave to the church.  It is ranked “first” by God as it has pleased him in I Cor. 12:28, and “last” by Him as spectacle to the world (I Cor. 4:9). The lexicon bears witness to the importance of the apostolic office by the shear weight of its usage of some seventy-nine times in the NT, while the other four gifts in Eph. 4:11 if combined come to just twenty-eight: NT prophet(s) used sixteen times (apart from nine times of John the Baptist and nineteen of Jesus of Nazareth), evangelists once, pastors once (but ‘shepherd’ nine times in reference to Christ), and teacher(s) ten times.  Slight discussion may arise at these numbers.

 Get it Public

 In our definition we must note two elements that generally come together: 1) Within God’s ‘message’ through the Prophet or Apostle is also implied the word ‘Go!’ or ‘get public with it’ as he sends his servant.  But note also the other way around: 2) Within God’s call to ‘Go!’ is also implied that he is ‘sending a message’.  This ‘sent with a message’ pattern begins in the OT and certainly fits the idea of being both prophetic and apostolic.  It is demonstrated e.g. when God told Abraham to “Get thee out of thy country” (Gen. 12:1) or with any of the Prophets, say, the Prophet Jonah: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it” (Jonah 1:1).  ‘Being sent’ could mean ‘walk there, run there, write it, preach it, but get it public’.  And the OT ‘message’ might be more than preaching or prophesying but could also be a prophetic action like, make an ark (Noah – of judgment), lay on your side (Ezekiel – of warning), or go butt naked for a while without saying a word (Isaiah – of captivity).  But to go into depth on this matter would take a lengthy exposition which is beyond our present scope.  So this matter of ‘being sent by God with a message’ continues from OT on into the NT.  And with the sending came power and grace to flow with God’s plan.

Tim Halverson


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