Welcome to the First Century and to an exploration of apostolic ministry. Imagine: you’ve just nailed up your new calendar and it says April 33 A.D. Or skip that, if you prefer, and notice that your mobile phone calendar is blinking dateline eternity telling you that the end of the world
is upon us. Both perspectives of time would be right. Our preconceptions about apostleship may be outdated, not living in the moment God has given. So let’s dare to take a fresh look at this fascinating and mysterious subject, and at Jesus who taught many surprising and unorthodox lessons.
Have you ever noticed that Jesus ministered to great multitudes, or to a single individual, and
yet the centerpiece of his work was Twelve men? He made them apostles from the very get-go. He did not make any of them prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (that would come later). And then he went to the Cross, committing all to them. Profound. And the NT shows that nearly all the ministry that happened after the Resurrection was done by apostles. Did that work? Yes, and here we are.
The Apostles include the Twelve (who are unique since they knew Jesus in the flesh), and Paul
(who also saw the Lord and wrote Scripture), and then another group (who neither saw the Lord nor wrote Scripture) including Barnabas (Acts 13), Silas (Acts 16), Apollos (Acts 18), and perhaps Sopater, Aristarcus, Secundus, Gaius, Timotheus, Tychicus, and Trophimus (Acts 20:4). This last grouping leaves us the thought that the apostolic gift may yet still be given today. If the grace and gifting of Christ is unchanging then, on this foundation, let’s proceed to see if this might be a fit for you, for it is written: “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. . . . And he gave some, apostles. . . . “(Ephesians 4:7-11).
The simple definition of apostle is ‘one (you) sent to fully represent another (Jesus) with his
whole being.’ With this simple definition our course is named after the Greek NT word apostello
(compare Greek ἀποστέλλω) which translates to ‘I send’. This study is from ‘I send’ Institute since Jesus instituted apostolic ministry, and continued to do it after his ascension to heaven with no evidence of closure from either the Book of Acts or the Epistles.
Old Testament Roots
Abraham – The origin of apostolic ministry reaches all the way back to Genesis. In Chapter 24:1-
61, Abraham sends his eldest servant to get a wife for Isaac, not from Canaan but all the way back to Abraham’s old turf, to Mesopotamia, the city of Nahor and his kin. The man takes ten camels loaded down with gifts and several servants (commandos I think) to find her. He is fully representing Abraham with his whole being and is authorized to make this important transaction, just as if Abraham was there. And he does find Rebekah and she follows them back all the way to the promise of God, Isaac.
Joseph – In Gen. 37, 39-47 the account of Joseph and his sufferings is told. He is betrayed by his
brothers, by Potiphar’s wife, and forgotten by the royal butler and left in prison. Yet Joseph is growing in the gift of God to interpret dreams and ends up interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. It was the anointing of God that got him out of jail. Psalm 105: 17-19 says that God “sent“ Joseph into Egypt (cf. Hebrew שׁלח ‘he sent’) where he was sent to represent God to the Egyptians, especially through interpreting dreams, but he thought he was going to be a slave forever. Little did he know to what extent God would work in his life giving him an apostolic roll. The promise he dreamed at seventeen of coming greatness tested him thoroughly when he was in prison, ‘until his word came’ and Pharaoh called him up to interpret his dreams.
The gift of God will get you out of your prison too. Parable – In John 12:24 Jesus says, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it dies, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Like Joseph who went through a type of death to being a special son, Christ died and was buried and arose. To follow Jesus we too must die with him to discover the destiny God has planned for us.