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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Don Stewart :: What Is the Exact Nature of the Ministry of an Apostle?

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What Is the Exact Nature of the Ministry of an Apostle?

The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Question 2

The apostolic gift was foundational to the church. There are basically two views as to its function. The first view says the apostle introduces the message of Jesus Christ to a group, plants churches, and then helps them grow. Today, those who have that gift of apostle are what are generally called “missionaries.”

A second view has a more restricted ministry for the apostles. It is argued that the gift was given mainly for the purpose of confirming God’s Word. According to this view, the gift is no longer given.

View 1: The Apostles Were Church Planters or Missionaries

Those who believe that the gift of apostle was for the purpose of church planting, or missionary work, argue as follows.

The Apostles Introduced the Message of Christ

The gift of apostle is the special ability to introduce the message of Jesus Christ to a particular group, perhaps a different culture. The apostle then disciples those who have believed in Christ. An apostle is a church planter or missionary, though this ministry does not have to be in a foreign country.

The Gift Was Different from That of Prophet, Pastor, and Teacher

While the apostle may have been a prophet or teacher, apostle was a distinct gift from these. The Bible makes a distinction between apostles and those who held other offices. Paul put it this way in his letter to the Ephesians.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11 NKJV)

The gift of apostle was given for the instruction and nurturing of believers. It is not the same gift as a pastor. A pastor performs his duties to only one congregation, while the apostle establishes and equips local assemblies of believers. However, an apostle can also exercise the gift of pastor. He may start a church and remain there as pastor.

The Apostle Usually Has Many Spiritual Gifts

In addition, the apostle usually has a number of spiritual gifts to meet the difficult task of planting churches and nurturing the believers.

Therefore the ministry of an apostle is much needed in the church today.

View 2: The Apostles Confirmed the Word of God

A different perspective sees the apostle as one who had the task of confirming the early preaching of the church. This view restricts the gift to the immediate disciples of Christ. They had a unique function in the history of the church. When this function was completed, the apostles were no longer needed and the gift, or office, was withdrawn.

We read the following from the writer to the Hebrews about God’s Word being confirmed by the first generation of believers.

How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (Hebrews 2:3, 4 ESV).

According to this verse, the apostles confirmed the Word of God – that was their primary purpose. The writer to the Hebrews, a second generation Christian, sees this as something in the past. Their ministry was complete by the time he wrote. Thus, the apostle was limited to the first generation of Christians. In other words, there are no apostles today.

This basically sums up the two views with respect to the nature of an apostle. As we have noted, some believe there are still apostles today while other Christians do not.

Summary – Question 2
What Is the Exact Nature of the Ministry of an Apostle?

There is a question as to the exact nature of the ministry of the apostles. Two basic views are held by Christians.

Some see the apostle as a church planter or missionary. The apostle is a person who goes to unevangelized areas and proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ. He then plants a church and disciples the converts. In doing so, he performs the job of a pastor and teacher. However, this gift was different than that of a pastor or a teacher. The apostle usually has many spiritual gifts to be able to do such a task. It is argued that this gift, or office, is much needed today in the church.

Another perspective sees the apostles as having a unique function in the early church. They were first generation believers who confirmed that Jesus was the genuine Messiah. Among other things, they did this with miraculous signs. This task was necessary as the gospel was going out to the world and the New Testament was being written. However, with the completion of the New Testament, their ministry was also complete. Thus, the gift, or office, of apostle was withdrawn from the church. Therefore, no one today who can rightly be called an “apostle of Jesus Christ.”

This is a brief summation as to how Christians view the idea of apostle.

Was Apostle a Spiritual Gift or an Office? ← Prior Section
What Were The Signs of an Apostle? Next Section →
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