Of Apostles and Prophets

I attended a Bible Study at a certain otherwise very good church recently, and the leader of that Bible Study was adamant about this one point: “There are no apostles today.” Now that is an amazing statement. Because before he even said this, he said, “An apostle is someone who is set apart by God with a specific task.” Then he said to us all, “I have a question for you. Are there apostles in the church today?”

“Based on your own definition,” I answered, “Yes.”

He said, “Wrong.”

I said, “Based on your own definition which you just gave, yes, there are certainly apostles in the church today!”

“OK,” he said. “But if we include in the definition someone who writes Scripture, there are no apostles today.”

Are there apostles today? What, in fact, are the qualifications of an apostle? Did all of the apostles actually write Scripture? (And was every one who ever wrote Scripture an apostle?) The answer to these last two questions, in fact, is “No”. The apostle Thomas, for example, never wrote Scripture. But he was nevertheless a ‘fully qualified’ apostle! Not a single one of the persons who wrote the Old Testament was called an ‘apostle,’ either, yet they were nonetheless qualified to write Scripture.

To be sure, there were not only 12 apostles in the New Testament, either! For we read in the book of Romans, “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” (Romans 16:7) The number of apostles, then, was not limited to the twelve. This statement alone increases our likelihood that there are apostles today!

Here is yet another passage which increases our likelihood that there are apostles today, and this, in my opinion, ‘seals’ it (that is, confirms it):

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Did you notice that? It says that the Lord gave some as “apostles” … “till we all come in the unity of the faith … unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”. Since this statement refers to the ongoing work of God, I have to conclude that all of these leadership roles are still in effect today! That is, based on this verse (specifically Ephesians 4:11), there are “apostles … prophets … evangelists .. pastors and teachers” in the church today. It is only too bad that some have conveniently ‘wiped out’ both the role of the apostle as well as prophet. Would it not be better to honor what God says in his word, and accept the fact that there are still apostles and prophets today, based on what this passage teaches?

If then the word of God teaches this, why then was the man who led that Bible Study so adamant about there not being ‘apostles’ in the church today (and his reasoning was quite ‘far off’ as we have seen, since an apostle does not have to write Scripture, as he said). I think for some, it is a matter of tradition: they have been taught for so long that the offices of the apostle and the prophet have ceased, when in fact they have not! This then is an unfortunate shame, since if one teaches this, then by nature, a person is not ever inclined to think that *they* might be an apostle or a prophet (they would consider, of course, that God might have called them to the office of evangelist, or pastor or teacher, but they would be inclined to ‘dismiss’ the fact that they could be called to the office of an apostle or a prophet, because of what they have been falsely taught).

If then, we correctly teach that God still calls people today to be apostles and prophets, would we not then be providing a means by which God can effectively and forthrightly move people from that place of doubt and insecurity into their calling?