Sunday, February 21, 2016

Is the Office of Apostle Alive Today?

There's a lot of talk about whether or not the office of apostle is still alive and well today. There are those who say that the office is closed, and I would say I agree. But others like Fred K C Price and those in the New Apostolic Reformation and groups aligned with them (International House of Prayer and Prayer Furnace groups) would disagree, saying that the office is alive today.

And let's not forget the mainstream Charismatic groups, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (Mormons). Official Mormon doctrine attests that there are alway 12 living apostles. Doctrinally speaking, the aforementioned New Apostolic Reformation is entirely based upon the idea of modern day apostles and carrying the mantel of apostolic authority.

However the real question at hand is whether or not there are actually modern day apostles. The approach to this question will be in the form of answering four questions, with the last question addressing briefly the spiritual gift over and opposed to the understanding of the apostolic office.  Let's look at the real issue behind this and see if we can come up with a sound answer.

The Office of the Apostle: What Does Scripture Teach?

This is a tricky question. Because there is a difference between prescriptive passages and descriptive passages. Much of what Bible tells us is descriptive, and it is from this angle that I will address this question.

We see the office of the apostle during the first century. This is not to be confused with the spiritual gift of apostle which will be addressed a little later.

We know that the the office or position of apostle was held by the 12 disciples of Jesus. But looking in the book of Act, in chapter 1, we see that Juda Iscariot's was filled by Matthias, and not too much later we see Paul as an apostle of Christ.

How Did One Attain the Office of the Apostle?

In order to answer this question, we need to appeal to Scripture.  Those who held the office or position of apostle, in the gospels, were chosen specifically by Christ (Mark 3:16-19).  When Judas Iscariot committed suicide, he needed to be replaced.

We see the replacement for Judas is seen in Acts 1:20-26. Note in this passage that Judas' position was called an office.  Thea apostles drew lots to replace Judas Iscariot, and Matthias was chosen to take the office that was vacated by the traitor. I want us to notice that there are two qualifications for Matthias being selected for the apostolic office that are given in Acts 1:21, 22 (NASB).

"Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— 22 beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection."

So the apostle had to have been one who accompanied the apostles during the earthly ministry of Jesus, starting with the Lord's baptism by John. They also had to be an eyewitness with the apostles of Jesus' bodily resurrection.  There were no special pronouncements by the apostles or any other human being.  These were the two most important criteria.

What About the Apostle Paul?

The apostle Paul's calling to apostleship is not much different. The only difference was that Paul became an apostle in reverse order.  This might be the reason that Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10, "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;" (Phil 3:10). 

Paul was actually chosen by Christ (1 Corinthians 15:8-9; Galatians 1:1; 2:6-9).  Though he was not one who accompanied Jesus during His earthly ministry, he was an eyewitness of Jesus' resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7, 8)  Because he was a persecutor of the church, he would also have to defend his own apostleship in 1 Corinthians 9:1.

Matthias and Paul were given the task of setting up the foundation of the church. It should be understood that it was for the universal church that these men were a part of the foundation (Ephesians 2:20). The foundation of the church (universal church) was laid in the first century. This is why the office of apostle is no longer functioning.

What is the Difference Between the Office and the Spiritual Gift of Apostleship?

Now there is also a spiritual gift of an apostle, that is not the same as the office. Again, let me say that this should not be confused with the office. Among those who had the spiritual gift were James (1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19), Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14; 1 Corinthians 9:6), Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7), possibly Silas and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:7), and Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6, 9). This latter group had the gift of apostleship but not the apostolic "office" conferred upon the Twelve and Paul. Those who had the gift of apostle, then, were those who carried the gospel message with God’s authority.

The word "apostle" in this context, means "one sent as an authoritative delegate." This was true of those who held the office of Apostle (like Paul) and those who had the spiritual gift (like Apollos). Though there are men like this today, men who are sent by God to spread the gospel, it is best NOT to refer to them as "apostles" as it would create and has created the confusion, as many are not aware of the two different uses of the term apostle.

Considering these verses, it is clear that those holding the office of the Apostles must have seen the resurrected Christ. Since Christ has ascended (See: Luke 24) and His second coming is yet to come, the office of Apostle must be closed. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that folks like Fred Price and Brian Simmons and the Mormon leaders are not true Apostles.  This is not only because the office is closed, but because each of aforementioned embrace a different Gospel from the Gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:8, 9).

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