Let’s find these missing apostles!
by Brian Sauder
Article 2 in the Apostolic Series
This is the second of a series of articles about apostles and their function in the church today. Read the first article here!
The early church had a strong presence of apostolic leadership. It was because of the apostolic influence that the church grew and filled the whole Mediterranean region with churches. The apostolic model was the only model the early church knew. If we start from the premise that the church was led by apostles in the New Testament, it is easier to see the activity of apostles.
Sent by the Father
The word apostle has been a part of the church since the time of Jesus’ ministry. “So Jesus said to them: ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (John 20:21, 22). Jesus compared the sending of the apostles to His being sent by the Father. He then breathed on them that they might receive the Holy Spirit—an apostolic Spirit. The apostles were sent into territories of the earth to convert multitudes of people and incorporate them into the Kingdom of God. They were given power and authority to accomplish the task. They were empowered to teach, train, and instruct new believers and make them productive citizens of the Kingdom.
Many have studied the ministry of apostles from a historical perspective and concluded that the apostolic age of the church ended with the deaths of the twelve apostles. Entire segments of Christianity have dried up and are in decline, because their theology does not allow for apostolic anointing and power. I propose that it is time for us to review this approach, examine our assumptions, and refresh our view of the apostolic.
After the death of the early apostles, the church became institutional and ceremonial. As early as the second and third centuries, the church drifted into ceremonialism and tradition. False teaching almost drowned out the truth. The church then entered the Middle Ages, a time in which the institutional church gained immense social and political power but often departed significantly from true apostolic practice and teaching.
The Roman Catholic Church taught that the Church was indeed “apostolic,” but that Christ’s apostolic authority was institutionalized in the succession of bishops. From the second to the sixteenth centuries, all the leading centers of the Church had bishops. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope (the bishop of the Church at Rome) came to be recognized as the highest bishop of all. Unfortunately, many of the most prominent protestant reformers also believed that the apostolic period had ceased around the same time as the completion of the New Testament.
Is It for Today?
In 1896 John Alexander Dowie, the founder of the Christian Catholic Church, preached a sermon from the headquarters in Chicago entitled “The Ministry of an Apostle: Is It for Today?” Dowie skillfully demonstrated that those who maintained that there were only twelve apostles could not account for the apostles Matthias, Paul, James (the brother of Jesus), Barnabas, Apollos, and others who are called apostles in the book of Acts and throughout the New Testament.
Today, as in the time of Dowie, many church leaders are convinced that there were never more than the original twelve apostles. Because of this they do not believe there are apostles today. The argument goes that when one of the original twelve apostles backslid (Judas), the other eleven apostles chose someone to fill this spot. As reported at the end of Acts chapter one, Matthias was chosen to replace Judas. A caveat to this argument is that since we never hear of Matthias again, the apostles made a mistake to choose him and the real twelfth apostle was Paul. With this addition, the apostles again numbered twelve. To say there were no more apostles than twelve at the time (and that there are no more now) becomes a convenient view for a significant number of theologians today.
However, when we do a thorough Bible study on the activity of apostles in the New Testament as Dowie suggested, we see more than twelve. If there were more than twelve back then, this refutes the argument that the original twelve were the only apostles and there are none today. Let’s find these missing apostles.
First, we see Matthias appointed to replace Judas in Acts 1:23-26. Although we never hear more about him in the Scriptures, we know from history that he was martyred in Colchis for preaching the gospel. Paul is recognized as an apostle by his actions in the New Testament, confirmed by Acts 14:14 which specifically refers to Barnabas and Paul as apostles. “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this…” Notably, another apostle is named here: Barnabas.
Silas is named as an apostle in Thessalonians. 1 Thessalonians 1:1 states that the book was written by Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Later we find the phrase “even though as apostles” (1 Thessalonians 2:6) referring to the writers themselves. The Bible here identifies Timothy an apostle.
James is also named an apostle in Galatians 1:19 when Paul states, “I saw none of the other apostles – only James.” Paul, writing to the Corinthians, mentions himself and Apollos together and then says, “God has put us apostles on display,” referring to both of them. In Romans 16:7 Andronicus and Junia are named as “outstanding” apostles by Paul. Junia, by the way, is a woman’s name. We will look into women as apostles more closely in later articles.
Apostolic ministry is being discussed around the world today. While some are rejecting it altogether, many are embracing it and beginning to walk in it.
Reasons We Need Apostles Today
There are many reasons we need apostles in the church today. One is the authority and depth in prayer that they bring. Paul’s ability to address the spiritual realms is well documented in the book of Acts. (See Acts 19:6, 16:25-34, 14:8-10.) In the book of Ephesians, we see Paul training the church of Ephesus in spiritual warfare. Paul repeatedly emphasizes the power and importance of prayer (Ephesians 6:10-20). Apostolic leadership brings a proven ability to take authority, through the Holy Spirit, in the heavenly realms. This demonstrated authority brings a deep impartation when training others in supernatural living.
Apostles plant churches and assist existing churches. They care for pastors, oversee churches, and solve problems during transitions in leadership or conflict.
Apostles often work closely with prophets in laying foundations for doctrine and government in the local church. They install leaders and elders and maintain a fathering relationship with the congregations.
Why Is This so Important?
It is important because even after years of evangelism, many nations still sit in darkness. It will take an anointing of the apostles and prophets to penetrate the darkness. When apostles and prophets link together, they provide a solidly grounded foundation. They have tremendous authority to order the decrees of God to be enforced on the earth.
The Lord is raising up a new breed of believers with an apostolic and prophetic anointing to shake nations and establish strong local churches. Modern-day apostles are the great hope for the Kingdom of God coming in the world today.
In the next article we will meet some of these modern-day apostles.
Eckhart, John. Moving in the Apostolic. Norwood: Regal Press, 1999.
Sapp, Roger. The Last Apostles on Earth. Chicago: Companion Press, 1995.