There has been much said in recent years regarding the office of apostle and how they should function. Even mainline Evangelical leaders are using the term “apostolic” to describe certain types of leaders. Consequently I feel the need to put together a brief summary of what I want to call “apostolic truth,” which is a fancy way of saying what apostolic understanding should include, in my opinion.
To me, apostolic truth is not mere doctrine or concept but is mainly built upon practical experience and action. Apostolic truth that does not involve high risk, accomplishment and action is not truly apostolic.
The following are what I believe are some of the essential principles of apostolic truth.
1. Apostolic truth involves personal and ministerial transparency with high-stress capacity and endurance
In 2 Corinthians chapters 11 and 12 Paul the Apostle makes a defense of his apostleship based on his ability to endure hardship. Hey says apostles are given a death sentence (1 Cor. 4:9); because of the enormous responsibility they have to represent Christ, they are continually targets of persecution and criticism.
We also read in 2 Corinthians 12:5-11 that Paul was transparent and actually bragged about his weaknesses so the power of Christ could rest upon him. (This is unlike the preachers today who only brag about their faith and their accomplishments.)
“On my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses.
For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me.
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!
Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.
And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody.” –2 Corinthians 12:5-11
Apostolic theology includes the ability to function intelligently and spiritually in the midst of a high-stress environment.
Second Corinthians 11:23-33 says:
“Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.
Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.
Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;
I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.
Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?
If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.
The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me,
and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.”
Also in Acts 27 we see that Paul the Apostle remained calm and gave spiritual guidance to his captors while on the ship that crash-landed in Malta, resulting in a revival in Malta!
Apostolic ability is not based on comfort or circumstances but thrives in any environment, as we see Paul’s worship in the Philippian jail which causes an earthquake and releases the prisoners (Acts 16).
2. Apostolic truth involves a deep understanding of the Scriptures and biblical truth
In the early church we find that the people sat under the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42).
The apostolic mandate includes having a deep understanding of the Scriptures and essential biblical truth as well as church history, resulting in an ability to discern and correct biblical error before it leads to apostasy. (For example, the book of Galatians and book of Hebrews were written by an apostle to correct heresy.)
Apostolic doctrine is a balance between grace, holiness and truth, exalts the Lord Jesus above all, and is local church-centric.
Unfortunately, there are numerous reports of so-called apostolic leaders and/or movements that have embraced various extreme doctrines, which is due to leaders not being properly grounded biblically and historically. (Presently there is an extreme hyper-grace movement; an unbalanced prosperity gospel; extreme kingdom theology; and also liberation theology movements, to name only a few.)
3. Apostolic truth cannot be separated from a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus
The original Twelve Apostles all walked personally with Jesus, and the Apostle Paul encountered Jesus personally while on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Paul also seemed to indicate that seeing Jesus was one of the things necessary to prove his apostleship (1 Corinthians 9:1-2):
“Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?
If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.”
Due to the enormous weight of responsibility for the churches and regions assigned to him, an apostle needs to be a person of prayer and continually aware of the presence and person of Christ to sustain him and enable him to walk in love and wisdom through numerous challenges they will face. If not, they will quickly make bad decisions and act in the flesh due to the enormous pressure constantly upon their lives!
Furthermore, their identity needs to be firmly rooted in Christ and not in their vast accomplishments or else they will minister out of a need to impress others and not for the glory of Christ.
They walk with Christ and worship Him even in the midst of great persecution and pressure. Apostolic ability is not based on comfort or circumstances but thrives in any environment.
4. Apostolic truth involves being strategic in planning and purpose
In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 Paul says:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,
for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”
The word for war in verse three is the word strategy: Thus, Paul is saying that he is a divine strategist who, as a general in the Body of Christ, leads the armies of God to conquer enemy territory and present it back to the Lord Jesus.
One of the main characteristics I have observed in true apostolic leadership is the acute ability to solve problems, to take complex issues and simplify them, and then to be able to map out a plan for strategic implementation. It is not enough to have a vision; you need to have the ability to strategically implement the vision or it will be merely a dream.
5. Apostolic truth includes reformation, not just revival
The apostolic mandate is not about escaping the earth but engaging culture with a goal of equipping the saints to care for cities and nations. Thus, apostolic theology teaches that an overseer of a key church should shepherd their community, not just their flock!
The apostolic not only deals with redeeming individual sinners but also influences the systems and social structures of communities, cities and nations. While revival brings people into the church, reformation has to do with sending the people out of the church into the world to reflect God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Thus, apostolic truth exists to fulfill the Cultural Mandate of Genesis 1:28 and equip the saints to go into every sphere of society for kingdom influence and purpose.
In Ephesians 4:10-12 we also see the purpose of fivefold ministry is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, which is to fill up the earth realm with kingdom influence under the Lordship of Christ.
6. Apostolic truth involves galvanizing unity in the church for a purpose
Apostolic truth is not merely ecumenical; that is to say, it does not strive merely for pastoral unity for the sake of unity, but it is based on a cause and purpose. Apostolic leaders will not waste time having unity that does not result in fulfilling kingdom purpose and destiny. They are not interested in pastors holding hands and fellowshipping with every so-called Christian and denomination and/or interfaith gatherings that do not result in expanding the influence of the kingdom in society. They will unite with likeminded churches and leaders to fulfill a certain mission in their cities and nations.
The Apostle Paul started churches in at least 30 of the most influential cities in the Roman Empire. Each of those churches started other churches until there was developed a complex apostolic network that was the impetus for world evangelization.
7. Apostolic truth involves faith for finances and supernatural favor for doors to open
Paul the Apostle constantly believed God for finances to support the work of God and even devoted two chapters to fundraising in 2 Cor. 8 and 9. He said that God would provide all of the Philippian church’s needs in Philippians 4:19 because they supported his apostolic calling.
Apostolic truth is a mandate to believe for supernatural favor and finances to open doors and accomplish the ministry God called you to do. Thus apostolic leaders are always experiencing God’s providence regarding guidance, favor and strategic opportunity for ministry (1 Cor. 16:9).
Even more important than having money is having God’s favor!
8. Apostolic truth always builds and works through the local church first
The apostolic mandate is connected inextricably to the local church, which is called by Paul the ground and pillar of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). The gates of hell will not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18) but can indeed prevail against any other institution not established by the church. Thus the apostolic leader doesn’t want to waste time building on improper foundations that will not last.
The apostolic leader realizes that the gospels were written after the epistles, thus showing that Jesus always had the church in mind when He poured into the Twelve. This is important because many take the gospels as their model for discipleship in which they mentor individuals apart from connecting them to the corporate life and destiny of the local church, not understanding that Jesus had the church in mind when He was training the Twelve.
9. Apostolic truth involves the replication of apostolic leaders and organizations
Genesis 1 teaches us that every living thing reproduces life after its own kind. This is also true in the spiritual realm. The apostolic will always produce other apostles and apostolic churches, organizations and networks. The Bible is replete with examples of the power of reproduction and impartation. We see the influence of Jesus on the 11 apostles who changed the world, Paul’s influence on Timothy, King David and his mighty men, Elijah and Elisha, Moses and Joshua, Samuel and the School of the Prophets.
The apostolic will be proven not only by the emergence of ministry but of apostolic ministry. (Drawing a large crowd is not necessarily apostolic but can be evangelistic; harnessing the crowd to be societal transformers is what makes it apostolic.)
10. Apostolic truth produces blueprints and a proper foundation based on enduring principles
In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul calls himself a wise master builder (architect), which indicates that apostolic theology includes designing a blueprint that will lay a proper foundation for individuals and organizations.
Many make the mistake of going off into strange doctrines or getting distracted with numerous projects and programs while missing the simplicity of the gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 11:1-3).
Apostolic theology is one that works through the local church and focuses on winning the lost, equipping them, and sending them out to transform the world; apostolic leaders are not interested in any doctrine or program that does not point to this foundational work. Not only that, but they are able to design a plan for a network of churches that uniquely fits the contexts of their cultures, cities and nations. The principles they build upon are universal biblical principles that pastors, evangelists, and teachers can build upon and enable the saints to flourish in.
11. Apostolic truth includes a strong prophetic discernment of the will of God
The Apostle Peter was the first person to receive a spiritual revelation of the identity of Jesus (Matthew 16).
Paul’s apostolic ministry was not given to him by men but by a revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1). Paul was led to Western Europe instead of Asia due to a vision he had while sleeping (Acts 16). He regularly had visions that instructed him on what to do in challenging situations (Acts 18:9; 27:23). Even his apostolic mandate had strong prophetic implications (Acts 22:14-15).
It is my experience that apostolic truth includes strategy that emanates directly from the Spirit of God and not from mere intellect.
True apostolic leaders need to be continually led by the Spirit and not by mere emotion, circumstances or other people’s opinions. Thus apostolic theology depends greatly on the prophetic to work.
12. Apostolic truth is one that has convening influence to determine the direction of the church
In Acts 15 we see the first general council of the church in which all the apostolic leaders from the entire world convened to decide the doctrine regarding non-Jewish believers in Messiah.
Apostolic truth is not just a concept but also a true influence over a region and/or a movement of churches. In this instance we see Peter, James and John convening a meeting with Paul and other key apostles.
It is my experience that apostolic truth must include convening power in particular spheres of influence as we read in 2 Corinthians 10:10-14. Each community should have at least one leading apostle who has convening power to direct the movement of the Body of Christ. In large cities such as New York, which has numerous networks, denominations and ethnic groups, there will likely be several key apostolic leaders with convening influence.
Also, this general council shows how all the apostles were accountable; they could not teach or preach anything they wanted. The one with the most convening authority was James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, who seemed to have the final say over everyone else.
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