Bible teacher and Christian apologist Elliott Nesh tackles the unbiblical notion that the office of Apostle and Prophet has made a comeback in modern day churches. As you will see, nothing could be further from the truth.
In his article, “Understanding How Apostles Minister in Different Spheres,” the late modern Apostle C. Peter Wagner defines an apostles as a “Christian leader gifted, taught, commissioned, and sent by God with the authority to establish the foundational government of the church within an assigned sphere of ministry by hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches and by setting things in order accordingly for the growth and maturity of the church.” …
Based upon the text of Ephesians 4:11, Wagner argues for what he calls the foundational or governmental gift or office of apostle. This is the teaching of the teaching of the apostolic and prophetic movement, sometimes known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). But what does the Bible say about apostles today?
Biblical Definition of Apostle
The Greek noun apostolos, from which we get the word “apostle,” means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.” Apostolos is derived from the verb apostellō, which means “to send off, to send away; to order (one) to go to a place appointed.” In other words, an apostle is an emissary or one who is sent. In the KJV the word apostolosis translated “apostles” (78x), “messenger(s)” (2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25) and “he that is sent” (John 13:16). Jesus Christ was an “Apostle” sent from the Father (Hebrews 3:1-2). In a similar way, the Twelve are Christ’s apostles. Jesus said to His apostles, “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21).
In the New Testament, an apostle was one who was sent to preach the gospel. Several individuals in the church were called apostles. Other than the Twelve and Paul, those apostles/messengers were James, the Lord’s brother (1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19) Barnabas (Acts 14:4-14), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25), Silvanus and Timothy (1 Thessalonian 2:6; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:1). 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 may also indicate that there were other apostles in addition to the Twelve and Paul. All of these apostles are what 2 Corinthians 8:23 calls “messengers [apostles] of the churches.” They all bore the title, though they were not among the foundational apostles chosen by our Lord to govern the church. Therefore, we must make a major distinction between those in the New Testament who were apostles of Christ and the apostles of the churches.
In a very broad sense, apostolic work may be likened to missionary work, that is, when Christians are sent by the church as church-planting evangelists. But that’s not what NAR leaders have in mind when they claim to wield the authority of an apostolic office. Instead, today’s apostles are claiming authority and power that belonged uniquely to men specifically chosen by the Lord. One example is the modern Apostle Che Ahn who is founder of Harvest International Ministry (HIM) and the International Chancellor of Wagner Leadership Institute (WLI). Under Che Ahn’s apostolic authority, WLI has “spread into numerous regional schools throughout the U.S. and into 11 nations.” As the Presiding Apostle of HIM, Che Ahn oversees “more than 25,000 ministries and organizations in 65 nations.”
In its more restricted and common New Testament usage, apostle specifically refers to the twelve apostles (with the addition of Matthias after Judas’s defection), and the apostle Paul. In contrast to the apostles of the churches, these men were appointed and sent by the Lord Himself. The name apostle was specified by Christ: “He named them Apostles” (Luke 6:13). According to Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 2:20 and Revelation 21:14, it is these apostles upon whom the church is built.
Paul the apostle was not among the Twelve, yet he is recognized as a unique apostle to the Gentiles. In his own words, he was “called to be an apostle” (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1); “an apostle of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:1; Titus 1:1); “one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:8); “an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)” (Galatians 1:1); “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1); “an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 1:1).
The Credentials of an Apostle
At least three credentials may be observed for New Testament apostles:
(1) The apostles were personally chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the gospel, we read: “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:14); “And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles” (Luke 6:13). The Lord also said to the apostles, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit” (John 15:16). In his preface to the book of Acts, Luke wrote, “after He [Jesus] through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen” (Acts 1:2).
The necessity of appointment by Christ is also emphasized when Judas Iscariot was replaced. First, two men were selected who met the necessary prerequisites for an apostle of Christ. Because the apostle had to be personally chosen by the Lord, they prayed and cast lots:
And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:24-26).
Speaking to the household of Cornelius, the apostle Peter said, “Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:40-41).
Paul also recognized the Lord as the source of his apostolic office: “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name” (Romans 1:5). The Lord said of Paul, “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Ananias declared to Paul, “The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” (Acts 22:14-15). Describing his apostolic work, Paul spoke of “the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Paul spent much of 2 Corinthians defending his apostleship by comparison of his own ministry to the false apostles. He opened the letter by saying, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 1:1). He echoed that specific calling in 1 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 1 Timothy 1:1 and Titus 1:1.
Within NAR organizations like the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (ICAL), there is an application process and annual membership fee. The annual membership fees for ICAL are provided on their website (accessed 2/12/18):