Q: How does one know 'who' is an Apostle? I would like you to tell me, can a Pastor call himself an "Apostle"?
Some people do not like the fivefold ministries to be called as office and want to be called as a function. It is just a semantic play because 'function' means 'The action for which a person or thing is particularly fitted or employed, assigned duty or activity, a specific occupation or role' and the word 'office' means 'A duty or function assigned to or assumed by someone, a position of authority, duty, or trust given to a person, as in a government or corporation.' With out authority in the hand of a person, nobody can be a leader. Paul has spoken a few times in his epistles about the apostolic authority that God has given to him to build the saints spiritually (2 Cor 10:8; 13:10). The only difference in the arena of spiritual leadership is that, even though these five-fold ministers have the Holy Ghost authority in their hand, they serve the people of God with a servant heart attitude that Jesus Himself displayed through out His time of ministry on earth (1 Thes 4:7-8; Tit 2:15; Matt 20:25-28).
The word 'apostle' in the Greek is apostollos or "one sent forth" as an ambassador of the Gospel. An apostle is a minister who is sent directly by God to do a specific work, in a specific place, to a specific group of people and for a specific time.
Jesus Himself is the chief apostle of all apostles and saints alike because he is the one apostle sent by the Father God to all the humans on earth and have become their one and only Mediator and Saviour between God and men (Heb 3:1; 1 Tim 2:5-6; John 17:18). Jesus is the only and only apostle of the Father (John 6:57; 8:16, 18). Just like Jesus was sent in to the world to do a specific work of fulfilling the salvation of all men (John 3:16-17), Jesus chooses apostles to do a particular type of work and then sends them in to the world to fulfill his purpose (John 20:21-23). Jesus chose twelve disciples for special training to do a great apsotolic work of proclaiming His goodnews of salvation after His depature from planet earth (Luke 6:13; 9:10). Judas fell out of this list because of transgression and Matthias was listed as a substitute to fill the apostolic office of Judas (Acts 1:26). These twelve apostles cannot be replaced by any other person as they were eternally honored to be the twelve foundations of the city of God which is New Jerusalem (Rev 21:14). Then apostle Paul who was chosen by God and commissioned directly by Jesus Himself, after His Ascension, to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:3-6, 15-16). In the above list Peter had a dominant primary apostolic call to touch the Jews and then a secondary call to the Gentiles along with it. Paul just had it vice-versa to Peter (Gal 2:8).
After this the Holy Spirit chose Paul and Barnabus and sent them forth as apostles in action (Acts 13:1-4). Even though they had the apostolic call over their lives, till then they were just working as evangelists (Acts 9:20, 22, 29; 11:23-24), pastors, teachers and prophets in the Antioch Church (Acts 11:25-26; 13:1). But once separated and sent out by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:4), they were first called apostles only later when God began to do great miracles, signs and wonders at Iconium (Acts 14:3-4). What does this show, a person might have an apostolic calling but that does not mean they can start this apostolic ministry once they decide to start their ministry. An apostle in realeased in to the fulness of his apostolic ministry only after much training is received from the Lord through working as a pastor, teacher, evangelist or a prophet. In other words the apostles must be mature men of God who were already trained for years together by the Lord in other offices of ministry until the time for apostolic work comes and they start to do great signs and wonders (2 Cor 12:12).
The apostles were able to do signs and wonders directly during the ministry time of Jesus on earth because they were sent out with the very own anointing of Jesus over them (Luke 9:1-2, 6, 10; 10:1, 17-19; 17:14-21; Matt 9:15; Mark 2:19-20; Lule 5:34-35).
This brings us to another question, can a pastor, evangelist, teacher or prophet can be apostle. The answer is yes and no. It is yes, if the other four five-fold ministry members also have a calling of an apostle in his life and a strong no if they does not have it in his life. If a pastor, evangelist, teacher or prophet does not also have a calling of an apostle, they can become apostolic by coming under a strong apostle's influence in their life (Acts 2:42-43; 4:33; 6:5-7).
Many others were also named as Apostles in the New Testament like Silas and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:1, 6), Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16:7), Titus and two unnamed brothers (messengers=apostolos) (2 Corinthians 8:23). And we know that this above list cannot fit in to Peter's requirement for an apostle, who he demanded to have been with Jesus right through his earthly ministry from John's baptism until His ascension (Acts 1:21-23). Even apostle Paul do not fit this category because he came to know Jesus only after His ascension and saw Jesus in a vision, as a result he was comissioned to be an apostle directly by Jesus (Acts 26:13-19). So these above apostolic call is neither part of the 12 original apostles of Jesus, nor the foundational apostles who wrote the New testment oracles by revelation of Jesus (Gal 1:11-12; 2:1-2; 1 Cor 11:23; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1). But these above apostles are the apostolic gifts of Jesus that he gave to the Church when he took captivity captive and then went to heaven. These men are gifts in order to empower His people and thus extend His kingdom through out the whole world (Eph 4:7-11). These apostolic men are called specifically for enlarging of God's kingdom, whether man acknowledges the calling or not. These category of apostles have been continuing for the last two thousand years and no where did Jesus revoke just the category of apostles and then prophets. It is true that the Church has not recognised many apostles and prophets in spite of knowing that they were sent by God with a specific message to turn the Body of Christ towards him. The ministry of these mighty men of God has been neglected and thus have grieved the Holy Spirit of God greatly. Many of them have been killed and persecuted in the past because of their audacity to point out sin in the life of men in the Church like John the baptist (Luke 11:49; Matt 14:3-5).
So once again God is sending specific apostles in our end time generation with a specific end time message before the second coming of Jesus, to do a great thrust in order to fully harvest the fullness of souls in this end time harvest (Rom 11:25-26).
So we can use these following characteristics to check and evaluate to identify these above apostles of Jesus to the Church in our generation,
1) Signs and Wonders
Apostle Paul told that the clear sign of an apostle is the accomplishment of all signs, wonders and mighty deeds through the patient perseverance of following the Lord, even at a great personal price for His great apostolic anointing to flow through them. This is a aunthentic requirement and a must for all apostolic ministries and apostles. Paul says, "... in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it in which you were inferior to other churches, except that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong!" (2 Cor 12:11-13). The other thing that the apostles will be doing is to make the saints believe that miracles are possible through faith and will activate the saints to replicate the miracles through their lives to affect many people around them with the message of the gospel (Gal 3:5, 1-2).
The Bible says "Where there is no vision, the people perish..." (Prov 29:18, KJV). The apostles are the master builders of men in the kingdom fo God (1 Cor 3:10). Because of clarity in vision, word and direction, they will be able to raise up believers in strong foundational faith. The apostles will have a clear blue print and a picture in their mind, of what they will be doing in a particular period of time. They are not men without direction. By having clear vision they will be directing the apostlolic saints to be responsible men for the fulfillment of the apsotolic vision from God. This vision from God will drive apostles and will dominate them. Even apostle Paul was a vision driven man, this is the reason a few years before the end of his life when he was brought before a king to defend his life activities, he boldly said, " 19 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance." (Acts 26:19-20).
The apostles are pioneers who will have an audacious and contagious faith to propagate a new vision and a direction of God. This will bring new moves of God and new revelation from the Word of God. They will start a new work rather than join in a existing work of God which will not be flexible enough for them to fulfill the God-given vision in their lives at the appointed time. Apostle Paul's open hearted talk in his epistles to Romans reveals this pioneering spirit that was dominantly influencing him until his end. Hear what he is saying regarding this, "18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient— 19 in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. 20 And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation." (Rom 15:18-20).
4) Lead by Example
Apostles always lead the saints by example rather than just empty words. Apostle Paul says, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." (1 Cor 11:1) and "...I urge you, imitate me." (1 Cor 4:16). The apostles eyes will always be on learning Christ and His ways only (Heb 12:2). The one and only hero for them will be Christ only. The sacrificial life that they lead will always inspire the apostolic followers to be inspired for a similar walk in their own lives. They will be servant hearted leaders rather than a fleshly and a lording [i.e. bossy] leader who uses authority to manipulate peoples lives (Matt 20:25-28; Mark 10:42-25). Hear what the apostle Paul is saying regarding the apostolic attitude with which he was serving the saints of God, " 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you." (1 Cor 9:19-23). The apostle Paul also exhorted his apostolic son in the Lord [i.e. Timothy] to "...be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim 4:12) in order to inspire them to live godly apostolic lives and also keep himself from being accused of wrongdoings which will make the message he preaches to be despised by them.
5) God-Pleaser's and Not Man-Flatterer's
The apostles will never try to please the crowd no matter how large it is. They will be men whose only satisfaction in life comes to them only when they knew deep inside their heart that they have pleased God for whom they have given their whole life as a sacrifice (Rom 12:1). Apostles are God's voluntary bond-sevants. Servants earn their wages and will stop to work for their master if they are not paid. But bond-servants have no rights of their own and will have their ears pierced by their master as a sign that he will forever be the master's slave with no rights of his own. In the Old Testament times after Exodus from Egypt, under the law the ear was bored, or fastened with an awl to the door, in order to express that the Israelite was attached to the master's house as a slave, to obey forever (Exod 21:5-6). This piercing cannot be done easily unless the master is pleased with that servant and that servant loves his master heartily. In the Book of Hebrews 10:5-7 is a Old Testament verse that was originally taken from Psalm 40:6-8 by the writer to the Hebrews. But a important line has not been written in the book of Hebrews which comes inbetween Heb 10:5 and Heb 10:6, and that is the phrase "My ears You have opened" (Psa 40:6, b). These verses actually refers to Jesus becoming a slave of God to fulfill His will on earth (Isa 50:5, 4). Actually in the spiritual realm once Jesus gave Himself to fulfill the will of God voluntarily, His spiritual ears have been pierced by God as a sign of being a bond-slave. And thus Jesus was able to hear God clearly in order to obey His every word on earth, this is what Jesus described in John 8:26 as "... I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him". Hearing God, obeying it and pleasing Him will be the first priority of all the true apostles (John 8:29; Gal 1:10). True apostles will not flatter men but will truly be sold out God-Pleasers.
6) Exhibit Fatherly and Motherly Love
The apostles will have a heart of a father and a mother. A father's heart will have a quality to discipline and chastise to make their sons and daughters to become more and more like him in all things (Heb 12:7-8, 10-11). Even during the chastenings time the father will feel pity inside him for their children, but will feel great to see the change and tranformation in their bad behaviour at the end of it (Ps 103:13). The more a child becomes molded in to his own image the greater will be the satisfaction of the father. Apostles will always discipline and rebuke the saints with a spiritual father's heart of love (Prov 9:8; 15:31; 24:25; 28:23; 1 Cor 13:4-7; 1 Thess 2:11). The apostles will also have a mother's gentle heart of nourishing, caring and comforting the saints in all their troubles (1 Thess 2:7; 2 Cor 1:3-4, 6).
The apostles will feel happy when their spiritual sons and daugthers become established in the faith and become exceedingly great with the glory of God. They will not feel insecure, fearful and envious to see their childrens display greater gifts and accuracy than them in spiritual things. There is no greater satisfaction to them than seeing their spiritual sons and daughters to become greater than them. Elijah must have been greatly happy to see his spiritual son Elisha live with the double portion of the anointing with which he himself lived while on earth. This will be the same with all true apostolic spiritual father's.
7) Endure Hardships and Persecutions
The apostles will always have a great enduring character to depend absolutely on God to sustain them in their calling. They wil not be detered by anykind of harship, no matter whether it is demonic or from people. But the apostles will always have their eyes on Jesus as the captain of their salvation and deliverance (Heb 12:2; 2:10). Jesus will strengthen their heart personally when in discouragement or God may send angelic impartation of great heavenly strength to them supernaturally as he gave strength to Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane (Acts 22:17-21; 27:23-25; 18:9-10; 23:11; Matt 26:37; Luke 22:43).
Hear from the mouth of one of the most exemplary and eminent apostle of all time of how much he endured extreme hardship and persecution to fulfill his apostolic call to completion, "11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; 13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now." (1 Corinthians 4:11-13). Paul the Apostle commended his apostolic ministry as genuine by the kind of persecution and harship he endured, rather than by the kind of special miracles that happened through him (Acts 19:11; 15:4, 12). He said, " 23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? 30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying." (2 Corinthians 11:23-31). Inspite of all the harships they endure, the concern for all the churches becomes the top priority for the true apostles.