|Sons to Glory book by Paul Jablonowski||
Part 2 - Acting Like Mature Sons - Apostles
Modern Day Apostles
Are there modern day apostles alive today? If so, how can true apostles be recognized? After all, Jesus commended the church at Ephesus for testing false apostles: "you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars." (Rev. 2:2). Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works." So, the works and the fruit of false apostles will eventually show their true motives. However, there could only be "false" apostles if "genuine" apostles existed too.
I believe there have been true apostles walking the earth ever since the first century church. When Jesus ascended back into heaven after His resurrection, the Scriptures say that he "gave gifts unto men" and part of those gifts include the gift of apostles. Ephesians 4:11 names the five different equipping gifts as: 1) apostles, 2) prophets, 3) evangelists, 4) pastors, and 5) teachers. Scripture certainly records other apostles besides the original twelve. A few biblical apostles other than the first twelve include: Paul, Barnabas, Andronicus and Junias (who was most likely a woman) just to name a few (Acts 14:14, Romans 16:7). The GIFT of apostle was never given to draw attention to personalities, but rather to live out a function for the Kingdom of God on earth. A gift is GIVEN by God and not earned by man. So being an apostle is not a promotion, but a living function.
The first twelve apostles of the Lamb were given authority from Christ and spiritual authority is often a hallmark of an apostle; however, true spiritual authority is always based on relationship. And since relationships cannot be forced, apostolic authority is organic in nature and based upon family type relationships and not a hierarchical structure. This is why Paul could say that to SOME he was an apostle but to others he was not (1 Corinthians 9:12). His authority in Christ to the Corinthians was based on the relationship he had with them. Consequently, all true apostles will be more concerned with relationships and not just enforcing their authority.
Listen to Paul's father-like heart, when he wrote to the church at Thessalonica: "For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a pretext for greed, God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become so dear to us. For you remember, brethren, our labor and travail; working night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. " (1 Thessalonians 2:5-12).
There are, however, "spheres of authority" that must be recognized. Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles but not to the Jews, and Peter was an apostle to the Jews but not the Gentiles. Whenever these men stepped outside of their God given sphere of authority they would get themselves into undo trouble. We only have authority to the extent that Jesus' authority is manifested through us, and He gives that authority as He wills. So, it is not an advancement or a "step up the corporate ladder" in the Kingdom to be given the gift of an apostle. There are apostles with authority over their neighborhoods, and apostles with authority over their cities, but in each case it will be a burden and calling from God. It can be recognized by man or rejected, but men in and of themselves cannot appoint apostles.
Galatians 1:1 tells us that Paul was an apostle because God ordained Him and not man: "Paul, an apostle - not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead." So God is the only one who calls and commissions apostles in His timing. People can either recognize the authority that God has given to His apostles or reject it, but it is still available. The problem is that there will be no unity in Christ's Body, the Church, until each member properly "submits one to another" (1 Peter 5:5). This mutual submission includes acknowledging the authority that God has given to His apostles.
The main problem with recognizing modern day apostles is that most people are looking for a worldly kind of authority. However, Jesus chose the foolish, and ordinary men of his day as apostles to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). The forceful, domineering and "take charge" leadership that the world looks for in authority is often contrary to the spiritual authority of God. Leadership in God's kingdom is not about assertiveness or self-confidence, but rather humility and brokeness. The institutional church has yet to learn this apostolic truth and therefore is set up more like a modern day corporation with government heads at the top. Apostolic authority is just the opposite from this hierarchical type authority. The current institutional church must be turned upside down before it will function in apostolic authority, because the apostles are the foundation, and not the top floor: "having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." Ephesians 2:20-22
The ways in which apostolic authority works differently than modern day hierarchy authority is the most important characteristic in discerning true apostles from false apostles. Because this subject is so important, a full discussion on this topic has already been discussed in Chapter 4 "Spiritual Authority vs. Civil Authority" and it won't be repeated again here. It is sufficient to say that true apostles will not be forceful in asserting the spiritual authority that Christ has given them. They will be humble and submissive to Christ in the rest of His Body and not "lone rangers" off doing their own thing. A focus on strong covenant relationships will always follow a true apostle, because without strong gut-level trusting relationships there will be no unity, and true unity is the fruit of an apostolic anointing.
Apostles are taught by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 1:12), as should all believers. When people learn how the Holy Spirit teaches, I believe they will begin to recognize His apostles. We MUST be able to recognize the Lord as He speaks through His Word and through the "things of the Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:13,14). He may speak through a dream or a vision or a series of "coincidental" events or a word of prophecy. However, we must be mature and learn to put those things together as Isaiah 28:9-10 says: "Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts (immature Christians)? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line. Here a little, there a little."
Bringing all of these "things of the Spirit" together "here a little" and "there a little" requires patience and due diligence on our part to make a record of these things. This way we can bring all of the pieces of the puzzle together to comprehend what the Spirit of the Lord is saying on a certain subject or issue. This can be done on a personal basis, a small group basis, or on a city wide basis. But respecting what God says and writing down these things that the Lord shows us is very important and forms a personal or corporate journal from which we can derive direction. This method of following the Lord will also help us to discern the callings and giftings on people's lives.
After Paul's dramatic conversion, he spent fourteen years in Damascus being taught by the Holy Spirit. Paul explained to the church at Ephesus: "I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles. If indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery - as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ; which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets." (Ephesians 3:3-5). From this Scripture, we can see that God often reveals the "big picture" revelations to His apostles. In Paul's generation it was the mystery of the Gentiles being included in God's plan of the ages. Paul's generation saw the transition between the Age of Law into the Age of Grace. In our generation, the Lord is revealing the transition between the Age of Grace into the Age of the Kingdom, which includes the marriage of the Lamb to His Bride-Body Church. This larger perspective in vision is often what distinguishes apostles.
Apostle simply means "sent one" and there are many reasons that the Lord may "send" someone on a mission. Therefore, placing a definition on the function of an apostle is not a cut and dry task. Each apostle will have their direction from the Holy Spirit and it will involve different functions than others who are also called as apostles. The bottom line in discerning true apostles is to look for the fruit in their lives - "...for every tree is known by its own fruit." (Luke 6:44), and the fruits of the Spirit are: "...love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Gal. 5:22). Now that we have examined a few ways that we can recognize the character of a true apostle, let's explore the function of a "marketplace apostle."
What is a Marketplace Apostle?
Ron McKenzie in his excellent book, "Being Church Where We Live" writes:
Business is basic human transaction, and Jesus did most of his greatest miracles and teachings right in the middle of the marketplace. All of the original twelve disciples of Jesus were marketplace apostles. The only reason there is need today to coin the term "marketplace apostle" is because this lost art of discipleship within the business world has been sidelined and marginalized by the professional "clergy" mindsets of the institutional church. The real Church of Jesus Christ is not a building or a denomination. It is a people from every tribe, tongue and nation who have taken up their Cross to follow the Lamb wherever He leads them even unto death. Since real people work and live their lives in the marketplace and in the business of every day life, this is where real ministry should take place. Jesus is our example, and He did not build an organization, but rather He built people, and met with them where they lived and carried out their day to day activities.
Solomon's temple had two main foundational pillars which were named Jachin and Boaz. Jachin was a priest and Boaz was a business man. Likewise, we are all called to be kings and priests (Rev. 1:6, 5:10) which are foundational pillars in us His temple. But the ratio of priests to kings in Israel was 92 percent kings (11 tribes) and only 8 percent who were in the priesthood (tribe of Levi). So the number of marketplace apostles and ministries should far exceed those called to full time equipping ministries. About the same percentage of heroes in the Bible were marketplace ministers who either worked in businesses or were farmers, fishermen, military men or government officials. Only a relatively few people like Samuel, Ezra and Ezekiel were full time priests.
So why does today's Church subtly teach that in order to be really spiritual you need to be in a full time equipping ministry? We should have just the opposite attitude! The more mature Christians should be the ones sent out into the harvest field to do the work. Ambassadors should always be your BEST representatives and not your immature cadets who have little knowledge about the ways of the king. The same biblical principles, that made people like Daniel, David and Esther to become marketplace ministers who brought the Kingdom of God to earth, are still in operation today. We must determine that we are going to serve God in the businesses and places of employment where God sends us. We must also see this as worship unto the Lord and as a valid "full time" ministry where we can disciple our employees or workmates.
Our jobs and the skills given to us are holy unto the Lord. When we start really living this out, then we will begin to see the kingdom of God come into our places of employment. The kingdom of God comes to any place where He is worshiped in spirit and in truth. Our skills and giftings are from God. How we use them is our gift of worship back to Him. For example, when we take a negative situation in the workplace and apply Kingdom principles such as love or forgiveness or patience to bring about change for good, then the Kingdom of God has come to that sphere of influence. Of course, the Holy Spirit is a perfect gentleman and never forces His kingdom on anyone. Jesus was the prototype in bringing the Kingdom, and He laid down his life for the very ones who crucified Him. How can we expect to expand His Kingdom without doing the same thing?
Marketplace apostles will do the work of an apostle in the business world and outside of the organized church. In the Scriptures, Joseph is a perfect example of a marketplace apostle "sent" on a mission outside of the family business. Bezelel is another example from the Scriptures. Bezelel was the very first person in the Scriptures of whom it was said he was "filled with the Holy Spirit." It wasn't a priest or even a king where the Bible first mentions a man being filled with the Holy Spirit, but a craftsman. "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: See, I have called by name Bezelel the son of Uri, the son of Hur of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship." (Exodus 31:1-5). It is important to see that anointing from God is very practical and we can worship God through our work if we labor as if we are working for Him and not man.
True giftings such as apostle and pastor are often corrupted
by using them as titles in front of people's names, like Pastor Bob
or Apostle Paul. The Bible never uses these gifts as titles in front
of people's names, because they are functions to be lived out, and not
titles to carry for the sake of honor. We should honor one another ,
but our honor should come from the content of our character and not
the giftings that God gives to us. Some of God's best pastors will never
stand behind a pulpit, but will pastor their neighborhoods or their
co-workers. Their most anointed teachings will be done one-on-one in
the workplace cafeteria. This is how Jesus pastored the first disciples
and how He intended for the Church to grow in the first place. Many
people are going back to this simple method of discipleship.
Andrew Strom in his article "Out of Church Christians" writes:
Are these thousands of Christians who have left the institutional church just being rebellious? "Church hoppers" is often what many are called who can't seem to fit into the common mold called " church" today. But just maybe it is the "church" that is out of order? Jesus said, "I will build my church" (Matt 16:18) and that we are to "go make disciples." (Matt 28:19). Yet we have this backwards today and are trying to build churches and hope that God will make disciples out of those who come to "our church." But this isn't working in God's order, and therefore we need to redefine our modern understanding of "church."
One way to redefine church is to be Kingdom minded instead of church minded. In other words, we need to understand that the Kingdom of God is much bigger than the church. Robert Ricciardelli explains the seven main "gatekeeper areas" in any community where "church organizations" are just one of the seven. I believe these seven jurisdictions of authority line up perfectly with the seven Spirits of the Lord mentioned in Isaiah 11:2. The following chart will explain these seven spheres of authority:
Seven Spheres of Authority in a Community
Ricciardelli in his article, "Nine Lies about the Marketplace" writes:
Bringing order is another hallmark of an apostle. While the Body of Christ must be organic and free flowing like the human body, there is also tremendous order in the human body and therefore this order should be in the Body of Christ as well. This order will begin to be restored when we start making disciples as Jesus commanded instead of trying to build churches. Let us allow Jesus to build His Church and focus on making disciples in small groups like He did. It is only in these small groups of disciples where covenant relationships can develop and growth into maturity (sons) can happen. If Jesus, our example, only discipled twelve men in a three year period, what makes us think that we can do it differently? Yet the institutional church is ordered like a manufacturing facility trying to pump out hundreds of sons (mature Christians) each year. The institutional church has not produced many mature sons because it does not disciple people the way that Jesus did. Therefore it does not know His ways and cannot be entrusted with His power.
The very structure of the current institutional church does not allow people to grow into maturity because it does not allow them to grow into elders of small groups themselves. Therefore, we have a lot of spiritual babies fed once a week by a professional clergy. Those who are hungry for God either get lazy and complacent or frustrated and leave. This must change! The Church must come into the correct order if we are ever going to see people grow from infanthood into Sonship in the Kingdom of God.
The Lord's apostles will help lead the way in this revolution of church order. However, true apostles will never draw men to themselves, but will point them to Jesus. Jesus our example, would heal people or give a profound revelation and then tell them NOT to tell anyone. Yet, the church of today boasts to the whole world anytime God shows up and does something miraculous. Here are twelve Scripture references of where Jesus said NOT to tell anyone what he did or said - Matthew 8:4; 16:20; 17:9; 21:27; Mark 7:36; 8:26,30; 9:9; 11:33; Luke 5:14; 8:56; 9:21; 20:8. Why? Because Jesus did not come to be a magician, and He often refused to give a sign or miracle when people demanded it from Him. He came to bring the Kingdom of God and we must have this same discipleship focus.
This discipleship can and should happen in the workplace. With the advanced technology in communications, the marketplace is quickly changing into networks instead of hierarchy. It is simply more productive, and especially when there is creativity or research development involved. The new order Church can function within these workplace networks, and should take notes on how to use these same principles within other small group worship settings. Of course, the family is the FIRST place where this discipleship should be occurring. If we cannot impart Kingdom principles to our children, then it is foolish to think we can help others. The family is the beginning of true discipleship and should be treated as such.
In conclusion, we have ascertained the following:
1) Both genuine and false apostles can be recognized by their fruit - "Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit... Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matt. 7:15-20).
2) The characteristics of a true apostle include: a.) their focus on covenant relationships, b.) spiritual authority (not hierarchical authority), and c.) they will be taught by the Holy Spirit, and often given "big picture" strategic revelations.
3) Many true apostles are called to function in the marketplace. They cause the Kingdom of God to increase in the midst of every day business and government activities. This is really the "underground church" in the western nations where the basics of discipleship are being practiced in the workplace and Kingdom principles are being applied to benefit families, companies and governments.
4) Apostles will bring order and unity to the places where
they are sent.