PART 1 APOSTLES - Are They Still Among Us?

PART 1 APOSTLES - Are They Still Among Us?

A Chapter by rondo
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What are the functions of the church offices of prophet and evangelist?

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Introduction

This topic has always intrigued me. In the early 80’s I went to a bible college in western Massachusetts. Some believed that the president of the Bible college was an apostle and referred to him as such. At some point during my time there, I noticed a change concerning calling him by this leadership name. Instead he was referred to in conversations as Dr. so and so. I never quite understood what the basis was for making this change. I attended this Bible college for two years and graduated with certification in Christian Leadership. Even though I took many classes none of them addressed this particular issue.

     Being a young student of the word at this time I had no clear opinion on this topic. If the title apostle was used to identify him I would have had no problem with it. So here I am years later now at my computer having decided to do a study on this subject. Prior to going to Bible college I had attended a four year state college where I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics.

     In 1977, I was born again and my life was turned upside down. Eventually I worked on staff for an affiliate church in the city where I grew up. My duties were varied. I was an outreach coordinator; a teacher of a bible study; a member of the churches softball team; and from time to time I would visit with unbelievers or believers, who had spiritual concerns.

     After graduating from Bible college, I was asked to work in a Christian day school where I eventually became its principal. Over time because of financial constraints the school was relocated to a facility, which was owned by a different church. It was at this time that an opportunity opened up for me to teach in a public school to which I accepted the job offer. I taught there for 25 ways, when in 2011 I retired.

     As far as my spiritual walk was concerned I admit this wasn’t easy. The churches which I attended in the new place where I relocated with my family were religious. So I decided through various means (e.g. audio tapes, books, television, personal study, etc.) to continue on in my walk with God. Eventually with the assistance from a pastor from another state I oversaw a bible study in the new city where I lived. This lasted for about five years, just at about the time I had retired from teaching high school math.

     So here I am with free time, which allows me the opportunity to be able to write about various biblical topics that I hope will provide insight both for myself and you the reader. In this study I attempt to answer the question, are there apostles in the church today?

 

CHAPTER 1

The Offices of the Early Church

This is probably a good place to start. During Jesus public ministry he chose twelve men to co-labor with him, whom he addressed as disciples. Following Jesus death on the cross, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven the Holy Spirit was sent to indwell the disciples on the day of Pentecost. The message of Jesus being the Jews’ Messiah was immediately broadcast. As a result many Jews believed in him and received the indwelling Spirit. Eventually persecution arose and the assembly of the early church which began at Jerusalem were scattered. However, more and more doors became opened for the gospel to be preached not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles.

     Revelation of new truths were disclosed to the apostles and also to another position of leadership called prophets. These truths were written down and at a later time were consolidated to form what is now known as the 27 books of the New Testament. These books were merged with 39 books of the Old Testament to form the completed canon of scripture.

     One of the New Testament books, called Ephesians, contains a verse which clearly delineates the names of the leadership positions of the newly born early church.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:11-12)

     The word “apostle” means one who is sent with a commission1There are many churches today that believe the offices of evangelists and pastor-teachers are still in operation. However, they would argue that there are no longer any apostles or prophets.

     Why is this the case?

     Could it be that many don’t see the need for them? Another word some might say that since the canon of scripture was completed there is no longer any new revelation which would be transmitted to the apostles and prophets for dissemination to the church. Therefore, the primary function for both of these offices has ceased.

     Was this the only function of the apostles and prophets?

     Are there more functions of the apostles and prophets, which would benefit the church?

     In order to determine if this is indeed the case, why don’t we look at the functions of each of the office gifts. When this is completed we will summarize what we have found and make a determination as to whether the offices of prophet and apostle are still spiritually beneficial for the church.

 

CHAPTER 2

A Description of the Functions of the Office Gifts of Prophet and Evangelist

The first office that we will look at is that of prophet.

A. The Functions of a Prophet

What are the truths that the mystery doctrine of Christ unveiled?

Revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets:

Suggested Reading: Ephesians 2:1-22; 3:4-6

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; (Ephesians 2:19)

The apostle Paul was addressing the Ephesians Gentile believers, telling them that having believed in Christ they are no more strangers (of a different quality or nature than something else) and foreigners (people of another country), but fellowcitizens (called to equal privileges) with the saints (Christian Jews) and of the household (members of the same family) of God.

Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; (Ephesians 3:4-5)

     They were built up upon the foundation (the teachings) of the apostles and prophets, which were at one time called the mystery doctrine of Christ that was revealed (to uncover or unveil something that has previously been completely covered or hidden2) to them.

That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: (Ephesians 3:6)

     This mystery teaching unveiled truths that the Gentiles are: fellowheirs (of the same spiritual riches with the Jews); of the same body (fellow members with the Jews in the body of Christ); partakers of the same promise (of the Holy Spirit) in Christ by means of the Gospel.

-One of the functions of both the apostles and prophets was that they received new truths by means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the absence of full written revelation. These truths were that the Gentiles are: fellowheirs (of the same spiritual riches with the Jews); of the same body (fellow members with the Jews in the body of Christ); partakers of the same promise (of the Holy Spirit) in Christ by means of the Gospel. Ephesians 2:1-22; 3:4-6

When the canon of scripture was completed many believe that this function of the prophet is no more, because there is no new revelation. While it is true that if this office was still operational today, the prophet could still receive a prophetic word from the Spirit, but this would be in regard to truths which have already been received and written down.

What is another function of a prophet?

Signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world:

Suggested Reading: Acts 11:27-30

And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. (Acts 11:28)

These verses talk about a prophetic announcement that took place when some prophets came to the church at Antioch. One of them named Agabus, while speaking under the influence of the Holy Spirit declared that a great famine would occur throughout the entire Roman Empire. At the time when this was declared there appeared to be no indication as to the exact time when this event would occur.     

29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:

     Upon hearing this, the disciples at Antioch decided to send relief in the form of money to the saints at Jerusalem probably because they were aware of their current financial state, which was that they were impoverished. Each member of the assembly gave financially according as they prospered. This money was collected and brought by the apostles Paul and Barnabas to the church at Jerusalem.

-The function of a prophet which we could deduce from these passages of scripture is that prophets could declare (predict) a future event by means of the disclosing of this information to them by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Proof of this prophetic word having come from the Holy Spirit would be if what was foretold came to pass, which in this case it did. Acts 11:27-30

     This reminds me of an incident that happened to me during my time when I attended bible college. The bible college had booked a person to come and speak in the chapel building. When he got up to speak he talked about his personal background along with the different ways that God had answered his prayers. After which he asked if there were a couple of students, who would like to come up on stage with him. After two or three bible students arrived on stage one by one he asked each of them to open their bible to a particular verse of their choosing and show the student next to them which one it was. After a brief pause he would declare to each of them what verse it was they had picked out. I have to admit I was quite amazed at this.

     On the following day, as I was heading over to watch a high school soccer game that was taking place on the college campus I noticed a man walking in front of me. I recognized him to be the speaker from the previous night. For some reason he stopped and said to me something like, would you like to know what the score of the soccer game will be? With amazement I said sure. He told me what the score would be and who would win. It happened exactly as he said. Was he a prophet?

     I can honestly say that I didn’t know what to call him, because the President of the bible college believed that the offices of apostle and prophet were no more. I was thankful to have been privy to this prophecy and hopefully this study will bring me and you the reader to an awareness as to whether the office of prophet is still operative for today or not.

Another example of prophecy, which in this case involved a warning concerning a fellow believer, is presented in the next section.

He took Paul's girdle:

Suggested Reading: Acts 20:17; 21:8-15

And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thussaith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. (Acts 21:10-11)

At this point in Paul’s life he was on a journey to Jerusalem. While on his way there he and his company arrived in Caesarea and abode at the house of a man named Philip, who was one of the seven deacons of the church at Jerusalem. While they remained there the same prophet Agabus, who prophesied the famine in all the land fifteen years earlier, had arrived at Philip’s house. Upon entering the residence he decided to take Paul’s belt (a long piece of cloth which Paul used to wrap around his waist that was used not only as a part of one's clothing, but also to serve the practical purpose of being a place where one could carry money and other items3) and bind his own hands and feet with it; and proclaimed by means of the Holy Spirit that whoever owns this belt will be bound by the Jews at Jerusalem and be delivered unto the Gentiles.

     Upon hearing this Paul’s companions tried to persuade him not to go to Jerusalem, but he would not heed their advice.

-This function of a prophet encompasses the idea of a prophetic warning given to fellow believer, conveying to them what hardship would befall them if they continued on to their geographical destination. Acts 20:17; 21:8-15

     What is the difference between the gift of prophecy, which a prophet has received from the Holy Spirit, and the gift of tongues?

Before we take a look at this, I want to bring you to an awareness of the gifts of the Spirit. Some believe that at salvation each member of the body of Christ receives at least one gift of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are spiritual endowments that are received without human merit. They are not human talents, which are given at physical birth. Not every believer is given the same gift. There could be as many as 15 different gifts of the Spirit.

But rather that ye prophesy:    

Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 14:1-40

Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14:1)

Paul is instructing the Corinthian believers by contrasting the use of one spiritual gift, that being of the speaking in tongues, in relation to another spiritual gift, that being the gift of prophecy. He tells them to pursue love, and seek after spiritual gifts, provided that the gift of prophecy holds first place. 

For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. (1 Corinthians 14:2)

     The reason for this contrast was that there were many in the Corinthian church, who were speaking in tongues (a foreign language) apparently during the assembly of believers without the gift of interpretation. The gift of interpretation would allow a believer to convey to the assembly in their own language what had just been spoken in a foreign tongue. As a result when this gift was exercised no one could understand what was being said and hence no one received edification. So a recommendation was made that if someone had the gift of tongues they could only exercise it when they knew for certain there was an interpreter of tongues present.

But he that prophesiethspeaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. (1 Corinthians 14:3)

     In contrast to the gift of tongues, the gift of prophesy means to speak under the impulse of the Spirit from the light of sudden revelation at the moment in the language of those present. At this time because there was no completed Canon of scripture newly revealed truths were conveyed directly by the Holy Spirit. When this gift was exercised the words spoken would bring about edification (to enlighten and strengthen; to speak what contains doctrine fitted to edify), exhortation (encouragement, which can include reproof; which urges motives for a holy life), and comfort (hope; to remove sadness) to the listeners. 

If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:27-28)

     Near the end of his discourse Paul provided instruction concerning the protocol for exercising the gift of speaking in tongues and recognizing the gift of prophecy. In regard to the gift of tongues no more than three were allowed to be spoken, and that one after another, along with making sure there was someone, who had the gift of interpretation of tongues. Another slant on this protocol was that some commentators believe that in the early church when the assembly met there were three one hour services, whereby within each only one tongue would be allowed to be spoken.

Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. (1 Corinthians 14:29-31)

And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. (1 Corinthians 14:32)

     As far as the gift of prophecy was concerned if there were two or three prophets who were available to speak in a certain order, and the first one was aware of not having received anything from the Spirit as of yet they could ask the other prophets if any of them had received anything. If one of the prophets who is sitting nearby mentions that they havejust received a particular revelation from God, then let him have the liberty immediately to speak it4. While whichever one is speaking the other prophets would judge as to whether what was said was dictated to them by the Holy Spirit. For the spirits (the human spirits acted on by the Holy Spirit) of the prophets when declaring what is being conveyed to them is subject (under examination as to whether it has proceeded from the Spirit) to the prophets who are listening. Some commentators say that the testing of the prophetic word involved discussion and comparison of what was said with known scripture by the prophets who were listening. If something was said which appeared contrary to known truth the one speaking would be interrupted and not be allowed to continue speaking by the other prophets.

     Many would say that this function of the prophet is no more because all truth has been revealed by the Spirit and written down in the completed canon of scripture. In this regard they would conclude that there would no longer be any more testing concerning the revelation of new truths, because there are no new truths to be tested and written down.

-What appears to be the final function of a prophet is this: when two or three are gathered together to proclaim a prophetic word, the first speaker might not as of yet received a word from the Spirit. Therefore, they might ask the others if anyone has received a word. If another prophet who is sitting nearby mentions that they havejust received a particular revelation from God, then let this prophet have the liberty immediately to speak it5. While whichever one is speaking the other prophets would judge as to whether what was said was being dictated to them by the Holy Spirit. Some commentators say that the testing of the prophetic word involved discussion and comparison of what was said with known scripture by the prophets who were listening. If something was said which appeared contrary to known truth the one speaking would be interrupted and not be allowed to continue speaking by the other prophets. 1 Corinthians 14:1-40

     Let’s summarize the functions and qualifications of a prophet.

~ They received new truths by means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the absence of full written revelation. These truths were that the Gentiles are: fellowheirs (of the same spiritual riches with the Jews); of the same body (fellow members with the Jews in the body of Christ); partakers of the same promise (of the Holy Spirit) in Christ by means of the Gospel. Ephesians 2:1-22; 3:4-6

~ They would predict future events (e.g. famine). Acts 11:27-30

~ They would predict albeit in the accompaniment of a warning for a fellow believer that they should not continue on in their journey toward a particular geographical location because dire consequences will befall them. Acts 20:17; 21:8-15

~ They would, when gathered together with other prophets, who were available to proclaim a prophetic word to the assembly, allow someone else to speak ahead of them if they themselves hadn’t received something from the Spirit. Along with this those who were not conveying the prophetic word would  judge as to whether what was said by the prophet who was speaking as to whether what they were saying was from the Holy Spirit. Some commentators say that the testing of the prophetic word involved discussion and comparison of what was said with known scripture. If something was said which appeared contrary to known truth the one speaking would be interrupted and not be allowed to continue speaking by the other prophets.1 Corinthians 14:1-40

     Well that was interesting. Based on the varied functions of a prophet, which we have uncovered, along with the consensus by many who believe that some of these functions are either no longer operative or could be implemented by another one of the office gifts that being the office of pastor, let’s take a brief look at what the remaining functions of a prophet might benefit the kingdom of God, if this office still existed.                                                  

They would predict future events (e.g. famine). Acts 11:27-30

They would predict albeit in the accompaniment of a warning for a fellow believer that they should not continue on in their journey toward a particular geographical location because dire consequences will befall them. Acts 20:17; 21:8-15

      Could these remaining functions of a prophet be useful for the spiritual benefit of the church, the body of Christ?

      We will look at one more office gift briefly being that of an evangelist.

B. The Functions of an Evangelist

In the 20th century probably the most famous evangelist is Billy Graham. He was raised on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina. When he was 15 a traveling evangelist named Mordecai Ham came to town and preached the gospel during his revival meetings. Billy attended these meetings, and at one of them heard the gospel, repented, believed in Christ, and received the Holy Spirit, thus becoming what the bible says, born again. Five years later he was ordained a Southern Baptist minister.

     Over the course of his life it is believed he has preached the gospel to over 215 million people in over 180 countries.

     So this begs the question what are the functions of an evangelist?

What does the word evangelist mean?

And he gave some … evangelists:

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (Ephesians 4:11)

The word evangelist means one who proclaims the good news.

A good example of the use of this office gift is found in Acts 8.

Arise, and go toward the south:

Suggested Reading: Acts 8:5-24

Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. (Acts 8:5-6)

Philip, one of the 7 deacons of the church at Jerusalem, went to the city of Sychar of the region of Samaria. While there he preached Christ to the Samaritans, who were a people, who were both Jew and Gentile, that held to both Jewish and pagan rites. After they repented and believed they were baptized in water.

Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8:14-17)

     Somehow word got back to the apostles at Jerusalem that the Samaritans not only had responded to the gospel and were baptized in water, but had not received the indwelling Holy Spirit.  How would the apostles have known about this? I’m assuming they received an awareness of this by means of the disclosure by the Holy Spirit. So the apostles Peter and John were sent to address this matter. When they arrived they laid hands on them while praying that they might receive the indwelling Spirit, which they did.

     So here was an evangelist who preached Christ to a group of people that responded to what was said, were baptized in water, but did not receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. My first thought was, why would anyone want to be an evangelist if those to whom the gospel was preached did not receive the indwelling Spirit, and hence were not born again? What could be the explanation for this? The context doesn’t clearly tell us. Some commentators suggest that God allowed this to happen in order to authentic the apostles’ message and credentials.

And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? (Acts 8:26, 29-30)

     It’s interesting to note that soon after this occurrence an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip and gave him instruction to go to a certain geographical place, the purpose of which was unknown to him at that time. So Philip goes to the area where he was sent and at some point in time he was directed in a more specific way by the Holy Spirit, who told him to go near to a particular chariot, on which a particular person was sitting. When Philip got close to him he heard him reading from the book of Isaiah to which Philip said to the man, do you understand what you are reading? In response the man said back to him, no not unless someone explains it to me. So Philip preached to him Jesus. This person believed in Christ and was immediately baptized in water. This is interesting in that in this instance there was no indication that this man did not receive the indwelling Holy Spirit.

     So, God must have had a reason as to why the Holy Spirit was not received earlier by the Samaritans. In another instance, which is found in Acts 19:1-7, the apostle Paul came to Ephesus and found twelve disciples of John the Baptist. He asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit, to which their response was that in relation to John’s baptism they had never heard of the Holy Spirit. Paul preached to them the gospel, after which they were baptized in water. Following this it says that Paul laid his hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Here is another example of someone believing in Christ and not receiving the Spirit. Are we to assume that when the gospel is preached not everyone who responds will receive the indwelling Spirit, so therefore just to be sure that the indwelling takes place someone in leadership should lay their hands on them praying for the receiving of the Holy Spirit?

     This leads me to the next question, how is it known if after a person has responded to the gospel as to whether they have received the Holy Spirit? Some would say this reality would be made known to the person who laid hands on them because the recipient of the Spirit would give evidence of this occurrence by speaking in tongues. This is an interesting conclusion. What this perspective is saying is that any unbeliever who repents and believes in Christ will exhibit evidence of the receiving of the indwelling Spirit by the speaking in tongues. If the speaking in tongues does not manifest, then an apostle needs to lay hands on them while praying for the receiving of the Spirit. I would assume for those churches who don’t believe in apostles they would say the pastor should be the one to lay hands on them. If this is indeed the correct way to look at this, then in Acts 2:41 when it says that on the day of Pentecost 3000 souls were saved we can deduce that each person after receiving the Holy Spirit spoke in tongues or if they didn’t hands would have to have been laid on each person by the apostles in order for this to take place.

     Is there another way to look at this? Another way to look at this would be to say that in the early church on certain occasions not everyone received the indwelling Spirit, because God wanted to use this instance as an opportunity for providing authenticity for both the message and office of apostle. If this were the case then how did the apostles know if the Spirit was not received? The answer would be that they would receive an awareness of such by the Holy Spirit. This would make an interesting study. I will take a look at this in more detail at another time.

     The other idea that stands out to me is that the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip and directed him to go to a certain place. Philip didn’t question what he heard, but acted upon it not knowing any other details. When he got in the vicinity where he was to be used to convey the gospel to a particular person the Holy Spirit spoke to him and provided further information in order for there to be an encounter between Philip and this person.

     From this narrative we could come up with two functions of an evangelist.

~ An evangelist is someone who proclaims the good news.

~ Someone who has this gift will at times hear words spoken to them in their mind by divine conveyance to go to a certain geographical location. If they follow through in obedience then when they arrive at the geographical location they will receive further instruction which will if they are obedient to what was said bring about an encounter between them and whoever it is that is to hear the gospel.

     Again I find this study enlightening as I hope you have. The next office we will look at is that of pastor-teacher.

Endnotes

 1The Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989, 01 Dec..2014 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.

 2Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament, 2000, 01 Dec..2014 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.

 3UBS New Testament Handbook Series Pc Study Bible version 5, 02 Dec..2014 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.

4Adam Clarke’s Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2004, 02 Dec..2014 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.

5Adam Clarke.

Weekly Messages: http://bit.ly/1N9SHdX

Website: http://www.makingtheonerightchoice.com/ 

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© 2017 rondo



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rondo
rondo

BLOCK ISLAND, RI



About
My name is James Rondinone. I am a husband, father, and spiritual leader. I grew up in Massachusetts and began my own spiritual journey early on in life. I attended bible college having completed a.. more..

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