Concerning Church government, God has appointed apostles first and prophets second (see 1Cor. 12:28) yet it seems the body of Christ has messed things up. Some leaders used their apostolic or prophetic gifting for personal gain, financial exploitation and individual aggrandizement. This has become so rampant that the terms apostle and prophet have fallen into reproach in some quarters. While many apostles and prophets have remained true to their calling, they have been lumped in together with those who have misrepresented the gospel. So, good leaders have been falsely assigned the reputation of charlatans. On a starry night the stars that fall attract the most attention, not the steady, faithful ones.
The age of the apostle and prophet is not over. In fact, they are needed right now and will be needed even more-so, for the end-time plans of God. We discover the Lord addressing them at the end of the book of Revelation. When Satan and his evil cohorts are finally defeated the Lord speaks to apostles and prophets. “In one hour she has been brought to ruin! Rejoice over her, O heavens! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.” Rev. 18:19-20
Three groups of people are encouraged at the end of the great tribulation; saints, apostles and prophets. They endure the attacks of the evil one and will be rewarded accordingly. The ministry of apostle and prophet is far from over. A dynamic transition is needed, however, to elevate the ministry of apostle and prophet back to New Testament levels. They will need to be proven true and genuine so that God’s people will honor them and give them place. Then they will lead the Church through the most important hour in human history. During the great tribulation, all of the blessings that were paid for by Christ’s death on the cross will be actualized. The book of Revelation wraps up and completes everything that God promised for Israel and the Church. Apostles and prophets will lead the way, overcoming the devil by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony (see Revelation 12:11).
Church government should never be orchestrated by a democratic vote, nor should it be led by a dictator style, unilateral decision maker. It should be led by five-fold ministers who come to consensus, with one person such as an apostle or senior pastor making a final decision for direction, assignments and Holy Spirit led activity. With this process of iron sharpening iron, it is good and pleasant for brethren (men and women) to dwell together in unity. While a local pastor has the senior position of government over a local congregation, the apostle and the prophet bring oversight as they offer godly wisdom and careful suggestions to the local pastoral team. These apostolic recommendations should be received enthusiastically.
Here are twelve signs of an apostle that will help us identify them. Like with all ministers, grace must be extended to those who are in training, and those who carry only a measure of apostolic gifting. No one has every qualification but mature apostles will exercise most of these administrations.
1. Apostles are Fathers – They make room for every son and daughter. Without fathers, ministers can be like sibling rivals, competing for position. Fathers give each their appropriate place and this produces peace. (1 Cor. 4:15)
2. Apostles are Miracle Workers – God works healings, deliverance and supernatural signs through them. (2 Cor. 12:12)
3. Apostles are Equippers – As mentors, they train, confirm and commission others in the ministry. (Eph. 4:11,12)
4. Apostles are Significant Motivators – They lead large ministry endeavors and people follow them..(Acts 2:14-41)
5. Apostles are Church Planters – They help start new churches. (Acts 16:11-40)
6. Apostles are Pastors of Pastors – They provide important care for pastors who need encouragement in their individual lives and for the ministerial work they have been called to. (Phm. 4-9)
7. Apostles are Architects – As master designers, they help churches function in different communities and cultures around the world. (1 Cor. 3:9-10)
8. Apostles are Troubleshooters – They help churches and ministries fix their spiritual problems. (1 Cor. 4:17-21)
9. Apostles are General Contractors – They enlist subcontractors (those with other ministry gifts) to help build God’s work. All churches need the input of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. (Acts 11:19-26)
10. Apostles are Networkers – They cross denominational fences, creating bridges for ministers to serve in different fields in order to bring God’s people together. Apostles should not isolate their people but open doors for a cross pollination of blessings. (Acts 11:1-18)
11. Apostles are Doctrine Judges – They define and teach the scriptures to substantiate sound doctrine. (Acts 15:6-35)
12. Apostles are Pioneers – They expand God’s kingdom. They are not settlers, but visionaries of kingdom increase. Nevertheless, they are always accountable to a home base. (Acts 13:2-4)
Recognizing and embracing apostles is an essential ingredient in the kingdom of God. We must teach about and show by example, the ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. If we fail to facilitate God’s government, we will always have an immature, dysfunctional church. The five main ministries equip God’s people to be unified, mature and purposeful. Without this we are like children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine (see Ephesians 4:14).
God has given these ministries until we come to the fullness of the stature of Christ. The body of Christ has a long way to go because we have rejected God’s governmental plan. One day we will get there, because the Lord is in control. The body will make increase of itself in love by that which every member supplies and this process will begin by recognizing and embracing the ministry of true apostles. The day of inappropriate pride, ownership of people and congregational competition must come to an end.
A glorious day is coming. God’s will and His kingdom will be on earth as it is in heaven. In heaven He has angels, seraphim, arc-angels, principalities, thrones and dominions. That is the angelic realm. Here on earth, He has apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers and the angels. That is the earthly realm.
In both places His kingdom is everlasting. One day both realms will be one realm and the Lord Jesus will sit on the throne in Jerusalem and reign over the universe and we will see a world without end. For now we must occupy until He comes and do it His way. O Lord, send us true apostles.
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DR. PETER WYNS
Founder & President
Christian for Messiah Ministries
Pastor at Antioch International Church
Instructions in Righteousness is produced by “Christians for Messiah Ministries” (CFM). Dr. Peter Wyns is the President of CFM and the Head Pastor of Antioch International Church. He has served as a pastor for 54 years and ministered in more than 45 nations.