Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Are There "Apostles" Today?

Most Catholics probably don't realize this, but there are many preachers in the Protestant community who actually take on the title of "Apostle", or "Prophet", or even "Apostle and Prophet." So, you may see a sign that says, "Apostle So-and-So will be preaching at the Sunday service," or hear in conversation with Protestants, "Prophet So-and-So is my favorite preacher." But, are there really "Apostles" and "Prophets" today?

"caleb4life" from the HCR forum asked a question about this as it pertains specifically to Apostles, and it gave me the opportunity to do an interesting Bible study on a subject I had never really thought much about before. What resulted was a worthwhile exchange, which you will see below.

Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ....ora pro nobis.

Pax Christi,
- - - - - - - - - -
Are their true Apostles today?
It depends on what you mean by "apostle." In the strict sense, an apostle is someone who followed Jesus Christ during his life time, was made privy to his special teaching and instruction, was given His authority to teach, heal, perform miracles, and forgive sins, and who witnessed his death on the Cross. There were a dozen or so of these apostles, and they are already dead.

But, if by "apostle" you mean "he who is sent," then this can apply to any of us. Our English word "apostle" comes from the Greek word apostolos, which means "a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders." We are all called to to be messengers of Christ, sent forth to spread his Good News.
hmmm, true true.
But what about the scripture that says
"He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up"
Doesn't this justify me calling myself Apostle or Prophetess So-and-So?
Well, Since Paul is speaking in the past tense, of what God had already done by the time Paul wrote the letter, I always saw this passage as a reference to the 12 Apostles, the OT prophets, the 4 evangelists, and the pastors and teachers already set up by the Apostles in every church. He gave some to take on each role, not "is giving" or "will give."

Even if the passage is speaking of roles that we can play today, no one can be an apostle in the same way that the 12 were apostles. Thus, I think it's arrogant to take on the title of "Apostle," as if your apostleship can really be of a different kind than mine. The only unique apostleship is that of the 12. Only they deserve the title.

Honestly, I think people today take on these titles to get more respect and more invitations to speak/preach at various churches.
well...there was alot of factual statements in your post but most of it seems to be based on opinion. Not saying that your opinion is wrong, but do you have any scripture to substantiate any of this? After all, to rebuke an Elder we need proof or a witness to confirm these offenses, correct? And what better witness than the word of God right?
Well then, consider this: when you take on the title of "Apostle" you claim apostleship in an official sense, in a dignified way, in a way that is unique from the generic sense in which we are all apostles. You are taking on the name Apostle, like the 12, who were given that name by Jesus when he chose them from among his many disciples (cf. Lk 6:13).

But, we know from Scripture that the individuals who were actually named "Apostles" were thus b/c they fulfilled certain qualifications: Now, I do not deny both that we are all called to be an apostle in a generic sense and that some people are given special gifts or talents to better fulfill that calling. But, if you are going to name yourself an Apostle and take on that title, you have to fulfill the qualifications of those who also carried this special name and designation.

Since no one can fulfill these qualifications today, the apostleship, in it's pre-eminent form, died when the 14 (the 12, plus Matthias and Paul) died. Since then, no one has been able to call themselves an "Apostle."

In closing, I want to share a passage I think is interesting:

Acts 5:12-13 Now many signs and wonders were done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high honor.

This is the position that we should take. Instead of presuming to join them, as one of them, taking on titles and designations that only they deserve, we should honor the foundational role they played in building up the Church and allow the gifts and talents that God has given us to speak for themselves.

Also note that even in the apostolic period, there were people pretending to preach as the apostles preached and to have an authority like theirs (cf. 2 Cor 11:13; Rev 2:2). But these were false apostles, and not to be trusted. In my mind, anyone who takes on the title of "Apostle" today is "disguising themselves as apostles of Christ" (2 Cor 11:13) and is thus a false one. Since I am a Catholic, they would also be discredited on account of their teaching.
Well said famo, well said. Somebody should really sticky this one.
Study to show thyself approved, now I got some worked to do.
No problem, bro!

Pax Christi,

ps: note that I do not deny Apostolic Succession, or the passing on of the authority of the apostles to the successors that they established. Instead, I deny that anyone today can call themselves an "Apostle" in the same way that the 12 (or 14) were called "Apostles."


Dunstan said...

Back in my fundamentalist days, I remember coming across someone who said he was an "apostle". this was tied in with what some fundamentalist groups call the "five-fold ministry". An "apostle" in this sense acted somewhat like a bishop would, or at least should. It was more an overseeing role. This particular person headed up something called "the association of word faith ministries" or some suvch name. I don't know if he still calls himself an apostle now though.

Christina said...

I like these apologetic posts. I used to try my hand at apologetics on the CARM discussion boards, but I found myself loosing charity and had to stop.

By the way, I tagged you in a Meme

Oh, and I love your sidebar. I'd steal the idea of the categories opening and closing, but I'm still a newbe blogger and have only a couple links. ;)

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