Wisdom comes from the Greeks! Here, Athens-based Apostle George E. Markakis provides an intriguing analysis of what apostles are meant to do!
In the 2nd article we said that the Scriptures reveal ‘Apostle’ is not an adjective that means ‘sent’ but a name (grammatically a noun) that identifies a person who has been called by Jesus to occupy a position of authority, representing His Kingdom on earth in an ambassadorial capacity. That means that Apostles do the work of representing the Kingdom of Jesus!
Apostles represent, build and expand the Kingdom of Jesus (in certain spheres)
As Jesus is continuing to build His Church and expand His Kingdom on earth, Apostles work with Jesus in order to build and expand the Kingdom of God on earth. We concluded the 2nd article saying that the Apostolic authority is within certain definite spheres apportioned by Jesus to each of His Apostles; that is the point of reference when it comes to what Apostles do to build and expand the Kingdom on earth: they do what Jesus has commissioned each one to do.
E.g. Galatians 2:7-9 teaches us that there was an apostleship of the “circumcision” (i.e. the Jewish people) that was given to Peter, and an apostleship of the “uncircumcision” (i.e. the gentile nations) given to Paul. Moreover, in 2 Corinthians 10:13-16 Paul makes mention of the measure and limits of the sphere (of authority and responsibility) given to each Apostle.1
Paul affirmed his own authority over the believers in Corinth in his Epistles to them, even though other preachers and Apostles also ministered in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 4:15 he refers to his own fatherhood of the Corinthian Church and in verse 21 he gives a warning that he might come with a rod (implying correction or punishment if needed). The fatherhood of the Church was the fruit of his responsibility to establish the Gospel in Corinth; the giving of warning of the rod of correction was the manifestation of his authority to represent the Kingdom of Jesus there.
Even though today there are no Apostles literally like Peter and Paul with such kinds of spheres of authority, that is a principle which remains true for each Apostle – that Jesus gives apostleship of a certain people group, which may be a social, or religious group, or perhaps location. Such spheres of authority may also be understood as spheres of influence of different nature; e.g. there may be apostleships given to people to represent the Kingdom of Jesus in the Media, or, in Business or some particular section of society, or to shape Christianity globally.
There are examples of apostleships that have affected the globe such as Billy Graham whose assignment was not to a people group but to evangelise a generation. So is George Verwer who was called to establish the world mission “Operation Mobilisation”. Another one is Loren Cunningham who founded YWAM, a ministry that has trained hundreds of thousands of young missionaries! Such ministries of global proportions that have shaped Christianity and the lives of large numbers of people are certainly apostolic spheres of authority given by Jesus, even though those ministry founders and leaders have never called themselves Apostles.
Apostles spend personal time with Jesus for strategic matters of the Kingdom
Putting aside the uniqueness of each apostleship, are there perhaps things that are common among all Apostles? Or, what are the primary functions of (all?) the Apostles?
In Luke 9:10 we read: "Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida". Jesus never took aside for private communication any of the others that He sent out for ministry. There is something about this privacy of communication with Jesus which is unique among the Apostles and is about strategic matters of the Kingdom!
We can draw that conclusion through a similar report of the period after Jesus rose from the dead: Acts 1:2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
I have heard George Werver’s personal testimony how “Operation Mobilisation” was birthed on the mountains of Austria, where he retreated to seek the Lord for his mission. That is where and when he spent that personal time with Jesus that gave him the particular Kingdom strategy!
Apostles (ought to) have a prayer life similar to that of Jesus & Ap. Paul
I would suggest that the principal commission of all Apostles is to represent Jesus on earth as accurately as possible, doing the works that He is doing from heaven, through them. As He said about Himself “I only do what I see my Father do; I only say what I hear my Father say”! A key concept we focused on in the 2nd article was the main identity of Jesus:
Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers and companions in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; 2 He was faithful to the One who appointed Him, just as Moses was in all God’s household.
In order for Apostles to be faithful to Jesus who appointed them, they must operate in that same identity for their own spheres of authority and responsibility. The identity of an “Apostle” speaks of work of the Kingdom that is done on earth; the identity of a “Priest” speaks of prayer...
Hebrews 5:1 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. 3 Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins.
4 And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” 6 As He also says in another place: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”;
7 who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek”.
All this passage about Jesus finds perfect application in the lives of the Apostles of Jesus!
I would suggest that it is impossible to represent Jesus the Apostle on earth in an ambassadorial capacity, without also representing Jesus the High Priest... “Apostle” and “High Priest” are not ‘either-or’ concepts, but ‘one-and-the-same’, as the two sides of the same coin!
At an international gathering of Apostles more than 10 years ago I heard a person who acted like an Apostle say of another: “Naaa, that guy is not an Apostle, he is just an intercessor”... At that moment I knew that this high-profile “Apostle” did not understand the nature of his own calling. I knew that it was just a matter of time before his downfall, or falling away somehow.
I regret to say that in the ensuing years I was proven correct in my assessment, which was not personal against him, but because my foundational understanding from the Scriptures is that you cannot be an Apostle of Jesus unless you are a praying priest, meaning, an intercessor first!
If Jesus had to be perfected (Heb.5:9) through his priestly intercessions and sufferings (Heb.5:7-8) in order to become the Head of all who obey Him, no one can become a godly leader except through the same process of first being a priest in prayer, interceding before God for the lost and for the work of the Kingdom. It is in prayer where God releases the instructions for the work of the Kingdom, and, the bowels of compassion for the people whom Apostles must serve as bondservants (which is the qualification of a leader in the Kingdom of God).
There is ample evidence in the life and writings of Ap. Paul that would bear witness to this.
It is my conviction that this is the most dangerous testing ground for the Apostles of Jesus, where probably some fail to stand strong. When Apostles are so drawn by what they do in order to build the Kingdom of God on earth, that their prayer life diminishes to the place of ordinary, then carnal nature may become stronger than the character of Jesus, and the works of the flesh (ref. Gal. 5:19-21) may become ... ‘louder’ than the Fruit of the Spirit of God.
Apostles with ordinary prayer life, in my opinion, are at great risk of becoming like an airplane that has lost the engine under one of the two wings... I would propose that for Apostles to accurately represent Jesus on earth there is a need for extra-ordinary prayer life, as the examples of Jesus and Apostle Paul reveal through the Scriptures.
Finally... do Apostles ... apostolise?
We never really answered that question in the 2nd article, where we said: prophets prophesy, evangelists evangelise, pastors pastor, and teachers teach... but what do Apostles do...! Do they ... apostolise? Closing the 2nd article we said that we would answer it in this 3rd article... shall we!
The purpose of this tricky question is to lay the foundational understanding that the name Apostle, which Jesus gave to a select group of His disciples, is not because of what they are called to do, but because of who they are and what their commission is. In this article we have proposed that what Apostles do flows out of their God-given nature and respective gifting, which Jesus gives to each one in order to perform the work of the Kingdom assigned to each one.
At the same time it is appropriate to describe what Apostles do in terms of those Biblical words and functions which are primarily related to the Church-world (but not confined in it). Apostles actually carry all 4 of those ministry gifts; they can prophesy, evangelise, pastor and teach, all of which are necessary tools for the building of the Kingdom of God. But if you asked me.. is there not perhaps a unique word-function that describes what Apostles do? something like ‘apostolise’? If I had to choose one word-function, I would say ... Apostles strategise!
(1) Certain English translations chose “apostleship to the circumcised” (Gal.2:8) which is incorrect; “apostleship of the circumcision” is the correct translation of “tis peritomis” which is in genitive clause (whereas “apostleship to the circumcised” would have been in dative clause). This particular error not only changes the meaning of what was written and given to us as Word of God, but more importantly, corrupts the understanding of what apostleship is about – it is not merely to be sent TO a people group, but having been given the authority and responsibility OF that people group.
©George E. Markakis 2013