God had to strike him down on the Damascus road to bring him to a place of humility. Then he was ready to receive his apostolic calling through the prophetic word of Ananias.
But Paul was not ready yet. It took more than a prophetic word to prepare him to fulfill that calling. He was to spend many years being schooled by the Spirit and practical experience before he was ready to begin his apostolic ministry (see Acts Chapters 8; 9; 11;13).
Barnabas was a man who was converted shortly after Pentecost. He was a humble, obedient, selfless servant of the Lord in the church at Jerusalem. It was some seven years later, however, that he was sent to Antioch to strengthen the work there.
He and the Apostle Paul became the first “missionaries” (sent-ones) to go forth to the Gentile world (see Acts 4:36, 37;11:22-30; 13:1-3).
Important Part Of An Apostle’s Training
The background of the above apostles reveals a number of important facts. Certain important things seem to be a part of every apostle’s training:
- An apostle will have a definite call to this ministry.
- An apostle will be well trained in Scripture.
- An apostle will be prepared over a period of several years. He will prove himself and his ministry at the local level. It is here that he will grow in God’s grace, wisdom and experience.
- An apostle will usually have been trained for a time under the ministry of other apostles.
- The apostle will not be sent forth until his preparation is complete.
- The apostle will of ten be used of God in one of the other five-fold ministries -prophet, teacher, pastor or evangelist – before being sent out, and while functioning in apostolic ministry.
- The sending church will identify with the apostle by the laying on of hands
D. The Qualifications For An Apostle
The standards for elders would apply to all leaders in high levels of authority (l Tim 3:7; Titus 1:5-9). Therefore, they would apply to the ministry of the apostle.
Besides the general standards above, there are special qualities or traits that every apostle should have:
- An apostle must have the heart of a father (l Cor 4:15; Phil 2:22). Like a father, he will guide, provide, correct and protect God’s people. He will minister wisdom with love, power and patience (Eph 6:4; l Thess 2:6-8, 11).
- An apostle must be loving and loyal to the Church of God (l Cor 13). His love for the Church must be greater than his love for his own ministry.
- An apostle must have patience (2Cor 12:12). He is a man of maturity and revelation. Therefore, he must be patient with those who are only “babies” in Christ.
- An apostle must not be given to self- glory (l Cor 4:9; 2Cor 10:8; l Thess 2:6). He must lead people to the Lord rather than to himself.
- An apostle must have a servant’s heart (Eph 3:7; Phil 1:1). His concern and desire must be for the welfare of others. He should be humble, self-giving and faithful (l Cor 4:9; 2Cor 10:18; 11:22, 23).
- An apostle must be willing to suffer (Acts 20:17-24; 1Cor 4:7- 12; 11:18-30). He must have a willingness to endure persecution, hardships, rejection -even death-while still maintaining the goal of the spread of the Gospel and the founding of new stable churches.
E. The Ministry Of An Apostle
A study of the apostles named in the Bible reveals that they served in many different ways. Some of the functions, which many of them shared in common, are listed below:
- An apostle starts new churches and sets them on a proper foundation (l Cor 3:9-14; 9:12; 11:34; Eph 2:2-4). He also serves to strengthen and advise older fellowships Rom 1:11; Col 2:5-7)
- An apostle is very concerned about sound doctrine and teaching (Acts 2:42; 15:1-31). He will be quick to bring correction whenever error arises.
- An apostle will often have a ministry of miracles (Rom 15:18, 19; 2Cor 12:12). Such signs and wonders show that the power and authority of God rest upon his life. Such a ministry is needed in founding new works.
- An apostle may be involved in church discipline when needed (Acts 5:1-11; 1Cor 5). Such correction most often involves churches that he has founded.
- An apostle ordains the leadership in new churches (Acts 6:1- 6; 14:23; Titus 1:5). This is true of elders, deacons and other ministries
- An apostle often teaches and trains new workers himself (2Tim 2:2). This may involve special tasks and trips to other churches and places (Acts 16:1-4; Phil 2:19-25;Col 4:7-12).
- An apostle is involved in the care of the churches that he ‘has begun (2Cor 11:28). Such ministry also serves to relate the local church to the Body of Christ at large.
- An apostle of ten ministers with the local elders in ordaining new workers (Rom 1:11; l Tim 1:18; 4:14; 2Tim 1:6). This involves fasting, prayer and the laying on of hands for the spiritual gifts and graces.
- An apostle is a “father-figure” in the overall family of God (l Cor 4:15). He does not act as dictator, but as a faithful shepherd who oversees the flock of God (l Cor 16:12; 1Pet 5:2).
- An apostle may include elements of the other four ministry gifts. In its church-pioneering, foundation-laying, overseeing function, the apostolic ministry gift will require some elements of the prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching ministries.
- An apostle must be an evangelist to make new believers.
- He must be a teacher to instruct them in sound doctrine.
- He must be a prophet to bring direction and correction with divine power and authority.
- He must be a pastor who will oversee the work of the newly ordained leaders.
The five-fold ministries are like the human hand. There are four fingers and a thumb. An apostle is like the thumb -it can easily touch the other four! Yet the apostolic ministry gilt remains distinct and apart from the others (see the Book of Acts for examples).
F. The Calling Of An Apostle
How is an apostle called? First of all, an apostle is called of God. No person can simply decide on their own that they are now an apostle (or a prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher for that matter!). It is God Who decides where, when and how the apostle will minister.