The reason I am seeking this understanding is because I am seeing a lot of people in the Body of Christ being wounded by its application and by the theological philosophy, if you will, that surrounds it. In this day of technological advancement, it is far too easy to make someone "a superstar", and I see too many headlines on Christian websites proclaiming this man [or woman] an Apostle or Prophet -- and it is difficult to discern if it is warranted. At the same time I have witnessed, even in small churches, that there are those who take their position in the church to mean they are exalted above others. I'm just trying to understand what the Word of God says about it all.
And He [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers. I believe we can all agree that this is in reference to ways Christ intended for those who would believe and serve Him to be trained in continuing His work. Indeed, the very next verse says, And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ.
This is how Christ intended for His Kingdom Message to be shared, encouraged, and practiced throughout the earth. In fact, the word "apostle", in the Greek means, literally, "one sent forth", or "the sent ones". In Mark 3:14-15, the Passion Translation tells us Jesus's motivation for naming apostles: He appointed the Twelve, whom he named apostles. He wanted them to be continually at His side as His friends, and so that He could send them out to preach and have authority to heal the sick and to cast out demons. Doesn't that describe all of us? Doesn't Jesus call us all to be His friends? To "go out" preaching [in love] the truth of God's Word? To use our authority and His power to heal and deliver?
Furthermore, Acts 4:13 tells us that the religious leaders of Jesus's day "were astonished as they witnessed the bold courage of Peter and John, especially when they discovered that they were just ordinary men who never had religious training". In other words, here were apostles who were ordinary men, but commissioned ["sent ones"] by Jesus to preach, heal, and deliver with authority. Yet, what I see today is that the Church has created this mystique about apostleship; reserving it for those who have been specially "anointed". Could it be that this is just a by-product of our celebrity culture?
Think about it ... even Paul battled against being recognized as an apostle, to the point that he says in 2 Corinthians 12:11, For there is nothing I lack compared to these “super-apostles” of yours, even though I am nothing. Have we created "super apostles" in our day, too? Aren't true apostles defined as servants to the Body? Isn't their role to empower everyone to do the ministry of Christ as He has called them? Go back and take another look at the role of the five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. It clearly says each of those servants is to "nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry".
Now couple this with Jesus's statement in John 14:12 that The person who follows Me in faith, believing in Me, will do the same mighty miracles that I do—even greater miracles than these because I go to be with My Father. This implies to me that we are all to be apostles -- sent out to do mighty miracles that attest to God's presence and authority in our lives. Whether that is laying on of hands to heal sickness, or co-partnering with Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be set free from spirits of anger, depression, unworthiness, etc. --- it all points to Christ and to the building up of the Body of Christ in truth and spirit! And even if we recognize the position of apostle, most of the denominations deny the obvious fruit of that calling -- the authority to heal the sick and cast out demons [the mighty miracles that Jesus did]!
I have spent far too much time on the ministry of the apostle. But the same goes for the ministry of the prophet. Whether in the Old or New Testament, prophets were, in essence, God's voice to men on earth. 1 Corinthians 14:3 says, when someone prophesies, he speaks to encourage people, to build them up, and to bring them comfort. Again, in our celebrity culture, a Prophet [with a capital "P"] has come to represent someone who predicts the future. But the Bible tells us it is a gift of grace from God to encourage and edify [instruct, train, guide; enlighten, develop, improve, better] the Body of Christ and help them to mature spiritually.
Aren't we all to do that as we grow and mature in our own spiritual lives? Or, is this grace, or favor, of God to be reserved for a specially "anointed" few? For me, it comes down to this question... Are we following the spirit of the Word of God, or are we submitting to the Nicolaitan model of Church government? In case, you are unfamiliar with that term, it refers to a system within the Church when religious leaders rule over others. It is a system run by evangelists, elders, bishops, popes, rabbis, priests and modern day prophets that have forced its people (members) to submit to their dominion (rulership)”. The members have to do what they tell you to do. That is, they have dominion over your faith. They tell you what you need to believe, what instructions to follow, and if you dare step outside those boundaries, you are chastised or rebuked. But where [in that system] is the freedom that the Bible promises? The Word says, Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). When speaking to the Churches in the Book of Revelation, Jesus makes His opinion very clear: So you also have those who adhere to the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which I hate (Revelation 2:15).
So, as you can tell, I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling, deeply committed to rightly discerning the Word of God on this matter. I absolutely recognize that Jesus wants apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers actively involved in His Body on earth. But are we defining those roles properly? Are we restricting them to specific people who are exalted above the remainder of the Body? At the same time, if we are all called to these roles in advancing God's Kingdom on earth, are you or I taking those appointments seriously, and seeking the Holy Spirit's counsel as we speak God's Word? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that there should be no competition for Importance within the Body -- we all have our roles to play, and God delights in us when we fulfill the role He has designed for us. We should serve Him with joy in every activity or ministry that we engage in for the sake of His Body.
Thank you for listening to me as I try to hear God teach me what He would have this Age know and understand about ministering to the Body of Christ -- and to the world. I am still developing my theology on this important Scriptural component. My spirit is not content with what the world tells me, and I am struggling with what the Church is showing me. May God, my Father, enlighten my spirit, heart, and mind as I seek to serve Him in His Truth and Spirit. And may each of us be dedicated to nurturing and preparing the Body to do His ministry.
2 Timothy 2:15 Always be eager to present yourself before God as a perfect and mature minister, without shame, as one who correctly explains the Word of Truth.