[Pray] that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. -Eph 6:19-20
But even with teachers, believers are called to "search the scriptures whether these things are so" (Acts 17:11); to "compare things that differ" (Phil 1:10); and to "study to show ourselves approved unto God, rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (2 Tim 2:15).
The office of Apostle was severely limited in scripture. No one was "appointed" an Apostle by men. This is a direct calling by Christ (Rom 1:3-6; etc.). In all the callings of Apostles, there is a separating unto a specific declaration. In the gospels (the word is not used in John), the Apostles are commissioned to preach "the gospel of the kingdom." These were 12 men separated from other disciples and specifically commissioned.
And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles. -Luke
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ -Matt
These are called the eleven and then the twelve (after Matthias is chosen) in the Acts. Those who point to Matthias taking Judas' place need to note the requirements to be one of the twelve.
Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection. -Acts 1:21-22As these twelve are promised to sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel in the earthly kingdom (Luke 22:30), and as their names will be on the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:14), it is foolish to claim such an apostleship today.
However, we do have chosen ones beyond the twelve. Paul and Barnabas were separated out to take the Gospel of the Grace of God in the Acts to Gentiles. Paul was separated for this purpose.
Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures... -Rom 1:1
We pause to note here in this Acts Age epistle that Paul's gospel to the Gentiles was promised through the prophets. We looked at this in our last study. Suffice it to say, it was not the Gospel of the Dispensation of the Mystery. Paul was also the Apostle chosen for that ministry.
It is important to note that even in the Acts Age, Apostles had different callings.
But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles)... -Gal 2:7-8
If someone is to try to claim either Apostleship today, he would necessarily have to limit himself to the one of these two gospel callings.
In the current dispensation, Paul does speak of Apostles (plural) given as gifts to the Body. The trouble in trying to apply this gift to the Body for today is that there is no way to confirm anyone being appointed an apostle by God himself. Seminaries cannot appoint men to offices of God.
Remember, the list in Ephesians 4:11, given to the Body of this dispensation, is a list of "gifts" given by the risen Christ. And just as we have no way to confirm such a thing today, we have need for such an office. We take the revealed message of the Mystery to a church in rebellion, yes, but not a church in transition.
Let me finish this part of our study by quoting a very short excerpt from Charles Welch in "The Apostle of the Reconciliation"
We note one more feature concerning the gifts set by God in this Corinthian assembly [Acts Age]. They are not only indicated in a general way, but are definitely numbered in their order of precedence:
`God hath set some in the church (not the body - we have left the figure now),
gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues' (12:28).
In contrast with this order we must notice that of Ephesians 4:11 [Post-Acts]:
`He gave some, apostles;and some, prophets;and some, evangelists;and some, pastors and teachers;for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ'.
There are four items of importance here:
1. The One who gave these gifts to men is the ascended Lord. The `twelve' were appointed by Christ on earth long before His ascension (See Matt. 10).
2. There is an addition here, which constitutes a different order from that of 1 Corinthians 12. The evangelist is here inserted between prophet, pastor, and teacher.3. The purpose of this special ministry is defined. It had to do with the inception of the church of the one body. The gifts of the church at Corinth were for other purposes as we shall see*.4. There is also a very noticeable omission. In the Corinthian church, miracles, healings, and tongues were as much a part of the ecclesiastical organisation as were the apostles, but in the church of the one body, the miracles, healings and tongues are entirely absent.
*Chapter 13 shows the transitory nature of these gifts as opposed to the graces of faith, hope and love. The apostle would bring all boasting and pride down before the one great crowning grace of love. Without love the gift of tongues was comparable to a booming gong. Without love the gift of prophecy, understanding, knowledge, and faith left a man empty. Without love, `charity' and martyrdom profited nothing. Then follows that description of love, which should be written in letters of gold on every believer's heart (13:4-8)...
Without quoting further from other parts of Scripture we just notice the usage of the word [katargeo] in 1 Corinthians itself:
`Bring to nought' the things that are (1:28).
`Come to nought' princes of this world (2:6).
`Shall destroy' both belly and meats (6:13).
The passage under notice (13:8-11).
`Put down' all rule (15:24).
`Destroyed' death (15:26).
There can be no doubt but that these words indicate a complete cessation. The teaching that the early church `lost' the gifts through lack of faithfulness is a fable, invented in the attempt to explain their non-existence to-day.
The Corinthian church was surely carnal and childish, yet they possessed a plethora of gifts. The gifts did not slowly cease. They cease abruptly at Acts 28. In that chapter Paul by two acts shows that the miracles of Mark 16 were still in force. The key to the question is found in that chapter too. The hope of Israel still held good. Israel as a nation was set aside, however, in that chapter, and with their setting aside miraculous gifts ceased.
We would not be understood to say that `miracles' ceased. God has often interfered with the course of nature and of man since, but not in the way of `spiritual gifts'. To understand miracles aright we must remember that they are
divided into two sections:-
(1) Evidential miracles.
(2) Miracles of compassion.
The miracles of the Acts period were largely the former.
I would thus contend that all offices of Apostle have ceased. There is no commission of the Lord as there was of the 12 to Israel and there is no gospel or dispensation anyone can call "my gospel" or "the revelation He made known to me." Paul could appoint Apostles as from God as Matthias was chosen by the twelve (men who knew Christ's earthly ministry). But this appointment was very limited and given to a church, not in apostasy and rebellion, but a church in transition.
We do not need Apostles today, we need faithful saints to call men unto the Mystery. In the Acts Age, being under the Law and being subject to ordinances was commanded. In this age, it is gross apostasy. We are not commissioned to call men from one hope unto another, but rather to come out of error.
And just to say it again, if we did need Apostles, there is no way to confirm such a calling. I would guess, in my city alone, that every one (man or woman) who has taken the title of Apostle, teaches tremendous error, and not the Dispensation of the Mystery.