Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God… Rom. 1:1
I often joke with my family. I tell them, “I am the most important person in this family. In fact, I am so important I don’t need to do anything else apart from just being about. My presence alone here is work enough!”
That might be me joking; but the position of fatherhood within the family is more important than we think. A household without a father is like a body without a head. It is uncontrollable. The father is the authority figure in the house. A household that has no father has very little authority – and, hence, little order or discipline – in it. This is by no means a love-less attack on single families, no. But we must uphold God’s truth despite the odds we encounter in this life, for God is in heaven.
The scenario I have just described above concerning the family is the same with the church. In the same way that the father is of paramount importance in the house, the ministry of the apostle is the most important ministry in the church. For this reason, the Apostle Paul writes:
“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles…” (1 Cor. 12:28)
Why is this ministry paramount in the church? It is because this ministry is it that establishes the fatherhood of God in the church. The church is a household; and as we just saw there is no household without a father. The Bible talks of
“14 … the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14-15).
In this scripture, the Swahili Bible substitutes the word “family” with “fatherhood”.
There are therefore fathers, and we cannot all be fathers. We thank God that we have a Father, God Himself. But God, through His manifold wisdom, has in Jesus Christ placed in the church men to represent Him in the office of fatherhood. These men are called apostles. Notice it is men, not women. There are no women in the 5-fold ministry. Women can work in other offices in the church, but not in the 5-fold ministry. Jesus set the precedent to this during His earthly ministry. There were no women among the 12 apostles that He chose.
The reason for this separation is because the 5 ministries encapsulated in the 5-fold ministry are ministries of authority; they represent the authority of God. Now, the Bible forbids a woman from exercising authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:12). God could not therefore break his own rule by allowing women into the positions of authority that the 5 ministries of the apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist and teacher carry.
This representation of God’s authority by men working on behalf of God, is evident in Ephesians 4:11-13, where Paul writes:
“11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”.
When these ministries are in the church, the church can therefore become a true spiritual household. There is no longer any carnal independence because the church is now a family and each person is subject to one another in the fear of God. And the authority of God can be felt by God’s people because the father – the apostle – is there. This authority disciplines us to become true spiritual children, walking in the righteousness of God. This, in turn, creates the bond of unity that makes the church to become a body, the Body of Christ.
Today, the church is there all right; but it is a different church than the one God intended. There is little discipline in the church, and it is deeply fragmented because there is no authority. Today, any man can arise and do whatever seems right in their own eyes, all in the name of the Lord. There is no one to point the way; or to put a “STOP” sign where one is needed.
So, who is the apostle? Is it any man who declares himself to be one?
By no means, no. The apostle does not just declare himself to be an apostle. On the contrary, he is declared to be an apostle both by the ministry he carries of revealing the cross of Jesus Christ. This means he reveals the crucified Christ. And, pray, how does he do that? He does so by allowing the cross to work in his own life. This fact is of primary importance. The apostle is a man whose life has been crucified with Christ; he no longer has a life of his own. Rather, he is a bond-slave of Christ in the Spirit.
Secondly, he preaches no other gospel other than the gospel of the cross.
That was how Paul and the other apostles were declared to be apostles. Firstly, Paul states in 1 Cor. 1:22-23,
“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified…”
Today, the most important preacher is the miracle-worker. Not so in Paul’s day, as is so clear in his words above.
Secondly, Paul show us something else that is of even greater importance. In 1 Cor 2:2 he declares:
“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
When he says “I determined not to know” he is talking, not just about his preaching, but his lifestyle also. Paul lived a crucified life among the Corinthians and through his life that was crucified with Christ he revealed the power of the cross to the church. He revealed the power of the cross in his life first!
There are many apostles today; but there were many apostles also during the Apostle Paul’s ministry. But there was a basic difference between Paul and these other men. In 2 Cor. 11:13 he writes:
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.”
Many of today’s apostles are exactly as Paul describes those of his time. They are false apostles. Why? Because they do not live the crucified life. They cannot reveal Christ because they have no revelation of Christ in them. Rather, they have a ‘revelation’ of the flesh. They live for and serve the flesh. Chief among these are the prosperity preachers.
But Paul had a revelation of Christ in his life. His life is a testimony to that. Let us take time to read Paul’s defense of his apostleship.
“23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? 30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” (2 Cor. 11:23-30)
That is the testimony of a man who has seen the crucified Christ in his spirit. Any other ‘revelation’ will produce something else.
For a lack of a father, therefore, the church today is fragmented. There is little discipline, order, love or unity within the church. In fact, we have gone to the extent that we glory in the non-existence of these things. We rejoice in our divisions, feeling proud of our denominations or groupings somehow thinking we had a monopoly with God.
So what’s the answer to this problem?
The answer is simple. The church must recognize and allow the true ministry of the apostle within its ranks. It must relinquish the position of the father to the true church fathers – men who have a revelation of the crucified Christ in their hearts and who manifest this revelation through living a life that is crucified with Christ, just as we have seen the Apostle Paul had. These men may be few, and few indeed they must be. But they are there even now, lurking somewhere in the background, just as John the Baptist told the Jews:
“26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” (Jn. 1:26-27)
They are unknown, yes. Yet, when our spiritual eyes are open and we see what we as the church need (and what we do not need), we will turn and we will see them. And when these ministries have been given their rightful place in the church, then true spiritual healing and growth will come into the church, and the church will be a true abode of God, bringing joy to His heart as He beholds her order and righteousness.
[The Great Rift Valley]