Monday, December 7, 2009

Spiritual gifts part 5:Beginning of gift information: Apostleship

Hey gang!

A new week and we are just beginning going through the spiritual gifts that God has for you, just in time for the Christmas season. I am hoping to finish all 30 by Christmas, but I do realize that is a lofty goal considering their number alone. Remember that we will also be looking at guest writers talking about their books on the 8th, 10th, 11th, 17th, 22nd and 29th of this month. I also plan to take a couple days, at least the writings that would appear on Christmas Eve and Day to discuss the real reason for the season and a last look at 2009 on the 31st. Plans never seem to go quite as planned, but keep praying for me this month as I share all of this information with you.

If you took the spiritual test in part 4, then you already have an idea of what your spiritual gifts might be. I do want you to focus on those, but still take in the rest of the series because no test is perfect and by reading the examples and such from each of the gifts, you may see something that didn’t jump out on the test.

I will discuss the gifts in the same order that Bryan Carraway did in his book, Spiritual Gifts: Their Purpose and Power. There are a few reasons. First, I think he does a tremendous job lumping the gifts into groupings. I’ll share those when I start new groupings. Today, we will start with the foundational gifts. These are Apostleship, Prophet, Evangelism, Pastoring and Teaching. You heard me mention the five-fold ministry before and these are the gifts that are in that grouping as well. The second reason is more for me as these are in order in the book. I could’ve done alphabetical or any other order that I chose, but I also realized that I’d be flipping a lot of pages. Finally, the last reason is that sometimes Carraway refers backwards to another gift and if I do them in any other order, that may end being confusing. Because in my little brain, I may not think to bring to light another example from the other section to allow it to make the maximum amount of sense.

In each section, I will talk about an aspect of the gift from either Bible history or something I see in modern day that will help us understand the gifting after its definition, then I’ll have a section on what the word means in Hebrew, scripture verses that display the gift either in list or in action, then what are the signs that you might or might not have this gift. At the end, I’ll add any other notes or stories that might be helpful.

My hope is to release these every 12 hours or so except on days that have the guest authors. I want people to have time to digest the gifts and I also want authors that have given me copies of their books and their time to be seen, especially with the holiday season in swing. All book buying goes up at this time too.

With that all being said, let’s begin the adventure with looking at the gift of apostleship.

Apostleship is defined as “The unique, God-given ability to exercise strategic leadership and spiritual authority over large segments of the body of Christ for the purpose of greatly increasing the church’s impact in its work for the kingdom of God.

When we think of Apostles, most of us would say Peter first. Why? Because he is probably the most famous of Jesus’ 12 disciples. Probably after that, we may say Paul since he wrote over half of the New Testament and traveled all over delivering the Good News after his conversion in Emmaus. Then, we may hear Judas’ name come up, because he is the infamous of the 12 for selling out Jesus for 30 coins.

Apostleship is probably the hardest of the gifts to define because many are unsure if the gift even exists today. There are many that believe apostleship died with the completion of the Bible or with the Apostle Paul. However, there is a debate raging today, mostly from the charismatic end of the Christian spectrum that feels the gift of apostleship is making a comeback. Truthfully, I’m not even sure I should say it that way. Many within that group of people believe that the gifting of apostles never left.

Carraway makes a great caution in his book by telling us that we need to be careful who we say are apostles. While some may have apostolic qualities, they may be functioning out of other giftings such as pastor, teacher or evangelist. The warning continues that we should only be calling apostles that name, if and only if, they meet all of the qualities of the apostleship. We don’t want to be lax on what the Bible teaches apostles are out of complete respect of God’s Word.

Carraway also adds two other examples that people want to label as apostleship. The first is the gift of missionary. As we get into the functions and other requirements of an apostle, you’ll see that apostleship is much more than being church planters in foreign countries. The other example is that of what the Catholic community would call a bishop today. Again, bishops have some apostolic qualities, but not all.

Hebrew definitions: Before we continue, let’s break down where the term apostleship comes from. Carraway tells us that the Greek term apostolos is used over 80 times in the New Testament and is where we get the English version, apostle. It is a derivative of the Greek apostello, meaning “to send.” After the 5th century BC, it is usually translated “fleet,” as in a fleet of ships. It is sometimes translated as “admiral,” the one in command of a fleet. The Hebrew is the word “saliah,” meaning “sent man.” The word also gained variety in the New Testament, but is generally agreed upon as “one who is sent.”

Bible scripture examples:
Ephesians 4:11-13 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

2 Corinthians 12:12 The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance.

Carraway gives four different functions of an apostle in the New Testament. The first is that they were special ambassadors for Christ. To say that their abilities given by Jesus were unique might be an understatement. They were given authority and power, performed special signs and wonders to signify the coming of the Kingdom and to announce the Messiah’s arrival. The powers included casting out demons, healing the sick and raising the dead.

The second function was as foundational leaders of the early church. This kind of goes without saying since the disciples were witnesses to Jesus’ three-year ministry. However, Carraway points out that Paul also appointed elders in the churches he founded in his travels, and like other apostles, did not run the churches that he founded, rather set the first generation of leaders for the churches.

The third function was divine insight into the things of God. Paul writes about mysteries of the church that promised the gift of salvation to Gentiles, as well as Jews, in Ephesians 3:1-6 and the restoration of Israel in Romans 11:25-32. That restoration is either Israel as a nation in 1948 or final Israel at Christ’s second coming.

The last of the functions was that the apostles were the early carriers of the salvation message throughout the globe. This became divided as Peter would speak to Jewish people and Paul would speak to the Gentiles. Others were sent as well.

Under requirements for apostleship were that each apostle had to receive their commission from Jesus personally. They had to have seen Jesus physically and the 12 disciples had one other requirement; they had to be with Jesus through his entire ministry after the baptism by John the Baptist. That second requirement is even stressed by Paul. Keep in mind that Paul saw Jesus in Acts 9:2-7 where Jesus appeared to him. This is a preaching that can’t be duplicated today.

The Bible gives us four confirming signs that marked apostles. They are a shepherd’s heart for the people of God, proven apostolic ministry fruit, signs and wonders, and a life marked by suffering and opposition.

Could you have this gift? As I’ve said previously, there are many who believe that the gifting of apostleship died with the men who saw Jesus physically. Carraway only slightly disputes this. He states that the Bible doesn’t rule out the possibility. But the label of apostleship could only be applied rarely in his eyes.

He feels that the office of apostle could be activated again in the here and now. Here are some of the things that he suggests that we would look for in them. First, an apostle would have translocal influence over a certain locale. They would have holiness and integrity and their ministries would bear much fruit over time. These men would also strengthen significantly in the local churches and expand the church in geographical territories.

They would correct and discipline the church as they receive discernment and ability and would be able to show signs and wonders as a confirmation of their calling. But the most dominant trait would be their love of Jesus and His people. They would not be seeking power or have an inflated ego, but be more humble, closer to the line of Jesus. They would be willing to face persecution and possible death if necessary.

I would like to direct quote one thought from Carraway that I think can serve as a guide as well. “Perhaps in the modern era the persecution would not be as severe in countries that allow the free exercise of religion, but I still believe that modern apostles would be a lightning rod for criticism and ostracism. The world system does not accept His representatives. Jesus warned us not to be surprised about our reception with this present evil world system. He told us in John 15:18, ‘If the world hates you, you know that is has hated me before it hated you.”

As I close this section, keep in mind that the charismatic movement has accepted this office as part of the giftings for today. I would again caution a wait and see approach, looking for continued fruit over time. God does not want us fooled by the deceptions of the devil and men that allow him reign. When you hear someone telling you about having this gift, begin looking for the traits.

Next time, we will look at the gifting of prophet.

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