Jesus As Apostle

So I have set out to spend quite a good while looking at the equipping ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11, which fall in the larger context of vs7-16. Specifically, vs11-13 say:

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 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.

As I noted in my first article, Paul makes it quite clear as to the purpose of these five (or four) ministry gifts:

  • To prepare and equip God’s people for works of service, or ministry, since the Greek word could be translated either way (vs12).
  • So that the body of Christ might be built up (vs12).
  • To help Christ’s body reach unity in the faith and knowledge of Christ, becoming mature and grown up into the fullness of Christ (vs13).

Yet, I also noted some practical reasons as to why these giftings are needed in the church today, though these are not specifically found in the Ephesians text:

  • Jesus, Himself, functioned in all five of these ministries.
  • The body of Christ is now called to be all of Christ in all of the earth.
  • Therefore, Christ’s desire is to continue to gift people in such ministry roles.

I know that is a loaded statement, of which many will want me to give more explanation. But suffice to say now, those three points above are my conclusion from reading the New Testament text. But the next weeks (and maybe a little longer) will be spent laying out a further understanding of how I have come to such a conclusion.

But moving on…Here is one of the most important things to remember before jumping into Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:11-13 – Jesus was the greatest apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher that has ever existed. That is where we have to start. When considering anything in Scripture, our starting points as new covenant believers is how did Christ fulfil such.

And, though, I plan to look at how Jesus functioned in all five of these ministries, in this post I particularly want to consider how Jesus was the great apostle. Again, one might have never thought of Jesus as an apostle. Most think of Paul in regards to an apostolic ministry. But Jesus was truly an apostle and, again, He was the greatest apostle that ever walked the earth.

Consider these words from the writer to the Hebrews:

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession. (Hebrews 3:1)

Here we see the writer to the Hebrews identifying Jesus as an apostle. But, for many, this passage will not necessarily mean much. It might simply point out that Jesus had some ‘office’ or ‘position’ as apostle.

But what we really want to know is what practically made Jesus an apostle? He did not just walk around with a business card with the title, ‘apostle’, written on it. So what is an apostle?

The word apostle (Greek apostolos) simply means ‘sent one’. Though so many people have so many conceptions of what an apostle is (of which I hope to address at least most ideas), in its essence, the word simply means ‘sent one’. And the verb for sent, in the Greek, is apostello.

Yet, what is also interesting to note is that the Greek word, apostolos, and the Latin word, missum (where we get our word missionary), mean exactly the same thing. They both mean ‘sent one’. In a most simple understanding, apostle = missionary and missionary = apostle. That doesn’t mean every missionary functions in an apostolic ministry. Of course not. Still, in their essence, they are synonyms. But I am probably getting a little ahead of myself.

Therefore, knowing what the word apostle means (sent one), we can definitely concur that Jesus was an apostle. Remember? He was sent by the Father with a specific mission to accomplish. I mean, I really don’t need to quote Scripture to show this, but let’s consider a few passages.

In Nazareth, Jesus announced He had be sent with this mission:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent [apostello] me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18-19)

We see other Scriptures pointing to the fact that Christ had been sent by the Father:

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent [apostello] me. (Mark 9:37)

But he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent [apostello] for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43)

For he whom God has sent [apostello] utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. (John 3:34)

Again, I cannot emphasise enough that Paul, or Peter, were not the greatest apostles to ever live. That’s one mistake we regularly make. Jesus and Jesus alone stands as the great apostle, for He completely fulfilled the mission for which He was sent by the Father.

Therefore, it must be duly noted that an apostle, any apostle, is only able to function as an apostle because Jesus was the first and greatest apostle. This will have important ramifications later on as we consider the ministry of an apostle.

Still, I must say that I am truly glad that Christ is the great and faithful apostle of our confession (Hebrews 3:1). I think you would all agree as well.

Click here to read my next article on how Jesus is the great prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher.


5 thoughts on “Jesus As Apostle

  1. @ Scott:

    Looking forward to seeing how you unfold this.

    Vern Poythress, Professor at Westminster Philadelphia, developed a pyramid of giftedness and had the following to say, beginning with the role of Christ:

    First and foremost, there is Messianic giftedness (level 1). Christ alone has a fullness of the Spirit to equip him as final prophet, king, and priest in a definitive way.

    Second, there is apostolic or foundational giftedness (level 2). Christ appointed the apostles as witnesses (Acts 1:21-22). On the basis of what they had directly seen and heard, and on the basis of the work of the Holy Spirit inspiring them, they could testify authoritatively for all time concerning what Christ accomplished. In their verbal witness they had an unrepeatable prophetic role. The apostles and closely associated “apostolic men” like Mark, Luke, and Jude produced the canon of the New Testament.

    Similarly, the apostles made foundational decisions concerning the rule or shepherding of the New Testament church. They led it through its first crises (Acts 6; 8; 10-11; 15; 20). Thus they had an unrepeatable kingly role. The apostles appointed the first deacons and so stabilized the ministry of service and mercy (Acts 6:1-7). In all these areas the role of the apostles is unrepeatable.

    Third, we have the level of prominent, repeatable gifts (level 3). People may be officially recognized by the church when they have strong gifts in teaching, ruling, and giving mercy. Traditionally, Reformed ecclesiology has designated this level “special office.” It includes the teachers, elders, and deacons in the church.

    Finally, we have the level of involvement of every believer whatsoever (level 4). As the Scripture shows, every believer united to Christ is made a prophet, a king, and a priest in a broad sense.

    The distinction between gifts with full divine authority and subordinate (uninspired) gifts is now clear. Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1; 20:28) and is the Lord of the church (Eph 5:24). His work has full divine authority. The apostles and apostolic men are commissioned by Christ and bear his authority. Hence their words and official actions have divine authority (cf., e.g., 1 Cor 14:37; 1 Thess 2:13). In particular, words of the apostles in the exercise of their office are “inspired” in the technical sense. “Inspired” words are words spoken by God himself, words breathed out by God (2 Tim 3:16), and hence they carry unqualified divine authority.

    Here’s a link to the full article

  2. Thanks for the comment, Jesse.

    I do understand the reformed position, as I lean towards reformed theology in other areas, and I have read Grudem’s thoughts on some of these things (though some reformed people would see him as too loose).

    I guess in my articles on these topics, I will be addressing Poythress’ ‘level 2’. I think it has some holes in it, as I will address in my articles. But it might take me just a little while to get there. But I will try not to take too long. I simply need time to lay things out and make sure I coherently connect my thoughts.

    Thanks for staying with me. 🙂

  3. @ Scott:

    No problem. Take your time. It’s important to work through and wrestle with matters of significant importance.

    In contending for the continuation of the gift of apostleship, are you contending for the continuation of the gift the same as Peter, Paul, and company, or are you contending for a gifting similar to the one they were given?

    If the former, all that I’ve got to say friend, is you have your work cut out for you, especially contending with the gifted minds of Poythress and Grudem.

    You may want to consider Louis Berkhof, Robert Reymond, and most definitely Calvin’s commentaries (free here

  4. Hi Jesse. Technically, I would say I lean towards the latter. But, I think the first problem is we don’t know what an apostle is, why they are gifted as apostles. We generally think apostle = Scripture writer. In its essence, that is not correct. Why? I simply point to the greatest apostle of all time – Jesus. Apostles are people of revelation, and I even note the first apostles had a significant role. So, I will technically lean towards the latter suggestion you put forth, because I don’t believe we still need to record (or add to) Scripture. But I do believe apostles (and prophets) are people of revelation. That revelation does not contradict what Christ and the first apostles taught and wrote. But, nonetheless, the living God still gives revelation today. And apostles and prophets are people who walk in that revelation that becomes helpful in laying foundations and keeping those foundations.

    But, alas, I get ahead of myself. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Jesus the Apostle Video « The Prodigal Thought

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