Yes, I continue to have the audacity to claim that apostles exist even today (post 1 and post 2). They always have and always will – at least until the people of God reach the place of unity and maturity described in Eph 4:11-16.
Again, this is all centered in the fact that Jesus is the great apostle sent by the Father to accomplish the mission of God. We must remember that Paul was not the greatest apostle to ever live. It was the divine and eternal Son. I’d probably claim that to deny this is simply folding the text of Scripture within a system, one that does not allow for certain ministries and gifts to continue. This could be practically detrimental to the health of the community of Christ.
But here lies the problem. Or maybe somewhat of a problem. Jesus is no longer here. The great apostle has ascended to the Father’s right hand and is now reigning over all. So how do we come to recognize apostolic ministry post-ascension? What does it look like today?
This is where we take great courage knowing that Jesus was faithful to his promise to send the Holy Spirit to complete the work he started. Upon Jesus’ ascension and enthronement, we are told that the Father and he would send another in his place:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. (John 15:26)
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)
The Holy Spirit was to be ‘another Advocate’ or ‘another Helper’ like Christ (John 14:16). He was sent to be in the place of Christ, just as if Christ were still with his people. But, whereas Jesus was bound by the restrictions of being one human person on earth, the Holy Spirit could come to indwell and empower all of God’s people. Therefore, multiple apostles could be empowered to fulfill this important role.
This is very good news! This is part and parcel to living out the ‘greater works’ Jesus promised (John 14:12).
But here’s an interesting thought: While it might have been awkward to consider Jesus as an apostle, how much more difficult is it for us to consider the Holy Spirit as an apostolic Spirit? This kind of talk doesn’t make the best-seller list in Christian bookstores.
However, remember that the Spirit was the promised one who would come in the place of Christ. He would be poured out on all flesh, which took place at the Feast of Pentecost in Acts 2. And we might add he is continually being poured out upon all people who follow Christ today.
But he was not poured out and given to God’s people for tingles and good worship experiences in our buildings, though I do not negate those. He was given in the place of Christ to accomplish all that Christ began. Luke tells us in the opening statement of Acts that his gospel, the gospel of Luke, told of ‘all that Jesus began to do and to teach’ (Acts 1:1). Thus, the Holy Spirit was called to continue the apostolic ministry of Jesus. And I believe this would be done through the body of Christ. And, though he needs it not, I’d add he has done and is doing a fine job with this.
Now, in my thoughts on Christ as apostle, I mentioned that an apostle is essentially one who was sent out. Jesus was sent by the Father (Luke 4:43; John 3:34; etc). And, so, with regards to the Spirit’s work, we can easily note his apostolic presence being sent by both the Father and Christ:
I am going to send [apostellō] you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)
There’s no doubt as to whom this refers to and this sending is recorded in Luke’s second volume, the book of Acts.
Now, for interest’s sake, let me point out two other passages:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send [pempsei] in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send [pempsō] to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. (John 15:26)
In the previous post, I mentioned there is another Greek word for ‘sent’, that being pempsas. Here we see in John’s gospel the word was utilized to speak of the Father and Son sending the Spirit. However, in considering these passages in connection with the statement at the end of Luke’s gospel, it’s pretty clear that the Spirit has an apostolic role, even if the root of pempas is being used elsewhere.
Simply stated, he was sent out with a mission at hand. And that mission was four-fold: glorify Christ, bear witness to Christ, convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment, and continue the work of Christ. Thus, there can be no denying that the Holy Spirit is the apostolic Spirit. And it’s the apostolic Christ, along with the apostolic Spirit, that granted then and now grants the apostolic ministry.
This is absolutely wonderful. And something I really needed to read seeing as what makes an apostle is something used to confuse me. My pastor, in a sermon, claimed that there was only 13 apostles. The 12 (not counting Judas but Matthias instead) and Paul. Which seemed to blatantly contradict scripture where there were many other Apostles running around like Barnabas and Junia. So i’ve been stumbling about trying to find the truth on the subject. It seems you hit the nail on the head. Thanks!