on Apostolic ministry

Luke G at ThinkTheology.org asked me in the comments if @ AGTS were I was required to interact much with the cessationist positions regarding the office of Apostle and what are your conclusions?

Here was my edited response:

We didn’t interact with cessationists positions – not too much.  As to apostles AGTS did have a symposium in the fall of 2004 on subject of Apostles and Apostolic ministry which turned into a short book He Gave Apostles (GPH, 2005).

At the moment I tend to follow that true apostolic ministry/function is seen in direct cross-cultural ministry work among unreached people groups – places where the gospel has yet to be preached and churches have yet to be planted.  In other words I see the true Apostle as being one who plants churches among the unreached.  Hey, that sounds kind of like Paul doesn’t it?

Peter Wagner is not a true Apostle in my estimation – but rather a self appointed one.

But that is me, others may have different ideas.

23 responses to “on Apostolic ministry

  1. Peter Wagner is an opportunist. He rides whatever marketable wave he can catch to keep himself in front of people and collecting speaking fees.

    Over the years I have pushed the meaning of apostle to include some in the U.S. or other established places who also are used by God to start new works. I know one pastor in our city who is constantly starting churches in inner cities. He wouldn’t call himself an apostle, but I would see his work as apostolic.

  2. This type of thing is big in the AG churches here in Aus with many of the mega-church pastors in some way claiming some sort of Apsotle status. Very dangerous stuff! One church in Australia even allows its pastor to use the title Apostle! I think the list if functional rather than any sort of title; if that is the case, what does it matter what you are called?

  3. Mark, you have a point! I would agree it’s dangerous stuff to let pastors be called Apostles. The Mormons do that too. I think the true apostle would hardly know one was one.

  4. I don’t see the big deal about using the title ‘Apostle’ if you’re actually an apostle. I think people get too hung up on titles. I’ve seen guys get really upset for being called ‘brother’ (of God forbid just by their first name!) rather than ‘Pastor’ or ‘Evangelist.’ Then I’ve seen people get all up in arms over someone being called ‘Prophet’ or ‘Apostle’ regardless of whether or not they do the work connected with those positions.

  5. Nick, like you I don’t particularly care for titles – but I as trying to address more how I see apostolic function, which I think at it’s heart is church planting.

  6. So that your readers can get a fair idea of what Peter Wagner really stands for, rather than the scurrilous accusations in a previous comments, here are links to his ministry and a biography. I note that he would qualify as an apostle for his “direct cross-cultural ministry work among unreached people groups” from 1956 to 1971, as well as for his less direct work of promoting and organising such ministry for most of the nearly 40 years since then. But then I guess that James and Peter in the Bible don’t count as apostles either because they ministered primarily within their own culture.

  7. My comments about Wagner, however scurrilous, are not unfounded. They come from over 20 years of reading his books, listening to his speeches, and gathering information from others (especially missionaries from the time period Peter mentioned). I don’t mean to make a “drive-by” comment based on a simple comment. Call it scurrilous, but it’s not an opinion without history or fact.

  8. Dan/apprentice2jesus, it may well be true that Wagner has kept abreast of changes in people’s felt needs, which is hardly reprehensible as it might just be his way of following the principles laid down by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. But I was especially concerned about the implication in your first comment that he is largely interested in the money. Do you have any evidence for that? If so, what? If not, you should withdraw this part of your comment.

  9. It’s more than simply keeping abreast, quite honestly. What he has written and taught in the past has been biblically “off.” I apologize for trying to speak to motivation. I can’t honestly know if it’s only for money. However, I would not put his motivation in the same vein as Paul, using the 1 Cor. passage as you did. Pertaining to the original post, I would not put him in the category of apostle. Or teacher. My apologies for speaking to motivations.

  10. I tend to think that Apostles had to have seen the risen Jesus and although I imagine today some self appointed (or otherwise) apostles may beleive they’ve seen Jesus I think it was more connected with that time period in the early church.

    Bryan L

  11. Bryan, I don’t think modern apostles claim to have seen the risen Jesus in any specific sense. But they probably wonder where your teaching comes from that apostles must have seen him (after all, Paul hadn’t except in a vision), and how that is in tension with the clear biblical teaching that apostles are part of the ongoing ministry of the church, Ephesians 4:11-13.

  12. Peter:
    Quickly (w/o digging out the specific verses since I’m sure you’ve seen them), Paul speaks about himself as an Apostle and defends himself as being one by appealing to the fact that he’s seen the risen Lord. This seems to have been a requirement of an Apostle (at least in his mind). Also when describing the resurrection appearances of Jesus he speaks about himself as being appeared to lastly (as one untimely born) and seems to see continuity between the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection with his appearing to Paul, but then seems to cap it off with himself. He doesn’t talk about present day resurrection appearances.

    As to Ephesisan 4:11-13 I’m not sure it speaks about Apostles as an ongoing ministry of the church (I’m also a bit uncomfortable with that language) to continue on through the ages (especially given that he saw the 2nd coming as soon). Maybe they (the Apostles) were still ministering to the church when Paul wrote his letter but I don’t know that he conceived of that as a ministry in the church or as something where new apostles were coming on the scene after him and they would continue ministering to the church.

    Also please don’t say stuff like “clear biblical teaching”. It raises too many flags for me from past discussions over what the Bible says.

    Bryan L

  13. Bryan, you are right to object to “clear biblical teaching”. Sorry. The matter is not so simple. But the language of verse 13 certainly seems to imply that apostles remain an important part of the church’s ministry until the church is made perfect, something which certainly hadn’t happened when the last eyewitnesses to the resurrection died. The objection is the same as the one to taking 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 as teaching that prophecy and tongues ceased at that same period “when perfection comes”.

    Your other argument is I suppose based on 1 Corinthians 9:1. But here we have four separate assertions of Paul’s authority. It would be absurd to argue from this verse that people who have not seen the risen Jesus are not free. It is just as weak to argue from it that these people are not apostles. See 2 Corinthians 12:12 for Paul’s teaching on what actually were the marks of an apostle.

    You might find further support from Acts 1:21-22. But Paul would not qualify by these standards. So it is dangerous to use this pre-Pentecost choosing by lot of the otherwise obscure Matthias as a precedent for anything today.

  14. Peter:

    I see what you’re saying and I think I might revise what I say after looking into it more. I think 9:1 is split into two main questions. I think “Am I not free?” is the 1st one and I think “Am I not an apostle?” is the 2nd one. Then I think Paul expounds on the question of whether he is an apostle with “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?”. I think Paul sees his apostleship as being confirmed by those latter two questions. I think Paul needed to defend his apostleship in these terms because of the so called super apostles from Jerusalem but I would no longer say that seeing the Lord was/is a requirement for being an apostle (although I still think he saw the Lord’s resurrection appearance to him as in continuity with the other resurrection appearances).

    I think Paul may have defined apostles as those who missionized new places for the first time (setting up new church) and I think he may have seen prophecy (among other things) as a sign accompanying them. So I guess if there are people who are still doing that today, reaching lands for the first time and setting up churches, then I guess they would qualify as apostles (although not in the sense of the 12 who seemed to be a bit different).

    Bryan L

  15. Bryan – this is why I tend to prefer to focus more on roles and functions over titles. I think the title Apostles should be limited to the post-resurrection Twelve and Paul – while apostles are those who – as you are saying and as I think I tried to say in my OP – work with and do church planting among unreached peoples.

  16. Brian:
    I think Paul may have identified more with the other apostles, not necessarily the twelve, but I don’t think he thought those apostles were at all inferior to the 12 and other leaders in Jerusalem. I think that’s why he oes through a lot of trouble trying to show how he’s similar to them but then going on to show what really matters is the work of an apostle.

    Bryan L

  17. that’s true too. he didn’t make a big deal out of the categories we all seem to like – in fact it seems like when we try to put paul in a box it budges he way out.

  18. Bryan and Brian, I think I now agree with you both. The original Twelve were obviously a bit special in some way, but I’m not quite sure how, or if Paul is really so different from the kind of apostle we could have today.

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