We hear more of the word apostle and apostolic in the church today. What do these words mean? This is the first in a series of 4 articles looking at 5 Fs the apostolic (apostle) gift brings to the church. First, where in the Bible is the apostle mentioned. Here is the main passage most people refer to,
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. Ephesians 4:11-13
We note that the apostle is only 1/5 of a team of 5 gifts that Jesus gave to the church for it too mature. The other gifts are prophet, pastor, evangelist, and teacher. I do not cover these gifts in these articles.
Jesus is the head of the entire team.
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1:22-23
…you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. Ephesians 2:19-20
This is part 1 of a series of 5 articles covering the 5Fs that the apostle brings to the church. These Fs are words I have assigned to Biblical principles I see in Scripture. There are obviously not 5 Fs outlined in the Bible. These 5 Fs are foundation, father, family, fulness, and freedom.
We need to define 3 words and phrases – 1. Apostle 2. Apostolic people and 3. Apostolic Church. We hear these words in the Christian world. What do they mean? Here is my definition.
Definition of an Apostle: The literal definition of an apostle comes from a Greek word meaning ‘messenger’. Someone who has been sent to a people with a message from someone or somewhere else.
The Romans had an official position of apostle. When the Romans conquered a new land, they sent an apostle to that conquered land. Their job was to bring the culture and ways of Rome to that land. The conquered land was expected to change their culture to Roman culture in the areas they required. The people of the Bible knew of this position of Apostle. So when the Bible talked about a new office of apostle in the newly formed church, they knew what the office meant. The Biblical apostle was to bring the culture of God to the earth.
“This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ Matthew 6:9-13
An apostle and an apostolic people are given an assignment to bring a ‘slice’ of heaven into their area of influence on the earth. So a Christian apostle brings the culture of heaven to earth.
Definition of Apostolic People: A people that are working with an apostle.
Definition of Apostolic Church: Apostolic churches are churches led by an apostle and have apostolic people united in a common pursuit.
The earthly leader of this group is the apostle, followed by the prophet. This means that the senior leader in an apostolic church is not a pastor, teacher, or evangelist, but an apostle. This is one way an apostolic church is different.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets. 1 Corinthians 12:27-28b
Here is a detailed definition from history of the word apostle by Rick Renner.
During the time of the ancient Greek orator Demosthenes (384-322 BC), the word apostolos was a naval term that described an admiral, the fleet of ships that traveled with him, and the specialized crew who accompanied and assisted the admiral.(10)
The fleet would be sent out to sea on a mission to locate territories where civilization was nonexistent. Once an uncivilized region was identified, the admiral (called the apostolos) — along with his specialized crew and all their cargo and belongings — would disembark, settle down, and work as a team to establish a new community. Then they would begin the process of transforming a strange land into a replica of life as they believed it should be. Their purpose was total colonization of the uncivilized territory.
Within this special fleet of ships were both the personnel and the cargo required to establish a new culture, a new life, and a new community. When that fleet pulled up to shore, it contained workers trained to build roads, construct buildings, and teach uncivilized natives how to read, write, and function in a new kind of social order. Thus, the admiral became the team leader for the construction of a new society.
Once the job was completed, a majority of the team members got back on the ships and launched out to sea again to find another uncivilized area and repeat the entire colonization process all over again. Thus, we find that the word apostolos described an admiral or team leader who led a team to establish new communities in uncivilized territories.
(10) David Francis Bacon, Lives of the Apostles of Jesus Christ (New Haven: L. H. Young, 1836), p. 8.
We will get started with the first F – Foundation – in the next article.