II TIMOTHY 1:1: “This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I have been sent out to tell others about the life he has promised through faith in Christ Jesus.” NLT
OBSERVATION: As I look over the church in America today, and as I read the opening verse of II Timothy, chapter one, I am moved to ask,
WHERE ARE THE APOSTLES?
When we hear the word apostle we immediately think of the 12 apostles that walked with Jesus. There is a lot of speculation on who the 12th apostle is who replaced Judas Iscariot. I believe it was the Apostle Paul. He begins his letter to Timothy noting his calling. He was chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Yet, the apostles did not end with the 12. Paul himself is the one who gives us insight into God’s will for the function of the church in the book of Ephesians.
- “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13 NLT
There are important things to note in these verses. The gift of apostles is listed with other gifts that we are comfortable identifying with the church today – evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The two gifts that are so often missing are the gifts of prophet and apostle. However, since my focus is on the apostle, I will only comment on it at this time.
Many have noted these as the “Office” gifts. Yet, nowhere does the Bible identify different ranks of officers in the Body of Christ. In fact, Jesus made it very clear that we were never to do this!
- “But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world Lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 NLT
These are not offices. They are functions. Yes, they are leadership roles. However, a leader is called to be a greater servant. And, Paul notes the purpose of these gifts in Ephesians.
- “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”
The word equip, in the Greek language, literally means to mend nets. No one would think that the person, on the boat, mending nets, was superior to everyone else. Rather, he would be looked upon as a servant. The point I am trying to make is we have used these gifts as titles to separate the leaders from the followers. The true leaders should be on their knees mending the nets of the saints – not standing on pedestals demanding their respect.
So, what does this have to do with apostles? The gift of apostles has not passed away with the 12 apostles. It is a gift that should still be active in the church today. In fact, we need this gift desperately! Paul makes it very clear in his greeting to Timothy what the function of an apostle is.
- “I have been sent out to tell others about the life he has promised through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Paul did not view himself as the “Preeminent Apostle Paul.” He was simply one who had been sent out to tell. others about the life God had promised through faith in Christ Jesus. The pastor, teacher, evangelist, and prophet, have a more localized ministry to the local church (although God can and does expand this).
Yet, there is only one gift that is sent out – and that is the gift of the apostle.
In America today we live in a post-Christian era. Churches are struggling after the Covid pandemic. Attendance is down. And, churches still try to reach the lost the old-fashioned way, by attracting them to come to church. This is a generation that does not even consider the church as an option. They did not grow up in Sunday School. They are Biblically illiterate. If we are going to reach this generation…
SOMEONE NEEDS TO BE SENT OUT!
We need apostles who will go into the unchartered territories and bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These unchartered territories are not in Africa, they are right in our own backyard. They are in our offices, our supermarkets, our civic centers, and even in our churches! We need the gift of the apostle today more than ever.
The apostle does not nest. The apostle reaches people for Jesus Christ. They may even start a church. However, the difference between an apostle and a pastor is that the apostle will raise up leadership and then move on. They will keep going and bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have never heard. And, today in America,
THERE ARE MULTITUDES WHO HAVE NEVER CLEARLY HEARD THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!
I rejoice over every church that is planted. Yet, the rate of churches being planted today is not keeping pace with the churches that are closing. Who can change this trend – the apostle! We need the next generation of John and Charles Wesley. They traveled on horseback from town to town bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, starting churches, and raising up leaders. Think of what we could do now with cars and modern technology!
Lord, awaken the apostles in the Body of Christ. I am not speaking of those who have taken the title and put it on their business cards. I am speaking of those who have been called and sent to go out and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, start churches, and raise up local leadership. Lord, bring revival in our land by awakening the gifts You have given to the church!
LORD, AWAKEN THE APOSTLES!
In Jesus Name!