Apostles and Prophets (Part 2)

When God wants to give the the Church insight into the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, He first reveals it to the apostles and the prophets, the foundation of the Church. Paul explains it to the Ephesians this way:

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 3:2-6

Now, it’s not like God never mentioned this mystery before. As we look back into the Old Testament we can see how God continuously foreshadowed the Gentile inclusion into the family of God. But there was a revelation of wisdom and insight given to the apostles and prophets, of which Paul was among, so that they could see clearly God’s desire to include Gentiles as heirs together with Israel in the promises of Jesus.

This is why apostolic leaders and prophetic leaders are so essential for the Church to thrive. They open new doors of insight into mysteries that have always been there but the rest of us just couldn’t see. It doesn’t cease to be a mystery, as if it could all be explained away, but the mystery itself just becomes clearer and more accessible. This is what the apostolic leaders did in the first few centuries of the Church as they articulated and protected the mystery of the Trinity and the mystery of the nature of Christ.

Pastors and Evangelists are focused on people. Pastors care for people and Evangelists want to see people get saved. We too often like Pastor and Evangelist led churches because we want our church to be centered around meeting the people’s needs. It makes us feel good.

Apostles and Prophets, however, are focused on heaven, specifically seeing heaven come to earth. They get insight into the mysteries of Christ that the Church so desperately needs. They see from heaven’s perspective and think with the mind of Christ. They help the Church get beyond limited human reasoning and into Godly wisdom.

Teachers function as a bridge between the people of the Church and the insight of the Apostles and Prophets, helping to make it make sense. They take a mystery and break it down into something people can more readily apply to their lives. But if the Teachers of the Church aren’t connected to Apostolic leading and Prophetic revelation, they simply end up being a bridge between people and theology. The church becomes well-informed but doesn’t experience much personal transformation into Christ-likeness. Doesn’t this describe much of the American Church?

This is why Christ gave the Church apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors and evangelists. We need all of these fivefold ministries. But we can’t forget to prioritize apostles and prophets. Paul was clear about how important this is. He wrote to the Corinthians, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers…”(1 Corinthians 12:27-28).

The focus of the Church must be about bringing the Kingdom of God to the earth and not just on catering to people’s felt need in the moment. This is why we need apostles and prophets. They keep our focus heavenward.

Apostle and Prophet

After a new Pope of the Roman Catholic Church is elected, he goes into a small red room next to the Sistine Chapel known as the “Room of Tears.” It got this name because of the deep emotion expressed by newly elected Popes once they receive this new and heavy apostolic mantle.

No true apostle in the church is self-appointed. All apostolic leaders, and there are many around the world today, are recognized (formally or informally) by the network of churches with which they associate. And all true apostles feel the heavy weight of this roll. True apostles respond with both deep gratitude and deep grieving⏤deep gratitude for the high honor that it is and deep grieving because of the awareness of the suffering and self-sacrifice involved.

Paul was known as the apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 1:5; 11:13, Galatians 2:8). He wrote to the church in Ephesus:

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

Ephesians 2:19-20

The first church was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. If the church wants to continue to have a solid foundation, it needs to be built upon the writings of the original apostles (the New Testament) and the writings of the original prophets (the Old Testament).

In addition to this, each floor in the temple that is the Church needs new apostles and new prophets to lead. These apostolic and prophetic leaders don’t create a new foundation; our foundation has already been established and our Chief Cornerstone is set. What the new apostles and prophets do for each generation of the Church is create a solid floor for the next level, the new story, to be built.

The apostle Paul said it this way:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his 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

The problem with the modern American church is that most of it only recognizes the need for three of these offices. We celebrate the office of the evangelist in people like Billy Graham and Ravi Zacharias. We celebrate the office of the teacher in people like Tim Keller, Dallas Willard, N.T. Wright and C.S. Lewis. We celebrate the office of the pastor in people like Henri Nouwen, Philip Yancey, Eugene Peterson, and Brennan Manning.

But the floor beams of the Church in this generation are warping and bending because we’ve rejected the biblical mandate to have apostles and prophets leading the way. We’re asking pastors to act like apostles and wonder why it doesn’t work out, why they get burnt out and morally compromised. We’re asking teachers to lead us into the future like prophets and wonder why we get stale doctrine instead of fresh vision.

It’s time for the Church to recognize apostolic and prophetic anointings on people’s lives just as we do with pastors, teachers and evangelists. And when those people are faithful with their anointing, we need to honor them as God moves them into the office of apostle and prophet, guiding and leading whole movements of churches.