Apostles in Modern Times?

A Review and Evaluation

of the Charismatic Doctrine

on the Office of Apostle

 A Research Paper in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for

THEO 510 (Fall 2013)

Survey of Theology

Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary

Rick Mangrum (ID# 21757355)

October 13, 2013

TABLE OF CONTENTS

THESIS…………………………………………………………………………………….3

INTRODUCTION………………………………………………………………………….            3         

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF CHARISMATIC THEOLOGY…………………….          3

REVIEW OF SELECT CHARISMATIC THEOLOGIANS AND

THEIR TEACHING ON THE OFFICE OF APOSTLE……………………………………6

EVALUATION OF THE CHARISMATIC TEACHINGS

ON THE OFFICE OF APOSTLE………………………………………………………….            10       

CONCLUSION………………………………………………….………………………….11

BIBLIOGRAPHY…………………………………………….…………………………….13

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THESIS

            The church office of Apostle as described in the New Testament existed only in the time of Jesus and no longer exists.  The requirements of the Great Commission can be fulfilled without that office that was necessary in the time of Christ.

INTRODUCTION

            The Apostles played the most significant human roles in the ministry of Jesus.  The question of whether that function still exists today or was only present in the time of Jesus is a highly debated and discussed topic.  This work will present the views of the charismatic movement that support the concept of modern day Apostleship.  An historical summary of charismatic theology will first be presented.  The views on the office of Apostle by two leading charismatic theologians will then be discussed.  An evaluation of those views will be presented followed by the conclusion.

            Finding one’s own specific role in God’s kingdom is a necessary step in fulfilling His will.  An understanding of the possible roles, such as the role or office of Apostle, is a good first step. The office of Apostle may be the most well-known of all biblical appointments.  “A clear understanding of it lies at the foundation of a correct understanding of the Gospel.”[1] This work will attempt to assist the reader in that step.                  

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF CHARISMATIC THEOLOGY

            The office of Apostle has long been associated with the charismatic movement.  One of the movement’s key elements is the idea that “all of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in               1 Corinthians 12:8-10 are meant for the church today.”[2]  Understanding the historical background of the movement will help lay a foundation of understanding for this topic.                           The charismatic movement grew from the Pentecostal movement which began in 1906 in the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, California.[3]  In this revival meeting, led by Charles Parham, the “gift of tongues” was reportedly exhibited by many, both speaking and interpreting.[4]  This event was picked up by local media and the practice began to spread.  It was known as the “Pentecostal Explosion” by many and moved across the United States from west to east in just a few years.[5]  It evolved into a belief system based initially on the teachings of John Wesley. Over time it became a very personal, experience-oriented movement.  At its foundation was the speaking of tongues and the modern application of the New Testament’s gifts of the Holy Spirit.

            The charismatic movement emerged in 1959 and built on the original Pentecostal movement, grew into what some called “the most vital movement in American religion.”[6] Like the Pentecostal movement, its beginning can be traced to a single person and event.  In 1960, an Episcopal priest named Dennis Bennett announced to his congregation in Van Nuys, California that he had been “baptized by the Holy Spirit” and began speaking in tongues in his Sunday sermon.[7]  Unlike the Pentecostal movement which had begun in a street revival, this movement began in a mainstream, national denomination.  Like the previous movement, the charismatic movement spread across the country, but this time in established churches. It spread rapidly.  In 1959 the number of Pentecostals was estimated at 25 million worldwide.  By 2005, the number of charismatics was estimated at 553 million.[8]

It took its name from the Greek word for spiritual gifts, charismata.[9]  Like the Pentecostal movement its foundation is the spiritual gifts of the New Testament, but it takes the theology further.  While the Pentecostal movement believed that spiritual gifts could be present in the life of every believer, the charismatic movement taught that they were present and that these gifts were a proof or mark of true believers. 

Charismatic theology has ten basic elements.[10]  Many are in common with other Christian belief systems but have additional requirements.  The first element is a Personal Belief in Jesus, similar to most other Christian theologies.  Second is the belief of the Power of the Holy Spirit, given to believers at the moment they accept Christ.  The Holy Spirit is the all-powerful link to God, available to all believers.  The third element is True Worship, a higher level of worship available only to those who are believers.  The fourth element is Prayer.  A charismatic believes that believers pray through the Holy Spirit to God.  Since the Holy Spirit is perfect, their prayers will also be perfect and always heard and answered.  The fifth element of charismatic theology is the one most relevant to the topic of Apostleship, the Sign of Gifts.  Charismatics believe that not only are all of the New Testament spiritual gifts present today, they are a requirement of any successful body of believers.   Often the most discussed gifts are speaking in tongues and healing, but all others are also present and required.

New Revelations is the sixth element of the movement.  All believers can hear God directly through the Holy Spirit and are given direct and personal revelations from God.  This element of belief is not limited to leaders or others called to specific offices in the church.    Studying and understanding the Bible is the seventh element.  A belief in modern Demonic Activity is the eighth element. Anticipation in the Coming of Christ is the ninth element.  Personal Evangelism is the tenth element. 

While the charismatic movement is not an organized religion or denomination, these ten elements are present in most churches and significant groups within the movement.  The relevance of the fifth element to the subject of the Office of Apostle will now be examined.  The writings and beliefs of two leading charismatic theologians will be summarized and discussed in how they support the idea of modern Apostleship.  An evaluation of their writings and beliefs will then be presented.

REVIEW OF SELECT CHARISMATIC THEOLOGIANS AND THEIR TEACHINGS ON THE OFFICE OF APOSTLE

            C. Peter Wagner is a well-known and recognized leader of the charismatic movement especially in relation to its beliefs on modern Apostleship.  He holds degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of South Carolina.[11]  He has served as a foreign missionary in Bolivia and a professor of theology at Fuller Seminary.  He has written seventy books and hundreds of articles, many on the subject of modern Apostleship, such as Apostles and Prophets, The Foundation of the Church.

            Wagner’s position is simple: God created the offices of Apostle and Prophet and intends that both exist until his church is perfected.[12]  The biblical support for his position is based on passages that could support the modern application of the idea of these two offices.  He believes that “the Church’s foundation is apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.”  Since the church is still being perfected, or not yet completed, the function of the foundation and the cornerstone are still present and necessary.

            Wagner dismisses the discussion of modern apostleship from the perspective of whether it is valid or invalid.  “There has never been a time in Church history when the Church has been without apostles.”[13] The original twelve plus others such as Paul are well known because of their inclusion in the New Testament writings.  Apostles that followed were less known, but just as important in the continued building of the church through the centuries after the death of Christ.  Wagner supports the premise that Ephesians 4:11-13 states that upon the ascension of Christ into Heaven, Paul’s writing is clear that until Christ returns again, the roles or offices of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher are established.[14]  Wagner also supports his position by saying that all successful churches since the time of Christ have had these roles plainly visible in their structure and process.[15]

            Wagner outlines that the role of the modern Apostle is to take the Word of God and through the leadership of the Holy Spirit, determine how best to judge, evaluate, strategize and execute the building of the church and eventually the evangelism of the world.[16]  Partnering, either directly or indirectly, with a modern Prophet is necessary for every Apostle.   Similar to Jesus calling each of the original twelve personally, Wagner states that “apostolic authority is never taken:  it is always given.”[17]  The role of Apostle is the result of being called by God into that role.

            In summary, Wager teaches that the question of the validity of Apostles in the modern church is a non-question.  From his point of view, the Bible teaches that this role, along with others, will exist until the church is perfected or until Christ returns to Earth.  His position is that our energy should be spent better understanding the detail of the role and how to execute it rather than question its validity.

            Bill Hamon is another well-known and recognized leader of the charismatic movement with strong support for the concept of modern Apostleship.  He has written many books on the subject including Apostles and Prophets and the Coming Moves of God.  He has written and spoken on the subject of modern day Apostles since 1991.  He has also founded an internet based ministry and training center for his beliefs, Christian International Ministries.

            Hamon expands on the ideas of Wagner.  His beliefs toward modern day Apostles build on the “fivefold ministries” of Ephesians 4 of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher.  His teaching is that in the end days of life on Earth, nearing the second coming of Christ, the apostles and prophets will be “fully restored.”[18]  They will have the full authority and power of the Holy Ghost, just as the original apostles and prophets.  The result will be that “more souls will be saved in the last one hundred years of the Church than have been saved during all the other years of its existence.”[19]

            Hamon teaches that nowhere in Scripture does it clearly teach that the role of apostle was only for the days of the original Church. He notes that the significant amount of scripture devoted to the role of apostles in the New Testament was because it was a “new ministry” to that day.[20]  This role had never before existed.  The writers of the New Testament were detailed in their descriptions of the role to help teach others how it should be done.  His writings detail that the original Apostles were never meant to be the only ones, rather a pattern for all others to follow.  The work of Jesus was intended to go on “the same yesterday, today and forever.”[21]  Neither the work nor the office or role of apostle ended with Christ left the Earth.

            Hamon further illustrates the need for modern apostles using the story of Acts 15:1-6.[22]  In this biblical story, a council of men met to discuss an important matter, make a decision and resolve it.  Hamon teaches that this model of Apostolic Church Councils is the model intended for the post-Jesus church, then and today.[23]  It is led by Apostles. 

            Modern day apostles are required to properly run the Church, but also necessary to the last days and earthly preparation for Christ’s second coming, according to Hamon.  When the “final restoration” of the apostles occurs, the end will be near.[24]  We will be able to see the role of apostle being restored and see the “true voice of God through His holy apostles” starting to occur if we are watching carefully.[25]

            Wagner and Hamon differ on many fine points of modern apostleship but are in unison in their belief of the role.  They see it as a natural extension of biblical teachings on the subject based on the times of the life of Christ.  Jesus created the role of Apostle to use in his time for the foundation of the Church and as an important part of the growth of the Church that would occur after his ascension into Heaven.  The role is as relevant today as it was during the life of Christ on Earth.  An evaluation of their teachings and belief on the office of Apostle will now be presented.

EVALUATION OF THE CHARISMATIC TEACHING

ON THE OFFICE OF APOSTLE

            This evaluation of the teachings of the two charismatic leaders begins by examining not what they say or claim as support for their position, but by examining what they do not say.  The positions of both Wagner and Hamon are built largely on the passage in Ephesians 4:11-13.  That passage does indicate that the roles indicated, including apostle, were given or established by Christ for the building of his Church until it was completed.  The passage does not clearly say that those roles would continue indefinitely, but that they were present at the time of Christ’s ascension into Heaven.  There is an inference to the roles continuing until the Church is completed, but it is indirect at best. 

            While the definition of apostle used in this passage fits the classic apostole term used for the office, a more official term than is sometimes used, there is no clear claim of longevity.[26]  There is also no link to the qualifications for the role most commonly accepted by most theologians.  Those qualifications, as few as three and as many as seven, clearly indicate that a true Apostle is one who lived at the time of Christ.[27]  The three most commonly accepted qualifications all have multiple biblical references in their support.  First, an Apostle lived at the time of Christ and was eyewitnesses to his resurrection (Acts 1:22, 22:14, I Corinthians 9:1).  Second an Apostle was “specifically selected by the Lord or the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 10:5, Luke 6:13, Acts 1:26, 9:15, 22:14-15, 21:16).[28]  Third, an Apostle could do miracles (Mark 3:15, 16:17-20, Luke 9:1-2, John 14:22,26, 15:24-27, 16:13, Acts 2:43, 4:29-31,33, 5:12, 15-16, 6:6, 8:14-18, 19:6, 2 Timothy 1:6, Romans 1:11, Hebrews 2:3-4). Part of what the two charismatic positions do not say in their doctrine is that the first of these three qualifications eliminate any modern day role of Apostle.  There is no biblical support for the idea of a succession plan for the original Apostles.  “From the nature of their duties there could be no succession.”[29]  Biblical support for the role of modern day Apostle is indirect and unclear.

            In both the writing of Wagner and Hamon there is no substantive discussion of these qualifications or their application or impact to the idea of modern day apostleship.  What is also not said in their positions is that the role of church leader in the New Testament was more clearly applied to the elders and bishops than to the Apostles.  “The New Testament uses the terms elder and bishop repeatedly for the leaders of the early churches.”[30]  Paul used the terms elder and overseer (Titus 1:5).  The church leaders were not Apostles but roles with other names.

            Wagner and Hamon both use as support for their position the fact that the office of Apostle was not limited to the original twelve in the days of Jesus.  There were more than the twelve original Apostles, as many as twenty four.[31]  In addition to the original group, Matthias replaced Judas.  Also mentioned in the Bible as Apostles were Paul, Barnabas, James, Silas, Apollos, Andronicus, Epaphroditus, Junias, Timothy, and two that were unnamed.  All of these fit the traditional three qualifications of Apostle.  The office of Apostle did go past the original twelve in biblical accounts.  The question at hand is whether this office applies to the modern day church and if there are Apostles present today beyond those mentioned in Scripture.  The conclusion of this writer will now be presented. 

 

 

CONCLUSION

The office of Apostle is not applicable to the modern day Church based on the research presented in this work.  While the concept of an Apostle leading the work of Christ today is attractive and appealing on many levels, there is little biblical support for the idea.  The desire of every church would be to be led by a modern day Peter or Matthew if that was possible.  The biblical evidence is that the original office of Apostle was intended to fulfill the mission of establishing the original Church.  That process began during the life of Jesus on Earth.  While the development of the Church still continues today, the leadership of that process has moved past the original Apostles to others.  The modern role is no less important but not covered by the office of Apostle as established by Jesus.

This is one of many topics regularly debated by theologians, both charismatic and conservative.  Some consider debate on this topic both “startling and disconcerting.”[32]  This writer finds the discussion enlightening and motivating.  As long as all those involved are focused on the same goal the debate is positive in that it moves us all deeper into understanding the life, work and will of Jesus.  He created the office of Apostle as a stone in the foundation of the early Church.  The original twelve plus a few others made the path for all others to follow.  Not all agree that the office of Apostle ended with the earthly generation of Jesus.  The biblical evidence supports this conclusion.

There should be only one source of the solution for debates such as these.   “The Bible is the only written document on this planet that is the standard of authority in life and in religion.”[33] There is no conclusive biblical evidence to support modern Apostleship.

 

           

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Apologetics Press Website, http://apologeticspress.org/articles/2279, Accessed September 5, 2013.

Blueletter Bible Institute Website, http://www.blueletterbible.org, Accessed 5/20/2012.

Christenson, Larry, “The Charismatic Movement:  An Historical and Theological Perspective”,     Lutheran Renewal Website,          http://www.lutheranrenewal.org/The_Charismatic_Movement2.pdf, Accessed September 21, 2013.

Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology, Chicago, IL:  Moody Publishers, 2008.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology, Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Academic Press, 1998.

Fee, Gordon D.  Gospel and Spirit:  Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics, Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Academic Publishing, 1991.

Grudem, Wayne. Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1996.

Hamon, Bill.  Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God, Santa Rosa Beach, FL:   Christian International Press, 1997.

Hayden, William L.  Church Polity, Chicago, IL:  S.J. Clarke, 1894.

Malphurs, Aubrey. Being Leaders:  The Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership, Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books, 2003.

Moriarty, Michael G. The New Charismatics:  A Concerned Voice Responds to Dangerous New    Trends, Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publishing, 1992.

Synan, Vinson.  The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States, Grand Rapids, MI:        Erdmans, 1971.

Malphurs, Aubrey. Being Leaders, The Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan,  2003.

Wagner, C. Peter.  Apostles and Prophets, The Foundation of the Church, Ventura, CA:  Regal Publishing, 2000

Wagner, C. Peter.  “C. Peter Wagner Explains the New Apostolic Reformation,” Talk to Action    Website, (May 28, 2009.  Accessed September 24, 2013,            http://www.talk2action.org/story/2009/5/28/19033/8502.

 



[1] William L. Hayden, Church Polity, (Chicago, IL:  S.J. Clarke, 1894),  p19.

[2] Michael G. Moriarty, The New Charismatics:  A Concerned Voice Reponds to Dangerous New Trends, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1992),  p72.   

[3] Moriarty,  ibid, p21.

[4] Vinson Synan,  The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States (Grand Rapids:  Erdmans, 1971), p95.

[5] Moriarty, The New Charismatics, p29.

[6] Larry Christenson, “The Charismatic Movement:  An Historical and Theological Perspective,” Lutheran Renewal Website, (September, 2013): p1, accessed September 21, 2013. http://www.lutheranrenewal.org/The_Charismatic_Movement2.pdf.

[7]Moriarty, The New Charismatics, p69.

[8] Christenson, “The Charismatic Movement,” p3.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Moriarty, The New Charismatics,  p71-73.

[11] C. Peter Wagner, Apostles and Prophets, The Foundation of the Church, (Ventura, CA:  Regal Publishing, 2000): back cover.

[12] Wagner, ibid, p8.

[13] Wagner, ibid, p19.

[14] Wagner, ibid, p8.

[15] C. Peter Wagner, “C. Peter Wagner Explains the New Apostolic Reformation,”  Talk to Action Website, (May 28, 2009): accessed September 24, 2013, http://www.talk2action.org/story/2009/5/28/19033/8502.

[16] C. Peter Wagner, Apostles and Prophets, The Foundation of the Church, (Ventura, CA:  Regal Publishing, 2000), p101.

[17] Wagner, ibid, p5.

[18] Bill Hamon, Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God, (Santa Rosa Beach, FL:  Christian International Press, 1977), p2.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Hamon,  ibid, p24.

[21] Hamon,  ibid, p29.

[22] Hamon,  ibid, p43.

[23] Hamon,  ibid, p48.

[24] Hamon,  ibid, p222.

[25] Hamon,  ibid, p223.

[26] Blue Letter Bible Institute Website, accessed September 5, 2013,  http://www.blueletter.org.

[27] Dave Miller, “Modern Day Apostles,” Apologetics Press Website, accessed September 5, 2013, http://apologeticspress.org/articles/2279.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Hayden,  Church Polity,  p 21.

[30] Aubrey, Malphurs,  Being Leaders:  The Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books, 2003)  p22.

[31] Hamon,  Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God, p5.

[32] Miller, “Modern Day Apostles,” ibid.

[33] Ibid.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.