Ephesians 4: 11-13
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.
Matthew 10: 1-8
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and illness.
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Heal those who are ill, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
‘Apostle’ was a word that was well known before it was ever used in the Bible. In fact ‘apostle’ was never used for religious purposes before Jesus co-opted it for the twelve disciples.
The concept of an apostle was something that was invented by the Phoenician empire and used heavily by the Romans. When the Roman army conquered a new territory or occupied a new culture (something they did with great regularity), the Emperor would send an “apostolos.” It was the name given to the lead ship in a fleet of ships sent from Rome to the new land, and especially for the individual – one man – who led that fleet. The fleet and that man, the Emperor’s envoy, had the primary mission of bringing the civilisation and culture of Rome to the new territory.
With the full authority of the Roman Emperor behind him, the apostle brought Rome’s legal system, education system, language, government, financial systems, entertainment, culture. His job was to make the new culture fit into the Roman empire, to become Roman, to the degree that when Caesar arrived, he’d feel at home in the new territory.
One day Jesus called aside His twelve disciples and note, it was only after He had given them His authority, that they were designated as apostles:
“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority….These are the names of the twelve apostles…” (Matthew 10:1-2).
So Jesus chose the name “apostolos” for those whom He called, authorised, and sent out. Therefore Apostles are fully authorised representatives or ambassadors of Jesus Christ.
What were they sent out to do?
“Jesus….gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and illness ….These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “….As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Heal those who are ill, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (vv. 1, 7-8)
The apostles role was to make the announcement of the arrival of God’s Kingdom and then to implant Heaven’s culture into the new territory. In Heaven there is no sickness, death, leprosy or demons. Therefore, when the apostles bring the Kingdom of Heaven into any community, those things are driven out and disappear. Darkness surrenders to light, death is replaced by life.
The Apostle Paul described all Christians as ‘citizens of heaven’ (Phil 3: 20) and in the same letter he would sometimes interchangeably refer to himself as both an apostle and an ambassador. For example, in Ephesians:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…” (Eph 1: 1)
“I am an ambassador in chains.” (Eph 6: 20)
And in 2 Corinthians:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus…” (2 Cor 1: 1)
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Cor 5: 20)
Therefore, when we talk about being an ‘Apostolic Church’, what we are simply thinking about is being a community of ‘sent ones’ whose primary mission is to represent Jesus well. As people who know we are called, commissioned and carry His full authority, we make wherever we go look as much like Heaven as possible. As ambassadors and emissaries of Christ, we establish the ways and culture of Heaven in our own city and community.
As Bill Johnson writes:
“God’s purpose in saving you was not simply to rescue you and keep you busy until He shipped you off to Heaven. His purpose was much bigger; He commissioned you to demonstrate the will of God, “on earth as it is in heaven,” helping to transform this planet into a place that is radiant and saturated with His power and presence. This is the very backbone of the Great Commission, and it should define your life and mine.”
We look forward to seeing you this Sunday at 9.30 am, 11.30 am and 7.00 pm.