I don’t know how many times I get people on Facebook and other places who use the title of “Apostle.” I get numerous emails from these so-called Apostles wanting me to support their ministry. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry have the label “Apostle” before their name. I seriously get tired of it all.
I get tired of the hubris associated with those that would label themselves such. I get tired of the religiosity of it all.
There are those that believe that there were only 12 Apostles. Apostles are the “sent ones” who represent the essence of what the church vision or mission is all about.
In John 17, Jesus always referred to the fact that He was sent by the Father to the world, which is one reason
Hebrews 3:1 refers to Jesus as our Apostle. Jesus was God’s apostle sent into the world to redeem it.
In Revelation 22:14, we see the term “the 12 apostles of the Lamb.” There will never be another apostle added to that list since there were only 12.
However, it seems evident (at least to me) that Paul was also an apostle, which means that apostolic calling was not limited to merely 12 in total.
In the New Testament, there were dozens of people identified as apostles.
It is my view that since Paul was an apostle, his apostleship transcended the churches he founded. Although Paul did not found the church in Rome, he was respected enough by the general body of Christ that he was able to write the letter to the Romans with apostolic weight and authority as if he was the one who planted it.
Hence, apostles garner a high level of respect beyond the borders of their church networks, even though they would never attempt to supplant the authority of an apostolic leader who is the founder and/or leader of another network (unless there was heresy or a gross violation of biblical ethics).
Also, Paul warned that there were some who were masquerading as apostles (2 Cor.11:13), which probably means that this term was used to identify some significant apostles who were not among the original 12.
So the issue in my eyes, is not whether or not modern-day apostles exist, but rather who have the actual characteristics of apostolic calling and authority.
Here is a list of 10 traits that you should look for in deciding if you or somebody else has an apostolic calling.
10 Traits Of True Apostles
APOSTLES LIVE SIMPLE LIVES
Apostles have chosen to live lives that are unencumbered by the things of the world. That does not mean that they must live in abject poverty, but they also do not have attachments to the things that the world is attached to.
They do not aspire to live in luxury or opulence. Their spiritual and psychological needs have already been met through their deep and abiding relationship with Christ.
They have been so satisfied with living with the person and presence of God that they count all things as dung compared to knowing Him
For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. 20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.
Because of that, they do not need to drive the most expensive cars, live in huge houses or make an absorbent salary to be content in this life.
They live in simplicity, are content with little and are not driven to pursue material possessions and pleasure.
APOSTLES GO THROUGH GREAT TRIALS
1 Corinthians 4:9
Instead, I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world – to people and angels alike.
Paul gives a picture here that being an apostle is like being a prisoner of war and that your side lost. That is a picture of great hardship and trial.
Now it doesn’t mean that he felt that the battle was lost, but that the amount of hardship was at the same level as someone who had lost.
This kind of apostolic leader must have the capacity for high-stress leadership combined with the kind of emotional maturity to deal with all sorts of difficulties that the average person could never endure.
APOSTLES HAVE AN INTENSELY INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS
Since apostles have to represent Jesus and not merely a church or denomination (understanding that all believers are called to serve Christ), but that apostles are called to do so with a higher degree and responsibility, they must know Jesus intimately and walk in His presence and power.
All of the original 12 apostles walked with Jesus personally for more than three years before they were launched into their ministry, and Paul the apostle had a personal encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).
All true apostles will spend enormous time and effort getting to know the risen savior and understanding His heart intimately.
TRUE APOSTLES WILL HAVE BOTH CALLING AND INFLUENCE BEYOND THEIR LOCAL CHURCH OR DENOMINATION
Although Paul stated that he endeavored to go and preach where there had been no proclamation of Christ, it is evident that he had influence and calling beyond where he had been and where he had been the original church planter.
His letter to the Romans is a prime example of this. He spoke and claimed apostolic authority in a place where he had yet not been and where he had not participated in the planting of that church.
Paul had a considerable influence way beyond the primary sphere of activity he was focusing on (Read 2 Cor. 10:10-14). His influence has even reached to us 2,000 years later through his inspired New Testament writings.
Since apostles of Christ represent the Lord Himself, by nature, they have to be trans-national, trans-cultural, and multi-generational and have a desire for kingdom advancement, not just the enlargement of their church networks.
APOSTLES MODEL SERVANTHOOD
So 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. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 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.”
Apostles are unassuming, do not have an entitlement mentality, have a servant’s heart, and do not lead with a top-down, autocratic approach like the rulers of the Gentiles.
They modeled Jesus’ words when He said that the greatest in the Kingdom is the one who serves.
They understand the difference between positional authority and relational authority and strive to build relational authority in people’s lives rather than demanding that their authority is recognized and followed.
APOSTLES LAY DOWN THEIR LIVES FOR THE GOSPEL AND THE SHEEP
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.
All of the original 12 apostles (except John), as well as the apostle Paul, were martyred for the gospel.
As Jesus laid down His life for the sheep, those who represent Him are willing to die daily (Rev. 12:11; Acts 20:24; Gal. 2:19-20) whether it is to their own will or literally to lose their lives.
APOSTLES DO NOT CHASE MONEY
2 Corinthians 2:17
You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.
They do not go to a place to minister just because the offerings will be good but they go only where the Jesus is leading them to go.
Paul said he did not peddle the word of God for money, and the apostle Peter warns shepherds not to minister for dishonest gain (1 Peter 5:2).
Although I believe those who labor in the word full-time are worthy of double honor and should make a living from the gospel (1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Cor. 9:14), the bottom line for apostles of Christ is the will of God, not material gain.
There have been many times in my life as a pastor and not an apostle that I have gone where I knew the money was inadequate and that it would cost me financially.
If that is admirable in a pastor, then it should be something that is required in an apostle who is looked upon with much greater honor and authority.
APOSTLES DO NOT SEEK RECOGNITION
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Apostles are not concerned about reputation or seeking public recognition.
Their identity is so strongly centered in Christ that these things have no meaning for them.
They have instead taken on the model Jesus showed and humbled themselves to the point they live the life of a servant or slave.
APOSTLES DO NOT WANT OR NEED TITLES
This is where most of today’s modern day apostles fail the test. They glory in their title which is why they label themselves as an apostle.
True apostles do not personally crave titles (they will use them when appropriate) and do not need institutional church structures to validate their ministry or calling. Their ministry confirms their calling.
Those that have to boast, do so because they aren’t really what they are bragging about. Apostles don’t need to brag, their ministry is confirmed by what they do.
2 Corinthians 12:11
You have made me act like a fool – boasting like this. You ought to be writing commendations for me, for I am not at all inferior to these “super apostles,” even though I am nothing at all.
APOSTLES ARE KINGDOM MINDED
Wanna-be apostles are out to build their little kingdoms. They are concerned with just their small piece of the pie.
It may be in a local church, a network of churches, or a denomination but it is just their little piece that they want to control.
On the other hand, true apostles have an ambassadorial call that transcends any one church, movement or denomination. Hence, even if they try to focus on one group or movement, God will continuously pull them into other church communities and/or nations to build apostolic foundations related to doctrine or kingdom life.
They will seek first the kingdom of God rather than the kingdoms of man even if they are Christian kingdoms.