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PROFILE OF AN APOSTLE


These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone's midweek Bible study on September 30, 2020.


Part 14 of Ephesians

Ephesians 3:1-9


REVIEW


Last week, I spent a lot of time reviewing Ephesians, so I will not repeat that here. If you are interested in the background and purpose of the letter, go to my Blog at FamousGod.com and you can read it there.


Summarizing Chapters 1-2


Let me give you a basic outline of chapters 1-2. I want you to notice two things that are really important:


First, everything is written in the plural. Yes, it all applies to individuals in Christ, but it is focused on all of us together as the church in Christ.


Secondly, while the focus seems to be on the church, Paul also lets us know about the awesome supremacy of Jesus Christ. There is no doubt that he is the source and center of our new life, and the church, and the Christian faith. Here's the outline:

  • The church's blessings in Christ - 1:1-14.

  • The church's resources in Christ - 1:15-23.

  • The church's new life in Christ - 2:1-10.

  • The church's unity in Christ - 2:11-22.


READING: EPHESIANS 3:1-9

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 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. 6 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.
7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.

PROFILE OF AN APOSTLE


In this passage, we get a detailed profile of an apostle. That's our focus this evening. I want you to leave here knowing what this very exclusive calling is all about. This is important for all of us because there is confusion about apostles today. The new apostolic movement has many in it claiming to be a restoration of the apostolic ministry for today's church.


Apostolic Calling

(Ephesians 1:1) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

Paul was specifically called and commissioned by Jesus Christ to be his messenger to the Nations/Gentiles. The risen, exalted, Lord Jesus revealed not only himself but also his message to Paul.

(Acts 9:15-16) But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
(Galatians 1:1) Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ
(Galatians 1:11-12) I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
(Galatians 1:15-16) But when God, who set me apart from my mother's womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles ...
(Galatians 2:1-2, 6) Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. ... 6 As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message.
(Galatians 2:8) For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.
(1 Corinthians 11:23) For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you ...
(1 Corinthians 15:3) For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures

Apostolic Hardships

(Ephesians 3:1) For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles ... (see also 4:1; 6:20)

Paul's role as an apostle did not result in great power, wealth, status, or prestige. Rather, it exposed him to to rejection, persecution, extreme hardships, jail, and eventual execution.


Paul summarized his hardships:

(2 Corinthians 1:8-9) We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

Scholars do not know the story behind his troubles in Asia. However, just as an example, we do know what happened during his first missionary journey described in Acts 13-14, Paul was:

  • Expelled from the region around Pisidian Antioch.

  • Threatened with stoning in Iconium.

  • Stoned and left for dead in Lystra.

Later in 2 Corinthians, Paul again summarizes his troubles that were the direct result of his faithful pursuit of his apostolic ministry as a slave (Gk. doulos) of Christ:

(2 Corinthians 11:23-29) Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Apostolic Responsibility

(Ephesians 3:2) Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you,

The word administration means a stewardship. It's a word picture drawn from the household. The master had oversight of his household, but he delegated the day-to-day running of it to a manager of steward. This person reported to and was accountable to the master of the house for the faithful performance of his duties.


In this way, Paul was communicating his sense of accountability or responsibility to Jesus for preaching the revelation (3:3) to the Nations; that is, his apostolic commission given to him by God's grace. He lived under the scrutiny of one who sees all things and knows all things.

(2 Corinthians 5:9-10) So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
(Romans 14:12) So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
(Matthew 16:27) For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
(NIV-WS) This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Apostolic Revelation

(Ephesians 3:3-5) ... that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 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.

A mystery is something God knows and keeps hidden so that we cannot know it. It is not possible for us to discover the mystery by investigation or Bible study or speculation or philosophical reasoning.

(Ephesians 3:9) ... and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
(Colossians 1:25-26) I have become the church's servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord's people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 He is the one we proclaim ...

The mystery of Christ was made known to Paul by special, divine, revelation. God disclosed the content of the mystery by his Spirit in Paul. The resulting unique insight set the apostles and prophets apart from everyone else in the church and this is why they became the foundation of the church. No wonder Paul felt the weight of his responsibility as a steward.

Apostolic Message

(Ephesians 3:6) 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.

The mystery forms the content of the apostolic message. It is a summary of Paul's teaching about the unity of the new humanity in Ephesians 2. The Gentiles/Nations are included in the church as equal partners in Christ.

(Ephesians 3:8) ... this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ,

There are three parts of the apostolic message: The Gentiles are heirs, members, sharers TOGETHER (x3) in every blessing in Christ. Everything a Jew receives in Christ a Gentile also receives. The old divisions, exclusions, and distinctions have been abolished at the cross.

  • Everyone who is united to Christ inherits the kingdom of Christ:

(Ephesians 1:13-14) When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.
(Ephesians 5:5) For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
(Colossians 1:12-14) ... and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
(1 Peter 1:4) and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you ...
  • Everyone who is united to Christ belongs in the body of Christ:

(Ephesians 4:4-6) There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
(1 Corinthians 12:12-13) Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
  • Everyone who is united to Christ receives the blessings promised to Abraham:

(Genesis 12:1-3) The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
(Galatians 3:8-9) Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Glory to God! We have access to the boundless (unsearchable, incomprehensible, beyond tracing out - see Romans 11:33; Job 9:10) riches of Christ - see Ephesians 1-3.


Apostolic Grace

(Ephesians 3:7-8) I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ.

No genuine apostle every appointed themselves to the role. As we noted above, Paul could point to the exact moment when the risen Lord Jesus appeared to him and gave him his apostolic grace (Acts 13; Galatians 1-2).


There are two reasons for the necessity of apostolic grace: 1) Paul needed grace to receive the revelation that unlocks the mystery of the Gospel, and 2) Paul needed supernatural power to carry out the apostolic responsibility of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles.


The grace of God allowed Paul to teach the content that formed the foundational doctrinal commitments of the church:

(1 Corinthians 3:10-11) By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

CONCLUSION


The New Apostolic Reformation Is Based on Faulty Understandings

"The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a movement which seeks to establish a fifth branch within Christendom, distinct from Catholicism, Protestantism (which includes Pentecostalism), Oriental Orthodoxy, and Eastern Orthodoxy. The movement largely consists of churches nominally or formerly associated with Pentecostal denominations and Charismatic movements but have diverged from traditional Pentecostal and Charismatic theology in that it advocates for the restoration of the lost offices of church governance, namely the offices of prophet and apostle."


(Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Apostolic_Reformation)


Given the unique profile of the New Testament apostles (see all the above) as the foundational teachers of the church, I cannot believe that there have been or ever will be any successors to the apostles.


Those claiming apostleship today cannot match the unique calling and revelation that the first apostles received from the risen, exalted, Lord Jesus. They may be gifted leaders with large followings, but they are not authorized to expand on the apostolic foundation.


We Build our Lives on Jesus and the New Testament'

We hold the New Testament apostles in high esteem as servants and messengers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that their writings preserved in the New Testament are revelation given to them by Jesus. This gives those writings unique authority as the Word of God. Therefore, we build our lives and our churches on the Lord Jesus Christ and the teachings of the New Testament.


APPENDIX


APOSTLE


Apostle is a transliteration of the Greek noun apostolos, meaning a delegate or authorized messenger or someone sent to deliver a message. In the first century, it sometimes meant an ambassador.


There are three kinds of apostle mentioned in the New Testament:


Our Apostle, Jesus Christ

(Hebrews 3:1) Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.


The Apostles of Jesus Christ

The Twelve. The title originally referred to the twelve disciples who were specifically called and set apart by Jesus to represent him as witnesses of his Person, teaching, ministry, and work (crucifixion, resurrections, etc).

(Luke 6:12-13) One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.
(Mark 3:14-15) 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons.

In Revelation 21:14, the Twelve are called the Apostles of the Lamb. Their message is the foundation of the church in this age (Ephesians 2:20) and in the one to come (Revelation 21:14). They are the pillars of the church (Galatians 2:9) and will be assessors at the Messianic judgment (Matthew 19:28).


The early church was devoted to the apostle's teaching (Acts 2:42), which the apostles received from Jesus (Acts 28:18-20) or from the Spirit of truth:

(John 16:12-15) “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.

It is because they are messengers of Christ's teaching that they are the foundation and the pillars of the church.


Matthias. Matthias may have served as an apostle. His story is found in Acts 1:15-26, where he was selected by prayer and throwing the dice (see Proverbs 16:33) to replace Judas. He is never mentioned again in the New Testament.


In the Acts 1 passage, Peter outlines two of the qualifications of an apostle of Jesus Christ: someone who (1) was with Jesus throughout his whole ministry, which began with his baptism by John, and (2) saw the risen Lord.


Saul-Paul. Paul emphasized that the risen Jesus called him and set him apart to be an authorized messenger and representative of the crucified and risen Lord (Acts 9:1-30; Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:15; 2:8; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 Thessalonians 2:4-9). Paul was the apostle to the Nations/Gentiles (Acts 9:15), while Peter was the apostle to the Jews (Galatians 2:7-9).

(Acts 9:15-16) But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
(Galatians 1:15-16) But when God, who set me apart from my mother's womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles ...
(Galatians 2:8) For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.

The Apostles of the Churches: Barnabas, James, Andronicus, Junia, Silas, Others

Several others are referred to as apostles, but maybe not in the same called, authorized, sense. Some scholars refer to them as apostles of the church(es) rather than apostles of Jesus Christ:

(1 Corinthians 15:3-8) 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
(Galatians 1:19) I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord's brother.
(Acts 14:14) But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting:
(Romans 16:7) Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
(1 Thessalonians 2:6) We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we (Paul and Silas) could have asserted our authority.
(2 Corinthians 8:23) As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.

EDNT - Eerdman's Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament

Luke generally uses the term “apostles” in Acts to designate the Twelve (1:2,12,26, etc.), though he twice uses it for Paul and Barnabas (14:4,14). The requirements for this latter broader category of “apostle”-a position that Paul, Barnabas (14:4,14), James (Gal 1:19), and others also occupied-were seeing the resurrected Lord and receiving a direct commission from him (1 Cor 9:1; Gal 1:1). This rules out the possibility of apostles, in this sense, beyond the first generation.


The calling occurred in a christophany (1 Cor 9:1; 15:9; Gal 1:12, 16), during which, simultaneously, the content of the gospel was established (Gal 1:12f.; Roloff 44f.).

In 1 Cor 1:1 and 2 Cor 1:1 Paul points to the θέλημα, the communication of the divine will which comes from outside himself and determines his course: he is not an apostle of his own will and certainly not dependent on any other human will (Gal 1:1; 2 Cor 3:5); a necessity to preach the gospel is laid upon him (1 Cor 9:16).


The one who sends is master, the apostle a δοῦλος ("servant": Rom 1:1; Phil 1:1; 2 Cor 4:5) who is obligated to obedience (Gal 1:10; 1 Thess 2:4, 6; cf. Bühner 123-27, 207-9).

Paul assures the recipients of the gospel that he speaks only in accordance with his commission and not from motives of human deceit (1 Thess 2:3f.): he does not seek honor from human beings (v. 6) even though as an apostle he participates in the dignity of the one who sends him (v. 7). The appeal to the one who sends him (vv. 4-6; Rom 11:13; 1 Cor 9:16f.; 2 Cor 3:6ff.; cf. John 17:4f.) and the indication of his subordination to the gospel and its recipients (1 Thess 2:7-12; 1 Cor 9:19ff.) are united in his renunciation of a dignified appearance (1 Thess 2:7) and in his renunciation of apostolic rights (1 Cor 9:18; 2 Cor 11:7).


In the apostolic service of the glory of God (Rom 11:13; 2 Cor 3-5) the apostle subordinates his own person (1 Cor 9:12, 18) in order to become one with the message and the one who sends him (1 Cor 9:23; 2 Cor 4:4-6).


By grace God has enabled him to perform this service (1 Cor 3:10; 2 Cor 3:6; 4:1; Rom 12:3, 6; 15:15; Gal 1:15, 2:9; Eph 3:2, 7f.) and is present in his ministry (1 Cor 15:9f.; Rom 15:18; Gal 2:8). Over against the demands and obstinacy of his adversaries the apostle is free (1 Cor 9:1); only God can judge his obedience as an apostle (1 Cor 4:3f.).


As an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul is at the same time also sent by God (Rom 15:15f.; 2 Cor 5:18-20). Paul combines the terminology of heavenly glory, which unites God and Christ (2 Cor 5:19) and is given to the apostle as well (4:4-6), with the juridical model of substitution (Cohn 393ff.; Gerhardsson 118; Roloff 122f.; Bühner 250f.).

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