When I toured Israel in 2,000 my excitement was partially stymied by the massive, gaudy, incense-filled cathedrals constructed over every holy place. Gilding the lily was never better illustrated than by the encasing of every sacred memorial with austere, stone structures dolled up with plated gold and sprawling marble. The humble milieu of Jesus’ days had long since been plastered over.
When it comes to the office of an Apostle another stuffy cathedral has been constructed, choking out its respectable meaning. It is the misguided understanding that the office of an Apostle is still open for applications. From religious channels to the church “next door” it is common place to find preachers proudly calling each other Apostles and thereby suffocate the original purpose and power of that office.
When Judas turned out to be a false Apostle the other 11 Apostles needed to find a replacement. The requirement for a replacement was that they must have followed Christ from the “beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He [Jesus] was taken up from us” (Acts 1:22). The Apostle Paul recognized this was a requirement for Apostleship. That’s why he referred to himself as one untimely born (born late in terms of an Apostle). In 1 Cor. 15:7-8 Paul said he was the last Apostle that Jesus appeared to and, therefore, a legit Apostle; the last legit Apostle. Clearly this office was for a select few men during the launching of the church.
But why is Apostleship temporary? Once again, the Scripture is very clear. Eph. 2:20 says that the house of God (global church) is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” You don’t have to know Greek to know a foundation exists at the start of something, not 2,000 years into it. No one will find a foundation located on the 20th floor. The office of an Apostle was a temporary bridge to transfer the Gospel of Christ directly to the church (Heb. 2:3-4). It was like scaffolding on a building to be taken down upon construction.
In addition, an Apostle had God-given jurisdiction over ALL churches. Paul could write to any church, whether he had planted it or not, and tell them who to discipline, what heresy to jettison, what practices to implement, etc. Paul said that his responsibility was “for the care of all the churches” (II Cor. 11:28). Unless the church was rebelling they recognized and submitted to Paul’s universal apostleship. That’s a jurisdiction that every sensible pastor knows he does not possess. I can’t write a letter to the church down the street and tell them how they should run things. But an Apostle could and the church knew it. Clearly, the self-made Apostles we see today do not have this kind of apostolic authority.
Unfortunately there is a great hunger today to normalize the spectacular events and offices that surrounded the life of Christ and the birth of the church. I am convinced this is because people have grown bored with the simple power of the Gospel to save and sanctify (II Cor. 11:3). That repenting faith in our crucified Christ will miraculously save a broken sinner and set him on a course of blessed, holy living is enough to make the whole host of heaven sing. There is no need to resort to lofty titles and mystical experiences to fully enjoy our life in Christ.