by Rob Lundberg
There is a movement claiming to restore the offices of apostle and prophet known as The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The basic claim of the NAR is that offices of the apostles and prophets are to be a part of the church. The prooftext for the NAR’s claim is founded on Paul’s letter in the First Century church(es) in Ephesus. The text for this claim is Ephesians 4:11-12 which states, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”
During the first century of the church, there was an office of apostle and there was a spiritual gift of apostle. The office or position of apostle was held by the 12 disciples of Jesus plus Matthias (Acts 1:12-26), who took Judas’ place, and Paul. Those who held the office or position of apostle were chosen specifically by Christ (Mark 3:16-19). The replacement for Judas is seen in Acts 1:20-26. Note in this passage that Judas’ position was considered to be an office. It should also be noted that Paul was chosen by Christ (1 Corinthians 15:8-9; Galatians 1:1; 2:6-9). These men were given the task of setting up the foundation of the church. It should be understood that it was for the universal church that these men were a part of the foundation (Ephesians 2:20). The foundation of the church (universal church) was laid in the first century. This is why the office of apostle is no longer functioning.
The Spiritual Gift of the Apostle
There was also a spiritual gift of apostle (this is not to be confused with the office—they are separate). Among those who had the spiritual gift were James (1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19), Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14; 1 Corinthians 9:6), Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7), possibly Silas and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:7), and Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6, 9). This latter group had the gift of apostleship but not the apostolic “office” that was conferred upon the Twelve and Paul.
Those who had the gift of apostle, then, were those who carried the gospel message with God’s authority. The word “apostle” means “one sent as an authoritative delegate” or in the vernacular “missionary.” This was true of those who held the office of Apostle (like Paul) and those who had the spiritual gift (like Apollos). Though there are men like this today, men who are sent by God to spread the gospel, it is BEST NOT to refer to them as apostles because of the confusion this causes since many are not aware of the two different uses of the term “apostle.”
What About the Gift of Prophet?
The gift of prophet was a temporary gift given by the Christ for the laying of the foundation of the universal church. Prophets also were foundational to the universal church (Ephesians 2:20). The prophet proclaimed a message from the Lord for the believers of the first century. These believers did not have the advantage we have of having a complete Bible. The last book of the New Testament (Revelation) was not completed until late in the first century. So the Lord provided gifted men called prophets who proclaimed forth messages from God to the people until the canon of Scripture was complete.
A Biblical Understanding to the Two Terms “Prophet” and “Apostle”
It should be noted that the current teaching of the restoration of prophet and the office of apostle is far from what Scripture describes of the men who held the gift of prophet and the office of apostle. Those who teach the restoration of the office teach that the men who claim to be apostles and prophets should never be spoken against, should never be questioned, because the person who speaks against them is speaking against God.
However, the Apostle Paul commended the people of Berea for checking what he said against the Word of God to make sure he spoke the truth (Acts 17:10-11). The Apostle Paul also stated to those in Galatia that if anyone, including himself, should teach another Gospel, that person should be “accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9). In everything, Paul kept pointing people to the Word of God as the final authority. The men who claim to be apostles and prophets today have an authority problem in making themselves the final authority, something Paul and the Twelve never did.
Those who claim that to be apostle and prophets are using a faulty hermeneutic, taking something meant for the past only to be for the present. It should also be noted that Scripture refers to these holding the office of apostle in the past tense. Second Peter 3:2 and also Jude 3-4, state that the people should not stray from the message the apostles gave (past tense). Hebrews 2:3-4 also speaks in the past tense of the those who performed (in the past) signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In conclusion, until I meet someone who is able to give me evidence of seeing the risen Jesus and has the power of raising the dead, I am going to stick to a sound hermeneutic on this issue. The Scripture is clear that there are no apostles and there are no modern day prophets who can foretell the future. Beware of those who claim the converse of what we have shared today. They are false teachers and should not be given any attention.