The Apostolic Reformation
During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the ministries of the apostle and prophet came into prominence in the body of Christ. Up to this time many denominations and Christian groups no longer recognized these ministries, in particular the ministry of the apostle. The Word of God has never declared the cessation of the ministries of the apostle or the prophet. This discourse will be primarily on the ministry of the apostle and what many have entitled, “The Apostolic Reformation.” For further information on the “prophetic movement”, please see “Where We Stand on the Prophetic Movement.”
The classic scripture to prove that the ministry of the apostle is still in existence today is Ephesians 4:11-16.
V11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers,
V12 For the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
V13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
V14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
V15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
V16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
The ministries of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher are gifts to the body of Christ. They are referred to as the “Five-fold Ministry’, or the “Ascension Gifts.” The word “gifts” from Ephesians 4:8 is the Greek word “doma”, meaning presents. These are not titles or offices that men or women occupy. They are individuals appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ for a particular function in the body of Christ. When we say “body of Christ”, we are referring to the universal body of Christ. It is taught in some Christian circles today that every individual local church must have this five-fold ministry to be in place in order to be complete or in accordance with the New Testament. This is a doctrine that does not coincide with scripture. We will deal with this later. Right now we want to establish the validity of the present day apostle and his function.
The apostle, like the other ascension gifts are presents to the body of Christ. His main function is for the perfecting or equipping of the saints so that the saints can do the work of the ministry. In many churches today the work of the ministry is taught to be ushering, greeting, hospitality, children’s ministry, music, etc., all of which goes on inside the four walls of a building once or twice a week. This is not the intention of the passage of scripture in Ephesians 4:12. We will look at this in detail later, but the work of the ministry is the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is John 14:12, doing the works and greater works than Jesus did when He walked this earth. So first and foremost, the apostle must be a teacher, a preacher, and a demonstrator of the Word of God in order to equip the saints. When the saints are trained and equipped, then the body of Christ is edified or built up.
In verses 13-15 of Ephesians 4 there is a key in proving that the ministry of the apostle is still for today. The apostle is to be in the body of Christ until we all come in the unity of the faith and full and accurate knowledge of the Son of God. We would have to say that there has never been more division throughout the body of Christ as there is today. The reason for this is that Christians have not comprehended the full and accurate knowledge of the Son of God. For this we need the five-fold ministry, but in particular the church needs to return to the foundational teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Great Apostle, and to the foundation of the apostle and prophets by which the church is built upon. It is important at this juncture to point out that apostles or any other ascension gift does not add to or take away from the canon of scripture today. Present day apostles do not lay any more foundation pertaining to scripture than is already laid down. The Bible is complete. It is final. Any “new revelation” outside the boundaries of the written Word of God is simply that – outside the boundaries of the Word of God and should be dismissed. However, until there is unity or oneness in the universal body of Christ and until the saints come into the full and accurate knowledge of the Son of God, there will be apostles in the body of Christ.
The verse in Ephesians 4:13 goes on to say that we will have apostles until we all come unto perfect men and then defines “perfect men.” That is the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. In other words, the definition of perfect men is the standard height of Christ’s own perfection. That means to the measure of the fullness and completeness found in none other than Jesus Christ Himself. The fifteenth verse of Ephesians 4 says that we are to grow up “into” Him. Again, we will deal with this later. The “Apostolic Reformation”, though headed in the right direction, has not gone this far. We understand that the New Creation, in the realm of the spirit, on the inside is like Christ. But to manifest the person and character of Christ is far below the standard as presented by the majority of preachers and teachers today, yet it is the standard by which Jesus and the writers of the New Testament epistles encourages us to come up to.
Finally, we will have apostles in Christ’s body until we are no more like children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. We will have apostles until the whole body is fitly and compactly joined together and functioning to its maximum capacity. There is only one interpretation of the Word of God. With all the camps today and all the differences of doctrine even within each individual camp, it is clear that the apostle is here until Jesus returns to this earth and we all have glorified bodies.
I) The Apostle – Commission, Duties, and Power
The word apostle, Strongs #652 apostolos –ap-os-tol-os from #649 a delegate; spec. an ambasasador of the gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ (“apostle”) (with miraculous powers): – apostle, messenger, he that is sent.
This definition, though it might be argued by some, is what we in John G. Lake Ministries would be what we define a believer to be. All believers according to Mark 16:15 are sent and commissioned by Christ. All believers according to John 14:12 and Acts 1:8 are equipped with miraculous powers. All believers according to 2 Corinthians 5:20 are ambassadors for Christ. So you can see that to qualify or function as an apostle there has to be more than being sent with a commission to miraculously demonstrate Jesus Christ as an ambassador of Him.
V14 And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,
V15 And to have power to heal sickness, and to cast out devils:
There would be no apostle today if they had to be physically with Jesus in the flesh. To be with Him in the spirit is for us today. To preach, to heal, and to cast out devils, again, is for all believers. What sets apostles apart from every other Christian are his responsibilities and duties, not his power. This of course would be argued by the majority of the body of Christ today, even those in the “Apostolic Reformation”, but nonetheless it is the position of Jesus Christ and the Word of God.
The apostle establishes a work. He has a specific commission by the Holy Spirit with a specific message and/or task to not only establish a work, but also after the work is established he may exercise oversight over those works (churches) that he establishes. He may also appoint another five-fold minister to oversee or be in authority over the work that he established.
V1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
V2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
V3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
V4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
! Corinthians 9:1-2
V1 Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?
V2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.
Acts 20:17-21, 28-32
V17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
V18 And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,
V19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:
V20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,
V21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
V28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
V29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
V30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
V31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
V32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
At this point in time, Paul was on his way to Jerusalem. He is addressing the church in Ephesus on his second missionary journey. The purpose of Paul’s second missionary journey was to visit the initial churches or works that he established as well as planting more. He summoned the elders and instructed them to feed or shepherd or pastor the churches that he had founded. Paul and the elders knew that they would see each other no more.
2 Corinthians 12:12
Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
No person can claim to be an apostle of God without signs, wonders, and mighty deeds.
So from the above passages of scripture we can conclude that the marks of an apostle are first and foremost a preacher and teacher of the Word. The apostle will show signs of outstanding spiritual gifts. He will have a deep personal experience with God. Lastly and most importantly he will have power and ability to establish churches and be able to provide adequate spiritual leadership over these churches or others that he is appointed to oversee.
II) The Apostolic Reformation
As we have previously stated in the introduction, the Apostolic Reformation came to the forefront in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The word “apostolic” means pertaining to or according to the apostles. The word “reformation” means a making over for the better. A reform is a change that gives new form to things; when such a change has been made, a reformation has been effected. A prime example is the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. The Protestant Reformation was a change from the then dominant theology of Roman Catholicism, which included rituals and indulgences as a means of obtaining eternal life to justification by faith, an individual belief that Jesus Christ and Him crucified and raised from the dead is the basis for eternal life. Thus we can define the Apostolic Reformation as a change to reform things the way that the Lord Jesus Christ and the initial apostles had intended.
There are four main points that we will discuss in this discourse that stand out from the Apostolic Reformation. One has already been discussed. They are:
1. The Restoration and Emphasis on Apostles and Prophets
2. The Saints Movement
3. A World View of Transformation
4. Apostolic Authority and Church Government
We have already dealt with the ministry of the prophet and the prophetic movement. (See “The Prophetic Movement”) We have also dealt with the validity of the present day apostle and his function. The rest of our discussion will deal with the Saints’ Movement, Apostolic Transformation’s World View, and Apostolic Church Government.
A) The Saints Movement
The “saints movement” is what we believe at Dominion Grace Ministries to be the move of God that we are presently in, though small in number, it is picking up momentum and gaining throughout the body of Christ. No longer are churches with an “Apostolic Reformation” mindset internally focused. The intent is to empower each and every believer to do the works of Christ. We thank God for the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Word of Faith Movements that re-introduced the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the Believer’s Authority. The standard teaching in those great moves of God was that the whole body of Christ collectively has the same anointing of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will adamantly say that NO WHERE IS THIS IDEA TAUGHT IN SCRIPTURE. Jesus Himself told us in John 14:12 that the individual believer that believed on Him would do the same works that he did and greater works than He did.
Most spirit-filled groups teach delegated power and delegated authority. In other words, they teach limits to God’s authority, power and gifting. The Apostolic Reformation has gone beyond where the Word of Faith Movement has stopped and that is inherent power, inherent ability, and the ability to operate in all the gifts of the Holy Spirit for each and every believer. We are not opposed to any particular group or camp of so named believers nor do we take a position of superiority. We only mention names as a point of reference. This is not necessarily the universal belief across all Apostolic Reformed groups. We at Dominion Grace Ministries do believe strongly in the apostolic teaching that all believers can do the works of Christ. We also maintain that anything less than the standard of Jesus Christ as stated in Ephesians 4:11-16 is simply that, less than the standard set up in God’s Word.
We believe in the local church, but the vision and ministry for every believer is outside the walls of the local church for individuals and groups of believers to “demonstrate” Jesus Christ to the world. We maintain that the scriptures do not teach that any five-fold minister is to operate in any more power, gifting, or authority over the enemy than any born-again believer. As stated earlier, the general definition of an apostle, as one sent by God as an ambassador of Jesus Christ with miraculous power is for all believers. It is noteworthy to mention that not all in the “saints movement” hold this position of understanding. There are some that maintain a “higher” anointing with greater gifting and power for apostles and prophets. We are not opposed to them. However, we at Dominion Grace Ministries do not hold this position. All believers can and should expect the same results and greater than the Lord Jesus Christ.
B) A World View of Apostolic Transformation
Through the ages, many in Christianity have focused only on the growth of the local church. Again, we believe in the local church, as it is a microcosm of the universal church. The Apostolic Reformation has opened up a world- view through the “saints movement” and apostolic networking to take the world for Jesus. When we say “apostolic transformation” we mean making earth like heaven. We mean God’s kingdom here and now. This has nothing to do with an individual’s or group’s end time theology. It is merely a reformation to what Jesus and the apostles understood and taught what our view and mission should be. Jesus told us to pray God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. He told us to go into all the world and make disciples. We take very literally the great commission of preaching the gospel in all the world and destroying the works of the devil with utmost respect to our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, you will find many local churches that hold this apostolic transformation mindset as world oriented. Individual believers tend to not only be evangelically inclined in their own local communities, but also they are intent on going as short-term and long-term missionaries to foreign lands to preach the gospel, heal the sick, and operate in the miraculous power of God.
Power Evangelism is the norm in those that have understood apostolic transformation. In the past, it was taught that only believers could receive from God, that one had to be born-again for God to do anything for them. In other words, the thought is, don’t pray for someone to be healed until you first get them saved. The Apostolic Reformation has made it clear though the demonstration of the “saints movement” and a world- view that the greatest tool of evangelism for unbelievers is demonstrating the power of God by healing their bodies first.
C) Apostolic Authority and Church Government
Many denominational churches operate in such a way that each local church is made up of a board of elders in which the pastor is either one of those elders or separate from the board of elders. The board of elders tends to the business aspect of the church and the pastor does the preaching and teaching and visiting the members of the congregation. Sometimes the board of elders even dictates what the pastor preaches and teaches in the local church. Local churches are also accountable to a denominational government that instructs them how to run their individual churches.
This is not so in Apostolic Reformed churches. Usually, they are not part of a denomination. It is not uncommon for the pastors to have apostolically pioneered their individual local churches. Their aim is also to plant more churches. It is also not uncommon for pastors to have absolute authority in those local churches. In other words, there is no separate board of elders making business decisions apart from the pastor. Nor is the pastor a voting member on a church board. In Apostolic Reformed churches, the pastor is the chairman, ex officio, of all other boards, departments, councils, committees, or church ministries. He reserves the right to appoint to delegate individuals to assist him in any of his pastoral functions. All administrative, financial, and ecclesiastical matters come under the purview of the pastoral office. The assembly is expected to yield to the authority of their senior pastor. He has authority in all matters relevant to the spiritual life of the church, its mission and growth, its discipline and order and its administration is his rule and should be obeyed when properly exercised.
Apostolic Reformed churches are usually autonomous. They are a sovereign entity and have the right to govern themselves according to the standards of the New Testament. While maintaining the inherent rights of sovereignty in the conduct of its own affairs, each local church has the right to voluntarily enter into an apostolic covering or cooperative fellowship with other churches and ministries of like precious faith. It is not uncommon for apostolic churches to network with other apostolic churches. For some, authority is an issue. We are not saying that local pastors turn over their right to govern their local churches to the ministry of an apostle. What we are saying is that local churches may choose to be accountable to apostolic ministries for the purpose of receiving general oversight in spiritual matters and that the ministry of an apostle may be over a number of churches where his leadership is spontaneously recognized and appreciated by those churches.
The ministry and message of the Apostolic Reformation is transforming the church of the Lord Jesus Christ today. Believers are taking dominion and manifesting the supernatural power of God wherever they may go. Every believer is called to demonstrate the gospel of the kingdom. This is more than just converting people to Christ. This is a demonstration of the person of Jesus Christ in all arenas of life in all societies of the world. The focus is not on heaven, but establishing the kingdom of God here and now on the earth. The view has been expanded beyond individuals and local assemblies to the nations and every society of people. Our responsibility is to lay our lives down and regardless of our different eschatological beliefs, co-labor to demonstrate and enforce the kingdom of God and our Lord Jesus Christ on this planet and to give Him glory by showing forth His glory.