The end of the beginning
Dear friends, we are coming to the end of the beginning. We’ve some ‘i’ dotting and ‘t’ crossing to do. But the principle is clear. Jesus didn’t hand over to one successor, not even Peter!
A friend helpfully defined it like this: ‘When Peter stood with the eleven on the Day of Pentecost, he was the spokesman. It was Peter’s moment, not Peter’s movement. Later on at the Council of Jerusalem, when they were all discussing and debating major issues, Paul spoke, Barnabas spoke, and then James summed up, and everybody said ‘Amen’. But that didn’t make James ‘apostle of the nations’ or leader of a movement. It was just a moment when he was given wisdom which seemed good to everybody and they proceeded from there.
When Paul went to Jerusalem (Gal. 2:2) ‘he went to see those of reputation’. It doesn’t say, ‘I went to see the new leader.’ Later he refers to those ‘reputed to be pillars’ in the church who gave him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship (Gal. 2:9).
When Paul became a newly-recognised apostle, certain things happened. He didn’t come from the Jerusalem stable. He had proof of his ministry. He was very clear about what the gospel was; he preached it, and he founded and fathered churches. But he did not want to be isolated. He went to Jerusalem to make sure that he wasn’t running in independence, to check that his gospel was authentic. He respected those who were apostles and recognised to be such before he came on the scene. He wanted affirmation from those who were before him.
Later on when Peter became confused about law and grace issues, Paul challenged him to his face (Gal.2:11). He didn’t say, ‘It seems that Peter is drifting on this. I guess we’ll be different groups with different emphases.’ When he saw Peter being inconsistent on grace he confronted him. Why? Because he wanted the church together, preaching the same gospel. These emerging apostles had the kind of relationship where they longed for unity and could confront and encourage and challenge one another. They were a fellowship of apostles; a forum of fathers; a band of brothers. They held together and maintained relationship.
As apostles they could have chosen to go their own way. That could happen to us. It could be that any one of the brothers who is emerging with an apostolic sphere could say, ‘It’s been great. I have loved being part of this but now I want to be released.’ There must be that freedom. Newfrontiers is simply a name we gave to a sphere that Terry Virgo raised up.
We must believe for the emergence of new apostles. That’s the key to the future. We are not looking for a husband for my daughter. We are praying to the Lord of the harvest ‘Will you give us more labourers?’ He ascended on high. He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. It’s his church. It’s not our organisation. It’s not our institution. We haven’t got to hold it together. He’s the head. He’s the giver of gifts. He’s the ascended Lord.
Apostles, like evangelists, are called and gifted by God
Apostles are not an appointment of the church. You might say, ‘Terry, are you going to make some more apostles?’ How do you do that? It’s like saying, ‘Are you going to make some more evangelists?’ You can’t make evangelists. God gives the gift. The day we ‘make apostles’ is the day we drift towards an institution.
In Paul’s day it was not always crystal clear. For example, was Timothy an apostle or not? As a delegate, Paul boasted about him, ‘He’s worked with me like a son with his father. He knows my ways. Receive him like you have received me.’ He writes saying, ‘Paul an apostle and Timothy.’ Then, in 1Thessalonians 2:6, ‘as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority’. Was he saying Timothy is an apostle now? It’s left a little unclear.
Also we have got to be aware that there may be categories of apostle. We mustn’t say one size fits all. Many would argue that Paul was very special. They started as ‘Barnabas and Paul’ then changed and became ‘Paul and Barnabas’. One would also have to say Billy Graham is a bit special as an evangelist. Does that mean that our evangelists all have to be like him? No it doesn’t. There may be different measures of gifting.
[To be continued]