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Apostles and Evangelists

April 6th, 2009

Sunday before last at CCK I preached the fourth of six messages on the theme of the Holy Spirit. The focus this time was on the gifts of the Holy Spirit (and this will remain as the theme for the rest of the series). I looked especially at the ministry gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11 and we finished the evening service with one of our occasional Q and A sessions.

I only had time to take a couple this time as the first two needed long answers.

Another that came in, however, was worth a quick blog entry:

The foundation of the church was laid long ago, so why do we still need apostles?

There is a sense in which the foundation of the church was laid long ago. The first apostles in that respect were unique. The whole church through history was given its foundation in the complete writings of scripture – and there is no authority above the scripture. Any ‘Apostle’ or ‘Prophet’ suggesting otherwise (or claiming some secret interpretation of scripture over against the obvious one) should be ignored – or pushed off a cliff. Yes in that sense the foundation is complete, final and not to be supplemented.

But to deduce from this that all the foundation laying in church life has been done forever is a mistake. Every generation – and indeed every church – will have foundations: non-negotiable deal-breaker characteristics, doctrines, values, principles, goals and sustained passions. These exist by default. In any given community, you keep pushing and you’ll soon find what these things are. What are these people living for? What makes them tick? What can you get thrown out for? What is the mission, how do you know who is in on it, and on what basis do you get in? The answers to these questions are your foundations.

Either these foundations will be laid down by accident or deliberately. The people who lay them should not do so according to preferences. The first apostles knew they were servants of revelation and insisted that this revelation should be set down at the very heart of every local church. When they laid this foundation properly, their work would take them elsewhere. This is surely the kind of activity Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 3:10 every local church needed apostolic foundations. With these in place in a key city, Paul could consider a whole region to have as good as received the gospel (Acts 19:10; Romans 15:18-19).

Apostles given by Jesus to the church today must continue to lay foundations in every church. The major difference between today’s apostles and ancient ones is that today’s apostles submit to, and apply, the scriptures – they don’t write them!

On another note, I also taught that Sunday on the Ephesians 4:11 gift of evangelist and referred to Phil Turner as a good example of this gift in CCK. Well I like to think I was proved right this week. Phil preached at our services today and saw at least 22 people make a response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Aside from baptizing 16 new believers – 8 at each service – I’d say that made it a good day. Jesus is giving gifts for the building of his church