You’ve seen it…the minister that identifies himself to the whole world by means of his license plate that boldly reads, “Apostle.” Perhaps you’ve heard of those, often self proclaimed, “apostles” who claim to be part of the new apostolic age wherein they supposedly walk in the same apostolic authority (healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, etc) that the original apostles had. We know of those televangelist, apostle-type prophet people that sometimes are seen on local cable access channels. We have driven by churches that have signs out front that list all the church officers (which often consist of the total membership) such as “Apostle Jenkins, Prophetess Alberta, Evangelist Burrows, etc. Yes, I’m sure you have seen it before. In one sense, it seems rather comical, but in another sense it is not comical at all. It is rather dangerous. And it is simply unbiblical.
The apostles in the Bible were given the title “Apostle” under two distinct criteria: They had been directly chosen and commissioned by Jesus. In other words, they were not self proclaimed or self appointed. And the other criteria is that they had actually seen the risen Lord. We see this very clearly in Acts 1 when the 11 apostles had to appoint another apostle to replace Judas. They stated in v. 21 that they had to choose somebody who had been with Jesus and who had seen Him after He resurrected. We also see Paul emphatically defend his position of apostleship by stating that the Lord had indeed appeared to him and commissioned him as an apostle.
So, if we took all of the apostles today and put them through this two part screening process, guess how many modern day true apostles we would be left with? Zero. Yet sadly, many ministers of the Gospel have given themselves the title of Apostle so that they are looked at as having power, closeness with God, and authority. But if you look closely at the Gospels and the Book of Acts, you will realize that the apostles never ever sought to be given power and authority. It was just simply given to them for God’s specific purpose, and it was only for a limited time. So any supposed “apostle” today is one that has not been given the authority from God. So then, under whose authority are they operating? It is very scary to say that they are operating under their own authority. And that is very dangerous.
Now, the word “Apostle” is also used in some of the New Testament epistles, and this is what often confuses some and leads others to think that they have been given the gift of apostleship. In Ephesians 4:11, it states that God gave some to be “apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God’s people for works of service…” But it is important to understand that the word here for “apostle” is different than the office of apostle that the 12 apostles of Jesus had. The word here, and in other places of the New Testament, simply translates as “messenger” such as a person who is sent to deliver a message.
So, perhaps a missionary today is more fitting for the word “apostle” as missionaries are sent by God to bring the message of Christ to the world around them. Just like the next word “prophet” has also been misapplied and abused so that people think there are modern day prophets of God who are sent by God to reveal things that nobody yet knows. And this is just not true according to Hebrews 1:2 that states that there was a time when God did indeed use prophets to reveal His plan to the people, but that is done no longer because in “these last days He has spoken to us by His son…” In other words, all revelation has been given through God’s Word. So, the term prophet in the passage in Ephesians means simply one who proclaims the truth that has already been recorded in Scripture. And the church certainly needs apostles (missionaries), prophets (those who proclaim God’s truth as revealed in His word, evangelists (those who proclaim the plan of salvation to the people), and pastors and teachers. But we must understand these words as they were originally meant to be understood instead of making up our own definitions and then slapping such a label upon ourselves so that we can claim to carry such powerful authority.
Do you realize the power and authority that the apostles had? They raised the dead. They passed by people so that even just their shadow brought God’s healing to those who were sick. They casted out demons. Yes, I know what you are thinking if you’re anything like me. You might be saying, “Well, modern day apostles claim to do all of those things. Haven’t you ever heard of the hankerchiefs that Benny Hinn sells so that people can be healed? Haven’t you ever been at revival meetings where demons were casted out of people and where the lame walked?” So, yes, I have heard of such things and I also have been at such meetings where those things were said to have occurred. So, how can I then refute these modern day apostles? Perhaps they would tell me that they, like Paul, were visited by the risen Lord in a vision and were appointed to the office of apostleship. No problem. Here is what we’re going to do…In addition to the first two criteria, which we already see that no modern day apostle really meets, we will also put them through two more criteria.
Let’s look beyond the signs and wonders of what modern day “apostles” also claim to do…heal the sick, cast out demons, even raise the dead. Because apparently these things can be quite well “staged”. But now we will see the great separation between the real apostles and the self-proclaimed modern day apostles. And in this matter, it will be crystal clear that there really are no modern day apostles who have been appointed by God.
But first, let me be most upfront and clear once again in stating that I am not suggesting that God no longer does these things (healing, miracles, casting out demons, etc) God is God. He is powerful. He can do as He chooses to do. He has worked miracles in the past. He has healed the sick in the past. He has even raised the dead in the past. So, certainly God is capable of doing these things. But again the point is that there is nothing in Scripture that leads us to believe that we ourselves can appoint ourselves to be one to have such authority to do these things.
Okay, the first criteria that separates the real from the false is that the real apostles carried such authority, recognized by God and recognized by all, that their words actually became the very words of God that make up part of the Bible today. So, if we put all modern day apostles through this criteria, how many would we be left with? Yeah.
The final criteria is something that I noticed in the last week as I have been poring through the Book of Acts. I noticed in Acts 4:35 a phrase that signified an incredible authority that was recognized by the people and was clearly seen as given by God. When the believers during those days sold a piece of land in order for the money to be used to help the people of the church, it is said in verse 35 that the people came and put the money “at the apostles feet”. So, do modern day apostles have people come and put money at their feet from the sale of their home and property? Why yes, of course they do. So, let’s keep going…
Verse 37 shows a man named Barnabas who sold a field and put the money “at the apostle’s feet.” So, again, we see this key phrase “at the apostles feet” that denotes a picture of recognized authority. We then get to Chapter 5:2 where we learn of another couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who sold their land and kept a portion of it for themselves and then brought the rest and laid it “at the apostle’s feet.” He then lies to the Apostle Peter and states that he gave all the money from the land. And what happens next? What happens next is, without a doubt, what separates the real apostles and the God given authority that they carry from false modern day apostles who clearly have not received their authority from God. So, what happened? I will simply let the Scripture speak for itself..
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died.
Yes, Ananais lied to the Apostle and what happened? He fell down and died! Right on the spot. Now that is authority! But, we also realize that Peter did not command this, but rather it merely happened. So, let’s just go a little bit further in the passage. And again, I will let the Scripture speak for itself…
About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died.
Ok, did you see it? The mark of an apostle with true God given authority. The wife of Ananais lied also to the Apostle Peter, and what happened next? Peter tells her that because of lying to the Holy Spirit she is going to die…and she fell down that very moment and died. And where did she fall when she died? “At his feet” (of the Apostle Peter)
So, perhaps many of you have seen the modern day self proclaimed apostle stating the many miracles that God has used them to do such as healing the sick, casting out demons, and even raise the dead. But the next time you are in conversation with such a modern day apostle, ask him (or her) two very important questions. First, ask them what books in the Word of God were written by them. Then, after their jaw is wide open, rather than asking them how many dead people they have raised, ask them instead how many living people have fallen dead at their feet at their command after lying to them and the Holy Spirit. Then, go ahead and make your qualified decision to determine whether or not they really are true apostles appointed by God. I’m sure you will not have any trouble.