Genuine apostolic ministry is vital to the purposes of God being fulfilled in the earth. The initiation, development and perfecting of the Church requires apostles. As we move further along in this series of posts, I will further explain the reasons. But, for now, I want to address the singular topic that will allow you, a local assembly or even those outside of Christendom to recognize an authentic apostle.
Over the years, I’ve had dozens, if not hundreds of well-meaning brothers/sisters approach me, whether in person or electronically, and introduce themselves as an apostle. By the way, that’s always the first sign that they are NOT what they are purporting to be. At least for me.
If you have to put the title of “apostle” in front of your name on a business card or website, it is a very revealing statement. You are exposing the fact that your understanding of and, therefore, practice of “apostle” is solely titular and worldly. I realize Apostle Paul declared himself to be an apostle in his writings but we will see here in a moment that perhaps he had a bit different understanding and definition of the term. And besides, he was writing to and declaring himself as an apostle to those whom had already received him as such and had partaken of that grace of Christ through his life/function; he certainly wasn’t trying to convince them of it. But, I digress……
If you were to do an internet search using your choice of internet search engine or even do a search of Facebook for the term “apostle”, you would be astounded at the number of hits you would receive. It is a fad that has hit the church and, as I mentioned in my previous post on this topic, A Basic Understanding of Being Apostolic, extremes are always involved in christian circles.
There are, indeed, false apostles roaming the earth and surfing the web. You have to be careful in identifying the genuine article. Being head of large networks/organizations doesn’t qualify them. Even signs, wonders and miracles won’t do! So, how are we s’pose to know?
Well, I’ve learned a little secret and I am willing to let you in on it. In this post, I want to provide you A Basic Understanding of Apostolic Being. Well, not actually me but we will get to that in a second.
A true, genuine, authentic, God-called and equipped apostle has to have converted ambition. Ambition is an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction. What is it that true apostles earnestly desire to achieve? What is the distinction they hope to obtain? Well, I can tell you that it isn’t to be known as God’s man of faith and power! It isn’t to lead a large congregation or organization. It is not desiring to plant/start churches or even to win the world for Jesus! (gasp!)
No, there must be an easily discernible smell of fleshly death upon an apostle and a visible display of Christ-like character usually lined with love, patience and faith that comes from KNOWING God intimately. There must be an Apostolic Being before there is ever any apostolic doing and for someone to exist in that manner requires death to fleshly/religious/worldly ambitions and verifiable entrance into resurrection life.
Now, to the real good stuff. Below I submit to you an article written by T. Austin-Sparks which was written when I was 3 years old. He passed away a couple of years after this article, so it was written with the wisdom, insights and inspiration accrued in a man that walked with Father for well over 40 years. It is the bedrock of my understanding of apostolic ministry and the measurement of any human being that would dare to even think, much less utter the word apostle in relation to themselves. As I said at the outset of this post, genuine apostolic ministry is vital to the purposes of God being fulfilled in the earth and this truth is essential in the Body of Christ coming into maturity. Forgive the indulgence, but I have put in BOLD letters certain parts that I believe need to be emphasized. May Father bless you as you read…………..
An Apostle’s Supreme Ambition
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death” (Philippians 3:10).
There are few words in his writings which reveal how committed to the Lord Jesus this man was. The whole context is one consummate outpouring of his heart to the One whom he said had “apprehended” him, and he focuses all in a brief half sentence: “That I may know him.”
The impressive thing about this expressed ambition is the time at which it is made. Here is a man who has had a revelation and knowledge of Jesus Christ greater than any other man up to that time. That knowledge commenced whence as he said, “it pleased God to reveal his Son in me“. That beginning devastated him, and sent him into the desert to try to grasp its implications. Later he had been “caught up into the third heaven and shown unspeakable things, which (he said) were not lawful to be uttered”. Between, and around those two experiences, there is evidence of an ever growing knowledge of Christ. Here, after all that, near the end of his life, he is crying passionately: “That I may know him.”
The very least that we can say about this is that the Christ in view was a very great Christ indeed, who outstrips the greatest capacity and comprehension of man. This stands in such tremendous contrast to the limited Christ of our recognition and apprehension! How very much more there is in Christ than we have ever seen! But we must break down our verse. It is divided by its main words, and can be stated in its four phrases.
(1) The all-governing passion: “That I may know him.”
(2) The effectual power: “The power of his resurrection.”
(3) The essential basis: “The fellowship of his sufferings.”
(4) The progressive principle: “Conformed to his death.”
1. THE ALL-GOVERNING PASSION
“That I may know him.”
Here a little study in words is both helpful and necessary. In the original language of the New Testament there are two words for ‘knowing’ or ‘knowledge’ or ‘to know’. They run in numerous occasions and connections right through the New Testament.
One of these words has the meaning of knowledge by information; being told, reading, by report. It is more the knowledge which comes by observation, study, searching, or talk. It is rather knowledge about things, persons, etc.
The other word carries the meaning of personal experience, intimate acquaintance; and inward knowledge. Sometimes there is a prefix which gives the meaning of “full knowledge” (epi).
The second of these words and meanings is that which Paul is using and employing here: ‘That I may have or gain more of the knowledge of Him which is personal experience by personal acquaintance, by living, firsthand relationship with Him.’
This removes everything from the realm of mere theory, the intellect, and being told. It is the result and effect of an act of the Holy Spirit within. That is why Paul links with this knowledge “the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings”. It is powerful knowledge, born of deep experience. And this is the only true knowledge of Christ! It is planted or wrought deep in the inner life.
2. THE EFFECTUAL POWER
“The power of his resurrection.”
While there is a future aspect of the whole statement, that is, the consummation in glory, we must understand that in each of these phrases Paul is thinking of this life. Even in the next verse, where he speaks of attaining to the “resurrection from among the dead”, he is thinking primarily of present spiritual and moral out-raising. He had known something of this power already. His conversion was such. Again and again, in what he called “deaths oft” he had known it. Perhaps greatest of all were his experiences in Asia and Lystra (II Corinthians 1:9; Acts 14:19-20).
Resurrection power and life are the knowledge of Christ. This is how we know Him, and this is available for every believer. It is for endurance, for overcoming, for fulfillment of ministry, for maintaining the Lord’s testimony in the world; for every need which demands it in relation to the interests and glory of Christ. It puts life on a supernatural basis. It is the power of His resurrection, the greatest miracle in history.
3. THE ESSENTIAL BASIS
“The fellowship of his sufferings.”
In this connection there are some things that we must at once set aside. There were sufferings of Christ which we do not share, and are not called upon to share, although sometimes there seems to be a very fine and thin line between them.
We do not share the atoning sufferings of Christ. There is a whole realm of suffering which was His alone. The work of man’s redemption was His alone, for us. When He who was without sin was made sin for us He was alone, even God-forsaken in that eternal moment. Upon that fact the whole truth of His unique Person hangs, and the whole system of perfect sacrifice rests; the spotless Lamb.
But when all that is accepted and established, there are sufferings of Christ in which we have fellowship with Him. We also, for His sake, may be despised and rejected of men. We can be discredited, ostracized, persecuted, mocked, tortured, and even “killed”, both in an act and “all the day long”. Paul speaks of a residue of Christ’s sufferings which he was helping to fill up for “His body’s sake which is the church”.
This is another, and different, area and system of suffering. Paul looked upon this as an honor and something in which to rejoice, because it was for the One whom he so deeply loved. But he also saw that this suffering with and for Christ provided the basis for knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection This Apostle would agree that only those who know this fellowship truly know the Lord. We know that! It is perfectly evident that real usefulness in a spiritual way comes out of the winepress, and “they that have suffered most have most to give” There is nothing artificial about the fruit of Christ.
4. THE PROGRESSIVE PRINCIPLE
“Becoming conformed unto his death.”
It is important in understanding the Apostle to realize that he was not thinking of conformity to Christ’s death as the end of all else. His real meaning was that he should increase in the knowledge of Christ, know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings by becoming conformed to His death. His death – Christ’s – was behind, something at the beginning, and the spiritual history of the believer is a working back to what that death meant. It meant the end of the “old man”, crucifixion to the world mind and will; the closing of the door to a whole system which was not Christ- centered and Christ-governed.
All this had been stated and presented in Paul’s earlier letters; but it was a meaning which had to be progressively made real and true in spiritual experience. The meaning of Christ’s death – Paul taught – was to be the inner history of the believer, and this would work out – progressively – in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. So that, by being conformed to His death, he would come to the fuller knowledge of Him and of that Divine power. It is ever so.
The all-governing passion opens the way for the effectual, and effectuating power, by the essential basis, through the progressive principle of conformity to His death.
by T. Austin-Sparks
From “A Witness and A Testimony”, September-October, 1969
Next up: Understanding THE APOSTLE