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Old 08-25-2008, 08:05 AM   #1
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Default What is an Apostle

What is an apostle.

I’m sure that this has been discussed before, but it would be on the BARM. In any case, the only discussions I saw were less than conclusive. So, to take another rabbit trail out of the discussion of the “LCS Factor” concerning the problems with the LC second generation, I submit this thread.

The term “apostle” clearly refers to a rather select group of men in the first generation of the church. Those men are the original 11, plus Matthias who replaced Judas, plus Paul. Each of the first 12 were actually with Jesus during his earthly ministry, and Paul met Christ in a most dramatic way on the road to Damascus.

Besides this, there are references that suggest that others outside of this small band were also called apostles, and in some cases, false apostles. I have opening thoughts on the subject that are not vetted against other theological scholars and are not particularly “proof texted” and will present them (typically not very short) in the next post.

What is an apostle, do they exist today, and if so, what would a current apostle look like? Consider both Lee's teachings and what we can find in scripture and from other sources.
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Old 08-25-2008, 08:10 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Roger View Post
I've often thought about someting. According to Lee's "Deputy Authority" teaching, Timothy should have succeeded Paul. In his two letters to Timothy it would seem that Paul was indeed grooming Timothy to at least carry out his burden. But does church history give any indication of Timothy doing anything? Or, maybe he just dropped the ball...oops...I mean "mantle."

Roger
More study - another wrinkle:

Lee taught clearly that Paul's "apostleship" was based upon revelation. Perhaps I've always just assumed that the basic revelation to kick that off happened on the road to Damascus. And perhaps in a sense that was the case. However, reading the start of Acts 13 this morning, there was another revelation, far more clear than I've ever seen before.

Saul and Barnabas were "sent" by the Holy Spirit *and* the assembly at Antioch.

This is what the Bible says.

This is the complete REVERSE of the historic teachings of top-down hierarchical thinking, reflected in Lee's teachings as well as many other places.

This section of Acts 13 could justifiably be read to indicate that the sending forth of Saul and Barnabas by the assembly in Antioch *was* in fact the sending forth of Saul and Barnabas by the Holy Spirit. Moreover, there is the laying on of hands, which clearly is meant to indicate the identification of the locality and the sent ones.

From a practical perspective, I'm entertaining a thesis that this must be the case. Regardless of your opinion on whether contemporary Christian "missionaries" are the equivalent of "apostles" (Nee taught that they were in NCCL), the model concerning the source of material supply by a sending locality seems to be almost universally applicable out of sheer practical necessity.

It would also seem that the ability for someone to succeed in organizing groups of assemblies into supporting their "ministry" as an "apostle" that might in some fashion or other eventually lord it over those very assemblies is simply a perversion of the practical and Biblical model of assemblies sending forward material supply to those they themselves have sent forth.

I'm not reaching any conclusions yet but, just as a practical matter, He gave some apostles and some prophets and some evangelists and some shepherds and teachers for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of ministry, unto the building up of the Body of Christ. Surely, there is no doubt that the shepherds and teachers are fully grounded in the locality. It would seem too obvious to have to point out that all the working of the other gifts are to the aid of the practical building in a locality or localities. But why exactly would we have the concept that any of these people, including the "apostles," would not be solidly grounded in a particular locality as their point of origin? Why would there be some notion that they had some sort of extra-local existence when all the real building of the Body and magnification of Christ happens practically and locally?

I believe it may be the case that the Bible reveals that none could ever be an "apostle" without being a member of a genuine assembly first and foremost. Focusing on the aspect of the function of the Body that "apostles" give birth to "churches" ignores the reality that the "churches" first give birth to the "apostles."

Still digging, though.

There's a lot of ground to cover.
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Old 08-25-2008, 08:10 AM   #3
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I have considered the term “apostle” many times and can never seem to come to a clear conclusion as to its scope. At its simplest form it means one who is sent, yet in the NT context, some of the usage suggests a special sending from a select group of people.

The 11 were convinced that their number should be 12, and they limited the choices to those who had been with them and seen Jesus. So a disciple who had previously been unnamed became the new 12th disciple/apostle. This seems to place a rather strong limit on who is an apostle.

But in places like 1 Cor 12, Paul mentions apostles among the gifts and then asks “Are all apostles...?” While inconclusive, this infers less certainty about the exclusiveness of the apostles’ club. In 2 Cor 11 Paul mentions false apostles. This suggests that either the definition of who was in and who was out was less certain than some 12 guys plus Paul, or that there were people traveling around impersonating the actual apostles.

It is notable that in writing to the Corinthians, Paul is actually writing to Greeks — people who spoke the language in which the word that we transliterate into “apostles” originates. Is it possible that rather than having some special meaning, they understood the word quite naturally as part of their language, and that in their understanding, any traveling preacher of the gospel was effectively an apostle? Since Paul does not attack that particular angle, but has spent several verses comparing his gospel to the “different” Jesus that these others have preached, and then indicates that they are “false apostles” and have transformed themselves into apostles of Christ, the exclusiveness of who is an apostle seems less certain.

As Roger has said, in terms of an exclusive club, Paul would have seemed to be preparing Timothy to take his place, yet there is no record (at least yet brought forth) that refers to Timothy as an apostle. In fact, I must ask whether the title was claimed by or about any after the NT closed and the next generation began to take over. I am not saying there is not, but that I have not studied this and if someone else has, it would be interesting to know what history records, especially with regard to the second generation.

So I ask out loud whether the term apostle legitimately has two definitions. The first is a somewhat exclusive group who actually saw Jesus (this would include Paul who saw Him in a most remarkable way on the road to Damascus), while the second is a more general use of the term and includes all who are sent out, much as are present-day missionaries.

The reason for this demarcation is that those original few, specially selected apostles are seen in scripture as having certain authority, more with regard to setting the spread of the church in motion (and in Paul’s case of explaining this belief system that has so many roots in a religion that was foreign to most of the world), while nothing special is said about the others besides being careful to discern who was and was not a true apostle.

While I have my own reservations on all sides related to what I have written above, if we start with it as a working definition, and are also rather generous with Lee as to his standing and motives before God, we might argue that he was among the potential multitude of “little a” apostles. And if we are not so generous, we is among those that Paul would say should be seen as false apostles.

But either way, no such apostle is “THE” apostle in any way, for any time. Such an apostle is to be scrutinized. His words are to be scrutinized against scripture. (Paul, one of the first-rank apostles welcomed this kind of scrutiny from the Bereans. Funny that Lee didn’t accept this from anyone.) Such an apostle is subject to a rather rag-tag group of Christians in Corinth second-guessing his motives and teachings and determining him to be a false apostle. That’s what Paul told them to do.

In this scenario, the only authority given to any such apostle is what the assembly permits. Authority is not vested from outside, but from within. Anyone who receives no “seal of approval” cannot then send someone else to be his deputy to wield power over those believers. In this regard, YP, like a broken record, keeps reminding us that teachings of “universal church” are the only way that Lee and the BBs gets away with the stuff they pull. “Universal church” is only a spiritual overlay. It can only be used to denote that all assemblies of believers, and the actual believers themselves, have a common faith in the one God who came to earth to save us from our sin. Beyond that, it is the assemblies, one by one, that stand. They were each admonished to beware of wolves.

They were not given a list of acceptable speakers, or acceptable books, or acceptable publishers. They were not told to send a letter to Paul, wherever he was, or to Jerusalem to check the credentials of the latest teacher coming through town. They were told to check them out for themselves. The authority for the latest “apostle” to arrive on the scene was vested in the Corinthians. Paul didn’t tell them to allow brother X and reject Brother Y. He said to put up a measuring stick of the gospel they had already heard. If it sound different, toss them out.

I must confess that after 14-1/2 years in the LC, and another 21 since, it was toward the end of that 21 years that I began to seriously analyze the teachings presented by the Apostle of the Age and have begun to find them wanting. Not entirely bad — no true Christian would simply begin to believe a set of teachings that were entirely wrong. But with the sufficient problems I now see, I cannot allow his teachings into my house again. I do not have the time to weed the leaven from the flour, so it is rejected in full.
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Old 08-25-2008, 08:12 AM   #4
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Perhaps Admin can move at least my most recent post out of that thread?

Thanks OBW.
You are welcome.

I was not compaining in any way. I was giving this subject the separate discussion it deserves. We'll see how far gets.
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Old 08-25-2008, 08:20 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by OBW View Post
What is an apostle.

I’m sure that this has been discussed before, but it would be on the BARM. In any case, the only discussions I saw were less than conclusive. So, to take another rabbit trail out of the discussion of the “LCS Factor” concerning the problems with the LC second generation, I submit this thread.

The term “apostle” clearly refers to a rather select group of men in the first generation of the church. Those men are the original 11, plus Matthias who replaced Judas, plus Paul. Each of the first 12 were actually with Jesus during his earthly ministry, and Paul met Christ in a most dramatic way on the road to Damascus.

Besides this, there are references that suggest that others outside of this small band were also called apostles, and in some cases, false apostles. I have opening thoughts on the subject that are not vetted against other theological scholars and are not particularly “proof texted” and will present them (typically not very short) in the next post.

What is an apostle, do they exist today, and if so, what would a current apostle look like? Consider both Lee's teachings and what we can find in scripture and from other sources.
I don't know that a general discussion of apostleship is in keeping with the thrust of the forum; perhaps, in order to lay some groundwork. But the more pointed question is whether or not there is such a thing as an "Apostle for the Age," and if so, was Witness Lee that one. Almost everything about the Local Church sprouts out of that root.

For example, if there is such a thing as a single, one man who is sent (apostle) directly from God to mankind for every so-called “age,” then certainly the LSM’s unstated infallibility of Lee’s teaching might be on the mark. Of course, in order to believe that you would have to forget that Paul himself didn’t rise to that standard, since many of the epistles he wrote were lost in the dust of history.

By contrast, you can’t get a devoted LSM supporter to ever admit that maybe even the placement of a puncuation by Lee was out of place. That may sound like an exageration, but I don’t think so.

Roger
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Old 08-25-2008, 08:39 AM   #6
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You are welcome.

I was not compaining in any way. I was giving this subject the separate discussion it deserves. We'll see how far gets.
Well, there ain't a whole lot of denominations out there with active working concepts of "apostleship," which does make this something of a particular LC thing. And if we're going to debunk "deputy authority" it probably behooves us to study what the Bible actually says about what is presumably the "highest ranking" of the "deputy authority" which, as I believe is taught, is the "office" of "apostle."

Digging into Kittel has already led me to realize at least a couple of errors Lee made along these lines. I'm also fellowshipping these points elsewhere with a couple of other brothers and I intend to bring forward whatever light the study yields.

One of the most interesting points so far is that the word \apostolos\ is basically a New Testament coinage. Almost entirely unheard of in the classical world in the New Testament sense. So to know what it means, you absolutely must study it's use in the New Testament. (There is an interesting usage where it seems like it might refer to "letters of authority" but I need to look into that further; seeing as how we are "letters of Christ" it might be relevant.)

Another point is that in the usage in the Gospels, the "authority" the apostles bore was over demons and disease. You couldn't find there where they had "authority" over anything or anyone else if you only had the Gospels to define the term. And the term in the Gospels means "special disciple" more than anything else. The terms "disciple" and "apostle" are used almost completely interchangably at some points.

Also, there is rare NT usage of \apostolos\ outside of Luke's gospel, Acts, and Paul's epistles. Once in Matthew. Once in John. Once, maybe twice, in Mark. Which basically means you've got two perspectives on what that word meant back in that day. I believe Acts may eventually yield the most light.
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Last edited by YP0534; 08-25-2008 at 09:12 AM. Reason: I don't believe it - they do.
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Old 08-25-2008, 05:02 PM   #7
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Default Apostles - local or extra-local?

This is pretty interesting:

1Cr 12:27 Now *ye* are Christ's body, and members in particular.
1Cr 12:28 And God has set certain in the assembly: first, apostles; secondly, prophets; thirdly, teachers; then miraculous powers; then gifts of healings; helps; governments; kinds of tongues.

The Bible says that apostles are set in the assembly.

That's sure the opposite of thinking that they are nomadic and belong to no one assembling group in particular, isn't it?

Lee's footnote here is little more than gobbledygook that expressly references "Universal Church" to reach his conclusions. You already know what I think about that doctrine...
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Old 08-25-2008, 05:56 PM   #8
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What is an apostle.
My interest, past and present, is not so much to define what defines an apostle, but who is the church's apostle? This has been a core issue to recent conflicts. For a GLA church, is our apostle in Anaheim, or is he in Cleveland, or is he local. This touches the core of church decision making and the appointment of elders.

Some claim we are Anaheim's fruit. Some claim we are Cleveland's fruit. Some, like me, say we are neither. Unfortunately, I and a few others became the "silent minority," or should I say the "silenced minority." For outsiders to make claims on a local church, is for them to operate as "bishops," or worse "lords."

Mike, I don't believe we can answer your question without also asking what are bishops. LSM pays lip-service to the condemnation of the bishopric, the false ecclesiology first promoted by Ignatius, but comparing their extra-local actions today to the "evils of the bishopric," what could possibly be different? Am I missing something? Taking this further, how different is an "deputized authority of the body" and a present day Cardinal.

I personally believe that improper definitions of "apostleship" have gotten us into the mess we are in.
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Old 08-26-2008, 05:25 AM   #9
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Default seeing God in the assembly

At least a couple of places in the New Testament seem to indicate that the apostles must be grounded and rooted and built together with an assembly.

There's an instance of \apostolos\ in 2 Cor. 8:23 that Witness Lee (and apparently most of Christianity based upon the translations!) glosses over since it doesn't fit the top-down hierarchical concept.

Quote:
2Cr 8:16 And thanks to God, who is putting the same diligence for you in the heart of Titus,
2Cr 8:17 because indeed the exhortation he accepted, and being more diligent, of his own accord he went forth unto you,
2Cr 8:18 and we sent with him the brother, whose praise in the good news [is] through all the assemblies,
2Cr 8:19 and not only so, but who was also appointed by vote by the assemblies, our fellow-traveller, with this favour that is ministered by us, unto the glory of the same Lord, and your willing mind;
2Cr 8:20 avoiding this, lest any one may blame us in this abundance that is ministered by us,
2Cr 8:21 providing right things, not only before the Lord, but also before men;
2Cr 8:22 and we sent with them our brother, whom we proved in many things many times being diligent, and now much more diligent, by the great confidence that is toward you,
2Cr 8:23 whether -- about Titus -- my partner and towards you fellow-worker, whether -- our brethren, apostles of assemblies -- glory of Christ;
2Cr 8:24 the shewing therefore of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf, to them shew ye, even in the face of the assemblies.
Because it doesn't fit the concept of what is an "apostle," the majority of the translations do not use the word "apostle" here. But at the very least, the text suggests that Paul himself holds the concept and teaches that the assemblies are in some way a source of "apostleship."

The thing that's probably the most telling, however, is that Saul and Barnabas were "sent" by the Holy Spirit *and* the assembly at Antioch.

Quote:
Act 13:1 Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was [there], prophets and teachers, Barnabas, and Symeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen the foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
Act 13:2 And as they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
Act 13:3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Act 13:4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
This explains why it is that the only ones who did NOT leave Jerusalem under Saul's persecution WERE the apostles there.

Quote:
Act 8:1 And Saul was consenting to his being killed. And on that day there arose a great persecution against the assembly which was in Jerusalem, and all were scattered into the countries of Judaea and Samaria except the apostles.
In fact, the scriptural picture, rather plainly, is that "apostles" are the foundation for the building of the local assembly, the living stones that make the house not made by hands for our Living God.

Quote:
Eph 2:19 So then ye are no longer strangers and foreigners, but ye are fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God,
Eph 2:20 being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the corner-stone,
Eph 2:21 in whom all [the] building fitted together increases to a holy temple in the Lord;
Eph 2:22 in whom *ye* also are built together for a habitation of God in [the] Spirit.
Lee was very proud of recognizing that the wall of the Holy City has the foundations with the names of the Twelve, but I don't think he actually recognized that the implication there, just as it was with Peter's revelation in Matthew 16, is that these men became the basic building materials for the manifestation of God in the local assembly.

Quote:
Rev 21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
There's a lot of speculation both in Lee's ministry and most of the writings I've seen from the rest of Christianity that "apostle" is a position of rank and importance and hierarchy. But Paul clearly considered that he was a slave and under a death sentence as a consequence of this thing called "apostleship." Such language from Paul is usually treated as some form of false humility. After all, the Twelve have their names written on the foundations of the wall! (Poor Paul got left out!) But, lest we forget, Revelation is a book of signs, and, it might just be possible that there isn't going to be a tall pile of stones with honorary graffiti at the base but instead this is supposed to clue us in on the fact that all the believers are built together and that the Twelve were the first ones the Lord built that way.

Therefore, the REASON that some apostles could originate in the assemblies and have the same apostleship as the Twelve?

Because the key to being an "apostle" is SEEING God.

Quote:
1Cr 9:1 Am I not free? am I not an apostle? have I not seen Jesus our Lord? are not *ye* my work in [the] Lord?
If you study the circumstance at Act 13 carefully, it's all right there. Because there is a genuine revelation of the Lord manifested in the assembly at Antioch, there are some who are designated as the "apostles" in the assembly. Why? They have seen God. And, when it is to His liking, He will speak through the assembly to send them forth as need be.

We know that Saul had a particular revelation of Christ on the road to Damascus but, although the enemy always seeks to distract us, we must not fail to recognize the importance of the reality of the manifestation of Christ in the assembly! According to the Bible, the revelation of Christ in the assembly is even MORE real than what Saul saw, although we all long for the vision to see what he saw. That kind of miraculous seeing is not connected to God's goal. In effect, Paul was Moses all over again and he spoke with the burning bush. And although we all long to know the Lord in the flesh as if we were one of the Twelve with Him in Judea, this also is not what God wants. God wants to be seen in His holy temple, the one not made with hands.

The apostles in Jerusalem were certainly not "sent" on "missionary journeys" as Paul was (although, admittedly, they were sent briefly by the Lord in the Gospels). When the tough times came to Jerusalem, though, the "sent ones" didn't go anywhere. They stayed. Because in fact, the point is not that they are sent traveling about the countryside, nor that they are sent to some kind of mystical pie in the sky "Universal Church." No. They are sent, as gifts, in the local assembly, by the Lord, to the saints, for their equipping, unto the spontaneous organic building of the Body through the functioning of every small potato member. And those same ones who have really seen God in the assembly may also be sent forth by the assembly, in coordination with their living Head, to the benefit of another assembly in another place.
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Old 08-27-2008, 08:10 AM   #10
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First, to Roger’s question, the study of what is an apostle is quite appropriate if we are to deal with Lee’s teachings. He has effectively taught that an apostle is something quite high. He also taught that there are “little a” apostles produced by the “big A” apostles. Then Paul himself is seen using the term as if there is not some completely exclusive and identifiable group. If there are only 12 plus Paul, then why bother with words about the character and teachings as a way to identify false apostles. We have to know what it is that Lee claimed to be “of the age” concerning.

I would agree with YP that much of modern Christianity does not consider the title. But they might still have a proper appreciation for those who are doing the work that the first century would have called apostles (assuming we discover some reason to say that apostles still exist). And he has further found that apostles were set in the assembly according to Paul in 1 Cor 12.

Ohio: A agree that in the overall context, further study into all the terms that have been misused by many organizations in their hierarchies might be warranted. While I have heard some suggest that the term “bishops” is somewhat a mistranslation, we should look at why that was done. Is there something besides an elder, deacon, or apostle being described? If so, is this so much a hierarchy as a description of differences of function? And how do these function together in an assembly? Should there be some hierarchy, or is it more about differing functions in service to the assembly?

And then we come to the notion of traveling preachers of any type. Paul was such a person. He clearly had a ministry to many churches. He also had some severe words to some of them when he wrote. But there is no record that after leaving a church with its elders in place he wielded any authority over them besides what they allowed or accepted. Where is the evidence of replacing elders in a church that were not following his lead with absolute abandon. Instead, he had to lament that all of Asia had deserted him.

I think that when we clarify the functions that are apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers, elders, deacons, etc., we will have little problem fully debunking that any of these are at an “of the age” level or stand-ins for God.

YP’s last post is quite a lot to read. So how do all these gifts work together in the church, the assembly of the called-out ones? And where does that leave some itinerant preacher who claims to be the Oracle of God?
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Old 08-27-2008, 09:08 AM   #11
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YP’s last post is quite a lot to read. So how do all these gifts work together in the church, the assembly of the called-out ones? And where does that leave some itinerant preacher who claims to be the Oracle of God?
Sorry about going on too long! But at least part of it was just verses!

I'd suggest that the itinerant preacher who makes claims of being a big wig had better not just show up and demand that he be listened to as if he were an acting God! Perhaps if he stays around for a year or so nurturing and being builded together, what he has to say would be spontaneously absorbed nutritionally into the Body. Laboring as a slave of the assembly is the model. He'll probably also be maintaining close contact with the assembly he just left. Might write them letters or something to keep in touch and try to help them out.
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