My next book is on movement leadership. Pioneering Movements is due out in December. Here’s a source I wish I’d read before I finished the book. Just a good Biblical basis for the continuing ministry of apostles as movement pioneers.
In his commentary on Ephesians 4 Clinton Arnold begins by saying that the Risen Lord continues to give this leadership gift (along with prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) to equip God’s people for the growth and maturity of the church.
Paul has already noted that “apostles” served a foundational function in the early church (Ephesians 2:20).
This passage is different than 2:20, however, in that Paul is not reflecting back on the beginnings of the church but is speaking about its present and ongoing structure. Christ is continuing to give these leaders to the church for the equipping of the individual members and facilitating their growth to maturity (see also 1 Cor 12:28, where Paul uses the aorist [“appoint”] for the same purpose). Markus Barth rightly notes, “Ephesians distinctly presupposes that living apostles and prophets are essential to the church’s life.”
There were Apostles and Christ continues to give apostles today.
The “apostles” Paul mentions here likely extend beyond the Twelve and Paul to include others whom the Lord Jesus has called to go, establish churches, and ground these new believers in the common faith. Their authority would be differentiated from the Twelve and Paul, who had “seen the Lord” (1 Cor 9:1; Acts 1:21–22). Nevertheless, they are authorized by the risen Lord Jesus himself, who has called them to this role, and by the authoritative message of the gospel itself, which they impart. Their function is closely tied up with their name, “one who is sent.” The background to this expression is in the OT and Jewish understanding of a messenger authorized by God, which is represented by the verbs “to send” (shaliah).
Apostolic ministry doesn’t begin with the Twelve and Paul, but with Jesus, the movement pioneer.
Jesus understood his own mission in terms of being sovereignly commissioned and sent by God, as seen in his important exclamation (citing Isa 61:1): “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted …” (see also Isa 48:16; 66:19 for similar uses of the Hebrew verb). Jesus commissioned the Twelve to carry on this mission and, thus, called them “apostles,” which reflected their function as his authorized delegates (Matt 10:2; Luke 6:13; see also John 20:21).
The Twelve and Paul were not the only apostles in NT times.
The church continues the mission of Jesus and the Twelve when the sovereign Lord commissions and empowers individuals to go and proclaim the good news, establish churches, and teach them to observe all that the Lord commands (Matt 28:19–20). Some of those who fall into this more extended category of apostles include Barnabas (Acts 14:4; 1 Cor 9:6), Andronicus, and Junia(s) (Rom 16:7). There were likely many others. We can only speculate what this may have looked like in Asia Minor at the time that Paul wrote this letter. Paul himself was the founding apostle of the church(es) in Ephesus and, as such, maintained a deep concern about their well-being.
Wherever you find multiplying movements of disciples and churches you’ll find ordinary people with the gift of apostle.
During Paul’s ministry in the city [of Ephesus], Luke tells us that “all … who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10).
It is certainly possible that the Lord Jesus raised up many apostles during this period who took the word of the Lord, which they heard from Paul, to many other cities and villages throughout the Roman province of Asia. This certainly helps explain Peter’s reference to “your apostles” when he speaks of how the inhabitants of Asia and northern Anatolia received the word of the Lord (see 2 Pet 3:2).
If you know someone who is faithfully sharing the gospel, making disciples and multiplying (not just adding) churches you may have an apostle in your midst. Their job is to equip the whole of the body of Christ to multiply disciples and churches.