“You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19–20).
As we continue our study of church leadership this week, it will be helpful for us to look at a few of the specific leadership positions that God has given to His church. In the time between the first and second advent of Christ, the Father has not only given us the tools we need for service, He has also appointed certain individuals to perform certain tasks for the edification of His people.
The first office that we will discuss is the office of the apostle. Regrettably, there is some misunderstanding regarding the nature of the office of the apostle in some parts of the church. One common idea, for example, finds the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospels somehow more authoritative than the words of the apostles that we find in the rest of the New Testament.
Now it is true that in an ultimate sense Jesus has more authority than His apostles. After all, He is very God of very God and His apostles are, in the end, only servants. However, when we understand the function of an apostle, we will understand that when they speak in Scripture they are speaking the very words of Christ Himself.
In the ancient culture, the Greek word apostolos (from which we get “apostle”) could refer to, among other things, admirals, generals, and passports. Basically, it referred to one with credentials, one who was appointed by the emperor to speak for the emperor. To disobey the apostolos would be to disobey the emperor himself.
Thus, to disobey the new covenant apostles would be to disobey the teaching of our new covenant Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. At His ascension, He appointed a select group of men to be the foundation of the church as He is the cornerstone. These men gave us new covenant special revelation once and for all, and, upon their death, the office of the apostle ceased.
In our day, some have claimed to be apostles. However, when we understand the foundational role of the apostles, we understand that there are no apostles today. As today’s passage tells us, they, along with the prophets, provided the foundation of the church, and a foundation once laid does not need to be laid again. Today, the church is called not to lay the foundation again but to continue building the church of God through obedience to the apostolic writings of Scripture.
The foundation of the church was laid 2000 years ago with Jesus as the cornerstone and His apostolic Word as the foundation. Today we are true to the foundation only as we apply the teachings of Scripture to the church and to our lives. Ask the Lord to help you do what you can to encourage the church to remain true to her foundation.
Passages for Further Study
Isa. 52:1–12, Acts 1:12–26, 1 Cor. 15:3–11, Gal. 1:11–24