HE GAVE GIFTS UNTO MEN
by Kenneth E. Hagin
Fourth Class of Apostle: Non-Foundational Apostles
Although there are no apostles and prophets of the second or third rank in the Body of Christ today, there is a fourth class of apostle. There are those in the Church today who stand in the apostolic office in a measure. They are sent ones, but they are in a lesser class than those in the Early Church. They are in this fourth class of apostles.
Evidently the word "apostle" was more widely used in the days of the Early Church than it is now, and people understood its meaning. But since it is a word we don't use much today, people have misunderstood it. Even words today sometimes are used generally and at other times are used specifically.
You see, we can miss certain truths the Bible is trying to get across to us when we build spiritual air castles about some of these things, including misconceptions and unfounded ideas about the apostolic office. Then the Lord has to come along and knock down our air castles and correct us, and some people get mad about it.
For instance, let me point out something to you. The Greek word "apostle" is translated from the word "apostolos" meaning a sent one. In Philippians 2:25, Paul talks about Epaphroditus as the Philippians' messenger. The Greek word used here translated as messenger is the word "apostolos."
25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your MESSENGER, and he that ministered to my wants.
By using the word "messenger," Paul was calling Epaphroditus an apostle. But Epaphroditus probably didn't stand in the office of the apostle in the specific sense we think of it today. As the word "apostle" is used here, it means one sent out as a delegate or representative or as the commissioned representative of a congregation.1
Of course, Epaphroditus was not an apostle on the same rank or level as Paul. He was not an apostle of the second or third rank even though he was in the Early Church because he did not lay New Testament doctrine or foundation.
Any apostolic ministry Epaphroditus may have fulfilled would have been in the fourth class.
As Paul used the word "apostle" here, he probably used it in the general sense, meaning that the church sent Epaphroditus, much as you would send a delegate to a convention or a meeting. Epaphroditus was an apostle, messenger, or delegate sent from the Philippians, perhaps to simply assist Paul in the ministry.
As a messenger or delegate, it does not appear that Epaphroditus occupied the full sphere of the apostolic office as Paul did. Paul was not only a messenger, but he also had the spiritual anointing or ability to start churches.
Paul also had the spiritual ability and equipment enabling him to be responsible for the oversight of those churches until the pastoral office could be filled in that local church. We have no record that Epaphroditus started any churches; therefore, he had no specific apostolic ministry toward any churches.
Actually, the word "apostle" was also used even in secular Greek writing. In other words, people who didn't even know God were called apostles. In the classical Greek, the word "apostle" used as a noun meant a commissioned messenger or an ambassador. Used as a verb it means to send off or out. A person who was sent to do a specific job was called an apostle because he was sent specifically to accomplish a certain task.
Therefore, there may be those in the Body of Christ today who stand in the apostolic office in a measure as those sent out with a message. They are commissioned by the Holy Spirit to bring a specific message or ministry along a certain scriptural line to the Body of Christ. They are in the fourth class of apostle.
But bear in mind that all those who stand in the office of apostle regardless of rank or class are first of all preachers or teachers of the Word, just like everyone who is called to the ministry. Or they may be both a preacher and a teacher. But then they also have a special call on them to fulfill a special job or bring a certain message to the Body of Christ.
Many of our modern-day missionaries are in the fourth class of apostles if they are sent out by the Holy Ghost…..
In other words, the word "apostle" in this class implies one who is sent out or commissioned by the Holy Spirit, not merely one who goes.
Actually, a true missionary is a sent one by the Holy Ghost with a message to people in certain countries. Marvellous things happen in those countries as a result of some of these ministries.
Some missionaries not only go to a country with a message, but they have the ability to establish churches too.
Those today who are really called and sent by God to establish new works in other countries are apostles, because one of the main characteristics of an apostle's ministry is that he establishes churches and pioneers new works.
For example, Paul established many of the Gentile churches we read about in the Book of Acts. Missionaries today are doing the work of the apostle if they not only have the ability to get people saved as the evangelist does, but they also have the ability to start and establish churches.
Then once people are saved, an apostle also has the God-given ability and the spiritual qualities to pastor, nurture, teach, and establish people in the Word. He stays with the work long enough to get it established and then may go on to pioneer other new works……
The ministry of the apostle has been in the Body of Christ all the time, but we've just called them missionaries or church planters. Really, the title is not the main issue; the function is….
Pastors Who Stand in the Apostolic Office
As I said, the word "apostle" seems to have a much broader sense than we have given it. I think that's one reason we have gotten into error in this area; we haven't understood the full scope of the office. An apostle in the fourth class can be a messenger, a representative, an ambassador of the gospel, a missionary, or one who is sent out on a special mission with a special message.
Sometimes in our day we seem to have the idea that there are very few apostles, when many of them have been standing in that office all the time. We just haven't called them that.
For example, a pastor can sometimes stand in the apostolic office in a measure in this fourth class if he is sent by the Holy Ghost to build a church in a certain city. In that sense, he is a sent one to that city or community with a message.
Of course, not every pastor sent to a city would qualify as an apostle. He would also have to possess the other characteristics and spiritual qualities of the apostolic call operating in his life and ministry, which we'll cover later.
Even so, a true pastor called to start a work for God wouldn't advertise himself as an apostle. He wouldn't be concerned with labels. His motives would not be to lift himself up, but to complete what God has sent him to do.
In Acts 1:20, we see some indication that a pastor can stand in a measure in the office of the apostle. You remember that Judas had fallen through transgression, and another had to be chosen to take his place.
20 For it is written in the book of Psalms,
Let his [Judas'] habitation be desolate,
and let no man dwell therein: and his
BISHOPRICK let another take.
The word "bishoprick" indicates the office of the bishop. In First Timothy 3:1,2, Paul calls pastors "bishops."
1 TIMOTHY 3:1,2
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a
BISHOP [pastor or overseer], he desireth a good work.
A BISHOP [pastor or overseer] then must be blameless,
the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober,
of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach.
The word "bishop" is the Greek work "episkopos," which is translated bishop or overseer. The overseer of the local church is the pastor (Acts 20:28).
A pastor may build one church, and he may even be sent to a particular city or group of people with a message. In that sense he is standing in the office of the apostle in a measure because he is a sent one by the Holy Ghost with a message. His message is always the gospel.
Then you can see how absurd it is when some young upstart comes to a pastor who is standing in that apostolic office even in a measure, and says, "You don't have the right church government. You don't have an apostle in authority over you."
In the first place, that's not scriptural. A pastor doesn't need an apostle over him. In the second place, he may well be an apostle himself in a limited measure! Now a pastor might not be an apostle to the Church at large. But if God sent him, he could be an apostle, a sent one, to that city and to that local church.
However, as a sent one, that would not give the pastor authority over everyone in that city or over other churches. But his call would be accompanied by the divine ability to establish and oversee that local church.
This is a broader meaning of the word "apostle" than we have thought. And in our day, sad to say, some folks have taken advantage of the ignorance of some people to mislead them by calling themselves apostles, so they could exercise authority over others.
The Greek word that is most commonly translated "apostle" is apostolos. The verb is sometimes used with the same meaning: to send one on a mission as an envoy. It can mean a delegate; specifically an ambassador of the gospel.
Used as a verb the word "apostle" means to send.
The word for "bishoprick" in Acts 1:20 referring to the Apostles of the Lamb is overseer. So we can see a relationship between these two words — apostle and overseer. And we can see by observation in the New Testament that there was an element of pastoral oversight in the apostolic ministry, as the apostles were getting churches established.
In the classical Greek, the word was commonly used. Greek writings talk about "apostles of Zeus," or those who were sent out to represent the gods. Biblically, apostles were sent out to represent the true God.
The Bible uses the word "apostle" to get across the idea that there are those who are especially sent to do a work for God. They may even be overseers, which refers to the pastoral office.
Do we have an example in the Scriptures of an overseer — a pastor — standing in the office of the apostle? Yes, we do. Paul called James, the Lord's brother, an apostle. Paul said, "But other of the APOSTLES saw I none, save JAMES the Lord's brother" (Gal. 1:19).
James wasn't one of the original apostles. He didn't even believe Jesus was the Son of God when Jesus was here on the earth. The Bible indicates that Jesus appeared to James in a vision (1 Cor. 15:7).
But in Acts 15 we can see that when a meeting was called of the elders and apostles to determine church doctrine, James was the overseer of that Jerusalem meeting (Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13). It seems that James headed up or pastored the Jerusalem church, yet he was called an apostle.
[BUT JAMES WAS NOT IN AUTHORITY OVER OTHER MINISTERS WHATEVER THEIR FUNCTION WAS - Keith Hunt]
Other Non-Foundational Apostles
Therefore, we will find the fourth class of apostolic ministry operating in a measure in the Body of Christ in the sense of "one sent forth" by the Holy Spirit to do a certain job, or to bring a certain emphasis along a biblical line of truth to the Body of Christ. It is not so important that the ministry is in title, but it is important that it is in demonstration and power (1 Cor. 2:4).
From time to time God sends someone to the Church with a message to stir believers up along a certain scriptural line. The person is sent just to do that.
So we find apostles in this fourth class who are especially called of God with certain messages and ministries to the Church at large — the Body of Christ…..
In that sense we have apostles today who are sent forth just to emphasize one particular message to the Body of Christ. These ministries are not called to exercise authority over others or lay any more foundation to the New Testament…..
Throughout my years of ministry, I've never seen anyone who has fit the qualifications of those in the second or third class of apostle….. We won't see that class in the Body of Christ today. But I have seen those who fit the qualifications of the fourth class of apostle.
I saw others whom God called and sent to fulfill certain functions in the Body of Christ or to fulfill a special ministry along a certain scriptural line. In that sense, they were "sent ones." But they didn't go around calling themselves apostles. That's where people make a mistake. It's not necessary to give people titles; we all just need to be faithful to do what God has called us to do.
Some of these people weren't apostles in the fullest sense. But they did stand in that office in a measure because they were sent ones to bring a special message or to carry out a special ministry to the Body of Christ.
Actually, throughout church history, God has raised up people and sent them to spearhead revivals and to do other mighty works for Him. And in that sense, we could probably legitimately call them "apostles" in this lesser class…..
I believe there are ministers who have been operating in a measure in some form of the apostolic office, but people have been so religiously brainwashed, they haven't recognized it……
1. Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Paternoster Press: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985), p. 70.