THE BOOK (published in 1992)
HE GAVE GIFTS UNTO MEN
by Kenneth E. Hagin
Characteristics of the Apostolic Call
The Bible gives certain general characteristics that are true for anyone who is called to the apostolic office regardless of rank or class. If a person's life and ministry does not possess these general characteristics, I would seriously doubt the true nature of the apostolic call in his life.
Called and Separated by God; Confirmed by Man
Using Paul's ministry as a biblical example of an apostle, we can see that a person needs to be called by God before his call to the apostolic ministry is ever confirmed by man. We can see the truth of this principle when Paul was separated by the Holy Ghost to the apostolic ministry in Acts chapter 13.
Now there were in the church that was at Anti-och certain PROPHETS and TEACHERS; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul [or Paul]. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the HOLY GHOST said, SEPARATE ME Barnabas and Saul FOR THE WORK whereunto I HAVE CALLED THEM. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being SENT FORTH by the HOLY GHOST [an apostle is a sent one], departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
I want you to see the progression of Paul's ministry here. These scriptures give us a list of five men. These men were each either a prophet or a teacher, or a prophet and a teacher. We gather from the Scriptures that Barnabas was a teacher not a prophet, because a prophet is one who has visions and revelations. We have no indication from the Scriptures that Barnabas had any visions or revelations.
On the other hand, Paul was a prophet and a teacher. We know Paul was a prophet because he wrote almost half of the New Testament, and he received it by revelation. Remember Paul said, "How that BY REVELATION he made known unto me the mystery..." (Eph. 3:3).
So up until this time, this was the extent of Paul and Barnabas' ministries — Barnabas was a teacher, and Paul was a prophet and a teacher. And by this time, both Paul and Barnabas had been in the ministry for some time. But neither Paul nor Barnabas had stepped into the apostolic office until they were separated and sent out by the Holy Ghost for the work God had for them, which was the apostolic ministry.
We know it was the apostolic ministry Paul and Barnabas were called to because the Bible says they were "sent forth" by the Holy Ghost for the work He had called them to: "So they, being SENT FORTH by the Holy Ghost..." (Acts 13:4).
Then the Scriptures go on to tell about the apostles' first missionary journey. And later on that first missionary journey, the Scriptures call both Paul and Barnabas "apostles" (Acts 14:14).
But I want you to see something in Acts 13:2. Paul and Barnabas were called to the apostolic ministry by God from the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). But in this passage of Scripture that call was confirmed by man by prophecy and the laying on of hands.
In other words, Paul and Barnabas didn't receive their call to the apostolic ministry that day by men when hands were laid on them. Paul and Barnabas just received the confirmation of the apostolic call through men by the laying on of hands and prophecy. The Holy Spirit separated them to the work God had already called them to.
How do we know that? Because notice the Holy Ghost didn't say, "Separate unto me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I am calling them." No! He said, ". . . Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I HAVE CALLED them" (Acts 13:2). That is past tense.
It is past tense because the Holy Spirit had already spoken to Paul and Barnabas about their call to the apostolic office. This prophetic utterance was just a confirmation of the apostolic call God had already placed on their lives.
You won't find anywhere in the New Testament where believers are called and separated to a ministry office by people. Sometimes God may use people to confirm the call a person already has in his own spirit, but people can't call or set anyone into the ministry.
Sometimes people say, "But God used me to prophesy to someone that he was going to be used in the such-and-such a ministry." God may occasionally use someone to prophesy that a person will eventually be used in a certain way by the Holy Ghost.
But no one can give spiritual gifts or bestow ministry gifts on people through prophecy. Some people today are trying to put people into the ministry through the laying on of hands and prophecy! That's impossible and unscriptural.
We had an outbreak of this in 1949. The people involved in this movement were scriptural in many areas, but there was some error in their doctrine.
Many times ninety percent of what a person teaches can be scriptural. But ten percent can be poisonous, and it can still be very damaging to you spiritually. That's why you need to have enough Bible sense to rightly divide the Word of truth.
You need to divide or learn to separate the ninety percent that is scriptural from the ten percent that is unscriptural. And sometimes it would be more beneficial not to fellowship with those who are teaching wrong doctrine because the error could eventually harm you.
In this teaching that became popular in the '40s, so-called apostles and prophets were supposedly imparting ministry gifts and spiritual gifts through the laying on of hands and prophecy, and "putting" people into ministry offices. That is unscriptural.
Although it is scriptural to lay hands on people for healing or to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you can't give someone a spiritual gift or call someone into the ministry by laying hands on them.
As I said, sometimes God will confirm a person's call through prophecy; but only God can call someone to the ministry or impart a spiritual gift to them.
Then we had another outbreak of this error in the beginning of the Charismatic Movement. And again today we are experiencing another outbreak of it.
Some of the ministers who have recently gotten off into error in this area weren't there years ago when these errors surfaced earlier in the Body of Christ. Therefore, they didn't know the harm this teaching caused in the past.
That's why if they had good sense, younger ministers would listen to some of us who have been over the road spiritually before them. It would save them many heartaches. Some of them could lose their churches over these false doctrines. And some of them will ultimately be embarrassed because these teachings are unscriptural and will eventually be shown to be wrong.
First a Preacher or Teacher
Another general characteristic of the apostolic call is that an apostle is first and foremost a preacher or a teacher, or a preacher and a teacher of the Word.
1 TIMOTHY 2:7
Whereunto I am ORDAINED a PREACHER,
and an APOSTLE, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;)
a TEACHER OF THE GENTILES in faith and verity.
2 TIMOTHY 1:11
Whereunto I am APPOINTED a PREACHER, and an APOSTLE, and a TEACHER of THE GENTILES.
Notice Paul didn't say, "I am first ordained an apostle." No, Paul said first, "I am ordained a preacher," because he was first and foremost a preacher of the good news. He was a sent one for the purpose of preaching and teaching the gospel.
Every single one of the ministry gifts is first of all a preacher or a teacher of the Word. In other words, those called to ministry gifts either proclaim or explain the Bible.
We can see by this passage that an apostle's main ministry is to preach or teach the Word.
The apostolic call has nothing to do with ruling over churches or people. In both of these scriptures, Paul mentions his preaching ministry first to emphasize the apostle's primary ministry.
Paul was a preacher of what? The gospel. A teacher of what? God's Word. That should help us understand the true nature of the apostolic call when some of these fellows come around teaching doctrine other than the Word, calling themselves apostles.
Signs of a True Apostle
The signs of an apostle are stated by Paul in Second
2 CORINTHIANS 12:12
Truly the SIGNS OF AN APOSTLE were wrought among you in all patience, in SIGNS, and WONDERS, and MIGHTY DEEDS.
What are the signs of an apostle? Signs, wonders, and mighty deeds. If some of these folks who call themselves apostles today don't have some of these same apostolic signs working in their lives and ministries, then they are not in that office.
Also, to stand in this office, one must have a very deep, personal experience with the Lord — something very real and beyond the ordinary.
Paul, for example, had such an experience with the Lord in his conversion experience and evidently throughout his ministry. Although Paul did not see Jesus in the flesh when Jesus walked upon the earth, Paul saw Jesus in a vision (Acts 9:3-6). His conversion was beyond the ordinary and deeply spiritual (Acts 26:13-19).
For example, Paul had such a deep spiritual experience with the Lord that Paul received his knowledge of the Lord's Supper — a New Testament church sacrement — directly from Jesus: "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you..." (1 Cor. 11:23).
As a foundational apostle and prophet, Paul received insight and instruction concerning this church ordinance directly from the Lord — not from the other apostles, nor from church tradition. And, of course, Paul received the revelation of the gospel from the Lord (Gal. 2:1,2).
Those in the fourth class of apostle won't receive any more foundational revelation upon which the Church will be established. But their personal experience with the Lord will be supernatural and beyond the ordinary.
However, that does not make an apostle personally superior to other believers or other ministry gifts.
If these are the signs of a true apostle, what are the signs of a false apostle?
If there were false apostles and prophets in the Early Church, we are not so perfected in our day that we won't have them in the Church today. But that doesn't do away with the genuine office of the apostle. In fact, if anything, it proves there is a genuine apostolic office because Satan only counterfeits what is real and genuine.
2 CORINTHIANS 11:13-15
For such are FALSE APOSTLES, DECEITFUL WORKERS,
transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed
into an angel of light.
Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers
also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness;
whose end shall be ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS.
There is one very simple way to distinguish a false apostle from a true apostle. A true apostle plants and establishes new works in the Lord on a sound biblical foundation — the Word of God.
A false apostle tears up works with division, strife, and wrong teaching. Some so-called apostles today are doing that, and they are false apostles.
Some indeed preach Christ even of ENVY and STRIFE;
and some also of good will:
The one preach Christ of CONTENTION,
NOT SINCERELY [not honestly],
supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
But the other of love, knowing that I am set for
the defence of the gospel.
Did you ever see a counterfeit three-dollar bill? Of course not. That's because there isn't any such thing as a three-dollar bill. A false apostle is a counterfeit of a genuine apostle and tries to act like the real thing.
The Bible says a false apostle is a deceitful worker. He usually counterfeits the genuine office out of impure motives for reasons of personal gain.
That is one reason I ask these folks who claim to be apostles, "How many churches have you pioneered?" Or "What are your qualifications which prove you stand in that office?"
They may have started one church. But pioneering just one work doesn't necessarily qualify them as an apostle because there are other characteristics and spiritual qualities that go along with the apostolic office as well. And they may not possess those characteristics and qualities. It may be that pioneering and pasturing that one work is the main ministry the Lord has for them.
Gordon Lindsay in his book, Apostles, Prophets and Governments, had something to say about false apostles:
A false apostle is identified first by his usurping of the office of an apostle, and second, by failing to produce the works of an apostle. The Early Church took note of those who claimed apostleship but in fact were false apostles. They were tried and found liars and exposed so that they would not be able to lead away the sheep of the Church of Christ. It is evident that the office of an apostle is needed in the church today. But history shows the danger of any man calling himself an apostle. Groups that have attempted to restore apostolic functions by electing apostles have merely exposed their own folly. Those claiming to be apostles sometimes have at the beginning manifested a generous spirit. But they soon became arbitrary and sectarian. And usually succeeded in bringing people under bondage.1
[OH INDEED SO; I SAW IT HAPPEN TO HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG AND HIS WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD; HE EVENTUALLY RULED WITH A ROD OF IRON, LIKE A LITTLE HITLER AND SO HE HAD MANY OTHER LITTLE HITLERS UNDER HIM - Keith Hunt]
A pastor went to a certain place and heard a fellow preaching who claimed to be an apostle. You certainly couldn't see any works or fruit of the apostolic office in the fellow's ministry. He hadn't established any churches, nor did he possess any of the other characteristics of the apostolic office. But as soon as this so-called apostle convinced others he was an "apostle," he announced, "To get the proper New Testament church government, an apostle and prophet need to be in authority over the pastor in the local assembly. I'm an apostle. The churches in this area are to come under my authority. All of you are to send at least twenty percent of your income to me."
This so-called apostle was trying to use his "authority" in order to bring people under bondage and to extort money from them! I would call him a false apostle. His motives were wrong and so were his methods.
But one of the pastors who heard him say this, swallowed this erroneous teaching hook, line, and sinker and submitted his church to this so-called apostle's "authority." The pastor had a two-hundred-member congregation. But after he submitted his ministry to this so-called apostle, the pastor's congregation dwindled to fifty people before he realized this wasn't scriptural.
The people in his congregation had more sense than the pastor did. They left the church because they knew this teaching wasn't correct.
Then this so-called apostle said, "Any church that doesn't have an apostle over it is an illegitimate church."
I'd just as soon hear a donkey bray at midnight in a tin barn! Actually, I'd have more respect for the donkey because braying is all he can do.
You see, the work of a true apostle will include not only the fruit of the spirit, but it will also be displayed by his concern for the upbuilding of the Body of Christ — not tearing it down with unscriptural teachings.
Gordon Lindsay talks about the work of true apostles in his book, Apostles, Prophets and Governments:
True apostles will first manifest their apostolic ministry by humility. They will reveal the ministry that God has given them by their works rather than by public proclamation of their office. One can do the work of an apostle without calling himself an apostle. The office of an apostle is to a great extent misunderstood. Many think it is an elevation to a position of authority whereby one may rule over God's people. . . . Let one do the works of an apostle and he will find that his ministry will become recognized….An apostle will have a burden for the whole Church, and he will be interested in the welfare of the entire Church.
That does not mean that he will physically minister to all members of the Body, which may number millions. But his burden will be for the whole Church of Christ. A true apostle will manifest an interest in the whole body and will labor to the edifying to the whole body until all members "come into the unity of the faith." He will not have a covetous spirit or be a seeker after financial gain.2
[AND SO MANY OVER THE DECADES HAVE EVENTUALLY SEEKED AND AMASSED, THROUGH COVERTNESS AND HUMAN PRIDE AND EGO, PHYSICAL RICHES LIVING LIKE MOST MULTI-MILLIONAIRES LIVE, EXPENSIVE HOMES, CARS, PLANES, FURNISHINGS; AND PEOPLE THEY RULE WITH CULTIC POWER, SEEM TO THINK THEY DESERVE IT—- TALK ABOUT DUMB SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS…I SHAKE MY HEAD OVER IT ALL, IT IS UNREAL, BUT SADLY IT IS REAL, I’VE SEEN IT HAPPEN - Keith Hunt]
Brother Lindsay wrote this in the '50s, but you would think he was writing it for us today, wouldn't you?
[AS SOLOMON SAID THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN - Keith Hunt]
A Submitted Ministry
I want you to see something else about the biblical characteristics of a true apostle.
Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and COMMUNICATED UNTO THEM that gospel which I PREACH AMONG THE GENTILES, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
There are several things to note in this passage.
An apostle is not above other ministry gifts. In fact, a true apostle will submit his ministry to other proven ministers of the gospel, as Paul did here.
No one knows how long Paul was in Arabia (Gal. 1:17), but we do know that Paul had been in the ministry at least seventeen years (Gal. 1:18; 2:1) when he went up to Jerusalem to confer with the apostles there. In other words, he was not a novice in ministry, yet he still conferred with other men of reputation about what he preached.
In fact it was revealed to Paul by the Holy Spirit that he should go to Jerusalem and share the gospel he was preaching to the Gentiles to "those of reputation" — the outstanding chief apostles at Jerusalem. The apostles at Jerusalem did not preach to the Gentiles; they were still preaching to the Jews.
Paul said he submitted the revelation God gave him to the apostles, ". . . lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain" (Gal. 2:2). In other words, Paul submitted his revelation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the spiritual leaders of his day.
If there is a possibility that this great man of God could run in vain, there is a possibility that we could run in vain too.
That's why Paul wanted to submit his revelation to the Apostles of the Lamb. They were proven and well-established ministers of the gospel and had companied with Jesus in His earth walk.
If Paul needed to submit his revelation to proven ministers, how much more should we? Yet some folks in our day want to confer with those who have recently become leaders in the ministry or who are young in ministry, or they don't want to submit their revelations or ministries to anyone at all.
A minister came to me once with his great "revelation." I told him, "I can't accept that because it is not scriptural." I knew it would hurt the Body of Christ, hinder the plan of God, and eventually shipwreck this man's ministry.
"Yes, but God gave me my revelation," he insisted.
You're in trouble the minute you go talking like that.
If God has shown you something, others in the Church will know it, too, especially those who are leaders in the Church. But beware of any revelation that lifts you up in pride and exalts you instead of exalting the Lord Jesus Christ.
I told this minister, "Even with the office of the prophet, Paul said, 'Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge' (1 Cor. 14:29). If the prophet's ministry is to be judged, then the teacher's ministry or any other ministry would also need to be judged. You don't judge the person; you judge what he's teaching or preaching. You judge the person's ministry."
[YES YOU JUDGE ANY AND EVERYONE BY THE WORD OF GOD—— SEE ISAIAH 8:20 - Keith Hunt]
But this man wouldn't listen and went out and started teaching his so-called revelation to the Body of Christ. But his ministry didn't last because his teaching wasn't scriptural; it was all "me" and "mine." He got lifted up in pride and concocted a revelation that wasn't biblical. He eventually faded off the scene and no one ever heard of him again.
[AND SO IT IS WITH HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG; IN TIME NO ONE WILL KNOW HE EVER EXISTED. HE HAS NO WEBSITE PER SE, THAT IS ALIVE, AND ON-GOING, WITH EVER GROWING IN GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE, EXPOUNDING THE TRUTHS OF GOD. ALL HE HAS ARE A FEW PEOPLE (WHO WILL DIE SOON, AS THEY ARE GETTING OLD) WHO MAY PUT UP SOME OF HIS STUDIES, AND THEN SOME OF THEM WERE UNBALANCED AND CULTIC IN NATURE. IF THEY PUT UP SOME OF HIS LAST TV PROGRAMS YOU CAN SEE HOW CULTICALLY OBSESSED HE AND HIS ORGANIZATION WAS ABOUT HIM BEING “THE APOSTLE” OF GOD. ONE TV BROADCAST I HAPPENED TO CATCH (THINK GOD WANTED ME TO SEE IT), THEY THREW UP A CHART THAT HAD GOD THE FATHER AT THE TOP, JESUS CHRIST UNDER THE FATHER, AND HERBERT ARMSTRONG UNDER JESUS CHRIST….. THAT SHOULD TELL YOU RIGHT THERE WHAT HIS ATTITUDE HAD BECOME IN HIS LATTER YEARS - Keith Hunt]
If you have a revelation about the Word, prove it out scripturally first before you teach or preach it publicly. Then submit it to others of established reputation in the Body of Christ, and let them judge it. Don't preach it or act on it until men of reputation who are seasoned in ministry have judged it. You don't want to run in vain.
[IRON SHARPENS IRON AS THEY SAY - Keith Hunt]
Actually, we ought to want our revelations and our ministries to be judged. Paul wanted his revelation and ministry to be judged. He wanted it to be right and scripturally sound. That's why he submitted it to the apostles at Jerusalem who were well seasoned in ministry.
[ANYONE CAN READ THE STUDIES ON THIS WEBSITE, IF IN THE RIGHT ATTITUDE THEY QUESTION ANYTHING, THEY HAVE MY EMAIL ADDRESS - Keith Hunt]
The fruit of a true apostle is that he has a submitted attitude toward other brethren, including the pastors of local bodies where he might minister on occasion. He is concerned about blessing and building up and establishing works, not tearing them down with questionable teachings and revelations.
In my ministry, I've also practiced submitting revelations I've received from the Lord to those of reputation. And when I was in the field ministry, although I was not an apostle, I did what any traveling ministry, including an apostle, should do. First, I always submitted my ministry to the pastor or overseer of the local church where I ministered.
I've always told the pastor of local churches where I ministered, "If there is anything I'm preaching that you don't want me to preach, just tell me and I won't preach on it. If there is anything I'm not preaching on and you want me to preach on it, just tell me."
That is true submission, and every traveling teacher should submit his ministry to the pastor of a local body…….
In Paul's ministry, we can see the general characteristics of the apostolic call. Although he was a member of a local body, he was sent out by the Holy Ghost. He was first and foremost a preacher just like every other minister. And his message was the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He was commissioned by God to bring that message to a specific group of people — the Gentiles.
His apostolic ministry didn't extend to everyone. He did not have unlimited apostolic authority. Paul also had the fruit of a biblical apostolic ministry. And he submitted his ministry to those of proven reputation in the Word.
1. Gordon Lindsay, Apostles, Prophets and Governments, (Dallas, Texas: Christ For The Nations, Inc., reprint 1988), pp. 12,13.
2. “Lindsay, p. 14.
NOW THAT IS GETTING AT THE NITTY-GRITTY OF THE “APOSTOLIC” GIFT MINISTRY— YES INDEED IT IS THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF INSPECTION FOR ANYONE WHO CALLS HIMSELF AN APOSTLE, OR A GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO SAY THEY HAVE AN “APOSTLE” OVER THEM, OR IN THEIR MIDST.