You may have heard of The International Coalition of Apostles. Recently someone drew my attention to a similar institution in Australia. I cringed when I heard it. Looking up the website I noticed that entry to this coalition was ‘by invitation.’ By invitation of whom? Members of the Christian Industry and its pastoral managerial class? Here think of leaders of large churches that form the fabric of the Christian Establishment.
When Jesus expelled the merchants of religion from the temple, He was not only insulting the presumptuous and religiously self-entitled. This was a prophetic act that signalled justice for the oppressed and the doom of the selling of religion for personal gain. Gain such as the need to be validated by masses of artificially dependent people and yes, gain expressed as the creation of a consumer church and consumer Christianity on the back of celebrity.
Several years ago I read a book on the rise of the apostolic movement. I noticed then that it was assumed that the creation of a very large church was taken to be a sign of apostleship. A friend of mine, not very astutely remarked, that someone we both knew must be an apostle because he had built a large church. If only. The church is not synonymous with salvation, with living water or with the Kingdom of God. There is glory to be had, but only when this is the expression of Christ come in our flesh. There is a church built without human hands. This is the church that is the expression of Jesus as His people.
A wag recently remarked that when you throw a stone these days, it's difficult not to hit an apostle - or a wannabe. It's like calling oneself the senior pastor when there is only one of you in the church. There are apostles just as there are pastors, teachers and evangelists. These are people of whom it can be said that ‘they and our Father are one.’ They are not ‘boys’ posing as spiritual fathers. It’s drawing a very long bow to imagine that the five-fold gifts are an element of popular institutionalism.
‘There is no such thing as apostolic succession. Apostleship is a state of being of which the minimum qualification is to be a genuine son of our Father who is in us and with us.’
Apostleship does not germinate from the church or from any ‘thing,’ institution or qualification. It is not really a position. It is a relationship arising from the fact that ‘I and the Father are one.’ It’s an expression of the spirit of sonship. It is the effect of the Spirit of Sonship resulting from a person’s oneness with Father that makes one a son. But never by position or ascription but because, as a son one is the expression and emissary of Our Father. This alone is enough to undo the pretensions of many who are ‘boys,’ and who have no genuine union with Father. What they are united to is their profession and career. What they need is Christ as their life.
‘It is written," he said to them, "'My house will be a house of prayer'; but you have made it 'a den of robbers’ Luke 19.46 NIV.
Should we plant ourselves as an apostle in the soil of institutionalism and religion, as hip as that religion may be, we may need to ask ourselves if we are a planting of the Enemy and a tare, rather than a son of God. If we are not fortunate enough to wither from the fantasy of our pretensions, we can expect to be pulled out in the culmination of what Jesus initiated in the temple. That which he began in the expulsion of the self-promoting and self-entitled money changers from His House of Prayer.
All who are sons are apostolic people. They know and live the new covenant and are alive in Christ. Not attempting to extract life from His stuff, they are channels of living water. They are not consumers of religion and call no man their master or father. They have one husband who is Christ, not a husband who is the law, a celebrity speaker, or a pseudo mediator posing as a substitute Christ. They recognise genuine spiritual authority but are never subservient to the covering of the self-appointed. They have one covering and one husband who is Christ; one Lord who is Jesus and one Father with whom they are one. They are a personal manifestation of Jesus Christ as a son.
All daughters and sons are apostolic but not all are apostles. A genuine apostle is called of God - not by man. Chosen before the foundation of the world he or she is who she in in Christ. Genuine apostles need no approval or commissioning of the flesh. At best this is a work of the flesh and at worst an attempt at control. Genuine apostles represent our Father in the teaching and preaching of sound doctrine, the gospel of the Kingdom and the apostle’s teaching. They join people to their inheritance, establish them in what is theirs - their union with God. They multiply disciples whose power lies in the fact that Christ has come in their flesh. Yet they place no reliance on the flesh, find no strength in coalitions and no power in titles.
‘These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm--shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted--twice dead’ Jude 1.12 NIV.
Jesus came from the Father and genuine apostles come from Jesus. They are recognised by the genuine body of Christ, seldom by the christ of the dead body that is religion, old covenant and the shadow of the real.
‘By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?’ Matt 7.16 NIV.