leadership in the church
Leadership in the Church
The New Testament mentions a wide variety of leaders in the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, bishops, elders and deacons. What are these offices? Are they commanded for the church today? Let's examine the evidence, starting with the titles given in Eph. 4:11.
Doesn't everyone know what an apostle is? Isn't that the highest rank of church leadership? That may be how the word is sometimes used, but the word had a different meaning before the church existed. It originally meant "one who has been sent" — an ambassador or representative. This general meaning is seen in some New Testament uses.
Jesus used the word in a general sense when he said that a "messenger" is not greater than the one who sends him (John 13:16). Similarly, Paul referred to some apostles whose names were not important enough to be given; the NIV calls them "representatives" (2 Cor. 8:23). That was the general function of an apostolos. When Paul called Epaphroditus an apostolos, he may have meant simply that Epaphroditus was a messenger of the church at Philippi (Phil. 2:25).
Jesus, who was sent by the Father, was an apostle (Heb. 3:1). The 12 disciples, who were sent by Jesus, were also apostles (Mark 3:14, etc.). Obviously, the disciples are not in the same category of authority as Jesus, but the same Greek word is used. Barnabas and Paul were also sent out, and they were called apostles (Acts 14:4, 14).
The 12 disciples and Paul used the term apostolos as the name of their leadership office in the church (Acts 15:23; Rom. 11:13; Gal. 1:1; etc.). Authority came with the sending — a messenger sent by Jesus Christ had an authoritative understanding of that message.
James may have been an apostle, too — in one verse he seems to be distinguished from the apostles, and in another he seems to be included (1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19). Similarly, Timothy is excluded sometimes (2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 1:1) and included once (1 Thess. 2:6) — but in this latter verse Paul may have been using the term in a general sense of messenger or representative.
The reference in Rom. 16:7 is debated. Some say that Andronicus and Junias (or Junia)1 were apostles; others say that the verse simply means they were esteemed highly by the apostles. Even if they were apostles, however, they were probably messengers rather than being apostles in the sense of having a permanent position of authority in the church. (If they were apostles in the same sense that Paul was, it is odd that we know almost nothing about them, either from the Bible or from church history.)
Some people falsely claimed to be apostles (2 Cor. 11:13; Rev. 2:2). Paul facetiously called them "super-apostles" (2 Cor. 11:5; 12:11). Although he was the least of the apostles, he was not inferior to the self-proclaimed apostles (1 Cor. 15:9).
God appointed some people to be apostles (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). This was part of the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20; 3:5). What role did apostles have in the church? The Twelve and Paul were instrumental in beginning the church. Soon after Jesus had ascended to heaven, the disciples said that a requirement for their "apostolic ministry" was to have been with Jesus during his ministry (Acts 1:21-25). These apostles not only preached, but also exercised some administrative leadership. They laid hands on deacons whom the people had chosen (Acts 6:6) and they made decisions with the elders (Acts 15:22).
Paul mentioned some of his qualifications to be considered an apostle: seeing the Lord and raising up churches (1 Cor. 9:1). His converts were the "seal" of his apostleship — evidence that he had been sent, at least to them (v. 2). He noted characteristics that marked an apostle: "signs, wonders and miracles" (2 Cor. 12:12). An apostle preaches the gospel as a faithful messenger of the Lord. He is an official representative of Jesus Christ, more exclusive and authoritative than elders. pastor Godwin evans