There is controversy to the existence of certain ministries and gifts in the New Testament Church. However, Christ's Spirit still empowers for ministry; including that of the apostle. Apostolic ministry is foundational to the Church and understanding the roles of apostles is important. Though there are varieties of ministries and operations, apostles have essentially the same functions. Some functions are not exclusive to apostles. However, apostles will differ from other ministries in the execution of those functions.
Preach & Teach the Word of God (I Tim. 2:7). Apostles are gifted to preach and/or teach the word of God under divine inspiration and authority. They are anointed to make known the mysteries of God through the Word. This is performed with boldness and sobriety.
Let a man so account of us (apostles), as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. (I Corinthians 4:1 Parenthesis mine)
Impart Spiritual Gifts (Acts 8:17; Romans 1:11; II Tim. 1:6). Apostles have the ability to bring forth the gifts of God in believers. They have the power to impart wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Apostles can bring to light the spiritual gifts resident in believers and impart gifts (by revelation of the Spirit) through the laying on of hands.
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. (I Timothy 4:14)
Establish and/or Oversee Churches and Organizations. Because apostles are sent with a divine message, God uses some to start organizations as vehicles to present their messages. In addition, apostles will start new churches and ministries in areas where they are sent to preach. This is to give structure to those who have heard the message. For example, Paul and Barnabas started many churches to give the new converts some organization to the worship of God.
And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. (Acts 15:36)
Evangelize. Every apostle has a message. Apostles are gifted to go into areas that have not been open to the gospel or areas that are stagnant. Jesus sent the original twelve out to preach. Every apostle will function as an evangelist, whether to the Church (to bring balance and order) or to the Lost (for redemption and salvation).
For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. (Acts 13:47-49)
Raise Up Leaders (Acts 15:39; II Tim. 2:1-2; Acts 6:3-6). Because of the authority given to them, apostles have the anointing and responsibility to raise up leaders. This is done for the advancement of the kingdom of God.
Apostles will have “Timothys” and “Elishas” in ministry so that the work of the Lord will continue after they have left the scene. If an apostle is the head of a religious organization, he will have the ability to recognize gifts and ministries in individuals and set them in the Church as directed by the Spirit.
To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee. (Titus 1:4-5)
Expose False Apostles & Doctrine. Apostles are stewards of over the mysteries of God. They have the wisdom and foresight to warn against deception. They will contend for purity of faith and doctrine in the Church. They, like the prophets of old, will warn and speak against false apostles openly.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. (II Peter 2:1-2)
Perform Signs, Wonders, Healings, & Miracles. The apostle has a miraculous ministry. Apostles are gifted men, not only to perform signs and wonders, but in the revelation gifts of the Spirit. The word of knowledge, word of wisdom, discerning of spirits, and prophecy will operate regularly in their ministries.
And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. (Acts 2:43)
Lay Spiritual Foundations in the Church. Apostles have the authority and anointing to lay spiritual foundations in the Church. Though no modern-day apostles will write scripture, they are equipped to reveal the hidden truths of God’s Word and lay the proper foundation for the people of God to grow thereby.
Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. (Ephesians 3:4-5)
Establish Churches in the Faith (Gospel). Apostles have the unique ability to bring people back to the purity of the faith. They are able to instruct babes in Christ until they become mature in their personal relationships with God and in their doctrinal beliefs. They can promote stability and growth in the Body of Christ.
And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily. (Acts 16:4-5)
Though there are many dimensions to this awesome ministry (not listed), most apostles will demonstrate all of these functions at some time in their ministries.
© 2013 Roderick Levi Evans