Over the past few weeks I’ve been looking at the key roles in the job description of apostles today. There are just three more that I want to mention before I sum things up in next week’s post.
The apostles had the responsibility of bringing wisdom to bear on very difficult situations in churches they were caring for. As well as bringing correction, Paul’s first letters to the Corinthians gave advice on some of the difficult issues they were facing concerning marriage1, Christian ‘freedoms’2, suitable attire for women3 and how spiritual gifts were to be both encouraged and yet regulated according to godly order.4 At the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, the apostles, together with the elders, had to seek God’s wisdom on major cross-cultural mission issues, concerning how the Gentiles should be accepted as part of the church. This required debate and skilful leadership to apply the Old Testament scriptures to the new covenant situation.
Apostles also involved the churches in the wider mission to unreached regions of the world. When Paul wrote to the church in Rome to prepare for his visit, he was obviously pleased to be coming to them, as he had often intended to do so but had not been able to fulfil his intention earlier. He also saw it as an opportunity for that church to get behind him as a base for his ongoing mission to Spain, and he asked them to send him on his way.5
Having a visit from an apostle, a man who is passionate about reaching the ends of the earth with the gospel should result in that church having its missionary vision enlarged.
Finally apostles are concerned for the poor. The gospel itself is ‘good news to the poor’.6 One of the key evidences of the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon the promised Messiah was that he would bring ‘good news for the poor’. When Paul met with the other apostles in Jerusalem to have his own apostolic ministry confirmed, there was only one condition laid upon him by the other apostles: that he should always remember the poor.7 Paul commented that he was eager to do that very thing, and it became a major aspect of his ministry. Paul understood that the effect of the gospel was that those with means would share their resources with the poor, not just within a local church but between churches, including churches from different races. Apostles today are still to remember the poor. It is still to be central to their ministry. Apostles are to reflect the compassionate heart of God. Serving the poor is an issue not only of compassion but also of justice, and one of the evidences of the Messiah’s kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament is that justice is restored to its proper place.
1 1 Cor. 7
2 1 Cor. 10:23-33
3 1 Cor. 11:2-16
4 1 Cor. 14
5 Rom. 15:24
6 Isa. 61:1
7 Gal. 2:10