'Books' is a variety of blog posts summarising/commenting on books I am reading through - at times chapter by chapter and at other times commenting on the whole book. This will generally be 'light' reading but I hope will help me to distill my own reading - and if of any help to others then great! These posts will be a summary of the book - where I want to add my personal reflections and thoughts I will make that clear! Hopefully this will give you a taster and a link to get the books and work through the issues yourself.
Fathering Leaders, Motivating Mission (Chapter 2)
Written by David Devenish, the subtitle of the book is 'Restoring the role of the apostle in today's Church' and is ultimately an appeal for the ongoing role of the apostle today. There is no chapter 1 summary as that is more of an introduction to the book. You can buy the book HERE.
Chapter 2 'Apostles Today?'
The chapter starts with highlighting the 4 overarching views people have of apostles;
- NO LONGER NEEDED: There aren't any more apostles today
- A LIMITED NUMBER: The only apostles were the twelve and Paul
- ONLY SOME MINISTRIES CONTINUE: Other gifts continue to be present but not apostles
- APOSTLES CONTINUE: All the gifts continue today, including apostles
Unsurprisingly, given the title, view #4 is favoured. The reasons for that and for not holding views #1-3 are given below;
1. NO LONGER NEEDED: There aren't any more apostles today
This view is based appeals to 1 Cor 13:8-10 where we read of some gifts ceasing 'when the perfect comes and the imperfect disappears'. What and when this 'perfection' is/occurs affects this position. Those who say there are no longer any apostles would hold that 'perfection'. to quote 'This view suggests that the 'perfect' ...refers to the full revelation given in the New Testament, and that once this was complete, there was no further need...' Other thoughts on what 'perfection' might mean are given and dismissed and 'perfection' is held to be 'an eschatological reference to the time when Jesus returns and the final purposes of God's saving work in Christ have been accomplished.'
2. A LIMITED NUMBER: The only apostles were the twelve and Paul
The only apostles were the 12 and Paul ,and appointing Matthias (Acts 1:21-26) was a mistake by the 11! Another qualification to be such an apostle is held to be that they would have had to witness Jesus' resurrection and been with him from the start of his earthly ministry - however there is no evidence that Paul fits the bill! Furthermore the NT mentions many other apostles for whom there is no evidence they ticked all these boxes. (Rom 16:7, 1 Cor 4:6-9, Acts 14:14...)
Another point made is that the church was warned to look out for 'false apostles (2 Cor 11:5), which is confusing if it was only the 12 and Paul!
3. ONLY SOME MINISTRIES CONTINUE: Other gifts continue to be present but not apostles
'The gifts of the Holy Spirit continue today, but not the gift of the apostle.' The author highlights the different way people have tried to explain the separation of the gifts (and which continue as opposed to which do) and the differences and variation of attempts to unpack their views.
4. APOSTLES CONTINUE: All the gifts continue today, including apostles
The key passage is Ephesians 4:11-13 which speaks of the ongoing need of the church throughout history and fundamentally when 'perfection' is hasn't happened yet! Other points made are;
- not all apostles were witnesses of the resurrection/all witnesses were not apostles
- the flexible usage of the term 'apostle' in the NT
An appeal is then made for the need for 'apostles today' and the author states 'Given all these varied references to apostles in the NT churches, it is not justifiable, in my view, to deny the validity of apostolic ministry today...In summary, I believe that a strong case can be made for the apostolic ministry today, while recognising the unique role of the original apostles who witnessed the resurrection, and while thoroughly submitting to the truth revealed in the pages of the NT and seeing that truth as God's final revelation.'
I personally find none of the arguments against apostles today to be compelling enough to ignore what seems a straightforward reading of scripture. I agree with the conclusion of chapter 1 and look forward to seeing how he fleshes out the remainder of the book. His appeal that 'apostles' are a preferable term and role for the oversight of churches ,in comparison to many institutionalised titles, terms and roles I find compelling and more biblical. Read on!