Should a local church have apostolic government? The answer is absolutely yes.
One great deception that has robbed the church and destroyed many apostolic ministries is that when somebody begins to function as an apostle, he could no longer be associated with a local church and he had to resign in order to be used in the wider body of Christ.
This deception has basically two roots of error:
It is assumed that the head of the local church must be a pastor. In the New Testament, however, we do not find that the function of the pastor takes the end responsibility of the local church. In the church in Antioch, we see that the leadership team consisted of five men and not one was a pastor. Read Acts 13: 1 “Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul”.
Many local churches have an entirely unbiblical leadership structure in the local church, that is, a one-man leadership, which is assumed by the function of a pastor. The Biblical pattern is that of a team of elders, who together lead the local assembly. Within this team, there is one who functions as an apostle, the senior elder or visionary. The apostle takes the place of end responsibility and visionary, whilst the other elders allow the apostle to be involved in extra-church or international activities. The other elders carry day-to-day detail of administration and shepherding.
Every ministry should have a close association with an apostle. The apostle carries the highest local authority.
In 1 Corinthians 12: 28 we read “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues”.
What does it mean that apostles are first?
The word first in the Greek is “proton”, meaning first in time, rank and order.
The word first does NOT indicate that apostles are better than other ministries and therefore that they should rule over them. All five giftings represent different dimensions of the Christ anointing and all come from God. There is no dimension of Christ that is superior or inferior to any other. It is theologically and practically not accepted and even impossible. Christ is perfection and contains no lesser or inferior parts as compared to any other.
The word first indicates a peculiar quality of the apostolic gift. It has a breakthrough capability that is not manifested as powerfully in other giftings.
Whenever God is moving in new territory in a fresh reformation move to radically restructure the church and the world, He releases the first anointing, which is the apostolic anointing. This is why we see church planting and pioneering projects spear headed by the apostles. Today we interpret missionary work often as apostolic, which is not always true. It is even accepted that apostles must travel and do missionary work. We see this in the life of Paul, the apostle, but first and foremost apostles are governmental rather than being traveling ministers, because it is seen in the live of Peter that he stayed in the church in Jerusalem and took a governmental position there. The apostle Paul exercised apostolic government in many areas, financially in the Corinthian church, rebuking and disciplining the church in the Galatians’ area. We find that Paul was appointing leadership through delegation in the pastoral letters both in Timothy and Titus and he even told the church in Rome that they needed the apostolic gift. In Romans 1: 11-12 Paul declared “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established - that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me”. Paul did not personally plant the church in Rome but he taught them and recognised himself that this church needed apostolic government.
Apostles and mandate
Apostles are those who carry a specific mandate of God. This means that God has given them a specific task for a specific time and sometimes even for a specific region. Spiritually, it means that God has given apostles the legal right and power to fulfill a mandate, which is recognised in the heavenlies. Hence Paul states that he cannot work in another man’s field. This means that another man carries the mandate for that field. By the way, it is possible that several people are mandate carriers of an area. The spiritual world understands the principle of mandate. They knew who carried the mandate in Acts 19. The demons shouted, “we know Christ and we know Paul, but who are you?” The question asked related to the right, the authority by which someone operated. Did the sons of Sceva have a mandate to operate? The obvious answer is “no”.
Acts 19: 13-16 “Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded”.
The question implied whether the people had a mandate to operate or whether they were working under a specific mandate. In the latter case, they would have functioned in delegated authority. The conclusion of the story shows us that they could not answer the question properly and therefore they were overpowered by the powers of darkness.
It is also important to understand that there are different kinds of mandates in the Bible. We find that Nehemiah had the mandate to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem while Joshua had the mandate to take possession of the land. Moses delivered the people out of bondage and led them in the wilderness. It is God who chooses and appoints His men, not institutions, organizations or denominations. God gives a mandate to a man or even a woman. These God-appointed people carry spiritual authority. Moses carried the staff, as a sign of his authority. The battle against Amalek was not won by a multitude, strategy or strength of Israel, but rather by uplifting of Moses’ arms, as recognition of God’s delegated authority through Moses’ life.
Where in the Bible do we find proof for submission to apostolic mandate?
Apostles give correction and direction to the church in Corinth and also in the book of Acts. We read the following Scriptures:
2 Corinthians 10: 8-9 “For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed—lest I seem to terrify you by letters”.
2 Corinthians 13: 6 “But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified”.
Acts 14: 23 “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed”.
We need apostles to discern what is going on spiritually in a city, like Paul entered Athens and saw.
Acts 17: 16 “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols”.
Acts 13: 6-12 “Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name wasBar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? “And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord isupon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.” And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord”.
Acts 19: 13-20 “Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed”.
Paul exhorts Titus to teach the church and to submit to those who rule and those who are in authority over them. Paul uses the Greek work “exousia”, which implies divine authority as opposed to worldly rulers and authorities.
Titus 3: 1 “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work…”
2 Corinthians 13: 10 “Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction”.
The root words in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek all show the same indication that Paul speaks about obeying those whom God has put over His people. We obey God’s authority and way of working. We obey the world in general matters and as much as possible, as long as the world does not come against the Word of God. As an example, if the worldly government would force me to bow before an idol, we will not obey the command because it is contrary to God’s Word.
In closure, we have seen that apostles are given to the church for various important functions:
They are called first because of their breakthrough anointing.
They are rulers in the spirit and carry authority, which God placed on their lives.
Every local church should either have an apostle as part of their leadership team or submit to an apostolic oversight.
There is nobody within the Body of Christ who can stand-alone. Everyone must find someone as a general or captain of the army who will delegate authority, protect, watch and if necessary bring correction.
Read more on apostolic mandate in my book “Current Apostolic Reformation”. Order a copy via the website.
God bless you.