There is a troubling trend – unqualified Christian leaders calling themselves apostles. It is nothing new, of course. Even the apostle Paul wrote about it in 2 Corinthians 11:
But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
2 Corinthians 11: 12-15 (NASB)
Make no mistake about it. Any person calling themselves an apostle, when they are not, is serving Satan, just as Paul writes. The word apostle means “one who is sent,” and with respect to the Christian Church in the New Testament it refers to someone who is sent by the Lord Jesus Christ. The question that needs to be asked by the believer when any person claims the apostolic ministry is, “Who sent you?” It is clearly apparent that there are two categories: apostles sent by Christ and apostles sent by the devil – there is no middle ground.
I am not sure; however, which is worse: people who call themselves apostles when they are without the qualifications to do so, or the individuals in the churches who allow them to get away with it when they know better. The Lord Himself seems to have little patience for either category and congratulated the Ephesians for refusing to acknowledge those who falsely make the claim.
I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.
Revelations 2: 2-3 (NASB)
Many churches claim to have contemporary apostles in their midst. The two largest I am aware of are the Catholic Church is and the other the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). There are also a plethora of smaller groups who also make the claim, including the churches of the Living Word Fellowship founded by John Robert Stevens in 1951. The question all of these churches should be asking themselves is “have you put those who call themselves apostles to the test?” I suspect all of them would answer “yes” to the question, but that answer begs the question, how exactly does one put an apostle to the test?
The apostle Paul offers a couple of hints. The first in 1 Corinthians 9:1-2, when he writes “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.” And the second in 2 Corinthians 12:1, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” It seems that there are at least three qualifications for an apostle: first, a personal commission from the Lord Himself; second, a seal consisting of people and churches that follow the apostle’s message; and finally signs, wonders and miracles. All three seem to be associated with every apostle described in the scriptures.
Of all of the three qualifications, the first is the real test and the foundation for all of the rest. Without a personal commission from the Lord Himself there is no apostle. Jesus is the one who sends the apostle. Paul himself describes his credentials to the Galatians in just that way.
Paul, an apostle (not sent from men [or] through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead) …
Galatians 1:1 (NASB)
Unlike most of the other apostles mentioned in the New Testament, Paul did not know Jesus during His earthly ministry. The original twelve apostles were commissioned by Jesus before He died, followed Him for about three years until He was crucified, and were all witnesses of His resurrection. Paul (formerly called Saul), on the other hand, encountered Jesus after the crucifixion on the way to Damascus.
Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Acts 9: 1-9 (NASB)
Even Matthias who was chosen by lots by the eleven to replace Judas (who turned aside from his apostleship) was required to be with Jesus from the time of His baptism by John until the time He was taken up to Heaven and be a witness of Jesus’ resurrection. All of the apostles named in the scriptures, from the first (Peter and Andrew) to the last (Paul) have been witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus because they have seen Jesus with their eyes. Unless an apostle has seen Jesus with his eyes, their claim to the ministry is without merit.
Although a personal commission by Jesus is the foundation of every apostolic ministry, the other tests are equally important. Schizophrenics often claim to see Jesus, and even sometimes claim to be Jesus. From the beginning, people have made grandiose claims, garnered a following, and led their disciples into scandal or worse. A following of believers may be the seal of apostleship as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:2; however, the proof is the signs. The apostles raised the dead, healed the sick, cast out demons, and gave sight to the blind.
Are you an apostle? Prove it by the signs that follow your ministry. It doesn’t matter how well you preach or how many churches you have. An apostle is not defined by the churches that follow or by the charisma of the pulpit ministry. If there are no signs then there is no apostle. Even Paul admitted in 1 Corinthians 2:4 that “my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
You churches out there who claim to have apostles in your midst – it is time to put up or shut up. Unless you have put your apostles to the test, unless your apostles are witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus because they have seen Him with their eyes, and unless your apostles demonstrate the signs of a true apostle, both you and they are serving the interests of Satan.