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The Characteristics of an Apostle

By Editorial Staff
Published March 31, 2008

By Gene Edwards
from The Early Church

One of the biggest problems of our day, among a multitude of big problems, is the fact that no one is really qualified to be serving the Lord. The servants of God in this age universally lack experience in really deep encounter with the living Christ. They lack complete abandonment to Him. Even beyond these deficiencies and dozens more, the Christians of this age haven’t the vaguest idea of what God’s central burden is! They do not have a vision of the centrality of His church. The preparation modern ministers receive before entering the ministry is almost 100 percent ineffective, if not useless, in light of God’s purpose.

I have chosen to list here the characteristics of a true Apostle. The portrait is based on the lives of Apostles of the first century, but you can also expect, if God is merciful enough to restore this office, to see men who bear these same marks in their lives today.

When you have finished reading this list you will have, not only a good idea of what to expect in an apostle’s life, but also a idea why this breed of man vanished from the pages of history so long ago.

The standard set by those first Apostles is, at the very least, ruggedly high.

Please be clear, this is not a list of “qualifications for you to meet to become an Apostle.” You could acquire all these attributes and still not be an Apostle. But it would be very hard indeed to find an Apostle who did not exhibit all of these characteristics.

If this list serves no other purpose, dear reader, perhaps it will serve to humble your heart and to stir up a seeking spirit within you.

1. An Apostle will not be young.

He will be in his late thirties or early forties before commissionship to Apostleship is even given to him! Most of his adult life until then will have been spent in preparation.

Young men ought not to serve the Lord in this capacity. Young men ought to sit, watch, experience Christ, and enjoy the church.

2. He will have spent years in the church, having fully experienced church life.

He will have been a simple brother in the church, living a normal life; he will have had a good long period of being a nobody; he will have lived under authority in the church and learned submission … just like everyone else.

3. He will not fit anybody’s preconceived image of what an Apostle should look like.

Apostles have a disconcerting way of not looking like Apostles.

4. He will be a man totally outside of the religious system.

This is imperative.

There could be no Apostleship inside that system. The two are mutually exclusive.

Why? The reasons are endless. But here is one.

Apostleship takes nothing if it does not take courage. If a man has not found the courage to step utterly, totally and completely outside the religious system, to leave it and its ways, then he hasn’t even taken step one toward a deep knowledge and experience of Christ and the church. Along with this:

5. He will not lead some organization.

He will not be the head of some organization.

He will be utterly outside of that kind of thing. No, he will not sit behind a glass-top desk, nor head any movement.

6. He will be beyond reproach in language and conduct.

7. He will have an almost inexhaustible ability to suffer and to bear the cross.

8. He will be hated.

He will hate no one. He will be widely criticized. He will criticize no one.

And he will live constantly in the skillet of this treatment. Having been abused and betrayed throughout his whole life, he will come to the end of his life still without bitterness, criticism or hurt, filled with compassion, patience, understanding and even optimism!

9. He will know the Scripture as few men in all church history have ever known it. He will be master of that Book.

At the same time, he will not “teach the Scripture” nor tell people things like “You’ve got to know the Bible to be a victorious Christian.” It is not the scripture which will characterize his ministry. You will sense that though he uses the Scripture, it is in no way the cutting-edge of his message. Oh, you may learn the Scripture from him, like you never dreamed it could be known, but he won’t be teaching you the Scripture; if you learn the Scripture; if you learn the Scripture under him it will be a byproduct, a secondary result of the fact he is showing you Christ! Christ alone will hold pre-eminence in all he says and all that he calls men to.

10. He will know Christ.

He will know Christ well, and he will know Him supremely.

11. He will minister Christ.

When he speaks, he will minister not doctrine, not creeds, not chains of interwoven verses to prove some teaching. He will speak Christ. He will tell men, show men how to know Jesus Christ. Christ will be his sole occupation, his only topic.

12. He will pray.

13. He will raise up churches.

He won’t be coming up with visions of church substitutes. No. The church will be his only obsession. He will live only to raise up the church (locatable, visible, attainable, observable; not that ectoplastic, ethereal, universal, out in the wild blue yonder goo) and to strengthen the church. He will suffer for, live for, and probably die for her and for her alone!

14. He will not hinder another man’s work.

He will in no way interfere in the life of a church raised up by other men in another city. He will not engage in conflict with other servants of God. He will leave alone the works of all other men, and he will, for the most part, steer clear of churches not raised up by his hand.

15. He will not hinder another man’s work.

Apostle’s pioneer.

16. He will eventually release every church he raises up.

He will not hold the church in his hand nor use it for himself. He will eventually set it utterly free, free to Christ. How? He will leave. The people will be left utterly on their own.

17. He will not turn the churches he raises into some kind of a closely knit movement.

He will not father, or oversee, a movement.

18. He will be humble, hidden, gentle, and submissive to others.

He will not rule or dictate. He will not call for men to submit to him.

19. He will have been sent by the Holy Spirit.

20. Lastly, there will be but one proof of his Apostleship. He will raise up churches, and those churches will remain and they will flourish.

The church will stand … free of rules, regulations, organizations, or structure. There will be no specially trained men left behind who have to make sure she survives.

The church will survive, but only because she is the living Bride of Christ.

And the hallmark of those churches will be their love for one another! Such will be the general tenor of the life of an Apostle, for this is the way it was when such a species walked the earth before.

May God hasten the day when the world has to contend once more with such men. Not far behind that day will be another day, the day of the restoration of true church life on this earth.


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Your comments are welcome!

God bless you! I recently taght a lesson in Bible Study on Leadership Through Fathering (Apostleship). Tell me, can someone be an apostle and an inmate in prison?

Posted by Geneva Dorsey on 04/23/2009 03:21 PM #

Bro. Edwards, Thank you for this article of truth. It was highly informative and sound. Honestly, I read it as a personal measuring rod for true apostolic qualification according to the Word, as you have here written. There is much “false” out there, but recognizing the “true” makes a tremendous difference! Thank you so much! I shall now proceed in confidence!

Posted by Apostle J..E. Bowser on 10/08/2009 04:05 PM #

Praise God for viewing this site on (Google). I’m stepping up to the plate of my true calling as an aposle. Many ministries officials don’t understand or recieve the mandate on apostleship. I’m entering into special mentorship training by a well seasoned apostle who first made me to understand that your words gives death or life and to be very careful what you say. To be a watchman over your words because you have supreme authority with words. I was in a church where the pastor didn’t want to train me or even allow me to go out in the field to win souls.So the Lord Jesus lead me to someone well qualified to give me the fundalmental tools with understanding to walk in this office. Pray for me to continue to be humble and teachable unto the Holy Spirit and to fulfil my commission in Christ Jesus!

Posted by deborah L. harris on 10/26/2009 09:44 AM #

I am a born again christian I am interested in becoming a apostle

Posted by jumoke on 09/21/2010 05:50 AM #

I'm willing to be used by God and to be ready to face any challenge. Help me, oh God

Posted by Lubabalo Tyhaliti on 12/29/2010 08:17 AM #

No man today can stand in Christ shoes but we can live His example Serving God with Flesh, Spirit and Soul suffering and humility is a process of growth in God through the Body of Christ

Posted by Mark Saunders on 04/10/2011 11:02 AM #

What is exactly meant by being outside of the religious system?

Posted by Tyler on 05/14/2011 09:14 PM #

I feel as if you give a list of what to expect a apostle to be, but in no. 3 you said he would not be to anyone person’s preconceived image of a Apostle I feel as if this contradicts your whole list of an Apostle.

Posted by Timothy on 12/29/2011 05:00 PM #

Hi there. I’ve met people who call themselves apostles and have heard of many more, etc. I thought the primary character trait of an apostle would be a father’s heart. What would you say it is?

You give several characteristics of apostles. I wanted to narrow it down to just one, and I would think it would be a father’s heart. I don’t mean that anyone with a father’s heart is an apostle or even that anyone who is an apostle will have a father’s heart (which he will); I mean moreover that there’s a type of father’s heart that only an apostle will have: it’s selfless, wise, not bogged down with duty and responsibility (as the apostles in Acts gave certain duties to the chosen Seven so that they could carry on their own pressing duty), and it has an ability to ‘gather in’ or to welcome everyone who comes. In light of this ‘main trait’, as I see it, I’m not surprised that it’s so hard to find an apostle today. But I’ve been grieved at the lack of at least fathering hearts, because of my own need for a spiritual mentor. Thanks for your article. If you can, pray for me, that God will place me with a spiritual mentor— not a perfect person, but a person who knows God in a gentle and fatherly way.

Posted by Asher on 05/13/2012 06:14 PM #

So many traits out there which are needful to know an apostle. But a father’s heart just can’t be faked. When Paul talked about false apostles, ‘super apostles’, or any pretentious ministers, I note by what he says about them that none of them can even be mistaken to have a father’s heart. In 1Cor. 4:15, he summarizes ‘what an apostle looks like’: “Though you may have ten thounsand instructors in Christ, yet you have not many fathers.” An apostle’s chief mark (in my opinion) is not just a father’s heart but THE Father’s heart (the best and only example of this heart being Jesus Christ).

A false, unprepared, or impatient/fallen/disobedient apostle (one with an apostolic call but who doesn’t wait for God’s commissioning to enter ministry) will not have near enough Grace to manifest the extreme patience, Love, and humility that the Father showed through Jesus. The Father’s heart just cannot be replicated, copied, or mimicked; false apostles just don’t have TIME to try to get it down right before flying off to let people know they are apostles. “You have not many fathers,” Paul said. I think that’s as good a yardstick to start with as any when discerning “those who claim to be apostles and are not” (Rev. 2:2) and distinguishing them from those who are probably plain and unimpressive but who truly are apostles.

Posted by Asher on 05/13/2012 06:31 PM #

This is the worst explanation of the office of the apostle that I ever heard. There is no age restriction on apostleship. Prove it in scripture will you? It took Jesus 3 1/2 years to raise up apostle whom it’s historically proven that they were young men between their mid teens and early twenties. Do your research and take this error off the internet.

Posted by Lionel on 08/17/2012 02:03 PM #

You seem to exclude women. I’ve been in ministry for over 30 years. The Lord has sent me to a very rural, desolate and hard place to raise up a church, which I have. Others seeing my ministry over the years have called me “pioneer,” “general” and I resented it. My thinking was that I only did what God told me to do and I didn’t like people putting such names to it. During a special service as we were closing, another apostle came forth and told all there that the Lord had called me as an apostle and asked those ordained pastors or apostles in agreement to come forth to ordain me. That was how I was ordained as an apostle. I struggled with the title for several months, but just continue to do the work. I meet each one of your criteria and I am a woman. My heavenly Father chose to train me outside the “religious system,” and I have led a life totally submitted to my Lord. After all, in His wisdom, how could I do less when I don’t know what I’m doing anyway and MUST depend on Him to lead, guide and instruct me. I have lived by faith for 30 years; that is, I have no means of income (SS excluded) except what the Lord provides. He has had me purchase land to build a facility for the poor and I was able to purchase with no credit. He also has given me a home, and how He has provided for the mortgage these many, many years is nothing short of a miracle. Did you mean to exclude women?

Posted by C.D. on 11/27/2012 10:33 AM #

Dont forget that apostles are followed by signs and wonders (2 Cor. 12:12). Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, by signs and wonders and mighty works. I understand that the time a priest started his ministry was at the age of 30, but some of the disciples where said to be younger than this going according the the their age at the time of death and by the year of death.

Posted by Kirk McLain on 02/17/2013 02:10 PM #

All should remember Apostles are human as Christ was in the flesh facing the same human frailties and vunerabilities though Christ overcame them in the desert facing the devil and defeated him totally with obedience to the Father take up authority only in Christ with the desire to do good.

Posted by Mark Saunders on 05/22/2013 08:01 AM #

Very nice to see the revelation given you. You might mention that this man will experience many hurtful times – and must learn to give them over to Jesus (our Master). may the Lord (Jesus) Bless You.

Posted by Doug Roska on 04/13/2014 07:35 AM #

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