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.
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.