OK, I’m not doing this to start a theological debate, doctrinal fight, nor a “Roman Catholic” versus “Protestant” argument. It really is just a question: “Where did the concept of the ‘Apostolic Age’ come from?” I’ve had the mandatory seminary classes on church history, and I know the traditional thought about this alleged Apostolic Age. But when and where did this concept of an alleged The Apostolic Age originate? And I know that the consensus is it ended with the death of John.
Many teach and many more believe that it was limited to those Original 12, well, excluding Judas. But according to Matthew 10:2-4, Judas is listed as one of the 12, you guessed it, “Apostles”. but were there just those 12, including Judas? Well, maybe including Paul there were 13 “Apostles”. Perhaps we could add Barnabas to make an even 14. Maybe we could add Silas for 15. Some might have a good argument to include Timothy as an “Apostle”, making the number an even 16 “Apostles”.
Could it be this “Apostolic Age” is the result of the interpretation of History? I know, I know, most want history to be just the facts. Yet most of written history includes the result of human interpretation. And herein lies my contention: Is the concept of this alleged “Apostolic Age” the result of human interpretation? Now please understand, I’m not asking you to agree with my hypothesis, theory and conclusion. I am asking that you simply think for yourself, and then draw your own conclusion. I have a “Leroy Jethro Gibbs” gut feeling some of the comments may disagree with me, or some might stop following this blog. I’m OK with this, as long as you are thinking and seeking the Holy Spirit.
Me? I’m a KISS kind of man–Keep It Simple Stupid! With this as my backdrop, let me frame these words as best I can.
- My Hypothesis: Our God is a “Sending God”. It is His nature and His deepest desire to send out His heart and message to redeem and restore fallen humanity; the ones who alone bear His image.
- My Theory: He sends others that He has redeemed and restored to Himself for the purpose of redeeming and restoring others. Don’t try to sell me on the benefits of a Ford if you are only driving Chevrolets. If you want to reach deep into me, tell me what (or whom) is deep inside you.
- My Conclusion: Because God is still reaching out to His Fallen Image Bearers through those whom HE sends, this thing called The Apostolic Age as defined by historians, hasn’t really ended. Furthermore, I assert this concept of an “apostolic age” to be anathema and has robbed the Body of Christ of it’s most basic identity–that of being a sent people. The result of no longer living with that sense of being “sent”, most, especially Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters, are living with a sense of being settled. And that, my blogging friends, is one of the worst tragedies; for a people who were redeemed and restored in order to be sent, to accept being settled.
What started this train of thought (some may say this train never left the station, or has derailed by the end of these thoughts) was my work on this week’s sermon. This work included the passage from Matthew 10 when Jesus “sends out” those 12 “apostles”. I looked up that Greek word we have translated “Apostle” (*NOTE the typical use of the Capital “A” as in THE Apostles and THE Apostolic Age, which “capital” letter is not found in the Greek texts) is apostolos. An apostolos is a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders. It comes from the word apostellō— which means “to order one to go to a place appointed.”
So, why isn’t an apostle (lowercase “a”) simply someone sent as a messenger to go to an appointed place with The Message? If my hypothesis is true, that God is the Sending God, doesn’t this mean He is still sending today? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Now this left-handed, right-brained preacher is about to put it into overdrive. What if we forgot about this “historical” image of an alleged long gone “Apostolic Age” and began living our lives right now as apostles (note the lowercase “a”)? Live as people who are sent to a certain place with a certain message? Can you imagine the transformation that could happen?
I now see myself as an apostle–but not with the delusions of grandeur. I see myself as one who is being sent with a Message to specific places and people. And you do not have to be a pastor, preacher, evangelist or missionary to be “sent” somewhere. God is looking for people to send to specific places. Those places are where there are human hearts and lives, made in God’s image, that need to be redeemed and restored to the Father’s Glory. God is looking to send someone across your street. God is looking to send someone across the aisle, across the hall, across town, across county lines, and who knows, maybe across the state or across the world.
What are the places that God is looking to send people to? The places where people need to be redeemed and restored. God’s best work is always done through ordinary people. Remember 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV),
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
Sent people are never settled people. They are ready and willing to go into every human situation with the Message of The Good News, this Kingdom News that redemption and restoration are now available to anyone and everyone. First these 12 were disciples before they were apostles (lowercase “a”, please). They learned from Jesus and then they went. How I pray for more people to live first as disciples, then go as apostles–people sent on a Mission from God! If you live with that sense of being sent, then the Apostolic Age isn’t over. How sad it must be to think God has stopped sending ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Nothing is more miraculous nor extraordinary than when another heart has been redeemed and restored by The Maker, our God who sends!
I may not have convinced a single person that this alleged “Apostolic Age” thing is a human concept. But if there is just one of you who are now thinking, “Could God be sending me somewhere?”, then it has been worth it! It is both overwhleming and liberating to know that we can be “sent”. And it is a prison all it’s own, to be simply settled where you are. Still think that the Apostolic Age is over???