© 2022 Philip M Spence
The Apostle Paul clearly stated that Apostles come first (1 Corinthians 12:28). The word he used in the original Greek language writings is ‘Proton’ which means to be at the beginning of things. It means that Apostles are first in God’s order and timing. It also means that Apostles are foremost in God’s placement and endeavours.
This concept does not mean that Apostles are better or greater than other gifts to the body of Christ. It also does not mean that they should be revered above others. To be first means being a spearhead ministry that opens doors and paves the way for others. The ‘Proton’ grace produces Kingdom outcomes where those carrying other graces can find their place, effectively function, and be fruitful.
Jesus is the first Apostle, and the first amongst Apostles, because He is the chief cornerstone in the foundation of the Ekklesia. Apostles and Prophets form the rest of the foundation, but Christ is the Proton. In Him are all the graces of the five-fold (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Christ is also the first amongst the five-fold ministry. As our Chief Apostle, He has the authority to choose, appoint, and set Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers in the body of Christ. He has been authorised by the Father in Heaven to fulfil this function. He came before the five-fold so He will always be the Proton of the five-fold.
In two pivotal passages of scripture regarding the five-fold, Apostles are listed first, followed by Prophets, and then other ministries and functions depending on what was needed in a situation at a particular time, or that existed in the body of Christ in a particular location at a given time (1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11).
In other passages that only mention Apostles and Prophets, the Apostles are mentioned first. This order of mention, Apostles and then Prophets, reinforces the statement the Apostle Paul made to the church at Corinth regarding Apostles being first amongst the gifts Christ has placed in the Ekklesia (1 Corinthians 12:28).
There is only one place in the New Testament that reverses the order when speaking of Apostles and Prophets. In this instance Jesus was speaking of God’s New-Covenant plans to bring His Kingdom order into effect. Many things had to be reordered, beginning with how people treated the Prophets that God had sent for generations. Before Jesus came, Prophets were the primary voice of God, but now things were changing. During this transition, Apostles would not only be commissioned, but they would take their place in the Ekklesia as the first amongst the five-fold (Luke 11:47-49).
Apostles are not self-proclaimed. The initiative of setting Apostles in the body of Christ belongs to the King of the Kingdom. He chooses who He will anoint and appoint. The Lord puts His hand on a life for His purposes, and as a person is led by the Governor of the Kingdom, the appointment of the Apostle by the King becomes evident.
Apostles come first in the order of things because of the governmental nature of their calling and function but the structure of the Kingdom is an inversion of a hierarchical system. This means they are not the top of the tree as we find in a hierarchical system. Apostles form the foundation of the church, under the headship of Christ, and in covenantal partnership with Prophets who function relationally with them (Ephesians 2:19-20). Apostles are servant leaders who spearhead the advancement and administration of the Kingdom with humility, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Apostles are given by Jesus to oversee and lead the Ekklesia of the Kingdom (Ephesians 4:11). They are not called to ‘lord it over’ but to serve (Luke 22:25-26). While they have gifts, talents, skills, and abilities, in this instance the person is the gift which is something of benefit. Therefore, Apostles are given to benefit the church. Apostles’ lives and ministries must be characterised by humility and Christlike character.
The apostolic grace that the person carries is a gift given by God. This grace is foundational to the full function of genuine apostleship. The Apostle Paul was very clear that his role and fruitfulness as an Apostle was only possible because he had firstly been given grace that enabled him to fulfill his apostleship (Romans 1:1-5).
Grace is greater than the simplistic description of ‘Undeserved Favour’. Grace is bestowed by God for His purposes to be accomplished, and it is visible upon people to whom it has been bestowed. The grace carried by Apostles can be both seen and received by those who perceive it (Galatians 2:9).
Because of the visible nature of God-given grace, the people of God have favour with humankind. This favour is not for our benefit, but to enable us to fulfil the purposes of the King we serve (Ephesians 3:2). The grace of an Apostle is distinct from that of the other five-fold callings and can be easily detected. When a person perceives and receives apostolic grace, and the carrier of the grace, it is able to accomplish God’s purposes in their lives (Ephesians 3 and 4).
The governmental grace and authority of Apostles necessitates their ‘Proton’ role in the Kingdom. They are the example of Ekklesia to other Ekklesia people, and to believers who are becoming Ekklesia.
The above is an excerpt from the book Apostles: They walk among us! Who are they? What do they do?. To download your copy, go to Amazon.com or click the button below:
Philip M Spence
Author – Speaker – Mentor – Musician