Everything we have learned about what it means for believers to be an apostolic people (which just means like the New Testament church) can be summed up in how we relate to God, and how we relate to each other – and the latter is equally as important as the former, especially if we are to mature as children of God. If a people has no understanding of how to walk with their leaders and their brethren, this is not an apostolic people, no matter how many people they raise from the dead or how much they prophesy.
Speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy are great gifts to the Church, but they are in no way proofs of apostolic grace. In the past, we have mistakenly assumed that if you had apostolic grace, then you would have miracles, signs and wonders, and gifts; but we missed something very important. Having miracles or gifts of the Spirit is an external manifestation of the Spirit, but it is not proof of what is on the inside. True apostolic grace produces an inner life.
Did the apostle Paul have an inner life by which he not only knew the Lord, but loved the churches? Did Peter also have this inner life by which he loved the brethren? Were those men not willing to lay down their lives for the brethren? The answer, of course, to all these questions, is ‘yes.’ That is the proof of apostolic grace. Unless we ourselves have the heart that genuinely walks in relationship with others, we are not really living in apostolic grace.
It is not merely a matter of deciding to receive apostles and then changing the structure of the Church to give them a place. Rather, at the heart of true apostolic Christianity are specific attitudes, values, and heart relationships. These values are what determine whether a group of people are apostolic (think New Testament) or not.
We look forward to the day when the Church is so filled with apostolic grace that we no longer need to use the term. Meanwhile, when we do use the term ‘apostolic,’ we are referring to a certain type of Christianity which is the genuine, New Testament, Christ-given article. This is the type of Christianity that produces a life in the people of God that does not depend on institutions or programs; the people are knit together as one holy people. This is the life that the early apostles gave to the Church. Today, the Church needs to find that life in a fresh way.
In other words, whilst we may and should do many great things for Christ, it’s how we relate that counts.