It has been common teaching for many years that once the original apostles died out, that the apostolic age had ended. Along with this it is believed that there were no additional apostles, and moreover that we no longer need them since the completion of the canon of scripture.
Regardless of this, there are clear and significant scriptures which show us clearly that in fact Christ never stopped appointing apostles, and continues to do so now.
Everyone is familiar with Ephesians 4:11-13, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
In reading the whole of chapter 4 in context, it becomes clear that this passage is not in reference to the original apostles. Whilst they are rightly considered a gift to the church, and their work, the canon of scripture is also a gift, these verses are talking of something else. It is in verse 7 that we most clearly see this. “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” Scripture here is not talking about the original men appointed during Jesus ministry, but about apostles appointed in His ascension. It refers to something He gave, and continues to give from His place of glory at the right hand of God.
The same passage also says (in verse 13) that these gifts are given until… “we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”The maturity that this passage speaks of has not yet been realised. The gift of apostle is still needed.
A search via concordance for the greek word ‘apostolos’ reveals a number of other apostles named in scripture, not counting the 12. Paul, Barnabus and Timothy are but three of these. For more information please read Question 10 – How Many Apostles are in the Bible?
How Are We To Receive Them?
In the past, men of God possessed apostolic gifts, but because the Body of Christ did not accept or understand these gifts, they were not recognised as such. Today we are learning to recognise that these gifts are real, and beginning to see them in the Church. Some people, hearing the call of God to become apostles, are striving to live for Him as He calls and chooses them.
Historically we could consider people such as John Wesley, William Booth, Nicholas Zinzendorf and others to have had apostolic gifting.
For those accustomed to only talking about pastors, teachers or evangelists, accepting apostles and prophets can be quantum leap. They will need to jump. The Bible only records 1 pastor by name (Christ, the Good Shepherd) and only 1 evangelist by name (Philip) and yet many apostles and prophets.
We begin by receiving these people (gifts given by Christ) with the acknowledgement that they exist – they have work to do. We accept them as people, and allow Christ to use them for the advancement of His kingdom.