This is the sixth and last part of a blog series by John Alley on the subject of apostolic authority. These are taken from Chapter 5 of his book, The Apostolic Revelation. Part five is available here.
A Heart for the Poor and for Mission
Apostles are seen to take up specific responsibility both for mission and for the poor in the Gospels, in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Epistles.
A regular activity of Jesus and His disciples was evangelistic mission, and giving to the poor. Everyone in the church is called to these responsibilities by the love of God, but apostles will always have it on their hearts as an area of need to which they must devote leadership.
When Paul went to Jerusalem to confer with James, Peter and John, the poor of Jerusalem were on their hearts. “All they asked” he explained to the Galatians “was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do” (Galatians 2:10). Notice here the word “continue”. Something dynamic had already been happening amongst the apostles in ministry to the poor. The apostles had taken up the burden — and this was a financial burden.
Paul devoted two whole chapters (2 Corinthians 8 & 9) to his financial appeal to the Corinthians. He wanted them to keep their promise, and to follow the example of the Macedonians in giving very generously to the Jerusalem poor. Paul needed a major offering, and because of that we have been blessed abundantly with the teaching in these two chapters about the power of the offering.
All pastors and every Christian leader will serve and give for missions and the poor, but apostles have specific authority and responsibility to address these needs from a leadership perspective.
Different Kinds of Apostles
One might have been inclined to think that all apostles are the same, but this is simply not so. Apostles will not only vary greatly in personality, gifting, leadership style, emotional makeup and so on, but also in many of the features of the specific calling to which Christ sends them.
Some will be household names, being called to great prominence and worldwide influence on the church. Their impact on the world will be more obvious. Others will be unknown by the church at large, but will nevertheless fulfil a vital and important role.
Even now, there are many ‘hidden’ apostles. The Spirit of Christ is preparing large numbers of apostles for the future days, but most of these are hidden at this time, not just from the world but also from the church.
Indeed, it would seem that the majority of the greatest apostles to come are amongst these ‘hidden’ ones. They look unimportant, even in their own eyes. They are in insignificant places, working with small numbers of people, with no great influence and no apparent way of impacting their world. Sometimes they look like failures, because they have been put through fire and water (Isaiah 43:2, Psalm 66:12). While being prepared in the furnace of affliction, and their hearts humbled by ‘insignificance’, they are being kept by God in readiness for another day.
Strangely, there has seemed to be an assumption on the part of some that the leaders of the more significant public ministries and churches must be apostles - even to the suggestion that anyone with a church congregation above a certain number is really not a pastor, but an apostle. This is not necessarily so. Having success, including church growth and large numbers in the congregation, does not prove whether one is an apostle or not. Many wonderful ministers with great influence and large churches are great pastors, or great teachers, or great prophets. Remember, these ministries are also church leaders with Christ’s anointings and calling.
Many great apostles will actually arise from the ashes of defeat! I have heard that the early church fathers did not trust a man in leadership of the church, unless he had known failure. I have learned that one cannot teach success if one only knows success — for that produces shallowness and immaturity.
So wait! Great apostles will arise, for God is about to reveal them. This is not to say that the church is not being presently served by some great apostles, but God is about to bring forth a greater anointing upon this ministry, and many great apostles and prophets will arise from seemingly insignificant circumstances. Like John the Baptist, many are being prepared in the wilderness.
Some of these will be apostles to whole nations, many to smaller regions and cities, and some will have international authority. Amongst these, there will be those who are, at least for a lengthy season, the ‘junior’ partners in the ministries of senior apostles.
Senior and Subordinate Apostles
We should not be surprised at the idea that some apostles will serve, not in their own right, but under the authority of another apostle. Surely this is a legitimate biblical pattern. This is what we see in the relationship of Titus and Timothy to Paul, and the Bible refers to James, Peter and John specifically as the pillars of the church in Jerusalem. There were other apostles serving under them, at least in the many years before they went in different directions to other nations.
It is very plain from Paul’s letters that Timothy and Titus were his beloved ‘sons’ in the ministry. When he could not go, he would send a son to represent him (1 Corinthians 4:17). When he had to move on from Crete, he left Titus as the apostle in charge of all the work — yet still under Paul’s own instruction, guidance and authority (Titus 1:5). They were members of the same apostolic team, and while Paul lived he had authority over them.
Sooner or later a subordinate (associate) apostle is likely to come into their own ministry. If nothing else happens, the time comes when the senior apostle goes to be with the Lord. When Paul was martyred, Timothy and Titus and others had the responsibility for the ministry — they had inherited the ministry as sons. Of course this is not the only pattern. A fathering apostle will raise sons to maturity and can release them, as the Lord leads, into autonomous ministry. There are no hard rules here. This is family.
On another issue, every apostle without exception needs to be in personal relationship with, and under the spiritual covering of, another apostle. No apostle today should go it alone. Christ is not leading anyone, apostles included, to see themselves as being above the need for a submitted, accountable relationship with other Christians. This important idea is further addressed elsewhere in this book.
The Primary Apostle
Every senior pastor and every church (every ministry leader and every Christian ministry) should be related to a primary apostle.
The primary apostle is the spiritual father, the one who carries an apostolic authority and who provides the apostolic covering in relationship to the pastor and the church. This is the picture we have of Paul in relation to the churches for whom he was the spiritual father (1 Corinthians 4:15). There can be only one such primary apostle in relationship to a church and the pastor.
The primary apostle is the most important apostle in the life of the pastor personally, and in the covering of the church. The more ongoing relationship between these parties, the better and richer they all will be in walking in the inheritance they share in Christ. This apostle provides protection and security for the pastor, for all the leaders, and for the church generally. A proper relationship with this apostle prevents trouble in the church, and if trouble does arise it is more easily addressed and resolved.
As a result of the relationship between the church and the primary apostle, pastors will no longer come and go on the whim of a few believers. Someone’s research showed that when churches have trouble and division, and pastors are rejected and thrown aside, this is usually caused by an average of only six individual members. Often terrible disruptions are caused by very small groups that do not represent the whole, yet work to obtain an illicit influence. The primary apostle is the authority that prevents injustice and false accusation having influence in the church. He could correct or discipline the church, or the leadership team, or the senior pastor, depending on just who may be at fault. Further information on how this works is to be found in the appendix where I have placed a section from our church constitution as an example.
There will be other apostles who also have ongoing personal relationship with the senior minister and the church as trusted friends and associates. Sometimes another apostle represents the primary apostle in his absence personally, as Paul said Timothy was to do when he wrote to the church in Corinth, “I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:16-17).
Apostolic councils can be formed to extend the ministry of covering and protection through a team, in which the primary apostle is the leader. The members of an apostolic council will each be in a fruitful personal relationship with the pastor and the other leaders and believers of the church. All are of a like spirit, and have a covenant relationship of the heart towards one another. With these ‘secondary apostles’, there is always ongoing relationship in place.
In addition, every church is meant to be open to receive of the wider fivefold ministry that Jesus provides. No local church should ever be isolated from the greater ministry of the body of Christ. Jesus will often want to speak to the church through visiting ministers. Amongst these are pastors, teachers, prophets, and evangelists, as well as apostles. Jesus said to His apostles, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me” (Matt 10:40).
There should always be a place for the visit of other apostles. Paul had this kind of relationship to Rome. Although he had no direct authority over the church, he wanted to visit and minister out of the apostolic gifts and anointings that were upon his life, and have them help him as well. He wrote to them, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong - that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:11-12).
Authority over Principalities
There are other areas of apostolic authority which are beyond the scope of this present book, since we are concentrating here on the reformation of the church, and the relationship between the apostle and the church. Nevertheless we need to make note of the apostle’s specific authority over principalities and powers of darkness.
Principalities are dark areas of spiritual authority ruled over by ‘princes’ of darkness. In the church there is an anointing to confront them and deal with them in Christ’s power. To serve in that anointing is part of the apostle’s call. The anointing to rule, the anointing to exercise authority in Christ’s name, is on apostles. There is a sense in which they are the modern-day ‘princes of Judah’, the sons of David the mighty warrior king. For anyone to claim to be an apostle if they are not is foolishness — there is the risk of exposing themselves to powers of darkness for which they have not been equipped by the Spirit.
Yet all churches and believers are called to a place of prayer and warfare against principalities. According to Ephesians 6: 10-18, we are all to be dressed together in Christ’s armour, taking a stand in prayer specifically against principalities and rulers of darkness, the powers of the air. Each church and the whole body of Christ should stand in this war against the powers.
The anointing to rule (over principalities) and to exercise authority in Christ’s name, is on apostles
With the help of praying saints, apostles will succeed and break through against high-level demonic powers, and annul their claims over territories and people. The apostle is not necessarily the only one who can do this — teams of prophetic intercessors achieve amazing results all the time. Still, the apostle does have a specific authority, whereby in humility of heart and with Christ’s hand upon him, he will struggle with and defeat principalities.
Whenever I travel, I find it necessary to bind the principalities over the place where I am to minister — over regions, cities, states and nations. This is because the principalities would otherwise resist me because of the apostolic anointing — these are opposing anointings.
There are many places I go where I must claim the ground if I am to have freedom when ministering. In prayer, I humbly submit to Christ, then in His name take authority over and bind the principalities and powers, commanding them that they are to be subject to me in Christ’s name. This always makes a difference. If I fail to do this, the preaching and the meetings are resisted. When I do this, I am able to minister freely and progress toward breakthrough.
I went to preach in a city where an emerging apostle was building a new ministry — but he was being strongly resisted. He had been going through a great struggle for some time. During the course of the meetings the Holy Spirit instructed me to lay hands on him and publicly declare him to be an apostle before the principalities and powers. By the mind of the Spirit I understood that the powers were resisting his appointment as an apostle, i.e. they were disputing with him and his people that he was an apostle.
I called him forward before all the people, and declared him to be an apostle. Laying hands on him and commissioning him as an apostle, I rebuked the principalities for opposing him, commanded them to cease their resistance to his appointment, and declared that they were subject to him and me in Christ’s name. This made an immediate difference — to him, to the ministry and to his people. He informed me in the following weeks that much opposition had fallen away and there was a noticeable increase in the authority of the ministry. I thank God for His grace. Such experiences illustrate principles that will be effective anywhere.
Empowerment: Impartation with Authority
In writing to Rome, Paul said he longed to impart some spiritual gift to them. This is one of the most significant, consistent and enjoyable aspects of the apostle’s ministry. Whenever there is an opportunity to pray for another — a pastor, the church, a believer — there is an opportunity to give a gift. Anointings are imparted, gifts are activated, blessing and increase and success released, and authority established and built-up.
This is what I love the most, and find the easiest of all. It is not hard to teach the saints how to exercise faith to receive the impartation of gifts, and it is easy to exercise faith to release these impartations of God’s grace to others. Whether in private prayer with individuals or in corporate prayer over congregations, what God is willing to do never ceases to amaze me. Quite apart from the standard impartations of gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy, it seems there can be an impartation of grace as a special gift for just about any need or opportunity. I have seen impartations of grace for marital blessing, for financial increase, and even for humility, imparted as an anointing from Christ. An amazing and tangible anointing of peace is also a very powerful impartation that is easy to obtain. Often it is the impartation of spiritual authority.
Whenever there is opportunity to pray for another, there is opportunity to impart a gift
The anointing for impartation and blessing is a significant apostolic grace, although all fivefold ministers surely have inheritance in this work. The grace of impartation begins with apostles however, because of the principle of authority through submission.
When an apostle ministers, whether to churches or individuals, he is looking to give gifts and grace and blessing in Christ’s name. Those who have the benefit of being under the covering of an apostle’s ministry can expect a genuine empowerment from his prayers and his blessing. This is the way of Christ.
The Apostolic Blessing
The blessings of the Abrahamic covenant rest on apostles, as they do for every believer in Christ (Galatians 3:14). God said to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). These words are resting on all believers, and apostles walk in the power of them. Everyone who walks with God and has faith may know this power, but for apostles it is an established part of what they are in Christ.
To receive God’s blessing through an apostle, you honour the apostle. It was the Lord who said, “I will bless those who bless you.” This is a spiritual principle and there is no exception to the rule. If you want to be blessed, you must honour the source of blessing. Resentment will drive the blessing away from you. Anything you resent cannot be a source of blessing to you.
When you honour God and honour the apostle, by receiving him, the blessings of God that he carries are available to you. In accordance with the word of the Lord “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”.
It is therefore not surprising that sweet blessings, and release, and favour, spring up in people’s lives in response to the prayers of an apostle. These blessings were always intended for every believer, because they are the blessings of Abraham. They are the spiritual blessings that are said to have been lavished on us in Christ (Ephesians 1:3, 8). The apostle is the key that releases many of these blessings, because he is our modern-day Abraham, the one God is pleased to use as our present father in the faith.
The whole of Christianity is meant to be relational, but in particular the relationships are of a family nature. From the beginning it has been father and son. Abraham the father of faith was promised a son, and it was over that son that all the tests of Abraham’s faith were carried out. Father/son relationship is important to us because God has revealed Himself as God in Father and Son. This is the essence of apostleship.
Every church, every ministry, every pastor and every believer needs the apostolic blessing. You cannot be independent. In looking to Christ you must receive the one He sends. You need the apostle, because Christ will send with the apostle many of the blessings you desire.
Abraham is the model for your faith and obedience, and Abraham himself needed the blessing of another person who represented Christ to him. And so we have this example: “Melchizedek... blessed him who had the promises” (Hebrews 7:1-10). In this, Melchizedek represents Christ (“king of peace”, etc) and Abraham is typical of every believer (“him who had the promises”). We are all exhorted to imitate those who have inherited what was promised (Hebrews 3:12-15).
For the apostle, to function in this ministry is a stewardship which has been entrusted to him (1 Corinthians 4:1, 9:17, 1 Peter 5:2-3, 2 Corinthians 3:5-6).