by Doug Beacham
As observed by Rasmussen, the title “apostle” is widely used with numerous contexts. In charismatic and Pentecostal contexts, this became more common as a result of the Latter Rain Movement of the late 1940s. Many classical Pentecostal denominations rejected aspects of the Latter Rain movement, including its focus on the Ephesians 4:11 gifts. While maintaining a critical look at the Latter Rain movement, some Pentecostal denominations have more recently re-examined Ephesians 4:11 and other New Testament citations of “apostle(s)”.
Most Pentecostals agree with Rasmussen’s focus on the “sending, missionary” aspect of the term apostolos. He is correct to emphasize the Great Commission. I concur with his emphasis toward the end of the article of the need for more “sent ones” to reach the nearly seven billion people on this planet. In an article with the brevity of his, it was difficult for Rasmussen to elaborate further on this interesting topic. In light of that, I offer a few observations.
First, I believe a more detailed exegesis and analysis of Ephesians 4, particularly within the context of the entire book, is vital for understanding these five (or four if you combine pastor/teacher as some scholars propose based on the Greek syntax) gifts. They are sometimes called the gifts of Christ to the Church, and Paul focused on them in light of their purpose as described in 4:12-16. Paul’s citation of Psalm 68:18 and elaboration in Ephesians 4:8-10 is more than a proof text from the Old Testament, and should not be read over lightly. The whole section of Ephesians 4:1-16 should be read in light of Ephesians 3:10, “That now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known…”
Second, the Apostle Paul’s own relationship to the “Twelve” is more problematic than indicated in the article. The Antioch church identifies “certain prophets and teachers” (Acts 13:1). But their spiritual relationships led to the calling forth of people who were sent out as functional apostles (13:2-4). Paul and Barnabas were vocal at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:12). Paul aggressively defended his authority as an “apostle” called by Christ (Galatians; 2 Corinthians).
I’m convinced that Ephesians as a whole is more paradigmatic than we realize for engaging the contemporary situation. These gifts do not stand in isolation from issues related to the extension of the “Kingdom of God.” In light of that, these “gifts” need more prayerful study and focus.
Dr. A.D. Beacham, Jr. (Doug) is chairman and Presiding Bishop of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC). He has served as executive director of IPHC World Missions Ministries since 2005. A former college teacher, pastor, Georgia Conference superintendent, and director of IPHC Church Education Ministries, Beacham has written numerous articles and several books, his most current title is The Christmas Spirit, released in 2012.
EMQ, Vol. 49, No. 2, pp. 134-135. Copyright © 2013 Billy Graham Center. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.