Apostles Today Part 2

C-Peter-WagnerToday’s apostles of the Charismatic movement or New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) claim to be foundational and governing apostles wielding spiritual authority in the present-day church. This claim is exactly what Paul warned the church about regarding false apostles in 2 Corinthians 11:12-13. For example, C. Peter Wagner adopted the official definition of apostle for the International Coalition of Apostles (ICAL):

An apostle is a Christian leader, gifted, taught, commissioned, and sent by God with the authority to establish the foundational government of the church within an assigned sphere of ministry by hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches and by setting things in order accordingly for the growth and maturity of the church and for the extension of the kingdom of God. (C. Peter Wagner. Apostles Today [Baker Publishing Group], Kindle Edition, 27).

In fact, Wagner claimed that he wrote his book Apostles Today for the following purpose:

The major purpose of this book is to affirm that there are individuals today who have been given the gift and office of apostle just as there were in biblical times. This implies that, among other things, they have been entrusted with an extraordinary amount of spiritual authority in the Body of Christ. (Wagner, Apostles Today, 120-121).

However, in consideration of the three qualifications for the office of apostle (in the last post), the historic limitations for the apostolate are obvious. Moreover, the cessation of the apostolate is conveyed by the following biblical reasons:

apostles-today-wagner(1) The apostles occupy a foundational position in the church.

Wagner argues that one of the roles of today’s apostle is, “They govern.” He says: “Apostles are skilled in setting things in order. Along with prophets, they lay the biblical foundation of the Kingdom (see Eph. 2: 20)” (Wagner, Apostles Today, 28). Here Wagner is claiming today’s apostles of the NAR possess the same role as the New Testament apostles of Ephesians 2:20, which says that the church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” In other words, today’s apostles of the NAR are not simply missionaries sent by the church, but leaders in an apostolic office with spiritual authority to govern the churches like those New Testament apostles which are the foundation of the church.

The following three passages teach that the New Testament apostles are the foundation of the church:

  • And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
  • And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:20).
  • Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the name of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14).

According to these texts, the apostles are the foundation upon whom the church is to be built. The apostles and prophets are identified as the church’s foundation in a sense secondary only to that of Christ Himself. By definition, the foundation is the lowest load-bearing part of a building which is first laid and built upon thereafter. But laying the foundation is not an ongoing process. A foundation is laid only once. The superstructure of the household of God already has its apostolic foundation and thus excludes the office of apostles today. The foundational office of the apostles was unique and isolated to the first-century church. Their foundational role is based upon being personally chosen by Christ, having eyewitness authority of the risen Lord, and the power to perform miracles. Another foundation cannot be laid on top of the roof of the building of the church, that is, in the end times. Laying the foundation for the building of the church is limited to the apostolic era in history.

(2) The gift of apostle was never encouraged to be desired.

C. Peter Wagner acknowledges the spiritual gift of apostle, but attributes that gift to today’s apostles within the church. He wrote,

Apostles have a spiritual gift. There is such a thing as the spiritual gift of apostle. Part of this gift is strong influence. Knowing that they are apostles because God has chosen to give them the gift of apostle obviously provides apostles a solid foundation of authority (Wagner, Apostles Today, 23-24).

However, Paul said, “But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). And he specifically encouraged them to desire the git of prophecy: “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). In spite of the fact that Paul’s list of spiritual gifts includes apostles and sets them first (1 Corinthians 12:28-29), he never encourages the gift of apostle to be sought. Why didn’t he say, “desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may be apostles” if the spiritual gift of apostle was perpetuated in the Church? The clear implication of Scripture is that the spiritual gift of apostle was not available to anybody else except those gifted men specifically chosen by the Lord in the first century.

(3) Paul saw himself as the last eyewitness and apostle.

C. Peter Wagner discusses the biblical characteristics of modern apostles, one of which is “seeing Jesus personally.” Wagner said,

Of course the original 12 saw Jesus, but so did Paul, when Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus Road, and as he indicated in 1 Corinthians 9: 1: “Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” According to an informal survey of the apostles whom I know today, about 20 percent have actually seen Jesus personally (Wagner, Apostles Today, 30-31).

When reporting about the appearances of the risen Lord Jesus Christ to the apostles, Paul wrote: “And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9). Paul indicated that “last of all” Christ appeared to him, so that he was one-of-a-kind “as of one born out of due time.” Though Paul never questioned the authenticity of his apostleship, he certainly did not see it as setting a pattern for apostles of future generations. In Scripture, Paul noted that he was the “last” eyewitness and “least” of the apostles to see the Lord as “one born out of due time.” All of this implies that the apostolate was set and closed to those apostles of the first-century church.

(4) The apostles instituted bishops and deacons, but no qualifications are given for ordaining apostles.

C. Peter Wagner says that modern apostles are to be “commissioned.” Wagner wrote,

[A]n office, such as the office of apostle, is not given by grace alone, but is given as a result of works that have demonstrated faithfulness in stewardship of the gift. If God has chosen to give a man or woman the gift of apostle, the fruit of that gift will be evident to others, and in due time the Body of Christ will confer the office of apostle on that person. This act is most often termed “commissioning,” and it is performed by peer-level apostles, as well as prophets, representing the church, and by laying on hands. The title “apostle” is ordinarily used only by those who have been duly commissioned into the office; although in some situations this principle has not yet been formalized (Wagner, Apostles Today, Kindle Locations 1647-1653)

One such apostolic commissioning was that of Todd Bentley. In the ceremony, Bentley was blessed by the leading apostles in Charismatic movement like C. Peter Wagner who presided over Bentley’s apostolic alignment ceremony with the apostles Che Ahn, Rick Joyner, John Arnott, and Bill Johnson (also Chuck Pierce Fed-Exed his special revival oil for anointing Bentley).You can watch his commissioning in full online: part onepart twopart three, and part four. Not long after his apostolic alignment, Bentley was exposed as an adulterer, a liar, and an occasional drunkard.

Yet the model for church leadership prescribed in the New Testament is bishops and deacons, not apostles. The Bible speaks of pastors, elders, bishops or overseers which all refer to the same office. For example, there is: “the office of a bishop” [Gr. episkopē]” (1 Timothy 3:1); “elders” [Gr. presbyteros] (1 Timothy 5:1, 2, 17, 19; Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23; 20:17; 21:18; 1 Peter 5:1); “pastors” [Gr. poimēn] (Ephesians 4:11; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25); “bishops” or “overseers” [Gr. episkopos] (Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 2:25). There is evidence in the New Testament to demonstrate that all of these terms are synonymous for the same office:

  1. First, bishop and overseer refer to the same Greek word (Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 2:25).
  2. Secondly, Peter uses the word for pastor/shepherd synonymously with the word for bishop/overseer: “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).
  3. Third, Peter describes the elders as those fulfilling the role of a shepherd/pastor and overseer when he says, “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly” (1 Peter 5:1,2, NKJV).
  4. Fourth, Paul uses the terms “elder” and “bishop” interchangeably: “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: . . . For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre” (Titus 1:5, 7).
  5. Fifth, consider Paul’s encouragements to the Ephesian elders: “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. . . . Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Elders and overseers refer to the same office which is characterized by feeding the flock, i.e., shepherding or pastoring.

Thus, the apostles instituted that a plurality of elders and deacons should lead the church. The qualifications of the elders and deacons is found in the pastoral epistles (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). Moreover, the concept of commissioning apostles is totally unbiblical. No qualifications are given in the Scriptures for later apostles, and no biblical instructions exist for ordaining (or “commissioning”) apostles!

(5) A closed canon of Scripture goes hand-in-hand with a closure of the apostolate.

passion-transAs I pointed out in the last post, apostle Brian Simmons (translator of The Passion Translation), in an interview with Sid’s Roth, claims he was translated into the library of heaven where he saw more books than you can imagine. One book stood out called John 22. Simmons claims, “I believe the John 22 generation will be a people that do the greater works of Jesus. They will not add to the scripture, and that’s a sealed book. But it is a book that is unfolding and the works of Jesus will be replicated by an entire generation of people that believe fully in the power of God.” He claims to not be adding to the Scripture, yet he acts as an inspired apostle with the authority to receive a new chapter of the Bible. By implication, our current New Testament canon is not complete.

In Scripture, there is a direct connection to the New Testament apostles and the writing of Scripture. Jesus promised specifically to the apostles, “the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26; cf. John 15:26-27); “[W]hen he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:12-15).

To receive Christ’s apostle is to receive Christ Himself. Jesus said to His apostles: “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me” (Matthew 10:40); “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me” (John 13:20). Therefore, the apostles spoke as infallibly inspired men and direct representatives of the Lord. For instance, the apostle John wrote: “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6). This is a claim that only an inspired apostle of Christ can make. The apostle Paul could say to the Corinthians, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37). This is a clear claim to speak authoritatively for the Lord in the apostolic office. Paul also said, “Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you” (2 Corinthians 3:13). Paul is referring to the fact that in his apostolic office he is the inspired representative of Christ. To reject an apostle of Jesus Christ is to reject Christ himself and thereby forfeit His salvation.

Being uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit, the apostles’ instructions are authoritative and understood to be on par with the Old Testament Scriptures (1 Corinthians 14:37; Ephesians 3:5; 2 Peter 3:16). The apostolic tradition was inspired revelation to be received as the Word of God. Paul said, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Likewise, Jude wrote: “But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 17). Today the New Testament Scriptures are the only true apostolic authority in the church today. But if there are foundational apostles today with the same authority as the New Testament apostles, how could we claim the canon is complete? But the doctrine of a closed canon of Scripture is based upon the fact that the apostles were unique and they are no longer here!

(6) Paul called them false apostles who regarded themselves as apostles of Christ.

Those that claim to be equal to the foundational New Testament apostles are, by biblical definition, false apostles. Yet many of the modern apostles of the Charismatic movement claim to be even greater than the biblical apostles!

For instance, Paul Cain said, “No prophet or apostle who ever lived equaled the power of these individuals in this great army of the Lord in these last days. No one ever had it, not even Elijah or Peter or Paul, or anyone else enjoyed the power that is gong to rest on this great army” (Bob Jones and Paul Cain. “Selections from the Kansas City Prophets,” audiotape (tape: 155C) http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/quotes.html)

Bob Jones said, “The anointing of the end-time prophets and apostles will be ten times the anointing of Moses” (Bob Jones, “An Interview With Bob Jones by Mike Bickle,” Kansas City Prophets, Kansas City, MO 1989, audiotape, quoted in Sandy Simpson, “False Apostles! The False Apostles of the NAR” 10/13/04).

Rick Joyner said, “In the near future we will not be looking back at the early church with envy because of the great exploits of those days, but all will be saying that He certainly did save His best wine for last. The most glorious times in all of history have not come upon us. You, who have dreamed of one day being able to talk with Peter, John and Paul, are going to be surprised to find that they have all been waiting to talk to you” (Rick Joyner, The Harvest [Pineville, NC: MorningStar, 1990], 9).

Those that proclaim to be apostles of Christ are, based upon that proclamation, actually false apostles and ministers of Satan. Paul wrote,

And what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may eliminate any opportunity for those who want a chance to be regarded as our equals in the things they boast about. For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will correspond to their actions (2 Corinthians 11:12-15, NET).

If those who wanted to be regarded as apostles are on that very basis to be regarded as false apostles, then we know that the apostles of Christ were limited to the Twelve and Paul.


There is absolutely no biblical evidence to suggest that the apostles were replaced after their deaths or that their office was to be continued throughout church history. The claims of the NAR that apostles would be restored to the church in these latter times are even more absurd. The apostolate was historically limited to the men specifically chosen by the Lord in the first century church.

See Also:

Apostles Today Part 1

Apostles Today Part 3