The word, “apostle,” does derive meaning from the Greek word for “sent,” but the meaning and definition of the term carries far more depth than “sent one.” The usage of the word in a kingdom sense refers to an emissary of the royal court, representative, one sent to deliver a message, ambassador with the sense of kingdom mission.
To hear the apostle speak was to hear the King’s message.
Applying the “the sent one who sends” to the word “apostle” requires a particular clarification. It certainly does not mean that the apostle sends others since nothing of this derives from within the etymology of the word, and the historic context of its usage doesn’t carry such a meaning. Perhaps the King sent the apostle to choose other delegates for the same assignment the apostle receives.
Even then, the apostle would be identifying the ones chosen or qualified by the King’s orders and conferring upon them what the King had determined to be their royal assignments. The apostle would more involved in recognizing and validating than in becoming the source of authorization.
We certainly see Paul and Barnabas separated to their mission, but their apostolic grace was recognized long before this moment: Paul and Barnabas were sent on mission by Holy Spirit with the validating recognition of kingdom leaders: we could say that Paul and Barnabas entered their “life’s work” more than a mere sending.
Beware the odd assumption that apostles sit in seats of sending and confer permission to people to do what it is they have determined to do. Beware, as well, any presumption that excludes all believers from a specific Great Commission sending to represent the kingdom of God. On the day of Pentecost, 120 were baptized in spiritual fire, and not all of them were “the apostles.”
The term “apostle” in the mouth of Jesus carried specific and specialized meaning. By the time Paul begins to function in his apostolic calling, a fuller meaning has matured in the function with clearer kingdom pictures of the kingdom Ecclesia coming into greater maturity as well. Paul selecting elders – and authorizing young apostles to so as well – is more about positioning them than sending them. Paul certainly sends Timothy to represent him personally: again, this is a special, temporary assignment, not Timothy’s life’s work.
Positioning the Prepared
Apostles appear to be more about positioning the prepared in the building, body, and bride than becoming senders. That is, apostles and prophets both discern what the Creator created, the King assigned, and the Holy Spirit scheduled, then they validate the preparedness of the people who are to be positioned, from which those positioned function.
The building metaphor could speak to shaping the stone that fits into the wall, setting it in place upon the foundation laid that answers in breadth, depth, and height to the Chief Cornerstone, Jesus Christ.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks of building upon his foundation as the work of others, “those who build upon this foundation.” In this sense Paul speaks to the Message of the Kingdom clarified in the apostolic representatives. The metaphor of building speaks here to how the apostolic foundation of kingdom demands that the same materials be used for raising the walls as was used in laying the foundation.
We could consider the sending of apostles from Jerusalem’s council of kingdom leaders to represent the decision of that council, carrying letters of introduction to validate that their do, in reality, represent that council, but we wouldn’t be talking about their created destinies or calling and ministries. We’d be talking about a specific kingdom assignment with limited scope and duration.
Considering the “sending station” definition of apostolic ministry as a way of activating all the Body’s members into their positions within the systems of the spiritual body must be fitted into the metaphoric picture. Consider also the building of God as a means of understanding how all believers function, as well as the metaphor of bride prepared for her husband, in arriving at conclusions about how the apostolic sending happens.
The most fundamental apostolic and prophetic foundations for the authorization of kingdom leadership would be 1) recognizing the created destiny and calling of the individuals, and 2) validating that they have demonstrated their capacity and maturity to be authorized by being tested in actual ministry function with the ones doing the validating.
Further, the conferring of such authorization caries with it the responsibility of making those so validated accountable of the recognized calling and function and removing that validation when they cease to properly represent the apostolic assignment of which they are part and fulfill the specific assignment to which they were separated.