Not all apostles are the same. Although the New Testament is filled with apostles, written by apostles, and written about apostles, very little discussion is given today to the apostolic ministry because a segment of the church has arbitrarily dismissed this leadership function from consideration.
Yet, a considered treatment of what the Bible says demands that we give extensive consideration to “the classic apostle” in order to properly understand what the New Testament means. To do less is to empty the New Testament, filled so fully with apostolic experience, of perspective because it is written with apostolic function in mind. In other words, the New Testament is written in a context of apostles existing, functioning, leading, preaching, teaching, discipling, expanding, and living. When we empty our present experience of New Testament truth of this apostolic perspective, we lose a necessary viewpoint for understanding what the New Testament says.
The Classic Apostle in Paul
Jesus, the Apostle, invested the time He was here in the selection, discipling, training, preparation, installation, ordination, and commissioning of apostles. Yet, Paul gives us the most complete insight into the classic apostle. We see the classic apostle in Paul for three distinct reasons:
1. Other apostles are not fully represented in the New Testament by details of their experiences, ministries, and lives. Even though we can identify many apostles, male and female, by name and function, we do not have Bible biographies of their teaching or didache, ministry functions as leaders and kingdom establishers, and their interactions with emerging apostles. The original circle of apostles who had direct contact with Jesus throughout His ministry, death, and resurrection, who were present with Him after the Resurrection discussing the kingdom and receiving the anointing of Pentecost, did record such lengthy treatments of their thinking, travels, and teaching.
2. None of the other Jerusalem apostles, even though some did write extensively – John, James, Peter, Jude, and Luke – none did so with such volume and an “insider’s view” of apostolic function. Luke’s writings are filled with Paul’s classic apostolic living and leadership, not his own. So, we do get some sense of apostolic consciousness and philosophy from their writings, but we do not get nearly as much volume or fullness of perspective about them as we do Paul.
3. Paul gives us the transformational, international, “kingdom to the whole world” perspective the Jerusalem apostles lack, or lack in such a dramatic and singular sense. Paul represents the new covenant function of the apostle among non-Jews, free of clinging traditions and cultural aspects of Judaism. Paul is the truest apostle to the world in the New Testament. Paul is the apostle giving us insights into how the apostolic of his generation continues after his death in other apostles. Paul gives us the classic apostle model that continues to be available to us today.
Paul sees the apostolic in Creation, an accumulation of what God has been doing throughout history, culminating in what the kingdom of God is all about here and now. Yet, Paul sees the apostle of the new covenant kingdom as total inside-out contrast to what was available to God’s people in history up to fullness of the finished redemptive work of Christ and the continuing restoration work of Christ now at the right of the Father. Paul sees the classic apostle in light of personal transformation – the turning of the whole of the person toward Divine purpose.
The day and night difference of Paul after his dramatic encounter with Jesus Christ on the way to Damascus so marks his own life and apostolic function that he brings both revival and riot to individuals, cities, and regions wherever he goes. Paul upsets the apple cart at a whole new level for Jews and non-Jews. Paul seems convinced nothing less than this same day and night difference should be the norm for every person, city, and region; he is, in fact, seeking this upheaval for every person and culture on earth!