The ministry of the Apostles lays the spiritual foundation for us, and help the body of Christ grow to maturity.
By Larry Groenewald and Mike Vinson
See a list of all the studies in this series
Ministries: (Greek: “diakonia” = attending to others)
Introduction to this section
Ministries are also a gift from ‘the same Lord’ (1Cor 12:5) and are given to ‘some’ for
the perfecting (maturing) of the saints and for the edifying of the body (please read
the role of overseers or leaders in the church at this link: Women in the Body Part 9
Eph 4:11-12 And truly He gave some to be apostles, and some to be
prophets, and some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of
the body of Christ.
1Co 12:28 (MKJV) And God set some in the church, firstly, apostles;
secondly, prophets; thirdly, teachers, then works of power, then gifts of
healings, helps, governments, kinds of languages.
These are not glamorous titles of worldly hierarchy of domineering rulership (2Cor
1:24) which spiritual Babylon parades, but ministries of loving sacrifice. As discussed
before, Paul’s purpose with these various lists of ministries in his letters was not to
focus on titles or the person who was given the ministry. His purpose was to highlight
the functioning of these ministries to promote the spiritual health of the body of
Christ and its members:
1Co 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit
In 1 Corinthians 12:28 Paul gives a specific order, especially to the first three
ministries. Although some view this order only in the historic relevance of how God
set up the church in the first century (after Christ), that view cannot fulfil the “is, was
and will be” application of God’s Word. All these ministries are very relevant and are
just as important today as they were at the start of the New Testament church.
The ministry of the Apostle
The Greek for the English word apostle is “apostolos” which means “an
ambassador”, “one who is sent” or “a delegated authority”.
This ministry is mentioned first not because the apostle is the highest hierarchical,
unquestionable and infallible authority in the church, but rather to lay the spiritual
foundations of “the Truth” of the doctrine of Christ in us, and then establishing or
connecting us with the ‘fellow citizens’ of the household of God:
Eph 2:19-20 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but
fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built
upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself
being the chief corner stone.
This one true foundation of spiritual life is always Jesus Christ and the preaching of
His doctrine which is good news (the gospel) to those who are enabled to receive it.
This is what the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
Rom 15:19-20 Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the
Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have
fully preached the gospel of Christ Yea, so have I strived to preach the
gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s
There is no other spiritual foundation than Jesus Christ and this is the foundation
which the ministry of the apostle lays. This is the inward work and the true “sign” of
an apostle of Jesus Christ:
1Co 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which
is Jesus Christ.
2Co 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all
patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
An apostle, as with any other ministry, is not a title in front of a name, but a
ministry “of Jesus Christ”:
2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them
that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of
God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according
to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after
The number 12 (number of the first apostles of Jesus) is used in scripture as the
number for foundations and in this case the foundation for our spiritual life in the
doctrine of the resurrected Christ – ‘that great city, the holy Jerusalem’:
Rev 21:10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain,
and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven
Rev 21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the
names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The flesh (typified by Ishmael’s ‘twelve princes’) is also given by God to have twelve
as a foundation, but it is the counterfeit foundation (though very convincing to the
carnal mind). This “foundation” is that of the false apostles and is built on sand and
shall have a great fall because no righteous spiritual works can be done by it:
Gen 17:20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed
him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve
princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
2Co 11:12 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them
which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as
2Co 11:13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming
themselves into the apostles of Christ.
We know that the number of apostles is not limited to “the twelve”, but the number
twelve gives us the spiritual meaning of what the ministry of the apostle is all about:
Act 1:16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled,
which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas,
which was guide to them that took Jesus.
Act 1:17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this
Act 1:26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he
was numbered with the eleven apostles.
To read more on the spiritual meaning of the number 12, please use this link:
The number 12
This gift and ministry of an apostle is only received “through the will of God”, being a
witness of the revelation of the resurrected Christ:
1Co 1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God,
and Sosthenes our brother
Act 1:20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate,
and let no man dwell therein: and his [Judas] bishoprick [ministry of an
apostle] let another take.
Act 1:21 Wherefore of these men which have companied [in fellowship] with
us all the time [see 1Tim 3:6] that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
Act 1:22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he
was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his
1Ti 3:6 Not a novice [not a spiritual babe; longevity and a proven track record],
lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil
To “establish” believers on the foundation of Christ, the ministry of the
apostle “impart” spiritual gifts that enable Christians to be of service to others in His
Paul to the church in Rome:
Rom 1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so
that you may be established.
Peter and John to the church in Samaria:
Act 8:14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that
Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
Act 8:15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might
receive the Holy Ghost:
Act 8:16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were
baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
Act 8:17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy
The ministry of an apostle also include “perfecting” of the saints, set leadership order
in congregations and disciplining those who have sinned:
Eph 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the
edifying of the body of Christ:
Tit 1:5 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
2Co 13:2 I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second
time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned,
and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare.