Apostleship and the End of the Gifts
The main reason spiritual gifts were given, especially the gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy, knowledge and the gift of tongues, was to signify God's message. That is to say they were given as signs, validating God's message and giving His signature to the teachings that were coming from them. God was ushering in a new dispensation. At this time, we moved from being under the Law of Moses into the new dispensation of grace. Jesus came to fulfill the law and He accomplished this in several ways. After His death, a new era was beginning. We read about this in Acts chapter two where it records the birth of the Church. This transformation from law to grace, referred to as the dispensation of grace, needed to be confirmed. There had to be some sort of proof that the message of grace was from God. God chose the means and the method for which he would do just that. These sign gifts were not given to just anyone, they were given to certain people. Those people were the Apostles. The apostleship could extend past just those twelve apostles chosen by Christ. The Bible teaches that Paul was also an apostle. In the gospels we see that Jesus called another seventy-two in the proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom on earth. [Some manuscripts seventy; also in verse 17. KJV – seventy, NASB – seventy.]
Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. NIV
But the office of an apostle is a very unique one. To be an apostle required something that not everyone had accomplished. Note:
Acts 1:21-22 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection." NIV
Notice also what Jesus tells His apostles in John chapter fifteen:
John 15:26-27 "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. NIV
Apostles had to be personally acquainted with the Lord's ministry from John's baptism to his assention. Even more, they had to have a first hand account of the entire ministry of Jesus Christ. This particular office cannot be filled today, because all of the people who were witness to the events of Christ are now dead. It is simply not possible to have an apostle today. For someone to claim apostleship is to be contrary to the Word of God. There were certainly apostles in the apostolic age, but an apostle had to be an eyewitness of Jesus’ life. Consider what Paul said to the Corinthians:
2 Cor 8:23 If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. NKJV
The Greek word for “messenger” is the same word that is transliterated as apostle. It is Apostolos. Note Strong’s dictionary’s definition of this word:
apostolos (ap-os'-tol-os); from NT:649; a delegate; specially, an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ ["apostle"] (with miraculous powers): KJV - apostle, messenger, he that is sent.
Let’s look at the meaning of apostle from Unger’s Bible Dictionary:
APOSTLE (Grk. apostolos, a "delegate"). One sent with a special message or commission…
So the apostle had a special commission, to carry the new dispensational message of the gospel first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles. Read through the entire book of Acts. It is evident that the acts recorded are historically the transformation period from law to grace. This is one reason why it is dangerous to attempt to take the events recorded in Acts as the norm. Some of those events were one time events or events that are strictly unique to the apostolic era. In fact, the book was titled Acts because it records the “Acts of the Apostles.” The Bible teaches that it was by the apostles that these sign gifts were given. Consider the following passages:
Acts 2:43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. NIV
Acts 4:33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. NIV
Acts 5:12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon's Porch NKJV
Acts 14:3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. NIV
Rom 15:18 I [Paul] will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done- 19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. NIV
2 Cor 12:12 The things that mark an apostle-signs, wonders and miracles-were done among you with great perseverance. NIV
Reading through the book of Acts, you will find that all of the miracles were done by an apostle. From Peter to Paul, the biblical pattern is laid out. Knowing this, we can further understand the purpose of the sign gifts. Frankly, we simply do not need these gifts anymore! Again, we have something much more reliable, which is the completed Word of God. When a person realizes that the Bible is not only a theological book, but that it is a historical one as well, they can be satisfied with the historical record. It is also a factual historical record, not one based upon vague historical events. For instance the book of Acts confirms that these sign gifts were actually performed by the apostles. We know that the apostle Paul had the authority to speak for God because he had signs that accompanied his words. The Bible (which I trust more than life itself) teaches this. Paul himself, over and over stressed that he was not making things up, but pointed to his apostleship as his authoritative source. The writer of Hebrews also confirms this, note:
Heb 2:3-4 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? NKJV
Those who heard Him and were bearing witness with signs and wonders, which included miracles, were the apostles. It is impossible today for anyone to be an apostle, even if they desire to do so, because no one can meet the qualifications set out in Acts chapter 1. Furthermore, we should not be seeking this position. We should follow the example of the apostle Peter and believe that we have a much more reliable source of truth in the Holy Scriptures. When we realize that the Holy Scriptures are God-breathed, living and powerful, we begin to realize that there is no gift, no sign that is greater than that. It is at this point we should meditate on the Bible, one of the absolute greatest gifts we have, and be thankful for this gift. Thank You Jesus, for the written revelation of your precious word.
For an in depth study on this topic please read our page titled "Spiritual Gifts."