Identity, Activity and Apostleship

I've had some correspondence regarding my last post, and that has got me thinking again about apostleship. Basically, two days ago I was arguing for the importance of revelation in recognising an apostle (or any of the other ascension ministries for that matter). But does that mean that function isn't important? Can we simply stop asking questions about the role of an apostle? Not at all.

Function is important to ministry. But by pointing to the importance of revelation in the call, I want to highlight the fact that ministry is much more than function. Ephesians 4:11 doesn't tell us that the ascended Christ gave some to apostle, some to prophesy, some to evangelise, some to pastor and some to teach. No! The gifts are not functions, but people: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Now, clearly there are functions which are vital to these ministries, but the gift is the man, not the function.

That means ministry is about identity, not simply about function. In fact, the function flows out from the identity. I'm not a teacher because I teach, I teach because I'm a teacher.

And thinking about this, it strikes me how it fits together with the way God works in our lives. What we do flows out of who we are. Our love for Christ flows out of the fact that we are loved by Christ. Our good works flow out of the fact that we have been declared perfectly righteous in Christ. We aren't God's children because we act like it; we act like it because we are His children. That's the way God works: identity leads to activity, and never the other way round

And that takes us back to God's grace. Our identity as Christians is a gift of God's grace in Christ. And so are the identities of the ministers mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. Men did not achieve apostleship; rather, Christ gave some apostles. He has triumphed victoriously through His sinless life, atoning death and glorious resurrection. And in doing so, He has led captivity captive and given gifts unto men (Eph. 4:8) — He has taken those who were slaves to sin and set them free for His service. And from those He has redeemed, He has given some to be apostles.

In themselves, apostles are sinful men, and so, if activity had the priority over identity, we wouldn't have any apostles. But Christ in grace gives a new identity, and, by His grace, that new identity leads to new activity through Him. Christ sends His apostles, and because He sends them, they fulfil their ministry.