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The Apostolic Commission is Not Ours


Doug Post

The English word “apostle” comes from the Greek word apostolos, which is comprised of two words. The word “apo” means away from. The word “stello” means send or commission. Therefore, the Lord’s apostles were the ones sent away from Jesus. Jesus gave them an assignment or Apostolic Commission.

Typically, the texts of Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-20, Luke 24:46-49, and Acts 1:8 serve as what is called “The Great Commission” (herein “GC”). We learn that Jesus had previously sent away His twelve disciples on what we term the “limited commission” (Matthew 10). While their first assignment was limited in scope, the apostles’ second one was far greater in extent. This time they were to “[g]o into all the world,” which is why it is often called the “The Great Commission.” However, this commission was really for the apostles and to no one else and a more apt designation is the Apostolic Commission.

Yet, when we consider the “Great Commission” we should also remember the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, which serves as the backdrop to the New Testament. The teachings, events, the establishment of the kingdom/church, the rapid spread of the gospel, and the writing of inspired Scripture, all occurred during the time of the miraculous age of the first century. When Jesus commissioned the apostles they were provided supernatural revelation, inspiration, and miraculous power, from the Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised (John 14:26; 15:26-27; John 16:13; cf. Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8).   

The command; “Go into all the world and preach the gospel,” was directly given to the apostles (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:44-49; Read carefully Mark 16:15-20; cf. Heb. 2:1-4; cf. Acts 8:1-4). Their purpose was to take to gospel to the world, meaning to Jew and Gentile. These two groups were now to be reconciled to God through submission to this one divinely authorized means called the gospel (Ephesians 2:13-22; cf. Acts 19:9; Eph.1:22-23, 4:4). In preaching the gospel to Jew and Gentile, the apostles would have accompanying, miraculous gifts, necessary for confirming or establishing their message (Mark 16:17-20; Heb.2:1-4). This confirmation process proved they were men of God rather than charlatans, and their message was of Divine origin rather than from man.

Moreover, being responsible to their Apostolic Commission, the apostles were those who were called “ambassadors” of Christ, distinguished from the rest of the church (Acts 1:21-26; 26:16; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Acts 1:22). Additionally, two of these apostles, Peter and Paul, were even given special assignments within their “Apostolic Commission” assignment (Matt. 16:19; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; 8:14-24; 10:44-48; Gal. 2:7; Acts 9:15). We are not ambassadors but the apostles were.

As part of their assignment, the apostles were to be “witnesses.” This “witnessing” process is not like anything some call “witnessing” today. On the contrary, they were to “witness” in preaching and then through miraculous power, and they would do so by the supernatural power of the Spirit (John 15:26-27; Acts 1:8, 5:32). The Holy Spirit would be “witness” through the apostles. Remember, this power went hand in hand with their preaching and, therefore, were “accompanying signs” (Mark 16:20). The apostles had this “witnessing” power which was not available to other first century Christians ((1 Corinthians 12:11; 14:1, 13; 1 Timothy 4:14; 1:6; 2 Corinthians 12:12). Their assignment of preaching to the world lasted roughly 30 years, which was the duration of the miraculous age (Acts 13:1-4; 16:6-10; cf. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 16:8, 9, 11; Revelation 3:7; Colossians 1:16, 23; Ephesians 4:7-15). We are not “witnesses” but the apostles were.

Since that time, God has withdrawn all miraculous assistance, which was absolutely necessary to carrying out their “Commission” during the first century as the Lord’s ambassadors and witnesses (Mark 16:15-20; 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; cf. Acts 17:27; Matthew 7:7-11 with Luke 11:13; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy. 2:4).

We should also understand that in the first century there was a major transition taking place, whereby three major periods or dispensations met at once. Both the Patriarchal Period (Dispensation), to which all Gentiles were amenable, and the Mosaic Period (Dispensation), to which all Jews were amenable, were coming to their respective ends. However, the Apostolic Commission in preaching to the whole world was now providing the gospel as the only means by which both Jew and Gentile could be reconciled to God.

This new era of law, the Gospel Period (Dispensation) sprang forth out of Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2-4; Jeremiah 31:31-34; cf. Acts 1:8, 2:1-38; Hebrews 8:7-13), replacing the previous Gentile and Jewish systems of law. All men were now accountable to the gospel of Christ. This transition period required Divine assistance, providing miraculous guidance and ability to the apostles, which was necessary in carrying out the Lord’s assignment successfully (Mark 16:15-20; 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; cf. Acts 17:27; Matthew 7:7-11 with Luke 11:13; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4).   

The miraculous age of the first century concluded when revelation ceased in the first century. Therefore, we have no miraculous assistance today and neither do we have need for it. There are no accompanying and confirmatory signs with our preaching and teaching (cf. Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:1-4). Since the apostles successfully completed their great campaign, and miracles have ceased, then their Apostolic Commission Great Commission” was fulfilled in the first century. We cannot do what the apostles did.

While our assignment is to continue teaching the confirmed gospel (1 Timothy 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 3:2; Matthew 22:37-40), our authority for doing so does not come by way of the “Apostolic Commission” (“Great Commission”) but through the authority of completed and confirmed revelation – the Scriptures. The Apostolic Commission involved the miraculous, our teaching today does not. The Apostolic Commission was for uniting Jew and Gentile in the first century, requiring miraculous, confirmatory works. Our teaching today is not about those things, but for simply expanding the already united body, which does not require a miraculous agenda.    Send article as PDF   

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