"Just What IS an APOSTLE?"

Chapter 3

An Apostle – Lays Foundations

The foundation on which the True Church is built is very clear. In Ephesians 2 Paul talks of the Church as a household that is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner [stone]” (Eph 2:20).

Aligned to the Corner Stone:

When a building was constructed during that time – and even today in some cases – a large corner stone was always the first stone laid. This stone was then used as the single main reference point for the entire structure. In the case of the Church, Jesus Christ – the Living Word of God – is clearly that stone (Eph 2:20). But the way in which walls were then aligned was not simply with reference to the corner stone directly, but with the foundation found vertically below each section of the building.

As long as each section of the foundation is carefully measured from and aligned with the corner stone, then the resulting walls above those foundations will also be aligned and true. It is only by using this simple process that the unity of a building is preserved. As Paul says, “in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord” (Eph 2:21).

The responsibility to carefully align such foundations with the Corner Stone was something not given to the general ministry, but according to this scripture in Ephesians and several others, remained the preserve of apostles (I Cor 3:10; I Cor 12:28; Eph 3:5; Eph 4:11; II Pet 3:2; Jude 1:17; Rev 21:14). The general ministry, as faithful stewards (I Cor 4:2), were then duty bound to align their own teachings carefully with these foundations – teaching only as they had been taught (Titus 1:9, II Tim 1:13; Jude 1:3; II Thes 2:15).

A Spiritual Temple:

The prophecy given in Malachi implies that a temple, having such foundations, will be under construction just before the return of Christ. The temple that “the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to” (Mal 3:1) is clearly a spiritual temple – composed of resurrected people – not mere stones and wood. Before Christ’s first coming, John the Baptist was to prepare the way before me” (Mal 3:1) and fulfilled this verse according to the angel, by making “ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).

This spiritual fulfilment of preparing people as part of a spiritual temple becomes even more clear in Paul’s description of the Church as a building being “fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph 2:21). In addition, a prophecy in Haggai describes the glory of this latter house being,greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace” (Hagg 2:9). This prophecy was not fulfilled physically by the temple then built, as not only was it inferior to Solomon’s temple (Ezra 3:12), but little or no peace was subsequently associated with it – so a spiritual fulfilment is clear.

For the temple prophesied in Malachi to be this glorified, unified, spiritual temple to which Christ will return, it must, like a physical building, be aligned to a single foundation – a foundation laid by God through His apostles and prophets. Only then can the ensuing structure be properly “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph 2:22). This is why the individual prophesied to be sent (an apostle) to prepare the way before the Messiah’s second coming (Mal 3:1) is so important. The reason he is sent is to restore the same spiritual foundations required by God in His end-time Church, allowing it to be part of the spiritual temple to which Christ is prophesied to return. The one laying the foundations in His Church is always Jesus Christ, but He has resolved to do so by sending a human being – an apostle – to His people with those foundational Truths.

Only by Revelation:

The apostle Paul also fulfilled such a role. We read in Ephesians “of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward, how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery” (Eph 3:2-3). Paul was given revealed knowledge from God – describing it as “the mystery” (Eph 3:3, 4) – which was unique to him. It involved understanding that the Gentiles would be part of this Holy Temple God was building.

Judaism had no understanding of this concept. Only when Peter met Cornelius (Acts 10:10-48) did God begin to reveal this understanding to His Church. But God then selected and sent Paul – as the apostle sent to the Gentiles – to carry it out. This commission, given to the apostle Paul, was one “which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph 3:5). God’s time for this had come and the foundation, laid here in the Ephesian Church by the apostle Paul, consisted of revealed foundational knowledge – trunk-of-the-tree teaching that was new, or restored in some way – given specifically by God for His people.

Occasionally a New Testament prophet would be used by God to receive specific information but, even in such cases, an apostle would be used to disseminate that knowledge to The Church (cf Acts 11:27-28 with Rom 15:25-28). God used apostles to do the work of laying the foundations of revealed knowledge within the Church. They were sent to implement the revelation according to “The Way” God had directed them – so preserving this vital unity within God’s Church.

We can conclude, therefore, that the prophets mentioned as the foundation, in Ephesians 2:20, were almost certainly the Old Testament prophets to which the Word of God originally came, and through whom the Hebrew Scriptures were delivered. Paul talks of this foundation in Romans when he says, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called [to be] an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures)” (Rom 1:1-2). Conversely, the prophets mentioned as having received revelation in the present tense in Ephesians 3:5, would be those found within the New Testament who were occasionally given specific messages from God, intended to be delivered to fully-established Churches (cf I Cor 14:4, 22).

In Summary:

New Testament prophets were occasionally used by God to deliver specific messages to a fully-established Church. But an apostle’s major job was to lay bedrock truth that can only come as revealed knowledge sent by God. Because of this function, they are mentioned with the Old Testament prophets as forming the very foundations of the Church of God. The primary job of an apostle – including the apostle prophesied for the end-time construction of the spiritual temple – is to lay spiritual foundations.