Others may organize the Spiritual Gifts in other ways and rightly so, yet it seems to me that there are at least four gifts which God has used to help give leadership to the church: Apostleship, Administration, Faith, and Discernment. Perhaps I should also include the Prophet.
Most Bible teachers agree that the Gift of an Apostle is not active today, yet I believe that it would be beneficial for us to take some time to consider this special gift in order to better understand how the Spirit gives leadership to the church.
Ephesians 2:20 Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone,
Who were the Apostles? What are the Apostles?
Though others were sometimes called by this title, (Barnabas, Silvanus and Timothy), most often whenever scripture mentions the Apostles, it is referring to the twelve men Jesus chose to be His disciples. Acts 1:2 refers to – “the apostles whom He (Christ) had chosen.” Rev 21:2 states concerning the city of New Jerusalem – ‘the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.’
Paul is also considered to be an Apostle because he repeadelty states that he had been chosen according to the will of God. Many believe that the twelve were to the Jews and that Paul, being the thirteenth, was chosen to be an apostle to the Gentiles. (Rom 11:13; 1 Tim 2:7; 2 Tim 1:11)
The title apostle refers to a messenger who is sent forth with a special mission. Concerning the Twelve, William McRae (The Dynamics of Spiritual Gifts) states – “the capacity to speak with great authority in matters of faith and practice by virtue of his intimate knowledge of Christ’s teachings and direct revelation through the Spirit.”
Paul tells us that the church was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. The Spirit used Paul and the Twelve to lay the foundation of what the church would believe and how they would live it.
A great example of their leadership is seen by the establishment of the deacon-caring ministry. Acts 6 tells us that there was a time in the early church when many of the widows were being neglected. The Twelve used their position of leadership to select seven men of which scripture says – “whom we may appoint over this business.” In other words, the Apostles recognized that there was a need and they helped to organize a ministry in order to meet that need. They also illustrated their spiritual leadership through the discernment they used in selecting these seven deacons: ‘Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom…’ (Acts 6:3)
1. They sought for helpers who were well respected by the church body
2. They sought for helpers who were led by the Spirit
3. They sought for helpers who possessed the necessary skills and abilities to get the job done.
No doubt the Twelve were guided by the Spirit in determining the qualifications for these first seven deacons, yet the Apostles demonstrated the wisdom and understanding necessary to make important decisions.
Were the Twelve Apostles better than all the rest? What is most amazing is that we see in the beginning of the book of Acts how the Spirit used them extensively to help establish the church, but then, except for a few NT letters that carry their names, not much is known about what happened to them as the church continued to grow and develop.
True spiritual leaders do not consider themselves to be better than those they lead. They are servants whom the Spirit uses to bring unity and harmony to the body of Christ.