It will come as no surprise, then, when I say that I believe the gift of Apostle is still in operation today. What may surprise you is what I believe this Apostolic gift to be. So don't cut me off here. Hear me out. I want to make this as clear as I know how. It may take a little while, so if you do not read through, don't categorize me until you have read through.
I will begin by laying two foundation stones for what I believe Scripture teaches concerning the gift of Apostle.***
Apostolic authority is one of the bedrocks of the Christian faith. In Catholicism it takes a path away from Scripture and into Tradition, with the Bishop of Rome being the true successor to the Apostles expressing himself as Christ's representative on earth. This is wrong on many levels, but not the point of this post.
On the Protestant, Reformed, Evangelical side it takes its true form in the actual writings and teachings of the Apostles and is not left up to oral tradition, which is passed down from generation to generation.
It is true, however, that tradition does play an important role in Protestant, Reformed, Evangelical Churches (heretofore to be known as Christian, Christianity, church, etc.) today. But tradition is always compared with Scripture and where they differ, Scripture takes preeminence over tradition. It is also true that the teachings of Scripture are not only committed to paper, but are also passed along through faithful study and proclamation of those truths.
...and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2Ti 2:2)An Apostle in the New Testament meaning of the word is one who carries Christ's words on His behalf. They are Christ's representatives. In Acts chapter 1, when the disciples were gathered to replace Judas Iscariot in his 'bishopric' with another man, these qualifications were given:
"For it is written in the Book of Psalms, "'May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it'; and "'Let another take his office.' So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us--one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection." (Act 1:20-22)So an Apostle is one who had been with Christ and could be a witness to His resurrection.
The second foundations stone I want to lay is this. The Word of God is alive.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12)There is a lot of talk of the Constitution of the United States being a 'living, breathing document'. What is meant by this is when it is stated is that Congress has the right to redefine the Constitution to suit their needs. I do not believe that, but it is a rabbit trail, so I'll stay away from it for now. What the writer of Hebrews means is that the Word of God has power. Power to penetrate our hearts and minds to discern the reality of, or, the absence of faith. But the words that he uses are important. The Word is living. The Word is active. It has a life of its own, energized by the Spirit of God. Hear now what Paul the Apostle tells Timothy.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2Ti 3:14-17)This is very interesting. If there was anyone that the office of Apostle could or should have been passed on to, it would be Timothy. And here in his dying days, Paul does not tell Timothy to take up the office of Apostle. Instead, he tells Timothy to study the Scriptures. It is a fairly safe assumption to make that Paul regarded his own writings as Scripture, since Peter also considers Paul's writings to be Scripture.
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2Pe 3:15-16)So the Apostles are the authors of Scripture, their authority is passed on through the Scriptures, and they do not pass the office of Apostle on to anyone else. How does this lead to a continuing gift of Apostle? Glad you asked! Here's the answer!
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:11-16)Now wasn't that simple? Actually, I guess it's not simple. Let me try to explain to you what I am saying.
Paul the Apostle is still God's gift to the church. He has been since the day he was called on the road to Damascus. Same goes for the rest. They are still the Apostles. It cannot be taken from them. And they are still gifts to the Church through their writings. The Apostles, through their writings, are still actively representing and proclaiming Christ, even though they've been dead for 2,000 years! Apostolic ministry continues, as do all the other gifts, accomplishing exactly what these verses say that the gifts will accomplish. They 'equip the saints for the work of ministry', 'build up the body of Christ', cause us to 'attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ'. Why? So 'that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes'. They speak 'the truth in love', and make us 'grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ'. They are part of the body of Christ, joints that work together with the rest of the gifts, producing a complete and whole body.