Did apostolic ministries cease with the early church?


Brother Phiri, I have come across an article in which the author explains that apostolic and prophetic ministries ended with the early church in the Bible. I not sure if you have written about this subject but I want help on this matter. This is [an excerpt of] what he wrote:

“Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20). 

As seen [in Eph.2.20] above, Paul explains clearly why apostles and prophets existed; to lay a foundation for the church. Which foundation was this? It is the fundamental doctrines on which the whole church is built, to put it simply it is everything about Christ. It is clear as day to anyone who uses their common sense that a foundation can never to laid more than once, rather; once the foundation is laid the job of whoever comes next is to build on that foundation. The only reason ofcourse that would cause one to lay the foundation again would be if the first foundation was poorly built, for anyone to claim that they can lay a better foundation than that of the apostles is not only pride, but is a fundamental insult on Christ who is Himself that foundation, besides the scriptures speak better than I: 1 Corinthians 3:11 King James Version (KJV) “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

To be an Apostle in a true sense of the word, not merely a sent one (which we all are since we all carry the great commission) these are the qualifications:

You must be selected by the Lord (Mark 3:13, Acts 26:16). Some object to this and say Mathias was not selected by the Lord, but if you read carefully Acts 1:20 you will see that God had predestined for Judas to be replaced by another, He being sovereign even superintended the lot to fall on him instead of Joseph (Proverbs 16:33). 

You must have seen the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22, Acts 9:1-9, 1 Corinthians 15:8). Furthermore, for anyone to claim to have seen the risen Lord after Paul or today they must regard Paul as a liar since He exclusively states that he was the “last of all” to [see] the resurrected Christ. 

You must be authenticated by signs of an apostle including miracles and mighty deeds (2 Corinthians 12:12, Hebrews 2:3-4). This means your miracles must measure up to those of the apostles, meaning obvious instantaneous healing of known diseases that cannot be disputed and not merely headaches and backaches. They must raise the dead in obvious daylight with unbiased witnesses present (Acts 3:7-10; Acts 9:36-42; Acts 19:12). I am yet to find anyone who has genuinely done these acts today. All there is are rumours here and rumours there without any clear evidence. Where there are videos and recordings they are quickly proven to be fraud and faked miracles. 

It must be noted that I am not saying that one needs just one of the above to qualify as an Apostle, I am saying he needs all the above. We have in scripture people who might have seen the risen Lord and performed miracles (Acts 6:8; Acts 8:6-8) but were not selected by the Lord to be apostles and so we never hear them being referred to as apostles.


The above article is full of false assumptions. Note the following:

#1. “Having apostles today would mean early church apostles laid a faulty foundation”

The author of the article explains that apostles and prophets  “existed to lay a foundation for the church” and then goes on to state that “the only reason of course that would cause one to lay the foundation again would be if the first foundation was poorly built. For anyone to claim that they can lay a better foundation than that of the apostles is not only pride, but is a fundamental insult on Christ who is Himself that foundation.” Well, what about the foundation of the temple that was being laid in Ezra 3:10, what happened to the one of the earlier temple? Was it faulty? Not at all but simply because the earlier foundation had been ‘lost’ to destruction that time when Jerusalem got besieged by Babylon. Now, didn’t the same thing happen to Christianity? Note: 

The first group of Apostles spoke the Word and established the Church on 12 foundational stones. All the revelations of Christ were spoken and revealed then. They were later written and laid down in the epistles. But with the departing of the Apostles, cunning and deceitful men came into the midst of the Church and began to tear away the foundational stones of the Apostles. Over time the Apostolic foundations were so displaced and broken up that the Church became nothing more than an institution of man-made religious traditions … For this reason, the Bride must separate herself from this leavening lump and get back into the Original Word — not just the “survival” tool of the Written Word but the Spoken Word that will perfect her and bring her to complete maturity in Christ for the translation. Since the Church of Christ began with, and was established by, the Apostolic Ministry, so she will end with, and established by, the same Ministry. The Endtime Apostles will hold the reins on the Word and set the Church in line with the revelation of the Word. They will put back in place the 12 Apostolic Foundations (Richard Gan, SPEAK THE WORD, P.33).

Yes, God will use the same kind of ministry to accomplish in the end-time what he had began in the early church. There is an example of this in the Bible, it is the example of the spirit or ministry of Elijah. At a time when Israel had gone into apostasy there was one man with a bold and non-compromising personality who got anointed by God to turn the hearts of the people. “Hear me, O Lord” Elijah prayed, “that these people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again” (1 Kings 18:37). Many years later when a similar situation arose in Israel God raised a man with a spirit of Elijah again to “turn the hearts” (Luke 1:17). So, did God use the same ministry more than once because at an earlier time the ministry was faulty?

#2. “To be an apostle one must have been directly called by the Lord Jesus Christ”

The author of the article uses Mark 3:13, but  being aware that there is apostle Paul who was not among the twelve disciples of Christ he refers to Acts 26:16 to argue that Paul had actually been directly called by the Lord. That is ridiculous; can’t the author of the article see that Acts 26:16 actually indicates that men continued to be called into ministry even after the earthly ministry of the Lord? What shall we make of Barnabas who also had an apostolic ministry but was not among the twelve disciples and we don’t have a record of any supernatural encounter he had with the Lord Jesus? What do people holding such beliefs make of Revelation 2:2 which was a eulogy for Ephesian believers for having “tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars”? If there were only 12 apostles, would there have been such deceptions, considering that the only testing criteria would be to ask, “Is this man truly Peter, James, John, or Andrew?” Or was the test to ascertain if truly one had seen the resurrected Lord? That would be impractical. Or were Ephesians to look for miracles in a man’s ministry? Only a carnal person, void of the true knowledge of spiritual things would suppose such were the ways of discerning a ministry! Thankfully, there is no place for speculation over how the Ephesians were able to test and reprove false apostles. Paul had once held a meeting with the elders of the church in Ephesus and he warned them saying, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themTherefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:17,27-31). Yes, for three years Paul established and equipped the believers with the Word and he was admonishing them to be able to discern a man if he truly spoke the Word of truth and if he truly had a concern for people or he was merely proud, wanting to draw disciples after himself. It goes without saying that if there were false apostles there  certainly were also true ones!

#3 To be an apostle you must have seen the resurrected Christ”

1 Corinthians 15:8 is used to explain that “for anyone to claim to have seen the risen Lord after Paul or today they must regard Paul as a liar since he exclusively states that he was the ‘last of all’ to the resurrected Christ.” What an interpretation of words!

Did Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:8 really present himself as the last person to whom the Lord had decided to ever show himself again on earth? That is as far as the West is from the East. A simple look at 1 Corinthians 15:1-9 shows that the author is writing a letter to an audience whom he wants to assure that truly indeed there was once a man called Jesus Christ who had died and resurrected and this was not a made-up testimony. Paul is telling his audience that the testimony is true and there are actually living people who saw Christ alive after his death. The emphasis of the passage is on post-resurrection appearances of Jesus after his death.

Paul demonstrated the surety of the testimony of the resurrected Christ firstly by mentioning traceable names and numbers of witnesses, secondly by narrating the sequence of appearances of the resurrected Christ, and thirdly by presenting he himself also as a witness. In presenting himself as a witness Paul clarifies that his experience did not happen at around the time when Christ was resurrected as was the experience with all the other people he mentions; his experience was a little late – “Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him” (NLT).

But there is more to the phrase “Last of all”. In the sequence of known witnesses  – there could have been a few others the Lord may have revealed himself to – Paul referred to himself as “last of all”. His statement is nowhere close to suggesting that he was the last person the Lord Jesus decided to reveal himself to! Paul is simply stating a sequence of known appearances of the resurrected Lord. And to further appreciate his usage of “last of all” we should read verse 8 with verse 9. When we do that we will actually realize that Paul expressed his humility in being the least among those called into Christ – “And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9). 

In looking at all this, haven’t we heard testimonies of people who have seen the Lord in our time and have experienced a healing miracle or a call into ministry? Yes, much as there are many false testimonies around there are also genuine and sincere ones. But sadly, because of so much falsehood,  someone’s mind may become so prejudiced and treating  as hogwash any testimony they may hear. But we are not discouraged for we know what we have seen and have experienced!

#4. “Signs of an apostle are miracles”

2 Corinthians 12:12 says, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds”. What is a sign of an apostle? Performing miracles, is that really what this verse states? Not when you read and understand it correctly.

The sign of an apostle may express itself IN patience, but that doesn’t mean patience is the vindication or litmus test of an apostle; the sign of an apostle may express itself IN signs but that does not mean signs are a decisively indicative test of an apostle. The sign of an apostle may express itself in mighty deeds but yet the deeds are not the proof for an apostolic ministry. Is it not true that water quenches thirst and this thirst-quenching power of water may express itself itself through the sweet juice of an orange or a watermelon fruit, but shall we say sweetness is the sign of water? Isn’t pure water itself without sweet? Dearly beloved, the sign of an apostle is the power of the Word (cf. 2 Timothy 3:5). The living (anointed) Word that is spoken from a man with an apostolic ministry can convict the sin in people, establish believers on the foundation of Christ, or heal physical illness. The power of the Word will only meet people at their point of need.

As I conclude let me say this: Often the human mind  can see a manifestation of God and then theorize it as the standard experience for verifying other kinds of works of God. Consider the ministry of Elijah. Elijah was known for great supernatural acts. He once called fire from heaven. He once smote Israel with a drought until he called for it to rain again. Before being taken up by the fiery chariots he smote the waters of a river and  walked on dry ground with Elisha. That was such a mighty ministry. When we read about Elisha having received the double portion of the spirit of Elijah we also read accounts of great miracles which Elisha wrought. Now, in the light of what we know of the spirit of Elijah as expressed in the life of Elijah the Tishbite himself and in the life of Elisha who received  a double portion of the spirit, consider the prophecy that was given to Zecharias stating that his son would have the spirit of Elijah – “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). If you were Zecharias, what would have been your expectations of John’s ministry? Many who may have come to know about the prophecy most definitely expected to see great miracles as ‘a sign‘ of the spirit and power of Elijah! But on the contrary  the scripture tells us that John performed no miracle (John 10:41). Only a spiritual mind can understand what exactly the spirit and power of Elijah actually is.


A C Phiri

One thought on “Did apostolic ministries cease with the early church?”

  1. Great explanation. Thanks so much. If prophecy is part of the body then the body is now incomplete because it has ceased

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