7.4.1 Characteristics of the Apostle ministry

Jesus Christ equipped the Apostle ministry with extensive powers. The Apostle is an ambassador of Jesus Christ and acts in His name. The characteristics and functions assigned to the Apostle ministry have their source in the ministries of Christ–King, Priest, and Prophet (see 3.4.7→). Thus the Apostle ministry receives all its authority from Jesus Christ and exists in an unconditionally dependent relationship with Him.


Apostle Paul was the only one of the early Apostles who spoke about his ministry. In his second epistle to the Corinthians, he makes substantial reference to the significance of the Apostle ministry. His statements are not of a dogmatic nature, but are rather a reaction to attacks made by the congregation in Corinth as well as by others from outside. These statements clearly show Apostle Paul's understanding of his ministry. From them, general characteristics of the Apostle ministry can be derived:


The ministry of the new covenant

This designation serves to make a distinction from the ministry of the old covenant. Just how fundamentally the new covenant distinguishes itself from the old covenant is made clear in 2 Corinthians 3: 6: "... for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." The "letter" here is the Mosaic Law, while "Spirit" signifies the gospel, the salvific effect of which is founded upon the grace of God.


Jesus Christ is the eternal High Priest of the new covenant who gave Himself as a sacrifice (Hebrews 4: 14-15; 7: 23-27). Since Christ's ascension into heaven it has been the task of the Apostles to make the salvation He attained accessible to mankind. The means of salvation obtained by Jesus Christ are administered and imparted on earth (see 9.6.3). Through the incarnation of God, the earth was thus designated by God Himself as the place where salvation would be imparted.


In contrast to the ministry of the old covenant, which was restricted to the people of Israel, the ministry of the new covenant knows no borders: it is active among all nations.


The ministry of the Spirit

The Apostle ministry is the "ministry of the spirit" (2 Corinthians 3: 8; Acts 8: 14-17). Through the dispensation of the gift of the Holy Spirit, a person baptised with water receives the childhood in God and the prerequisite for becoming a firstling.


The ministry of righteousness

The Apostle ministry, as the "ministry of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 3: 9), is contrasted with the Old Testament "ministry of condemnation". Apostle Paul writes: "But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious ..., how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?" (2 Corinthians 3: 7-8). Here the Apostle clearly shows the significant difference between the Mosaic Law and the law of Christ.


The Apostle ministry draws attention to the fact that human beings are sinners and in need of God's grace. Belief in Jesus Christ and acceptance of His sacrifice leads to the righteousness valid before God.


The ministry of reconciliation

The Apostle ministry, the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5: 18-19), admonishes repentance and leads human beings to the redeeming act of God which was accomplished in Jesus Christ. The Apostle proclaims the death and resurrection of Jesus, and enables believers to share in the fullness of Christ's merit through the forgiveness of sins and the celebration of Holy Communion. "Reconciliation" signifies the restoration of the untroubled relationship between mankind and God, and between human beings among themselves. Perfect reconciliation will be achieved when the glory of the childhood in God is revealed and the "children of God" are like the Lord (1 John 3: 2).


Ambassadors for Christ

The statement of Apostle Paul, "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf ..." (2 Corinthians 5: 20) expresses that Jesus Christ works through the Apostles in His church. The Apostle acts in the power of the Holy Spirit, proclaims the gospel, and administers the sacraments. His activity serves to the salvation of human beings in need of redemption.


Further characteristics of the Apostle ministry can be derived from the first epistle to the Corinthians and the Acts of the Apostles:


Stewards of the mysteries of God

Paul speaks of the Apostles as "stewards" (1 Corinthians 4: 1). A steward is responsible for the household, namely the church. In the church, the Apostles ensure the proper proclamation of the gospel and administration of the sacraments. They ordain ministers and maintain order in the church.


Apostle Paul uses the term "steward" in connection with the "mysteries of God". This suggests that the Apostle ministry has also been assigned the task of imparting and unveiling revelations of God, that is His "mysteries". These include, for instance, the election of the Gentiles–those who are not Jewish–and the rapture of the bridal congregation at the return of Christ (1 Corinthians 15: 51; Colossians 1: 26-28).


The ministry of the word

In the prologue of the gospel of John, the Son of God is described as the "Word" (logos) through which everything was created. The Apostle ministry, to which the Lord also entrusted the commission to teach, also shares in this power of the word in a ministering capacity. It is also in this sense that Acts 6: 4 is to be understood: "But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." The Apostles preach the gospel and interpret Scripture in the proper manner (Galatians 1: 11-12).


Orientation to the day of the Lord

Another significant characteristic of the Apostle ministry is its orientation to the day of the Lord. Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11: 2). "Chaste virgin" is an image of the bridal congregation chosen by Jesus Christ, which is being prepared by the Apostles for the return of Christ.


"Apostle" (apóstolos) means "ambassador". (7.4→)


Jesus Christ personally only gave His church one ministry, namely the Apostle ministry. The Apostle ministry takes all its authority from Jesus Christ and is unconditionally dependent on Him. (7.4→)


The Apostle ministry is described as the "ministry of the new covenant", the "ministry of the Spirit", the "ministry of righteousness", and the "ministry of reconciliation". Apostles are also called "ambassadors for Christ" and "stewards of the mysteries of God". (7.4.1→)


The orientation of the congregation to the return of Christ is another significant characteristic of the Apostle ministry. (7.4.1→)