Governmental apostles have a regional focus. They stay at the centre
and direct the action from there. Some commentators liken apostles to
generals, because they each command a chunk of God’s army. When a modern
apostle oversees all the pastors in a region of in a group of churches
this is referred to as apostolic government. Apostolic government is seen
as essential for restoring the church.
Governmental apostleship has emerged in the modern church because no
place has been found for the fivefold ministries at the local level. Every
church is lead by a pastor, so there is no room for the other ministries.
To find a role, prophets have had to become itinerant consultants.
Evangelists have been forced into travelling ministries that operate
independently. Apostles must function at a regional level, because there
is no scope for their ministry at a local level.
Once they have planted a new church, the next step for a person with
the apostolic calling is to establish a training centre for church
planters. They will use their experience to develop training materials and
programmes. The graduates of the training school will no longer fit in the
churches they came from, so the apostolic leader will have to organising
church planting opportunities for them.
Sending out highly-trained, but inexperienced church planters in teams
that have never worked together always leads to problems. The apostolic
leader will be respected by the trainees, so they are the best person to
sort out any problems. The person with an apostolic calling could soon
have responsibility for a number of churches across a broad region.
Governmental policies will be developed to manage and control these
churches. In a few quick steps, a church planter has morphed into a
The governmental approach to apostleship will never be as effective as
the local multiplicative approach. The best people are clustered at the
centre, which can cause ego problems. Inexperienced people are pushed out
to edge where the greatest problems emerge.
No matter how good the people at the centre; no matter how much money
flows in; or how effective the training; or the effective the governmental
management, governing apostles will be less effective
Jesus is the head of the church. He has not delegated this authority to
church leaders or apostles. The only authority he delegated to apostles
was authority to heal the sick and to cast our demons. He delegated
governing and guiding authority to the Holy Spirit. He gave also gave all
those who repent and believe freedom to obey the voice of the Spirit.
Christians have authority over their own lives. The can give authority to
their leaders by submitting them. The authority of leaders is comes from
bottom to the top, not from the top down.
The Holy Spirit is everywhere and can speak to any believer, so he does
not need to operate through a hierarchy. The leaders of human
organisations are not omnipresent, so they have to work through hierarchy.
The devil is confined to one place, so he has to work through a unruly
hierarchy of principalities and powers. The Holy Spirit does not have this
problem, so he does not need hierarchy. He can accomplish his plans by
guiding Christians at a local level. The Holy Spirit guides the entire
church by speaking to individual Christians.
Jesus worked locally and released lots of people into the apostolic
ministry. He trained many apostles and gave them authority. He started
with the twelve apostles and gave them some of his authority (Luke
6:12-16). Once the twelve were “on the case”, he began work with
another seventy-two. They were “apostled” out into the surrounding
villages and towns with authority to act for Jesus (Luke 10:1-21). The
seventy-two were really green, but Jesus gave them authority, because he
trusted the Holy Spirit to guide and lead them.
By the time he died, Jesus had 120 people who were waiting for the
Spirit and “raring to go” (Acts 1:15). They had a lot to learn, but
Jesus gave them authority, sent his Spirit and left them to it.
Whereas Jesus dispersed his authority widely, the apostles in Jerusalem
soon slipped into a mode of gathering authority to themselves. An
interesting feature of the Jerusalem church was that most of the miracles
were worked by the apostles.
Many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles (Acts
The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the
people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s
Colonnade (Acts 5:12)
With the massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, many
people should have been preaching the gospel and healing, but instead they
seem to be gathering to watch the Apostles.
As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on
beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them
as he passed by (Acts 5:15).
These miracles were marvellous, but the entire movement in Jerusalem
was becoming centred round the key apostles. Their ministries were built
up, not multiplied. The rapid growth of the Church in Jerusalem depended
on a few big apostles drawing lots of people into the church.
Because the number of apostles did not grow, the rate at which the
church grew outside Jerusalem was slowed. It took serious persecution to
get believers apostled out to places like Antioch for the real
multiplication got underway.
The apostles quite quickly took financial control of the church. In the
beginning those, those giving away their possessions distributed their
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need
Within a short period of time, the giving was all going through the
Those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the
sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone
as he had need. (Acts 4:34-35).
This was a significant change that increased the power of the apostles.
Staying at the Centre
Jesus told his apostles to stay in Jerusalem until they received power
from on high. Once they received the Holy Spirit, they were meant to go
out into Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth. By staying in
Jerusalem after they had received the Holy Spirit, they gradually morphed
in governmental apostles.
Jesus had told the apostles to go out into all the world. A true
apostle should be sent out to wherever the Holy Spirit is advancing.
Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all
nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am
going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until
you have been clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:47-49).
Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised… in
a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit….But you will
receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my
witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of
the earth (Acts 1:4,8).
Jesus told the apostles to wait in Jerusalem, but they were to wait “until”….
They were to wait until the Holy Spirit had come. Once they Sprit had
come, the waiting should have ended. The apostles should have been sent
out into Judea, Samaria and then the rest of the world.
Jesus had taught his apostles how to go out and stay in a village with
a person of peace and preach the good news and heal the sick. Although
they had practiced this method (Luke 9:1-6) and understood that it worked,
the first apostles seemed to be reluctant to adopt it.
Peter and John just did not get it. God had to send persecution to get
his disciples to move out in obedience to his commissions.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at
Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and
Samaria (Acts 8:1).
This is amazing. The disciples moved out, but the apostles stayed. They
remained in Jerusalem, despite their calling and Jesus’ clear commands.
The Holy Spirit had a dreadful job getting Peter to go to Caesarea to
share the gospel with Cornelius and his household. Luke takes a whole
chapter to describe the incident. Peter had a vision. The Holy Spirit
spoke to him. The prediction of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled (Acts
10:19-21). Even after all that, Peter launched into his sermon by saying
that it was against his law for a Jew to associate with a gentile. While
Peter was preaching, the Holy Spirit interrupted and filled the people so
they spoke in tongues.
Peter did not have a clue about what the Holy Sprit was doing in
Caesarea and struggled against it. He just did not want to go there and he
did not stay, when the Holy Spirit got going. Peter went back to Jerusalem
and stayed at the centre, when he should have been out at the cutting
Paul initially made the same mistake and went to Jerusalem. The Holy
Spirit had to put him into a trance to get him to understand that he
should be getting out of Jerusalem.
When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into
a trance and saw the Lord speaking. “Quick!” he said to me. “Leave
Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about
me”….. Then the Lord said to me, “Go; I will send you far away to
the Gentiles.” (Acts 22:17,18,21).
Paul left for Tarsus and then went on Antioch. The apostolic ministry
he launched demonstrated that Jesus method is effective (Acts 28:1-10).
When apostles sit at the centre and give orders and direction, they
quickly morph into modern day bishops, and the expansion of the church
Although they should have taken the gospel back to their home towns and
villages, people from all over the world stayed in Jerusalem. On the day
of Pentecost, thousand of people were still in Jerusalem, after coming
their to celebrate the Passover.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation
under heaven….Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia,
Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the
parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome; Cretans and Arabs. (Acts
Many of these people responded to the apostles preaching and received
the gospel. Some of these people, like the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:39),
immediately took the gospel back to their home as God intended.
This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every
nation under heaven (Col 1:23).
However many more of these foreign Christians remained in Jerusalem. I
presume that they remained, because the Apostles remained, making
Jerusalem the centre of the action. New Christians naturally wanted to be
close to the action, so they stayed to see what would develop. This slowed
the spread of the gospel.
Holy Spirit Guidance beats Human Wisdom
The Book of Acts shows the Holy Spirit guiding the church. Things went
best, when Christians followed his voice. The apostles often got things
wrong, and had to be corrected by the Holy Spirit. Here are just a few
The Holy Spirit had a dreadful job getting Peter to go to Caesarea
to share the gospel with Cornelius and his household. If he had been in
control of this situation, the gospel would not have gone their. However,
the Holy Sprit worked with hard to get Peter on track. Holy Spirit
guidance triumphed over the mistakes of a key apostle.
The apostles appointed Philip to be a deacon, but it soon became
clear that the Holy Spirit has more important work in mind for him.
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there
Philip was actually called to be an evangelist.
Paul made Timothy get circumcised in a bout of people pleasing.
Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him
because of the Jews who lived in that area Acts 16:3).
The circumcision party soon became a thorn in Paul’s flesh, so this
incident of pleasing man not God was a serious mistake.
Two apostles, Barnabas and Paul, disagreed over Mark. The Holy
Spirit got his way and both Mark and Timothy became key evangelists.
Paul wanted to go into Bithynia, but the Holy Spirit did not allow
him. The Holy Spirit had to send a vision to get him into Macedonia (Acts
Paul planned to visit Spain. He intended to visit Rome on his way
I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing
through and to have you assist me on my journey there (Rom 15:24)
I will go to Spain and visit you on the way (Rom 15:28)
The Holy Sprit had different plans. Paul ended up as a prisoner in Rome
and never got to Rome. However, his desire to visit Spain cause him to
write the letter to the Romans, which was what the Holy Sprit really
wanted from him.
The Acts of the Apostles are really the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Things
went well when people followed the leading of the Holy Spirit. Things did
not go so well when the Apostles did their own thing. This shows the risks
of apostolic government. The more power that is given to governing
apostles, the more serious this risk will be.
When individual Christians ignore the Holy Spirit, they do not do much
harm. When an apostle with governing authority misses the Holy Spirit’s
leading, terrible harm could done. The good news of the gospel is that
every believer can be taught and lead by the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit
guidance is far safer than Apostolic leadership.
During the first five centuries of Christian history, a number of
ecumenical councils were held. Tradition says that these councils settled
outstanding theological disputes. For example, the Council of Nicea in AD
325 is said to have established the doctrine of the Trinity. This is not
really true. The theology of the Trinity is settled in the nature and
character of God, not by human councils. Those who listen to the Spirit of
God will find the truth, whereas human councils will usually arrive at a
Christian historians who back the council movement identify the Council
of Jerusalem that is recorded in Acts 15 as the
first ecumenical council. A careful reading of the text does not support
this view. This meeting was not a council that set a pattern for the
church; it was actually a shambles that made unwise decisions. For
more on this issue see Council Shambles.