Paul’s opening prayer, thanksgiving for and encouragement to the believers in Colossae

As we review Paul’s opening prayer, his thanksgiving for and his encouragement to the Colossian church, found in the first chapter of his letter verses 1 – 12, we are impressed by the Apostle’s emphasis on faith in Christ. His beautifully eloquent introduction found in verses 3 – 5, encapsulates the foundation of his unwavering faith that he sees reflected in the believers in Colossae.


We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the Gospel.

Colossians 1:3-5

In his letter, Paul introduces himself as, “…an Apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will (GREEK ‘thelema‘ – determination, purpose, decree) of God…”. Remember Paul, himself, had not visited the believers at Colossae, for it was Epaphras, a disciple of Paul’s, with the help of Timothy, that had been instrumental in planting all three churches in the region, at Colossae, at Laodicea and at Hierapolis, at which this letter was to be read.

Paul refers to himself in many of his letters as an Apostle, notably as “the Apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13; I Timothy 2:17; II Timothy 1:11). This begs the question. Were there only thirteen true Apostles (those selected by Jesus Himself, plus Matthias chosen by lot – Acts 1:20-26) or can others be considered Apostles, such as Paul, or James, the brother of Jesus and leader of the early church in Jerusalem (I Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19), or Barnabas (Acts 14;4, 14; I Corinthians 9:6), or Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7), or Silas and Timothy (I Thessalonians 1:1 & 2:7), or Apollos (I Corinthians 4:6, 9) or others mentioned in Paul’s epistles, the book of Acts and early church writings.

There are two main streams of thought in the church today regarding Apostleship

The first, perhaps the more traditional and evangelical view, is that the term Apostle can only rightfully be used to describe the twelve disciples of Christ minus Judas and plus Matthias, and possibly Paul, and their ministry during what is referred to as the Apostolic age.

The Apostolic age is defined as – the period in which the Apostles of Christ as described in the Bible lived, speaking and writing authoritatively, and bearing the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). The majority of the evangelical community maintains that the Apostolic age closed long ago, along with the disbursement of the spiritual gifts to the church – cessationism is the teaching that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing ceased with the Apostolic age.

On the other side of the spectrum are those, mainly from the charismatic stream in the church, that believe that we have entered a new Apostolic age, where God is raising up Apostles and Prophets once again as God’s intended form of church governance. One of the leading proponents of this thinking is the New Apostolic Reformation, or NAR, which is a loose collection of non-denominational and independent churches rallying around a particular set of biblical interpretations. The NAR approaches church leadership and biblical interpretation differently from mainstream Protestant denominations. Of particular distinction are the role and power of spiritual leaders, a literalist approach to spiritual warfare, and an overt interest in cultural and political control. The NAR movement has become closely associated with the emergence of ‘Dominion Theology‘ (Dominion theology / Christian reconstructionism is largely based upon a post-millennial view of ‘covenantalism‘. Post-millennialism is the belief that Christ will return to earth after the thousand-year reign of God’s kingdom, and ‘covenantalism‘ refers to the belief that biblical history is divided into three major covenants described in Scripture—of redemption, of works, and of grace).

Adherents to this way of thinking believe that we currently exist under the covenant of grace, that the church and Israel are the same, and that we are now in the millennial Kingdom of God. Man, under the covenant of grace, is responsible to rule the world and to hold dominion over it in obedience to the laws of God.

As is often the case in Christian theological thought, both of these extremes of thinking have fatal flaws, and in the end God’s truth can seldom be contained in man’s theories, thoughts or dogma. The truth can only be found in Jesus, who is the ‘Logos‘ (‘Divine expression’) and the ‘Rhema‘ (‘Divine revelation’).

My thoughts, and I stress these are my contemplations based on my own limited intimacy and depth of knowledge in our Lord who is all wisdom and revelation, is that there are indeed ‘apostles’ in the church today, but that they are rarely those that consider themselves as such and almost never those who would have that title engraved on their business card.

Some have drawn the distinction between a big ‘A’ Apostle (the original group of 12, without Judas and presumably with Matthias), and those who operated in the days of the early church in the office of an apostle, the so called small ‘a’ apostles, like Paul and James and others mentioned in Acts and Paul’s letters, as well as those who today operate in the ‘gift’ and anointing of an apostle (Ephesians 4:7-12).

The requirements to be one of the original Apostles of Christ included being a faithful eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry and His resurrection (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Corinthians 9:1) and being personally called by Jesus (Galatians 1:1). Their personal testimony of Jesus as well as their witness to the Way were vital to the establishment of His church, but the office, gift and anointing of apostleship continued on through gifted apostolic leaders like Paul, James, Barnabas and many others, and has continued on through the church age to this present day. So whether you distinguish between a big ‘A’ Apostle and a small ‘a’ apostle, the apostolic office, gifting and anointing remain as vital to the church today, as they did in the formative years of the church.

The mission for those with the office, gift and anointing of apostleship today is to plant new ministries and churches, go into places where the Gospel is not preached, reach across cultures to establish churches in challenging environments, raise up and develop leaders, call out and lead pastors and shepherds, and much more. The true apostle is imbued with many different spiritual and natural gifts that allow them to fulfill their ministry. These are leaders of leaders and ministers of ministers. They are influencers. They are typically entrepreneurial and are able to take risks and perform difficult tasks. Missionaries, church planters, certain Christian scholars and institutional leaders, and those leading multiple ministries or churches often have the calling of ‘apostleship’ over their lives. See also Ephesians 4:11, I Corinthians 12:28, Acts 1:21-22, 1 Corinthians 9:1

This understanding is perhaps the most Biblically based and one that we can find the most affinity with. Next week we will look at apostleship in a deeper way and I hope to offer greater illumination into this vital concept to the body of Christ. Have a blessed week!

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