From my forthcoming book “The Way of the Apostles” …
“Defining the function and the purpose of the apostolic.
The word “apostle” is no different from the word “missionary“.
An apostle is a sent missionary. A missionary is a man or a woman who has been called to a specific mission to be accomplished.
The word “apostle” is not a title of prestige, it is a function of service. It literally means that such a person has been summoned, co-missionend and sent under to function under the authority of another in order to accomplish a set mission and task.
That is why God firstly gives “apostles” or missionaries, as a ministry function before the others follow. They are sent to pioneer by way of introducing and establishing new seasons of the holy spirit into virgin hearts
An apostle is a servant sent to firstly serve the King Who has commissioned him, and secondly to serve in the mission that he has been tasked with.
An apostle goes to establish what he is sent to set in place. There is always a very specific mission to any apostolic call and function.
The word “apostle” itself has no religious origin in itself. It was a word that was well known for its application and use in the roman empire that ruled during the times of the early church and was later also adopted and used by the Greeks.
The word was used to describe a specific mission that fell upon a captain, his vessel, the crew and the mission they were sent to accomplish.
When Rome wanted to establish a new Roman colony in virgin territory, they commissioned a vessel, a captain and a crew – all of these, as well as the mission and the colony to be established was called “apostolic”.
It was a new mission to bring about something new and to establish something new.
The church adopted the word because of it’s significance and well known use. They too were “Apostolic” in their mission and call in establishing the new Revelation of Christ in the hearts of men and women everywhere.
They too had commissioned servants that were set out to lead them in service to bring about their commissioned task. They also had a king who commissioned and send them by his authority to establish His Kingdom on earth in every nation on earth!
Finally, apostles were never sent for their own glory, but for the glory of the one who sent them.
They were sent servants, to accomplish a heavenly commission.
Their task was to connect those who had not been included before with the New Kingdom that had come to be established in their hearts.
Apostles are always sent to deposit what they carry in transit. It’s never about them having something ‘special’.
It’s always about them giving something ‘special’ from someone special. They come to serve and to establish.
They come to connect the king with his people and to focus the people on their king.
They are mere servants of a process and remain as such, never to do more or less than what they were sent and tasked to do.
Gerhard Kittel’s dictionary tells us more about the original meaning of the word apostle and how it was applied before it became included in the early church and it’s teaching and writings.
It tells us the following –
“Apostolos – Apostolic
… A fleet of ships sent by Rome to establish a new colony elsewhere, were called “apostles”. Whenever Caesar wanted to establish new Roman colonies, he would commission a single ship, or a fleet of ships for this task. These ships, their commanders and crew, would sail under the authority of Caesar himself, commissioned to accomplish their task. This entire mission – the vessel, commander and crew, as well as the new colony they established, was called “apostolic”. The word was used in terms of connecting a sender with the ones who were sent.
Greek Etymology –
Originally, the Greek word for apostle, apostolos, was used as an adjective.  initially it denoted the dispatch of a “fleet (or army) on a military expedition.”  later, it came to be applied to “the fleet itself and acquired the meaning of a naval expedition.”  finally, it referred to a “group of men sent out for a particular purpose, e.g., an army . . . [or a] band of colonists.”  in cynic-stoic philosophy, it is a “technical term for commissioning and authorizing by a deity.”
© Gerhard Kittel’s Dictionary.
So in being an “apostle” you openly confess that you are a slave to Jesus Christ, summoned and called out to accomplish His will on earth in becoming a servant to all men wherever He would send you to go, and to deliver and deposit in them and equip them what you have received, so they may become the fruit of your apostolic mission and task in becoming apostolic themselves!”
~ Johann van der Hoven
Johann van der Hoven is in South Africa. He has been serving the Lord in ministry since 1991 and has hosted numerous apostolic revival meetings in South Africa and in South America. He also currently pioneers a organic church planting movement across South Africa. For more information about him and his ministry visit Fellowship of Believers or Revival.