Apostles Are Fathers, (And Mothers)
We live in exciting days. Days in which the Holy Spirit is accomplishing so many great and mighty things in preparation for the last days harvesting. He is fully restoring the five fold gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelist, shepherds, and teachers to the church so that the saints can be equipped to do the works of service spoken of in Eph 4:11,12. We have witnessed, and continue to witness the reestablishing of the prophetic office to the church. It is this office which is in turn be restoring all things (Matt 17:11) by calling out the last of the five fold gifts to be reestablished, the office of the apostle. Even now we are seeing this restoration occurring at an encouraging pace. Many of us have anticipated this day with great delight in our hearts, for when this last of the ascension gifts are put into place, we will begin to see discipleship like we have not witnessed in the recent past, as the church will again be in a position to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry”.
One reason the apostolic office is so important to raising up the saints, and discipling the laborers for the harvest is that apostles are by nature spiritual fathers. They are called by God and anointed to raise up a generation of warriors, and impart the abilities to them by the Holy Spirit to accomplish the assignments entrusted to the Church.
Jesus is our greatest example of this as he showed the fathers heart to his disciples, and especially to the twelve apostles. He was equipping and training them to carry on his work after he left to be seated in the heavenly places. He said to Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father”.(John 14:9). Apostles are called to be fathers, and to show the fathers heart to His people. Paul instructed the Ephesian believers to be imitators of God as dear children (Eph 5:1). Likewise Paul asked the church in Corinth to be followers, or imitators of him as he was of Christ (1 Cor 11:1).
There are many needs supplied in the family of God by the parental attributes of fully functioning apostolic ministry. Prov. 17:17 says that a brother is given to share adversity (NRSV), but without the guidance and authority exercised, too often the adversity has been BETWEEN brothers in the family of God. Just as proper paternal authority is meant to help keep the peace in the natural family, fully functioning apostolic ministry will also bring a peace between brothers in the spiritual family of God.
There are two sides to proper parental care. Both are seen in the churches at the time of Sauls raising up by Barnabas in to his early stages of service to the Christian Church,
Acts 9:31 [KJV] Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
True apostolic ministry will bring both fear and comfort. Often we have been given the impression of apostolic ministry that is quite authoritarian, and in deed the apostle will need to stand through adversity and controversy. Paul was quite strong in his public rebuke of the apostle Peter, (Gal 2:11). The result was an acceptance on Peter’s part. This took a strong anointing on Paul’s part, I am sure. An apostle must be able to bring the people of God in line with God’s will by imparting an awe and fear of His greatness and power. This strength in leadership is not only expressed by men, but a similar rebuke was given by the matriarch Deborah to Barak (Judges 4:9). These are not masculine traits, but Godly traits.
Besides strong leadership, and sharing the fear of the Lord, the apostle must also be able to share the comfort of the Holy Spirit with those whom he has been sent to serve.
1 Thes 2:10 [NIV] You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.
11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,
12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
The apostle Paul, along with Timothy and Silas considered the encouraging, comforting, and exhorting attributes of a father. We also must see modern day apostolic ministry that is as balanced as Paul was. I believe one of the reasons that Paul was able to balance the authority with compassion was not that he saw himself primarily as a father, but he saw himself as a parent, You see Paul also saw himself as a as a mother, and said so to the Thessalonians;
1 Thes 2:6 We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As a apostles of Christ we could have been as a burden to you,
7 but we were gentle among you, like as a mother caring for her little children.
Because we often mistake punishment and exercise of authority as a an attribute of the father and compassion as a motherly attribute, we have given an overly harsh picture of what an apostle aught to be like. Jesus himself related his feelings towards his people as a those of as a mother hen brooding over her children. (Matt. 23:37, Luke 13:34). We should keep in mind that all apostles are first and foremost shepherds of God’s people, and need to be able to share God’s grace, goodness, and compassion with them. While it is certain the Lord gives his gifts to men and women with differing personalities, it is important that each be able to serve God’s people a balanced diet. This is especially true of the office of the apostle who will complete the equipping team of five-fold ministries to the Body of Christ. In the spirit apostles are not to be male nor female (Gal. 3:28). They must function as spiritual parents to the saints of God, which means more than for any other office they must exhibit the functions that we see in both fathers and mothers. I do not see this as a contradiction, nor do I see it as particularly difficult. As God continues to restore all things within the church, should it be any surprise that he would want the attribute of fully functioning spiritual fathers and mothers in his family? These days we have a lot to delight in and rejoice in our God for. For the first time in history we live in a time when the Church has the technology and resources to carry out the Great Commission. As the Lord continues to equip his last days army of laborers for the harvest, we will see more and more apostolic leadership who exhibit the true qualities and characteristics of spiritual parents who are able to show both the fear of the Lord, and the compassion of the Holy Spirit.
Lloyd C. Phillips, Director
The Fellow Laborer’s International Network (FLInt Net)
P.O. Box 113
Missoula, MT 59806
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