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Monday, 11 February 2008 02:37

The New Apostolic Reformation

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One of the central new teachings of the Latter Rain Movement, of the 40's and 50's, was the so-called restoration of Apostles and Prophets to the overcoming Endtime Church. This restoration teaching percolated on the back burners of the Charismatic Renewal for years. But, it was never promoted heavily and no one attempted to systematically implement it on a worldwide scale. Into this vacuum, G. Peter Wagner has evolved as a central personality. He has given organizational and promoting impetus to this so-called restoration and taken bold steps to implement apostolic restoration to a wider Global Church.

Wagner is positioned to have a greater influence than many other promoters of apostolic restoration. He has a broad Evangelical pedigree and has notoriety as a former missiologist at Fuller seminary. He is the recognized heir and successor to Donald McGavern, the founding father of all church growth teaching. In addition to being a co-founder of the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs, he is the founding president of Global Harvest Ministries, which is responsible for the "United Prayer Track" of AD2000 and Beyond" as well as many other missions related activities outside the AD2000 organization. The Billy Graham Lausan conference adopted Wagner's missions/evangelism agenda. Beginning with his association with John Wimber, Wagner moved quickly into charismatic Christianity. He has systematized certain charismatic spiritual warfare practices and developed his strategic warfare mentality etc. He also promoted, what he called, the "Third Wave." In this "Third Wave" he saw generic evangelicals getting involved with signs and wonders without adopting traditional Pentecostal Theology. He is now in association with many holdovers from the Latter Rain of the 50's who got a new lease on life in the Charismatic Renewal. Bishop (also prophet and apostle) Bill Hamon is a significant name in this regard.

In Bishop Hamon's book "Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God: End Times Plan for His Church on Planet Earth," Wagner states, in a forward, that Hamon was influential in nurturing him through what he calls a paradigm shift from traditional Christianity." Hamon expressed this new paradigm in October 1999 when he announced to the "International Gathering of Apostles and Prophets" that "we are seeing prophets and apostles coming forth for a strategic reason...We are being positioned to lay new foundations for the dawning of a New Kingdom Age. We are in the throws of birthing a whole new order-dispensation...We are about to move from the dispensation of grace to the dispensation of dominion."

Although Wagner and his apostolic friends are generally unknown to rank and file pastors and church leaders, they, never the less, are boldly proclaiming their authority in the church. They apparently feel that they are now "positioned" to make authoritative "apostolic declarations" to the wider church. Wagner recently posted, on his Website, an "Open Memorandum Addressing the Twin Towers War." In the memorandum, dated September 14th from C. Peter Wagner, presiding apostle of the International Coalition of Apostles, he made the following statement: "This is the time for apostolic declarations. The church is in a position now, characterized by active and accepted roles of Apostles and Prophets and Intercessors that is has not experienced in 1800 years." Wagner then quoted Prophet Rick Joyner: "What seemed to so many to be an impossible task of restoring Apostolic Christianity to the earth is about to become a reality."

With such over-reaching optimism, it is not surprising that Wagner and friends have planned to implement their dream.

Implementation:

The New Apostolic Roundtable:

Wagner is linked with Twenty-five other Apostles who have been invited to form an international leadership of Apostles. These roles are by invitation only.

The International Coalition of Apostles:

On a lower level they have formed a larger grouping of Apostles. Wagner sees this group growing to about 500. They plan to hold yearly convocations and summits around the world.

Apostles to the Cities:

In Wagner's latest book, "Apostles of the City: How to mobilize Territorial Apostles for City Transformation," he calls for each major city to elevate a cadre of Apostles to leadership.

Because Wagner has unlimited funds at his disposal, he is able to make quite an impact. Is all this money and effort called for, or is it an expensive game of let's pretend in the church? The answer to that question is based on one fundamental question. Is there any biblical authority to teach an endtime restoration of the office of apostle?

Paul, the last Apostle:

Today, on some occasions, we loosely speak of people as apostles. Usually it is limited to pioneer missionaries, for example, William Carey has been called the apostle to India. The only reason this term is used is that someone was sent to pioneer a new area with the Gospel. This, of course, is never confused with the foundational apostles of the NT era. In NT times, there was also a loose and broad way to use the word apostle, in the sense of someone sent on a mission of some kind. On these occasions, the word simply means "messenger" or "delegate." In these instances, these delegates (sent ones) are never confused with the special and restricted meaning of a foundational apostle of the church.

NT Qualifications of Foundational Apostles:

NT apostles were required to be eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus. This is indicated in Acts 1:22 when Peter insisted that the replacement of Judas "must become a witness with us of His resurrection." Paul (1 Cor. 9:1) defended his apostleship by saying, "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen the Lord?" In recounting those to whom Jesus appeared, Paul says: "After He was seen by James and then by all the apostles, then "last of all" he was seen by me also as one "born out of due time" (I Cor. 15:8). Paul was "untimely born" in the sense that Jesus had appeared to the other apostles before his ascension. Paul, converted by a miraculous post-ascension appearance of the resurrected Jesus, also saw the risen Lord, albeit later in time than the other apostles. The phrase "last of all seals the case that Paul was the last apostle. "Last of all" grammatically can only be an adverb describing something that is last in a series. This is even more certain when there is a group of adverbs (then...then...and last of all). In Paul's mind he was the last of all the apostles. Surely he would be surprised to hear that he wasn't really 'last of all.'

Who were these foundational apostles? First there were the initial twelve with Matthias replacing Judas. Second, apparently there were a very few more who had seen Jesus and been commissioned by Him Acts 14:14 calls both Barnabus and Paul apostles. James, the brother of Jesus, is called an apostles in Galatians 1:19. Androicus and Judas were called apostles in Romans 16:7. Most commentators see them as apostles in a functional and broad meaning. I found no commentators who referred to them as foundational apostles. If, indeed they were foundational Apostles, they could have been among the 500 people who saw the risen Jesus on one occasion (I Cor. 15).

The generation that followed the last biblical apostles never ever considered the continuation of the office of apostle. Apparently the word of Paul, the last apostle convinced them. The so-called endtime restoration of apostles has no biblical authority. The only possible authority is "further revelation" given to the prophets of the Latter Rain and those who have taken up "further revelation: beyond the scriptures. The choice is simple, do we believe Paul was right when he said he was the last apostle or do we believe latter day prophets who have pronounced on their own authority, a restoration of apostles at the end of the age. For me, Paul settles the question once and for all.

Wayne Grudem, a sometimes promoter of current prophetic utterances, however, is absolutely convinced that there are no NT apostles today. He states: "Since no one today can meet the qualifications of having seen the risen Jesus with his own eyes, there are no apostles today. In the place of living apostles present in the church to teach and govern it, we have instead the writings of the apostles in the books of the NT. Those NT scriptures fulfill, for the church today, the absolutely authoritative teaching and governing functions which were fulfilled by the apostles themselves during the early years of the church." (Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the NT today, p. 276).

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