In general, the term ‘ministry’ is understood as a function or official position associated with specific tasks and responsibilities. In a further sense, those who hold ministries have been given the authority to lead a community and make corresponding decisions.
A spiritual ministry constitutes the authorisation, blessing, and sanctification issued through ordination for service in the church of Christ. A spiritual ministry is exercised in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The spiritual ministry is founded upon the sending of Jesus Christ by God, the Father. Jesus Christ is thus the One sent by God. As such He is authorised, blessed, and sanctified for the redemption of mankind. The Apostles are those who have been sent by Jesus Christ.
The spiritual ministry is always linked to Jesus Christ and the Apostles sent by Him. Ministry and the apostolate therefore belong together: wherever the Apostle ministry is active, the spiritual ministry will also be present.
The term ‘apostolate’ is used primarily in reference to all bearers of the Apostle ministry as a whole (‘apostolate’ = the Apostles of Jesus). The priestly ministries and Deacons work by commission of the ‘apostolate’ and perform duties in pastoral care, preaching, and the dispensation of the sacraments.
Already in the Old Testament references to the spiritual ministry can be found in the activity of kings, priests, and prophets: the king ruled, the priest mediated the blessing of God, and the prophet proclaimed the will of God. These ministries are references to the spiritual ministry.
Everything that had been established in the ministry of the Old Testament is reflected in Jesus Christ. He is King, Priest, and Prophet all in one.
A spiritual ministry is conferred by an Apostle by the commission of Jesus Christ. Thereby the recipient of the ministry receives part of the authority of the Apostle. He is to make use of this authority by commission of the Apostle. The recipient of this ministry thereby acts in the name of the Apostle and represents him in the scope defined for that ministry. After all, the Apostle is the one who sends the ministers, and those who are sent are accountable to, and dependent on, their sender.
Examples of activities performed by authorisation:
When the Apostle proclaims the forgiveness of sins, he is acting on the basis of the authority conferred upon him by Jesus Christ (concerning this see Question 424). It is for this reason that the Apostle proclaims the forgiveness of sins with the words: “I proclaim unto you the glad tidings: in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of theliving God, your sins are forgiven.”
When the priestly minister proclaims the forgiveness of sins, he acts in the stead of the Apostle. For this reason the priestly ministry proclaims the forgiveness of sins with the words: “In the commission of my sender, the Apostle, I proclaim unto you the glad tidings: in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, your sins are forgiven.”
Through the ordination, the gifts present in the recipient of the ministry are awakened, strengthened, multiplied, and dedicated to the service of the Lord. In addition, additional powers are imparted through the blessing.
In the ordination, the minister receives a share of the holiness of God—the ministry is holy, but the bearer of the ministry remains a sinful human being. The minister can also perform holy acts by the power of the Holy Spirit and serve God and the congregation.
Every baptised believer is called upon to serve the Lord in active love for his neighbour and by professing his faith (cf. John 12: 26).
When specific mandates and areas of activity that serve for the benefit of the believers and the proclamation of the gospel are assigned to individual believers in the church of Jesus Christ, we understand these as “ministrations”. Such ministrations are discharged wherever baptised individuals profess their belief in Jesus Christ as their Lord in word and deed.
Ministrations are distinguished from the spiritual ministry in that they can be discharged without ordination.
Yes, ministrations are discharged without ordination in the New Apostolic Church. For example, these include church commissions for the religious education of children and young people and musical participation in the divine services.
Jesus Christ only gave His church one ministry directly, namely the Apostle ministry. He authorised, blessed, and sanctified the Apostles and equipped them with the Holy Spirit: “‘As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (John 20: 21-23). He entrusted the dispensation of the sacraments to the Apostles. In this manner His sacrifice becomes accessible to human beings (cf. Matthew 28: 19-20).
The authority of the Apostles to “dispense the sacraments” refers to the fact that the Apostles have been commissioned by Jesus Christ to dispense the sacraments. Even if not all sacraments are dispensed by Apostles themselves, the sacraments nevertheless exist in relationship to the Apostle ministry (concerning this see also Question 424).
The activity of the Apostle ministry began on Pentecost. The ministry itself had already been given by Jesus Christ to His Apostles beforehand, however.
“Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and cast out demons.”
Mark 3: 14-16
The word ‘Apostle’ means “ambassador” and derives from the Greek word apóstolos. The Apostles are ambassadors of Jesus. Jesus Christ directly linked His sending with their sending: “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20: 21).
Apostles have been sent by Jesus Christ in order to grant human beings access to the sacrifice brought by Him and the salvation resulting from it.
After His resurrection Jesus gave the Apostles authority to proclaim forgiveness of sins. By His commission they are also to dispense the sacraments, proclaim the gospel, and prepare the believers for His return.
The Apostles are ambassadors of Jesus Christ. They act in His name. He gave the Apostles the authority to fulfil the tasks arising from His ministries, namely King, Priest, and Prophet. They are to exercise the rule of Christ, dispense divine blessing, and proclaim the gospel of Christ.
The authority conferred upon the Apostle ministry comes exclusively from Jesus Christ. The Apostle ministry exists in a relationship of complete dependency on Him.
The Apostle ministry is described as “the ministry of the new covenant”, “the ministry of the Spirit”, “the ministry of righteousness”, “the ministry of reconciliation”, and “the ministry of the word”.
This designation is derived from 2 Corinthians 3: 6 and serves to make a distinction from the old covenant, when the Mosaic Law—which was restricted to the people of Israel—was in effect. The most important thing in the new covenant is the message of God’s grace, the gospel, which is proclaimed by all those who bear the Apostle ministry. Beyond that, the ministry of the new covenant is active among all nations.
The “ministry of the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3: 8) is the ministry that gives the Spirit. Through the dispensation of the gift of the Holy Spirit, those baptised with water receive childhood in God and the prerequisite for becoming a firstling.
The image of the ‘firstlings’ is derived from the “firstfruits” of Revelation 14: 4. This term designates those whom Jesus Christ takes unto Himself at His return. They are identical with the “bridal congregation” (see Questions 562 et seq.).
The Apostle ministry teaches that all human beings are sinners in need of the grace of God. Belief in Jesus Christ and acceptance of His sacrifice lead to the righteousness valid before God. Thus the Apostle ministry is the ministry that leads to righteousness (cf. 2 Corinthians 3: 9).
The Apostle ministry has been given the task of proclaiming the “word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5: 18-19), and thus admonishes repentance and allows believers to share in the sacrifice of Christ in the forgiveness of sins and the celebration of Holy Communion. This “reconciliation” has the ultimate aim of restoring the untroubled relationship between mankind and God, and between human beings themselves.
John 1: 1-14 describes the Son of God as the “Word” (Logos). All things were created by this “Word”.
The Apostle ministry shares in the “word” because the Lord (Logos) has also given this ministry the commission to teach. It is also in this sense that Acts 6: 4 is to be understood: “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
The Apostles are also described as
- “Ambassadors for Christ”—The statement: “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf [...]” (2 Corinthians 5: 20) expresses that Jesus Christ works through the Apostles in His church.
- “Stewards of the mysteries of God”: a “steward” (1 Corinthians 4: 1) is responsible for the “house”, namely the congregation. Here the Apostles see to it that the proclamation of the word occurs in a manner corresponding to the gospel and that the sacraments are dispensed in the mind of Jesus Christ. The Apostles ordain ministers and establish order in the congregation.
Another important characteristic of the Apostle ministry is to prepare the believers for the return of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 11: 2).
Jesus Christ Himself sent the Apostles. He chose twelve men from among His disciples and appointed them to be Apostles (cf. Mark 3: 13-19). It was to them that the following words of Jesus applied:
- “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Matthew 10: 40).
- “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28: 19-20).
The names of the first twelve Apostles were: Simon who was called Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot (cf. Matthew 10: 2-4). These Apostles are called the “twelve” even after the betrayal of Judas Iscariot.
Yes. In addition to the twelve, the New Testament also mentions Matthias (cf. Acts 1: 15-26), Barnabas (cf. Acts 13: 1-4; 14: 4, 14), Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 9: 1-16; 2 Corinthians 11), and James the brother of the Lord (cf. Galatians 1: 19; 2: 9). Silvanus and Timothy are also described as Apostles (1 Thessalonians 1: 1; 2: 7), as are Andronicus and Junia (cf. Romans 16: 7).
It is of note here that only in the case of Matthias was it necessary to have been an eyewitness of Jesus’ activity in order to be called as an Apostle (Acts 1: 21-22).
Yes, in the presence of the other Apostles, Jesus Christ conferred special authority on Simon Peter: Simon was designated as the “rock” (Peter) and was given the authority of the keys. Beyond that, the Lord entrusted His “lambs and sheep”—in other words, the church—to his care (cf. John 21: 15-17). The Lord also directed the following words to him: “Simon, Simon! Indeed Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22: 31, 32).
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
Matthew 16: 18
After the ascension of the Lord the special position of Apostle Peter showed itself in the fact that
- Judas Iscariot was replaced within the circle of the Apostles at his initiative (cf. Acts 1: 15-26),
- it was he who delivered the sermon on Pentecost (cf. Acts 2: 14),
- the Lord revealed to him that salvation in Christ is also intended for the Gentiles (cf. Acts 10).
Luke describes the activity of the Apostles in greatest detail in the book of Acts. For example, in Acts 11: 1-18 and 15: 1-29, we read of councils under the leadership of Apostles in which, among other things, it was decided that believing Gentiles would also be permitted to belong to the church of Christ. Together the Apostles thus made decisions that had far-reaching implications for the Christian church.
From Acts 8: 15-18 it follows that the dispensation of the gift of the Holy Spirit is bound to the Apostle ministry: Philip preached in Samaria and baptised the believers with water. The Apostles heard about this and thus sent Peter and John there. These two men “prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”
This is underlined in Acts 19: 6: “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them.”
An important task of the Apostles was to proclaim that Jesus Christ had been active among them, had died, and had resurrected from the dead (cf. Acts 13: 26-41; 17: 1-4). They fought against heresies that sought to deny these things (cf. 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8; 1 John 4: 1-6).
The Apostles expected the return of Christ during their lifetimes and prepared the believers for it (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4: 14-18). This shows that it lies in the nature of the Apostle ministry to proclaim the return of Christ and to prepare the congregations for this event.
The Apostles began to fulfil their commission and preach the gospel on Pentecost. Soon after, they discovered that they needed helpers, and so seven men were chosen for this task. The Apostles prayed and laid their hands upon these men and so blessed them in preparation for their service. These seven men are described as the first Deacons.
“[These men were] set before the Apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.” Acts 6: 6
From these actions it follows that the laying on of hands and prayer of Apostles is necessary for ordinations.
Yes. The Apostles and other believers established new congregations, and new ministers were needed to provide them with pastoral care. For this the Apostles ordained congregational leaders who were designated as “Bishops” or “Elders”. Prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers were also active in the beginnings of the Christian congregations (cf. Ephesians 4: 11).
After the death of the early Apostles, various ministrations with differing duties and designations began to develop. Through them the members of the congregations were given pastoral care.
The Apostle ministry continued to exist despite the fact that the Apostles died. This ministry has been instituted by Jesus Christ for His church. Even during the time when there were no bearers of this ministry on earth, the ministry established by Him was still present.
The Apostles are to be witnesses of Christ until the end of the age (cf. Matthew 28: 19-20). In order to fulfil this comprehensive task in view of His return, Jesus Christ also sends Apostles today.
“End of the world”: The Greek original text of Matthew 28: 20 uses the term aeon, which can refer to an era, a long period of time, or also “end of the world”. There is a similar reference to the “end of the earth” in Acts 1: 8, but this is meant in geographical terms.
According to extra-biblical sources, John was the last of the early Christian Apostles to die, and he did so near the end of the first century. The activity of the Apostles was thus interrupted until the renewed occupation of the Apostle ministry in the nineteenth century.
This interruption in the activity of the Apostles has its source in the will of God. For human beings this remains a mystery.
Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit remained active even in the time without Apostles, and assured the preservation and development of the gospel.
The Apostle ministry was once again personally occupied in accordance with God’s will when the time for the final gathering and preparation of the bridal congregation for the return of Christ had come: as of the year 1832 the Apostle ministry was once again occupied.
Apostles are thus active at the start of the church of Christ and in the time before the return of Christ in order to prepare the bridal congregation.
The term ‘personal occupation’ of the Apostle ministry is intended to express that there are bearers of the Apostle ministry. They have been called to this ministry and exercise it in the mind and Spirit of Jesus Christ.
No. There is no difference in commission or activity because they have been given the same spiritual authority. The Apostle ministry was only established once by Jesus Christ for His church.
In the New Apostolic Church there are three ministerial levels with differing spiritual powers, namely the Apostle ministry, priestly ministry, and diaconal ministry:
- The Apostle ministry includes the Chief Apostle, the District Apostles, and the Apostles.
- The priestly ministry includes Bishops, District Elders, District Evangelists, Shepherds, Evangelists, and Priests.
- The diaconal ministry includes Deacons and Sub-deacons.
Jesus Christ gave the Apostles the commission “to loose and to bind” (Matthew 18: 18), in other words, to pronounce something as permissible or forbidden. Thereby the doctrine is established and order is created in the congregations.
In accordance with the example of Jesus, the Apostles are servants (cf. John 13: 15). They are not lords over the faith of the congregations, but rather fellow workers for their joy (cf. 2 Corinthians 1: 24), and are to be examples to the congregation in following Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 11: 1).
The authority of the Apostle ministry derives from the calling of the Apostles by Jesus Christ and from the powers which the Lord laid into this ministry. The significance of the ministry can be seen in Jesus’ intercessory prayer: “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world, and for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (John 17:18-19).
The activity of the Apostles is aimed at building up the Lord’s work of redemption and leading it to its completion. This includes dispensing the sacraments in the manner desired by Jesus Christ. The Apostles see to it that the gospel is preached in unadulterated fashion and that the congregations have a divinely pleasing order.
Beyond that, the Apostles are to prepare the bridal congregation for the return of the Lord by preaching the gospel, proclaiming the forgiveness of sins, baptising with water and the Holy Spirit, and celebrating Holy Communion.
Yes, the Apostle ministry has been given for the whole church of Christ. It has been given the commission to offer salvation in Jesus Christ to all people. Apostle Paul describes his commission as follows: “For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 13: 47).
Salvation is only possible through the Son of God. The Apostles impart salvation through word and sacrament until the return of Christ.
The foundation of the Chief Apostle ministry is the commission that Jesus gave when He instituted the office of Peter. Jesus said the following to Simon Peter: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16: 18, 19).
The “office of Peter” is the fundamental office that Jesus Christ assigned to Apostle Peter. The Petrine office incorporates the care of those who belong to the church, just as Jesus asked Peter to do: “Feed My lambs [...] Tend My sheep”. The “authority of the keys” is also part of the office of Peter (concerning this, see Questions 458).
Jesus described Apostle Simon as the “rock” upon which He would build His church. Thereby the Son of God created an indissoluble relationship between the ministry of Peter—the ministry of the rock—and the church of Christ. Today the “ministry of the rock” is discharged by the Chief Apostle.
“Peter” is the modern form of the Greek word petros, which means “rock”. The rock is an image of strength, changelessness, and steadfastness, which the Lord Jesus also used in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 7: 24-25).
The Chief Apostle maintains the unity among the Apostles. He strengthens the Apostles (cf. Luke 22: 32), and “tends” the flock of Christ (cf. John 21: 15-17). He ensures that the gospel is proclaimed in unadulterated fashion. Through the Holy Spirit, he opens up new insights and interconnections in the doctrine of the Church and is responsible for its uniform spread. Beyond that, he establishes the order within the Church.
All of these duties comprise the “authority of the keys” of the Chief Apostle ministry.
The Chief Apostle ordains the Apostles. Together with them, he leads the Church.
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one.” John 17: 20, 21
“And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16: 19
In addition to the tasks incumbent on each Apostle, the District Apostle ministry is responsible for providing pastoral care and caring for the congregations within a defined working area (“District Apostle district”). It is also his responsibility to equip the ministers spiritually.
To be “spiritually equipped” for a ministry means to receive the ministerial capacity and blessing of God in order to exercise the authority contained in the ministry for diaconal or priestly service in the mind and spirit of one’s sender. The task of spiritually equipping the ministers also includes instructing the ministers and strengthening them for their duties.
The designation for a spiritual ministry is not based upon human will but upon the divine will. It is the task of the Apostle to recognise God’s will and act in accordance with it.
We understand ‘ordination’ to be the investiture of a spiritual ministry. It is not a sacrament, but an act of blessing.
The ordination is performed by the Apostle in the name of the triune God through laying on of hands and prayer. The minister can only discharge his tasks in close unity with the Apostle ministry.
During the ordination the blessing of God is imparted. The individual who has been called to ministry receives sanctification for this ministry. The corresponding ministerial authority is issued by the Apostle ministry, be it for the work of a diaconal ministry, priestly ministry, or Apostle. The minister receives the commission to discharge his ministry within a defined scope.
The minister to be ordained gives a vow before the Apostle in which he promises to remain faithful to God and follow Christ in obedience of faith.
Those who bear a spiritual ministry must live up to certain requirements in their conduct and spiritual competency. This includes familiarity with the doctrine, firmness in faith, awareness of his commission, carrying capacity, confidentiality, honesty, willingness to sacrifice, and humbleness. In all things the minister should take direction from the example of Jesus.
The minister must put into practice that which has been entrusted to him in the blessing and sanctification of his ordination in order that the gifts he has received may unfold to the benefit of the congregation.
Those who have been called to a spiritual ministry are aware that they are servants and instruments in the hand of God.
As a rule, the commission to discharge a ministry ends upon retirement, however, the ministers’ ministry itself remains intact. In the event of a resignation or dismissal from ministry, he loses his ministry.
Every minister has the duty to proclaim the gospel of Christ and to stand up for it. He provides pastoral care for the members assigned to him and promotes their faith. As a minister, he also shares in their personal concerns and helps them through the burdens of daily life.
The priestly ministers have been given the commission and authority to dispense Holy Baptism with water, proclaim forgiveness of sins, and consecrate and dispense Holy Communion. Their tasks also include conducting divine services and funerals, performing acts of blessing, and providing pastoral care to the members of the congregation.
Deacons help in many ways in the congregation. It is also the task of the Deacons to support the Priests in the pastoral care of the congregation. Deacons can also help along in proclaiming the word in the divine services.
An appointment is the assignment of a firmly defined task. The appointment can be limited in terms of duration and location.
In association with a spiritual ministry, the term “appointment” is understood as the assignment to the task of congregational rector, district rector, District Apostle Helper, or Chief Apostle Helper. Such an appointment is not to be equated with an ordination. It is not bound to the duration of one’s ministerial activity, but can end before this activity ends. At the latest, it comes to an end when the minister retires.
In order to fulfil the various tasks within the congregations and districts, special mandates are issued to both brothers and sisters, independent of a spiritual ministry.