Catechism

7 Ministry

Generally a "ministry" is understood to be a function or official position which is assigned to a specific area of responsibility. In the broader sense, "ministry" is an authority that has been bestowed in order to represent, lead, and provide order to a community. The exercise of a ministry [1] incorporates both administrative and authoritative tasks.

[1] The New Apostolic Church understands "ministry" as a spiritual, ordained ministry. It therefore understands a minister as one who is authorised, blessed, and sanctified through ordination by an Apostle (cf. Fifth Article of Faith: "I believe that those designated by God for a ministry are ordained only by Apostles, and that authority, blessing, and sanctification for their ministration come forth out of the Apostle ministry.") The New Apostolic Church does indeed encourage all of its members to utilise their gifts and talents, and to be involved in various activities, as "the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all" (1 Corinthians 12: 1-11), and "as each one has received a gift", we are to "minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4: 10), "... for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4: 12). The problem arises in that the English translation of the Bible (and the English language in general) uses "ministering" and "serving" (or "ministry" and "service") interchangeably. While other parts of the Christian church may refer to such services, duties, functions, or exercises of gifts and talents as "ministry", from the perspective of the New Apostolic Church these must be distinguished from the spiritual, ordained ministry (see paragraph 3 of 7.1; cf. also Divine Service Guide, Special Edition 03/12). Someone who serves the youth, for example, is indeed ministering to the youth, but does not have a "ministry" in the sense of the Fifth Article of Faith. The ministering unto various groups in our Church is a service.

7.1 Ministry and duties Back to top

A spiritual ministry constitutes authorisation, blessing, and sanctification issued through ordination for service in the church of Christ. It is exercised in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The spiritual ministry is assigned by a superior, in other words, the sender. The one who is sent is responsible and accountable to his sender in the fulfilment of his ministerial mandate. Ministry is always linked to Jesus Christ and the Apostles sent by Him (see 7.6).

In the church of Christ, ministry is to be distinguished from the various duties which serve for the proclamation of the gospel and the benefit of the believers, and which can also be performed without ordination.

It is also important to distinguish ministry from the call that has gone out to all believers, namely to serve the Lord by following Him (John 12: 26; 1 Peter 2: 5, 9). Just as the Apostles bear witness of the gospel through word and conduct, reborn Christians do the same in fellowship with them, thereby supporting their great commission.

SUMMARY Back to top

The term "ministry" describes a function or position that is assigned to a specific area of responsibility as well as an authority that has been bestowed in order to represent, lead, and provide order to a community. (7)

The spiritual ministry constitutes authority, blessing, and sanctification issued through ordination for service in the church of Christ. (7.1)

A distinction must be made between the ministry and the many diverse duties that support the proclamation of the gospel and the wellbeing of the believers, which can also be performed without ordination. (7.1)

It is also important to distinguish between ministry and the call that has gone out to all believers to serve the Lord through following. Just as the Apostles bear witness of the gospel through word and conduct, reborn Christians do the same in fellowship with them, thereby supporting their great commission. (7.1)

7.2 Source of ministry in the church Back to top

The spiritual ministry is founded upon the sending of Jesus Christ by the Father. Jesus is King, Priest, and Prophet (see 3.4.7). As the One sent by His Father, He was authorised, blessed, and sanctified for the redemption of mankind.

Already in the old covenant there were forerunners to the ministry in the church. Nevertheless, there is a considerable difference between the ministry of the old covenant and that of the new covenant. Concerning this, Hebrews 8: 6 states: "But now He [Jesus] has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant ..."

Through the calling and sending of the Apostles, Jesus instituted the ministry for His church.

The church of Jesus Christ was revealed in its historical manifestation on Pentecost. It was also at this point in time that the ministry began to take effect within the church. The ministry itself had already been given by Jesus Christ to His Apostles beforehand, however. He authorised, blessed, sanctified, and equipped them with the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 20: 21-23). The Apostles are those who have been sent by Jesus.

7.3 Biblical foundation Back to top

Holy Scripture does not have a uniform definition for the word "ministry", nor does it expound upon any doctrine concerning ministry. It nevertheless makes a number of different statements about the content and nature of the ministry.

7.3.1 Old Testament references Back to top

From the perspective of the New Testament, the ministry–in the present-day sense–was only established by Jesus Christ, however, there are already references to the ministry of the New Testament in the old covenant: in the king, in the priest, and in the prophet. However, this does not mean to say that all kings in Israel bore a spiritual ministry. Rather, the references to ministry can be seen in the example of outstanding persons in the history of salvation:

  • David represents the chosen and anointed king–his significance for salvation history also becomes evident in the fact that Jesus is described as the "Son of David" (Matthew 21: 9).

  • Melchizedek represents the priest who imparts the blessing of God (Genesis 14: 18-19).

  • Moses stands for the prophet (Deuteronomy 18: 15) who proclaims the divine will by giving the law to the people at the instruction of God.

In the light of the New Testament, these ministries are understood as references to the coming, "higher ministry" which Jesus Christ bears.

The central ministry in the Old Testament is that of the priest. The archetype of priestly service and of the high priestly ministry is Melchizedek. He blessed Abraham and received offerings from him (Psalm 110: 4). As the one who blesses He stands above the one being blessed–in his function, the priest thus stands above the patriarch of faith.

All of Israel had been called by God as a "kingdom of priests" (Exodus 19: 6). Nevertheless, God only set aside one tribe–the tribe of Levi–for service in the temple, and only a portion of the tribe of Levi–namely the Aaronic priesthood–was assigned the sacrificial service.

Looking back on the priestly ministry from the perspective of the epistle to the Hebrews, we read that one of the tasks of the priests consisted of preparing the people for the arrival of the Messiah, the coming of Jesus Christ, as the true High Priest (see 3.4.7.2).

7.3.2 Foundation of the ministry in the New Testament Back to top

The ministry of the Old Testament was already an allusion to Jesus Christ. Everything that had been laid down in the ministry of the Old Testament is reflected in Him: He is King, Priest, and Prophet.

By His divine authority, He, the Elect of God, elected twelve Apostles. He authorised, blessed, and sanctified them for their service to the gospel. It was to them that He entrusted the administration of the sacraments. In this manner, His sacrifice of redemption can be made accessible to human beings (Matthew 28: 19-20).

The great significance that Jesus Christ accorded His Apostles is demonstrated by His conduct just before His suffering and death: He spoke to them, gave them the promise of His return, and interceded for them in His intercessory prayer: "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world" (John 17: 18). The Risen One gave His Apostles the authority to forgive sins and once again closely linked His sending with theirs: "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20: 21-23).

While the sending of Jesus Christ was aimed at effecting redemption through His death and resurrection, the sending of the Apostles is intended to make this merit of Christ and the fullness of salvation accessible to mankind.

As the ministry of the old covenant had been given to prepare the people for the appearing of the promised Messiah, so it is the primary task of the New Testament's ministry to prepare believers for the return of their Lord.

SUMMARY Back to top

The spiritual ministry is based on the sending of Jesus Christ by the Father. (7.2)

Through the calling and sending of the Apostles, Jesus instituted the ministry for His church. (7.2)

Holy Scripture provides abundant references to the content and nature of ministry: in the old covenant there was the ministry of the king, the priest, and the prophet. Everything that was already laid out in the Old Testament ministry is reflected in Jesus Christ: He is King, Priest, and Prophet. (7.3.1)

By His divine authority Jesus elected the twelve Apostles and authorised, blessed, and sanctified them for service to the gospel. The sending of the Apostles makes the fullness of salvation in Jesus Christ accessible to mankind. (7.3.2)

7.4 The Apostle ministry Back to top

The word "Apostle" derives from the Greek apóstolos which means "ambassador" in the New Testament.

Jesus Christ Himself directly gave His church only one ministry, namely the Apostle ministry. In His stead and by His commission, the Apostle ministry is to build the church and make redemption in Jesus Christ accessible to human beings who long for salvation. Furthermore, the Apostle ministry is mandated to prepare believers for the return of Jesus Christ.

The Fourth Article of Faith describes the significance of the Apostle ministry with the following words: "I believe that the Lord Jesus rules His church and thereto sent His Apostles, and until His return still sends them with the commission to teach, to forgive sins in His name, and to baptise with water and Holy Spirit."

7.4.1 Characteristics of the Apostle ministry Back to top

Jesus Christ equipped the Apostle ministry with extensive powers. The Apostle is an ambassador of Jesus Christ and acts in His name. The characteristics and functions assigned to the Apostle ministry have their source in the ministries of Christ–King, Priest, and Prophet (see 3.4.7). Thus the Apostle ministry receives all its authority from Jesus Christ and exists in an unconditionally dependent relationship with Him.

Apostle Paul was the only one of the early Apostles who spoke about his ministry. In his second epistle to the Corinthians, he makes substantial reference to the significance of the Apostle ministry. His statements are not of a dogmatic nature, but are rather a reaction to attacks made by the congregation in Corinth as well as by others from outside. These statements clearly show Apostle Paul's understanding of his ministry. From them, general characteristics of the Apostle ministry can be derived:

The ministry of the new covenant

This designation serves to make a distinction from the ministry of the old covenant. Just how fundamentally the new covenant distinguishes itself from the old covenant is made clear in 2 Corinthians 3: 6: "... for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." The "letter" here is the Mosaic Law, while "Spirit" signifies the gospel, the salvific effect of which is founded upon the grace of God.

Jesus Christ is the eternal High Priest of the new covenant who gave Himself as a sacrifice (Hebrews 4: 14-15; 7: 23-27). Since Christ's ascension into heaven it has been the task of the Apostles to make the salvation He attained accessible to mankind. The means of salvation obtained by Jesus Christ are administered and imparted on earth (see 9.6.3). Through the incarnation of God, the earth was thus designated by God Himself as the place where salvation would be imparted.

In contrast to the ministry of the old covenant, which was restricted to the people of Israel, the ministry of the new covenant knows no borders: it is active among all nations.

The ministry of the Spirit

The Apostle ministry is the "ministry of the spirit" (2 Corinthians 3: 8; Acts 8: 14-17). Through the dispensation of the gift of the Holy Spirit, a person baptised with water receives the childhood in God and the prerequisite for becoming a firstling.

The ministry of righteousness

The Apostle ministry, as the "ministry of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 3: 9), is contrasted with the Old Testament "ministry of condemnation". Apostle Paul writes: "But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious ..., how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?" (2 Corinthians 3: 7-8). Here the Apostle clearly shows the significant difference between the Mosaic Law and the law of Christ.

The Apostle ministry draws attention to the fact that human beings are sinners and in need of God's grace. Belief in Jesus Christ and acceptance of His sacrifice leads to the righteousness valid before God.

The ministry of reconciliation

The Apostle ministry, the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5: 18-19), admonishes repentance and leads human beings to the redeeming act of God which was accomplished in Jesus Christ. The Apostle proclaims the death and resurrection of Jesus, and enables believers to share in the fullness of Christ's merit through the forgiveness of sins and the celebration of Holy Communion. "Reconciliation" signifies the restoration of the untroubled relationship between mankind and God, and between human beings among themselves. Perfect reconciliation will be achieved when the glory of the childhood in God is revealed and the "children of God" are like the Lord (1 John 3: 2).

Ambassadors for Christ

The statement of Apostle Paul, "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. The Apostle acts in the power of the Holy Spirit, proclaims the gospel, and administers the sacraments. His activity serves to the salvation of human beings in need of redemption.

Further characteristics of the Apostle ministry can be derived from the first epistle to the Corinthians and the Acts of the Apostles:

Stewards of the mysteries of God

Paul speaks of the Apostles as "stewards" (1 Corinthians 4: 1). A steward is responsible for the household, namely the church. In the church, the Apostles ensure the proper proclamation of the gospel and administration of the sacraments. They ordain ministers and maintain order in the church.

Apostle Paul uses the term "steward" in connection with the "mysteries of God". This suggests that the Apostle ministry has also been assigned the task of imparting and unveiling revelations of God, that is His "mysteries". These include, for instance, the election of the Gentiles–those who are not Jewish–and the rapture of the bridal congregation at the return of Christ (1 Corinthians 15: 51; Colossians 1: 26-28).

The ministry of the word

In the prologue of the gospel of John, the Son of God is described as the "Word" (logos) through which everything was created. The Apostle ministry, to which the Lord also entrusted the commission to teach, also shares in this power of the word in a ministering capacity. 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 preach the gospel and interpret Scripture in the proper manner (Galatians 1: 11-12).

Orientation to the day of the Lord

Another significant characteristic of the Apostle ministry is its orientation to the day of the Lord. Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11: 2). "Chaste virgin" is an image of the bridal congregation chosen by Jesus Christ, which is being prepared by the Apostles for the return of Christ.

SUMMARY Back to top

"Apostle" (apóstolos) means "ambassador". (7.4)

Jesus Christ personally only gave His church one ministry, namely the Apostle ministry. The Apostle ministry takes all its authority from Jesus Christ and is unconditionally dependent on Him. (7.4)

The Apostle ministry is described as the "ministry of the new covenant", the "ministry of the Spirit", the "ministry of righteousness", and the "ministry of reconciliation". Apostles are also called "ambassadors for Christ" and "stewards of the mysteries of God". (7.4.1)

The orientation of the congregation to the return of Christ is another significant characteristic of the Apostle ministry. (7.4.1)

7.4.2 Equipping and sending of the Apostles Back to top

From among His disciples, Jesus Christ chose twelve men and appointed them as Apostles (Mark 3: 13-19; Luke 6: 13-16). Holy Scripture relates two occasions on which the Apostles were sent:

On the first occasion, the Lord sent His Apostles to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" and expressly forbade them to go to the Samaritans and Gentiles. He gave them power to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to cast out evil spirits, and to bring peace, as well as to preach the kingdom of God. He underlined this commission with the words "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me" (Matthew 10: 40).

On the occasion of the second sending of His Apostles, which took place after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, His commission to them opened a new, higher, and much greater dimension: "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: 18-20). According to His promise He will thus be with them to the end of the world (Greek: aeon = "age of the world").

Among other passages, the names of the first twelve Apostles are recorded in Matthew 10: 2-4: Simon, called Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Thaddeus, Simon the Canaanite, Judas Iscariot. These Apostles are called "the Twelve", even after the betrayal of Judas Iscariot.

In addition to these, the New Testament also mentions additional Apostles: Matthias (Acts 1: 15-26), Barnabas (Acts 13: 1-4; 14: 4, 14), Paul (1 Corinthians 9: 1-16; 2 Corinthians 11), and James, the brother of the Lord (Galatians 1: 19; 2: 9). Only in the case of Matthias was the call to the Apostle ministry bound to having been an eyewitness to the life of Jesus (Acts 1: 21-22). Silvanus and Timothy were also described as Apostles (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2: 6), as were Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16: 7).

7.4.3 Peter–the head of the early Apostles Back to top

In the presence of the other Apostles, the Lord granted Simon Peter special authority. His leading position among the Apostles took effect after the Lord's ascension into heaven, but was certainly already suggested prior to this event:

  • Peter was designated as the "rock" and was given the authority of the keys: "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. 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).

  • Prior to His sacrificial death, it was to Peter that the Lord addressed the words: "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).

  • Peter spoke on behalf of the twelve Apostles. After many of the disciples had turned away from Jesus, Peter answered the question as to whether they too wanted to leave as follows: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6: 68-69).

  • Peter was the one whom Jesus Christ asked the question: "Do you love Me?" Three times Peter affirmed that this was the case, whereupon the Lord entrusted His lambs and sheep to Peter's care (John 21: 15-17).

  • It was Peter who initiated the replacement of Judas Iscariot in the circle of the Apostles (Acts 1: 15-26), who preached the sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2: 14), and to whom the Lord showed that salvation in Christ was also intended for the Gentiles (Acts 10).

7.4.4 New Testament references to the activity of the Apostles Back to top

Luke in particular reports on the activity of the Apostles in the book of Acts. For instance, in Acts 11: 1-18 and 15: 1-29 we read of two assemblies led by Apostles, in which the matter of allowing Gentiles access into the new covenant–and other questions of the time–were resolved. This makes it clear: together the Apostles made decisions which had far-reaching effects.

Also attested in Acts is the fact 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. When the Apostles heard about this, they sent Peter and John there. These Apostles "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" (Acts 8: 15-17). According to Acts 19: 6, Apostle Paul acted in the same manner.

An essential task of the Apostles was to proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 13: 26-41; 17: 1-4). They fought against heresies, primarily those that denied the true humanity of Jesus and His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15: 3-8; 1 John 4: 1-6).

The Apostles expected the Lord's return during their lifetime, and prepared the believers for this event (1 Thessalonians 4: 14-18). This demonstrates the close connection between the Apostle ministry and the proclamation of the return of Christ.

SUMMARY Back to top

Jesus Christ ordained twelve Apostles, however the New Testament attests to more than twelve Apostles. (7.4.2)

Jesus issued the authority of the keys to Simon Peter and gave him the commission to lead the church. (7.4.3)

It is primarily the book of Acts that records the activity of the Apostles. Among other things, it attests that the gift of the Holy Spirit was dispensed by Apostles. The Apostles proclaimed the gospel and fought against heresies. (7.4.4)

7.5 The development of the ministries from the Apostle ministry Back to top

The only ministry given by Jesus Christ is the Apostle ministry. As of Pentecost, the Apostles began fulfilling their commission to spread the gospel in the developing congregations. Very soon it became clear that they would need helpers to cope with the many tasks that had arisen. At their suggestion, seven men were chosen by the congregation. Through laying on of hands and prayer, the Apostles equipped them spiritually for their ministry (Acts 6: 6). These seven men are described as the first Deacons. It was this practice–that is the laying on of hands and prayer of an Apostle–that established the foundation for future ordinations.

The Apostles and other believers established new congregations which required spiritual care. For this purpose the Apostles ordained congregational rectors. These were called "Bishops" or "Elders" (Greek: episcopoi or presbyteroi). From Titus 1: 5, 7 it is clear that both terms stood for one and the same task. In addition, prophets, Evangelists, pastors, and teachers were also active in the early Christian congregations (Ephesians 4: 11).

According to the testimony of the pastoral letters and the Didache [2], a hierarchy–which assured the spiritual life of the congregations–eventually began to develop along with the growth of the church, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

After the death of the early Apostles, spiritual commissions, each with different tasks and designations, began to develop.

SUMMARY Back to top

In order to cope with all the tasks incumbent on them the Apostles needed helpers. Through laying on of hands and prayer they equipped these men for their task. This practice established the foundation for future ordinations. (7.5)

Beyond that, Bishops or Elders, prophets, Evangelists, pastors and teachers helped along in the early Christian congregations by commission of the Apostles. As the church grew, a ministerial hierarchy developed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (7.5)

[2] Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, assumed to have originated in ca. AD 100

7.5.1 Continuity of the Apostle ministry Back to top

The Apostle ministry was established by the Lord for His church. The Apostles are to be His witnesses to the end of the earth (Acts 1: 8). In order to fulfil this extensive commission, Jesus also sends Apostles today. Even during the time when there were no bearers of this ministry on earth, the ministry established by Him remained (2 Corinthians 3: 11).

7.5.2 Interruption in the activity of the Apostles Back to top

The New Testament relates the death of Apostle James (Acts 12: 2). There is no information about the demise of the other Apostles. According to extra-biblical sources, John, the last of the early Apostles mentioned in the Bible, died near the end of the first century. Until the Apostle ministry was reoccupied in the year 1832 (see 11.3), the activity of the only ministry established by the Lord Himself was interrupted.

This interruption in the personal presence of the Apostle ministry is rooted in the will of God. Ultimately, His sovereign rule remains a mystery to mankind. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit was also active after the death of the early Apostles (see 11.2), in order to ensure the preservation and development of the gospel.

7.5.3 The reoccupation of the Apostle ministry Back to top

The Apostle ministry was again occupied in accordance with the will of God when the time for the final gathering and preparation of the bride of Christ had come. Thus the Apostle ministry is occupied by human beings both at the beginning of the church of Christ and in the time preceding the return of the Lord, during which He prepares His bride.

Between the Apostle ministry of early Christianity and the end time, there is no difference in commission or effect, however, there are different points of emphasis in the practical exercise of the ministry. Although there is no historical succession, there is certainly a spiritual succession.

With the reoccupation of the Apostle ministry, ministers were once again ordained. Within the Catholic Apostolic Church a differentiated ministerial order came into being. In the course of its history, a number of ministries with different tasks have also developed in the New Apostolic Church.

SUMMARY Back to top

The mandate of the Apostles is not limited to the early Christian period. (7.5.1)

At the end of the first century there were no more Apostles. Up until the renewed occupation of the Apostle ministry in 1832, the activity of the only ministry instituted by Jesus Christ had been interrupted. The interruption in the personal presence of the Apostle ministry is rooted in the will of God. It ultimately remains a mystery to human beings. (7.5.2)

By the will of God, the Apostle ministry was once again occupied. While there may not be a historical succession between the early Christian Apostle ministry and that of the end time, there is certainly a spiritual succession. (7.5.3)

With the reoccupation of the Apostle ministry, ministers were again ordained. A differentiated ministerial order came into being. (7.5.3)

7.6 The ministries in the New Apostolic Church Back to top

From its beginnings, the New Apostolic Church has understood itself as a church of ministry. It is a church that is led by the apostolate.

All other ministries come forth out of the Apostle ministry. Concerning this, the Fifth Article of Faith states: "I believe that those designated by God for a ministry are ordained only by Apostles, and that authority, blessing, and sanctification for their ministration come forth out of the Apostle ministry."

Today there are three levels of ministry, each with different spiritual powers, in the New Apostolic Church:

the Apostle ministry

Chief Apostle, District Apostle, and Apostle;

the priestly ministry

Bishop, District Elder, District Evangelist,

Shepherd, Evangelist, and Priest;

the diaconal ministry

Deacon and Sub-deacon.

7.6.1 The apostolate Back to top

The apostolate is defined by the ministries of Chief Apostle, District Apostle, and Apostle.

Together with the Apostles, the Chief Apostle leads the Church. The District Apostles are each responsible for one or more District Churches.

Already in the Catholic Apostolic Church there was a senior Apostle, who was also described as the "Pillar of the Apostles". Although the latter did not have any powers or authority surpassing that of the other Apostles–he remained the first among equals–his word had special weight in the Apostles' College.

The Apostles of the new order (see 11.3.1) at first worked in largely independent fashion in their assigned areas, however, they kept contact with one another in order to promote oneness. Toward the close of the nineteenth century, the ministerial term "Chief Apostle" [3] began to emerge as the designation for the individual who exercised the office of Peter in the New Apostolic Church.

[3] Up until the start of the twentieth century, the working area of each Apostle was designated by the name of one of the twelve tribes (German: Stamm) of Israel. From this, the designation Stammapostel (the German equivalent of "Chief Apostle") was derived.

7.6.2 The function of the apostolate Back to top

The most important references to the work of the Apostles can be derived from the words and deeds of Jesus:

  • Christ gave the Apostles the authority to "bind and loose" (Matthew 18: 18). This formulation speaks to the fact that the Apostles, together with the Chief Apostle, comprise the spiritual leadership of the Church and that they decide on the ordinances of congregational life.

  • It was in the circle of His Apostles that the Son of God instituted Holy Communion, which they were then to celebrate in accordance with His example (Luke 22: 14, 19-20).

  • The Apostles are ambassadors for Jesus Christ (John 13: 20; 20: 21).

  • Through the Holy Spirit, the Apostles receive the essential knowledge required for the exercise of their ministry (John 14: 26).

  • The Apostles are dependent on their direct relationship with the Lord, "for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered" (John 15: 5-6).

  • Jesus issued His Apostles the authority to proclaim forgiveness of sins in His name (John 20: 23).

7.6.3 The self-conception of the Apostles Back to top

The Apostles have received their ministry and commission from Jesus Christ. They work in accordance with the will of their Sender and are completely dependent upon Him. In accordance with the example of Jesus, the Apostles are servants of all (John 13: 15). They do not have dominion over the faith of the congregations, but are fellow workers for their joy (2 Corinthians 1: 24). This means that, through the activity of the Apostles, believers are to develop a thankful and joyful fundamental attitude toward God. When necessary, admonitions and orders also serve this purpose (James 1: 21).

The Apostles feel themselves obliged to serve as examples to the church and lead them in following Christ (1 Corinthians 11: 1).

7.6.4 The authority of the Apostle ministry Back to top

The authority of the Apostle ministry derives from the calling of the Apostles by Jesus Christ and from the powers which the Lord has laid into this ministry. The importance of the ministry becomes evident in the intercessory prayer of Jesus: "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).

7.6.5 The Apostles in the church of Jesus Christ Back to top

The objective of the Apostles' work is to edify the Lord's work of redemption and lead it to its completion. The fellowship of the Apostles with the believers is characterised by warm care and loving understanding.

The apostolate has been given for the entire church of Christ. Its task is to offer salvation in Jesus Christ to human beings (Acts 13: 47). Salvation is only possible through the Son of God (Acts 4: 12). Until the return of Christ, salvation is imparted through the Apostles in word and sacrament, that is to say through the preaching of the gospel, the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins, baptism with water and Holy Spirit, and through Holy Communion.

SUMMARY Back to top

The New Apostolic Church is a church of ministry. (7.6)

There are three ministerial levels, each with different spiritual powers: the Apostle ministry, priestly ministry, and diaconal ministry. (7.6)

The apostolate is defined by the Chief Apostle ministry, the District Apostle ministry, and the Apostle ministry. Together with the Apostles, the Chief Apostle leads the Church. (7.6.1)

Jesus Christ has issued the power to "bind and loose" to the Apostles. This formulation speaks to the fact that the Apostles, together with the Chief Apostle, comprise the spiritual and organisational leadership of the Church and decide on the ordinances of congregational life. It was in the circle of His Apostles that He instituted Holy Communion, which they were to celebrate in accordance with His example. He also issued authority to them to proclaim forgiveness of sins in His name. (7.6.2)

The Apostles are active by the will of their Sender, Jesus Christ, and are completely dependent on Him. They see it as their duty to serve as examples to the church and lead them in following Christ. (7.6.3)

The authority of the Apostle ministry derives from their calling by Jesus Christ. (7.6.4)

7.6.6 The Chief Apostle ministry Back to top

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the head of His church. In this Church, it is the task of the Chief Apostle to discharge the office of Peter in accordance with the words of Jesus: "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. 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).

Jesus speaks of the foundation and the building of His church in connection with the special position of Apostle Peter. The latter is the "rock" upon which Jesus builds His church. Thereby the Son of God created an indissoluble relationship between the ministry of the rock and His church. The ministry of the rock and the church of Christ have been given to mankind for salvation in Jesus Christ.

The office and tasks which the Lord entrusted to Apostle Peter are today discharged by the Chief Apostle. Thus he too works to keep the oneness among the Apostles as requested by the Lord (John 17: 20-23) by strengthening his brethren, that is the Apostles (Luke 22: 32). He tends the "lambs and sheep" of the flock of Christ (John 21: 15-17).

The office of the Chief Apostle functions to keep the doctrine pure while developing it further, opening up new insights, and uniformly spreading the testimony of faith. The Chief Apostle also lays down the order within the church.

These tasks comprise the "authority of the keys" of the Chief Apostle ministry.

The Chief Apostle is the highest spiritual authority. He is accorded a leading position in the circle of the Apostles.

The Chief Apostle ordains the Apostles. It is necessary for the Apostles to remain in oneness with him: only in this manner can the task incumbent on the apostolate as a whole be fulfilled, namely to make salvation accessible to mankind.

7.6.7 The District Apostle ministry Back to top

Beyond the tasks incumbent on each Apostle, the District Apostle ministry is responsible for providing uniform pastoral care, caring for the congregations, and spiritually equipping the ministers within a defined working area (District Apostle district). Moreover he defines the points of emphasis in church work, decides on the ordination of ministers, and seeks to preserve the oneness in the circle of the Apostles. As a rule, he celebrates Holy Communion for the departed within his working area. One task that goes beyond the actual work within the District Apostle district is participation in conferences of the District Apostle Meeting, which advises and supports the Chief Apostle in leading the Church. In addition, the District Apostle is the general representative for his District Church.

SUMMARY Back to top

It is the task of the Chief Apostle to discharge the office of Peter. The Chief Apostle is the highest spiritual authority. He is accorded a leading position in the circle of the Apostles. (7.6.6)

The Chief Apostle exercises the authority of the keys. (7.6.6)

The District Apostle has the responsibility of working within his working area to provide uniform pastoral care, to provide for the congregations, and to assure that the ministers are spiritually equipped. (7.6.7)

7.7 Ordination Back to top

Authority, blessing, and sanctification issue forth from the Apostle ministry in order to equip ministers for their work in the congregations.

Ordination to a spiritual ministry is performed by the Apostle in the name of the triune God through laying on of hands and prayer (see 12.1.12). In the exercise of his ministry, the minister is accountable to, and dependent on, the Apostle ministry.

During the ordination, the specific ministerial power is imparted and the corresponding authority is issued by the Apostle ministry, be it for the work of a diaconal ministry, priestly ministry, or Apostle. Upon this foundation, the minister will be able to fulfil the functions assigned to him.

Through the ordination, the minister is blessed and sanctified for his work. Available talents are awakened and consecrated for the exercise of the ministry.

Ordination is not a sacrament, but rather an act of blessing. The holiness of this act and the serving character of this ministry are demonstrated by the fact that the ministry is received on one's knees. The minister being ordained makes a vow before the Apostle to remain faithful to God and follow Christ, and promises obedience of faith.

In principle, being designated for a 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.

Divine blessing is imparted during the ordination. It contains the assurance of the Holy Spirit's strength and support, as well as the protection of the angels' service.

A minister cannot perform his duties on the basis of his own abilities, but rather only in oneness with the apostolate and in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle ministry is authoritative for doctrine and serves as a model for the proclamation of God's word by the other ministries.

7.8 The exercise of a ministry Back to top

In his conduct and spiritual competency, a minister must live up to certain requirements. The sanctification received through the ordination must be put into practice by the minister so that the gifts he has received can unfold to the blessing of the congregation (1 Timothy 3: 2-3, 8-9).

Those who have been called to a ministry serve out of love toward God and their neighbour. They align themselves with the example of Jesus, and know that they are instruments in the hand of God.

The trust between the members of the congregation and the ministers is a prerequisite for blessed development within the congregation. In order to build and preserve such a relationship of trust, it is indispensable for the ministers to be one with one another and their Apostle.

Ministers discharge their ministries within the framework of the authority issued to them. To this end they receive a commission from their Apostle, who assigns them a working area.

In principle, the commission to exercise a ministry ends upon retirement, however, the ministry remains. On the other hand, the ministry is lost in the event of resignation or dismissal from ministry.

7.9 Tasks of the ministries Back to top

Apostle Paul writes: "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all" (1 Corinthians 12: 4-7). Thus each minister is a servant of God with the task of proclaiming and advocating the unadulterated gospel of Christ. He provides care to the members of the congregation entrusted to him, and promotes their faith and knowledge. In caring for their souls, he sympathises with their personal concerns, prays with them, and helps them carry the burdens of daily life. The minister is an example for the congregation. To him the words apply: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself" (Philippians 2: 3).

The following remarks describe aspects of the individual ministerial gifts. They are vested in all ministries, but come to expression differently.

SUMMARY Back to top

Ordination is performed by an Apostle in the name of God through laying on of hands and prayer. Through the ordination the necessary ministerial capacities are imparted and ministerial authority is issued out of the Apostle ministry. (7.7)

The minister can only discharge his ministry in connection with the apostolate and in the power of the Holy Spirit. (7.7)

The sanctification that has come forth through the ordination must be put into practice by the minister. He exercises his ministry within the framework of the authority issued to him. (7.8)

Every minister is a servant of God. He provides pastoral care to the members of the congregation entrusted to him and promotes their faith. (7.9)

7.9.1 The priestly ministries Back to top

The ministries from the Bishop to the Priest are summarised by the term "priestly ministries". Through the Apostle these ministers have received the commission and authority to dispense Holy Baptism with water, proclaim the forgiveness of sins, and consecrate and dispense Holy Communion.

The high demands on the priestly ministers are derived from Malachi 2: 7: "For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts."

The tasks of the priestly ministries also include conducting divine services, performing acts of blessing and funerals, proclaiming God's word, and providing pastoral care to the members of the congregation.

Bishop

The word "Bishop" (Greek: episkopos) means "overseer". The Bishop is the direct co-worker of the Apostle. In oneness with the Apostle, he instructs and cares for the ministers, and takes charge of special tasks in pastoral care.

District Elder [4]

As a rule, a District Elder is the rector of a district and thus responsible for several congregations in both a spiritual and organisational respect. He ensures that the gospel is proclaimed in its purity in the congregations. He also sees to it that the necessary ministerial gifts are available in the congregations. He adopts guests into the congregation and leads preparatory discussions with those who are to receive the sacrament of Holy Sealing. The District Elder provides pastoral care to the congregational rectors and their families.

District Evangelist

The District Evangelist works at the side of the District Elder and supports him in the fulfilment of his tasks.

Shepherd

The special focus of this ministry is to care for and preserve the congregation. The Shepherd also performs leadership tasks. As a rule, he is also appointed as the congregation's rector.

Evangelist

The special accent of the Evangelist ministry (Greek: euangelistes = "messenger of joy") lies in the clear, understandable proclamation of the word. As a rule the Evangelist also performs leadership tasks.

Priest

The Priest proclaims the word of God and cares for the souls within the congregation. This includes being close to the members, visiting them regularly, reinforcing their faith, and promoting their knowledge. The Priest stands by them, comforts them, and prays with them. He makes regular visits to the sick and celebrates Holy Communion with them. He also pursues those whose ties with the congregation are waning. In many congregations Priests also take on the function of rector.

[4] In earlier times there was also the ministry of Community Elder.

7.9.2 The diaconal ministry Back to top

The diaconal ministry is discharged by Deacons and Sub-deacons. The word "Deacon" has its source in the Greek and signifies "servant". Deacons help in various ways in the congregation.

It is also their task to support the Priests in their pastoral care work.

Today no one is ordained into the Sub-deacon ministry anymore. This ministry corresponds to the Deacon ministry in nature.

7.10 Appointments Back to top

An appointment is the assignment of a firmly defined task. It is not to be equated with an ordination. The appointment can be limited in terms of both duration and location.

In association with a ministry, the term "appointment" is understood as an appointment to the task of congregational rector, district rector, District Apostle Helper, or Chief Apostle Helper. It is usually issued within the framework of a divine service by leading ministers of the Church. It is not bound to the duration of one's ministerial activity, but ends when this activity ends.

In order to fulfil the various services and tasks within the congregations and districts, special mandates are issued to both brothers and sisters, independent of ministry.

Like the ministers, these appointed functionaries generally perform their services in the Church on a voluntary basis.

SUMMARY Back to top

The ministries from Bishop to Priest are summarised by the term "priestly ministries". They have received commission and authority from the Apostles to dispense Holy Baptism with water, to proclaim the forgiveness of sins, and to consecrate and dispense Holy Communion. Further tasks of the priestly ministries include conducting divine services and funerals, performing acts of blessing, proclaiming God's word, and providing pastoral care to the members of the congregation. (7.9.1)

The word "Deacon" is derived from the Greek language and means "servant". Deacons help along in various ways in the congregation. (7.9.2)

An appointment is the assignment of a firmly defined task. It is not to be equated with ordination. An appointment can be limited in terms of both duration and location. (7.10)