And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:17

God’s desire has always been to find a dwelling place in the hearts of those who love Him.

Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 2 Corinthians 6:16

In the same way that a physical building must have proper foundations to be structurally sound and inhabitable, so also must a spiritual building. Those in the body of Christ who are called by Him to lay these proper foundations are apostles and prophets. What does the foundation of a spiritual building look like, and what exactly is the function of an apostle in carrying out this work?

The apostolic ministry is a foundational equipping ministry to the body of Christ:

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11

The foundation is the revelation that Jesus is the Christ. When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?”, Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father, who is in heaven.” Jesus told His disciples that it was upon the bedrock of this revelation—that He was the One sent by His Father to bring redemption, to save and restore His lost creation—that His church, His dwelling place in the Spirit, would be founded and built (see Matthew 16:15-18). The foundation then, is a revealing that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one can come to God but through Him (see John 14:6).

Jesus was sent to us by His Father to be this revelation and the exact representation of His nature. Where then, does the apostolic ministry fit? Jesus told His disciples:

…as the Father has sent Me, I also send you. John 20:21

The literal meaning of the word “apostle” comes from the Greek definition that means a delegate, an ambassador, one sent out and set apart by Christ. The function of apostles is to help equip the body of Christ in two primary ways:

1. Like an architect, apostles establish, according to the plans revealed through the scriptures, part of the foundation and order for that spiritual dwelling place of God in His people. This is the preparation of the soil of our hearts “so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything” (see Colossians 1:18.)

2. They prepare God’s people to be sent out in His authority to do His will and His work, just as Jesus was sent out by His Father to accomplish His will and to do His work. This is the conforming of our hearts to His heart, resulting in His burden for the unsaved becoming our burden.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, labored diligently to lay the foundation of the revelation of the Lord into the hearts of the church. He did not gather unto himself followers of Jesus, but gathered them unto Jesus, the Good Shepherd. When he was bound and headed for Jerusalem, Paul admonished the elders of the church at Ephesus and entrusted them into the hands of the Lord.

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28

“And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32

Apostles have that same responsibility before the Lord today . And where are the biblical apostles of today? From our experience, we have encountered a number of supposed apostles who have functioned as though they believed their calling was to build their particular “stream” through a hierarchical governmental structure that we don’t find in scripture. We realize their will always be those crying out for a king, just as the Hebrew nation did (1 Samuel 8:6), but we cling to one King, the Lord Jesus Christ. He must remain Head of His church—not apostles, not prophets, nor elders, nor evangelists, pastors or teachers. In His church there are no “streams” or denominations, no factions or divisions; but one bride betrothed to her Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ. To settle for less is to reject the Father (1 Samuel 8:7).

The Lord’s desire is for His church to grow up in all aspects into Him (Ephesians 4:15) so that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27). Apostles are part of God’s provision to the church for this to be accomplished. May we all live in such a way as to hasten the day of the return of our Lord (see 2 Peter 3:11,12).