Following on from cessationist polemist J D Hall’s proclamation that prophets have ended, we have this extraordinary assertion that apostles have ceased from Mat Crick.
It comes in an article in a series chookwatcher recommended that discusses whether women should be in ministry in the Church.
Mat Crick runs CARM, an apologetics site based on Reformed doctrine.
In a long, somewhat contrived, article questioning whether Junia was a female apostle, CARM attempts to find ways to disprove what scripture actually says – that Junia was of note amongst the apostles.
I discussed this in a recent article referencing Romans 16, which speaks of several women in ministry who were commended by the Apostle Paul. One of them was Junia.
‘Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.’
Junia is a female name. CARM tries to shroud the issue in doubt by attempting to say the writer got the name wrong and it was really a bloke, and making the spurious suggestion that there were levels of apostles and she wasn’t one of the top level apostles, being merely sent out, all of which are questionable devices unnecessary to the reading of the passage.
We really only have to take it on face value that Junia was a woman, and was noted amongst the apostles, for that is what it says, and that is what it means.
There, that was simple wasn’t it? When we read scripture we have to be prepared to change our own perception of doctrine if it is challenged by the Word. Doctrine is established by what we read in the Word not by what what we want it to say.
Are there apostles or not?
But it was the sign off that Matthew gave which really intrigued me. Still not accepting that the scripture means what it says, Matthew makes the following begrudging statement.
‘So let’s just assume for a bit that Junia was a woman apostle in full authority. We don’t accept that position but let’s just work with it for a moment. Would that mean that it is okay for women to be pastors and elders since Junia would have been exercising that authority over men in the church?
First, even if that were the case, the office of apostle is finished; and Junia’s case would only apply in the early church and not today.’
‘The office of the apostle’, he says, ‘is finished’.
Well, again, as we said of J D Hall’s claim that prophecy was finished, it is news to the Holy Spirit that apostles have finished, and news to the Word of God that they have finished.
There is no Word anywhere that says when and how the apostles have ended. Not a single verse, either literally or implied. Cessationists simply make things up as they go along. Mat Crick, you’ll note, implies that he doesn’t accept the position of the Word that Junia was a woman and an apostle.
He adds something about ‘full authority’ to cover himself, but any authority given in any role by the Holy Spirit can only carry the full authority according to the measure of faith given (Romans 12:3), and, as Paul says in Ephesians 4:7, ‘to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift’. So there are not levels of ministry, rather, the gift is according to measures of faith and grace.
Yet Matthew concedes that even if Junia is a woman and an apostle, it would only apply to the early Church and not today. That would be terrible for cessationists because if Junia could be an apostle and apostles have not ended then there could be apostles today, and there could even be women who are apostles. Oh no!
The trouble for cessationists, though, is that there is no evidence in the Word for the cessation of apostles or prophets.
Once more we have to appeal to the very thing that Reformed theologists hang on to – Sola Scriptura. If we are going to maintain Sola Scriptura – the integrity of the established Word of God – then we have to see what scripture says about apostles.
Does it say they have finished? What does it say?
Ephesians 4:11 He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Now you have to read the whole passage to gain the context. It is one of the most wonderful pieces of writing in the whole of the New Testament. It is the brilliance of Paul under the influence of the Holy Spirit as he reveals the make up the Body.
Equipping the saints for the work of the ministry
It is about the gifts, being ministry offices, that Christ has given to equip the saints, that is, believers, to edify the Body of Christ, until we all come to the unity of the faith, are perfected, drawing closer to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, so that we are no longer pulled this way and that by every wind of doctrine, so we are enabled to speak the truth in love, and grow up into Christ, the Head of the Church, causing growth in the Body as we edify one another in love.
OK that’s a bit of a mouthful, but it is a rich summary of the call and grace on those Christ has set apart to help Him build the Body. He is building His Church, but He does so through the delegated authority of those in the Church.
He has set some apart for the oversight of the Body. Scripture tells us who they are, because they have distinctive calls and offices with distinctive abilities and gifts.
They are named here as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. This was begun when Christ ascended, and has not ended.
Critics cannot strip away two of the offices simply because they have been indoctrinated with cessationist theology. The apostle and the prophet are still just as relevant and important to the development of Christ’s Church as the evangelist, pastor and teacher.
No one is saying that the evangelist, pastor or teacher have finished. Why then do they attempt to say that the apostle and prophet have ended? There is nothing in scripture to say this. Nothing.
Does the Body still need to be equipped for the ministry, edified, brought into the unity of faith and of the knowledge of Christ, perfected, brought to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, equipped to resist the winds of doctrine from false teachers, able to speak the truth in love, help develop the rest of the Body, all giving of themselves to grow the Body to edify itself in love?
Of course, That is why Christ delegated these gifts. He has not removed them. He has not changed His mind.
Junia was an apostle. She was a woman in a position of responsibility.