Apostolic Discipleship


In my article, Discipleship & the Equipping Ministries[2], I discuss at length the particular ministry relationships between a disciple and an apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher. Here, I would like to identify that which each of these Christ-appointed ministries have in common: “Apostolicity”.


“… He gave gifts to men…. And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ….”[3]

This passage tells us that Jesus gave certain gifts to men and gave certain men as gifts to the Church. Something which is important for us to understand is this: In building His Church,[4] Jesus blesses men – not methods. There may be some value in considering discipling methodologies; but in the end, Jesus blesses disciples through men rather than through methods.

Again, Jesus gave certain gifts to men, and gave certain men as gifts to the Church. The apostle Paul was able to say to the Thessalonians, “You know what kind of men we proved ourselves to be….”[5] That which qualifies these men to equip the Church is not their fulfilling the presupposed “job descriptions” of apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, teacher, but rather who they are as ambassadors of Christ[6]. These are men who have been with Jesus”[7], and bring the presence of Jesus.

Now, in saying these things, I AM NOT SAYING that every minister who claims to be an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor, or a teacher is inherently “apostolic”. I am far from even implying that. The point I endeavored to make in The Condition of the Church is that most ministers attempting to “equip the saints” are, in fact, NOT “apostolic”. What I AM SAYING is this: Every minister who has been truly given to the Church as a gift from the ascended Christ will prove to have this “apostolic” quality which I am discussing.[8]

Just as there is an essential difference between the ministry of teaching and the ministry of discipling (specifically, “teaching them to observe all Christ commanded”), there is also an essential difference between ministry and “apostolic” ministry. And likewise, there is a difference between “Discipleship”, as conventionally understood, and “Apostolic Discipleship”.

Although there are various schools of thought on discipling, and different methodologies are promoted, I think it is true to say that discipleship is conventionally understood to be a ministry which focuses on the initial development of the basic components of the Christian life, such as Bible reading, prayer, local church attendance, obedience, stewardship, witnessing, etc. “Apostolic Discipleship” certainly addresses these things, but while it is understood to be “foundational”, it is not looked on as being something “initial”, in fact, it is perceived as something “eternal”.


Discipleship has to do with the Christian life. But, whereas conventional discipleship focuses on merely developing various practices of the Christian life, first and foremost, “Apostolic Discipleship” focuses on knowing Christ, who IS our life[9].

“Apostolic Discipleship” has a very definite Christ-centered approach, focusing on Christ as the Center of Christianity, Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life for the disciple, as well as Christ as the Foundation and Head of the Church.

“Apostolic Discipleship” is all about growing in Revelation of Christ, Relationship with Christ, and Reflection of Christ. This essential characteristic – which I am referring to as “apostolic” – is either seen and grasped or it isn’t. It is either the core of the discipleship or it is essentially missing.

Apostolic Fellowship

 Acts 2:42 tells us that the disciples “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship….” In his commentary on this verse, John Gill, reminds us that the disciples were also fellowshipping with the apostles. The syntax in the Greek text has both the teaching and the fellowship referring back to “the apostles”. In fact, The Amplified Bible translates it as: “the instruction and fellowship of the apostles”.

What is the significance of the fact that the disciples “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ fellowship”? What was the nature of this “fellowship”? What was taking place during this “fellowship”? Discipling[10]. A significant aspect of “Apostolic Discipleship” is that the relationship between the disciple and the one discipling is a MINISTRY RELATIONSHIP. These may also be friendships, but they are ministry relationships by nature. Something in addition to human friendship is taking place in these relationships. The life of Christ is being ministered through the Spirit and the word of Christ. In John’s gospel, Jesus is recorded as saying: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”[11] Human friendships are good, but an intentional ministry relationship is vital for discipleship. Since it takes the authority of Christ to make a disciple of Christ, authentic ministry relationships share the life of Christ, specifically, they are Christ-centered relationships through which Christ is revealed and relationship with Christ is nurtured.

 Apostolic Teaching

Acts 2:42 tells us that the disciples “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching….”

“Apostolic Discipleship” has to do with “apostolic teaching”. In my eBook, Apostolic Teaching,[12] I discuss at length teaching which is “apostolic” in nature; but I will attempt to summarize here by saying: Apostolic teaching is teaching with a particular approach, goal, genre, and quality:

The New Testament Scriptures explicitly tell us that the foundation of Christ is laid by apostolic teaching.[13]  What does this mean?  How does apostolic teaching lay the foundation of Christ?

The goal of apostolic teaching is the EXPERIENCE of Christ and the FORMATION of Christ in the disciple. Therefore, the subject matter of apostolic teaching is Christ – that is, teachings ABOUT Christ and the teachings OF Christ. Teachings ABOUT Christ are found in typology throughout the Old Testament[14], which are wonderfully encapsulated in the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews.[15] And, of course, the teachings OF Christ are found throughout the gospels, many of which are found in the “Sermon on the Mount” and the “Parables of the Kingdom”.[16]

Again, apostolic teaching is teaching with a particular approach, goal, genre, and quality – its goal is the EXPERIENCE of Christ and the FORMATION of Christ in the disciple. It is obvious that the Church has a plethora of teaching ministries. Personally, I think it is just as obvious that it has a dearth of apostolic teaching ministries. In order to obey the Lord’s commission to “disciple all peoples”, the Church needs to “continue steadfastly” and “be devoted to” apostolic teaching.[17]

When the ascended Christ gives an equipping ministry gift, He also gives the necessary grace to fulfill that ministry.  The apostolic teaching ministry is the special grace to teach the REVELATION of the mystery of Christ in such a way as to bring a people into fullness of RELATIONSHIP with Christ, with a view to REFLECTION of Christ – by the working of the Spirit.

“And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord (in the face of Jesus Christ – Cf. 4:6), are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 AMP

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“Apostolic Discipleship” is an excerpt from the eBook “The Vineyard of the Lord“, pages 83-96. See the corresponding eBook and Audio Message on our website.

At Christ’s Table – ACTpublications © 2019

“Explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” 1 Corinthians 2:13

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[1] What follows is material which dates back approximately 30 years and has been edited and restructured for this article.

[2] For a complimentary .PDF copy of this and other articles, Email: AtChristsTable@gmail.com

[3] Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV). Whereas the NASB reads “as apostles”, etc. and the NKJV reads “to be apostles”, etc., neither “as” nor “to be” are in the Greek text.)

[4] Matthew 16:18

[5] 1 Thessalonians 1:5 The Amplified Bible

[6] 2 Corinthians 5:20

[7] Acts 4:13

[8] So that the reader doesn’t miss the point of what I desire to communicate here: The debate concerning whether the ministry of the apostle still exists for the Church today or “passed  away” in the first century, in this case, is quite beside the point.  Apostolic (adjective) teaching, based on the apostles’ (noun)  teaching recorded in the Scriptures is an absolutely necessary and sorely lacking genre and quality of  teaching having a particular approach and goal – viz. to lay the foundation of Christ and to build Christ experientially in the lives of individuals and churches.  I am focusing here on the adjective, apostolic, rather than the noun, apostle – specifically, a genre and quality of faith and practice (Jude 3), rather than a supposed job description of an apostle. However, I do not hold to dispensationalism or cessationism – I do believe that all the equipping ministries in the New Testament are for today. I deal with this issue in the afore-mentioned article,  Discipleship & the Equipping Ministries.       

[9] Colossians 3:4

[10] Alternative terms may be: “Mentoring” and/or “Spiritual Parenting”.

[11] John 6:63

[12] For a complimentary .PDF copy of this and other articles, Email: AtChristsTable@gmail.com

[13] I Corinthians 3:10-11, Ephesians 2:20, 3:1-7

[14] E.G. The Old Testament tabernacle, feasts, and priesthood. I am of the opinion that the interpretation of ALL Old Testament typology is for the SOLE purpose of revealing Christ. The ONLY purpose of any of my teachings interpreting or incorporating Old Testament typology is to reveal Christ.

[15] See my articles: Seeing Christ in the Letter to the Hebrews, Seeing Him Who Is Unseen, Tabernacle Truths, and The Foundation of the Church.

[16] See my articles: The Character of the King & His Kingdom, Abide in the Vine, Who Is this King of Glory, The Way of the Cross, and Seeing the Kingdom Through the Cross.

[17] Acts 2:42

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Quo Vadis

God is always moving forward in His kingdom plans and purposes. He never moves backward. And for those who love Him, He never stops moving in our lives for His glory. But to continue moving on with God “from glory to glory” requires our living “from faith to faith”. It takes an act of faith