Apostles are the "Sent One's." The word "apostolos" means "one sent forth with orders." Keep in mind that as with all of the ministry gifts, the apostles, according to Ephesians 4:12 are ones who have been set in the church for a very specific reasons:
The church need apostles, to this day. I believe the reason why many have not embraced the idea of modern-day apostles is because they do not fully understand the calling and charge of apostles. But, these are individuals who are called to establish churches by overseeing the appointment of elders. Still, there is much more to being an apostle than that, alone. But first, let's look at what a "church" is. In the NT, there is the church (Acts 2:47, Ephesians 1:23, Ephesian 5:32), and then there are the individual churches (Acts 16:5, 2 Corinthians 11:28, Revelation 2:7, 2 Corinthians 8:18-19). Further, there are ministries within each of the churches (1 Corinthians 12:5, Romans 11:13, 2 Timothy 4:5, Acts 21:9).
So, the church is the body of Christ, and Jesus is the head. Within the Church are individual churches. These are separate organizations that work under Christ, and governed by Elders – they are not just gatherings. Within those churches are believers who have ministries. These are not necessarily organizations, but services offered by the Spirit through individuals who God has gifted. Still, it is biblically supported for believers to organize and publicize a ministry (see Romans 11:13) that is unique to the gifting and grace upon their life (Acts 20:24, 2 Timothy 4:5, Colossians 4:17). Apostles are one such ministry, and they are called for a special and holy service.
Here are the marks of an apostle:
First, if you are to be an apostle, you have to be sent to establish churches in unreached areas, and appoint elders (Acts 13:2-3): "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off."
You are not allowed to make yourself an apostle (see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). You are appointed by people of prayer and fasting, yourself, and then sent. Being a REALLY good preacher does not make a person an apostle. Having revelation from scripture does not make a person an apostle. Being a best-selling author does not make you an apostle. Finally, having a large, influential church and denomination does not make a person an apostle. An apostle is "one sent" to an unreached region to establish churches and appoint elders for those churches. Apostles are the tip of the spear. They go first. They lay the foundation for the presence of the body of Christ in a region or people group.
Secondly, according to 2 Corinthians 12:12, an apostle moves in signs and wonders: "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. An unreached people group must see the power of Christ manifest. They must experience the power and glory of the Living God through these "Sent Ones." In defending the monostry of the apostle to his critics, Paul said he would test them, not by their words, but their power: "Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power" (1 Corinthians 4:19-20).
Thirdly (and possibly most importantly), apostles suffer. If you are an apostle and you do not suffer for the church, then I believe you are a false apostle. I would ask any one who claims apostleship, "Where are your scars?" "For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things (1 Corinthians 4:10-13). Apostles do not go unscathed. Every apostle in the Bible suffered, but it was not just for suffering's sake. They suffered for the church. THey suffered for the cause of Christ. They did not only go through emotional anguish. They were physically beaten, imprisoned, and tortured. Many of their familes paid the ultimate price. Still, they labored for a prize that this earth cannot give. Modern Apostles do not have a lesser qualification.
Keep in mind that as we study the ministry gifts of the Holy Spirit, be prayerful as you find yourself in each of the callings we discuss. We are not learning about these things as a scholastic endeavor, but as a discovery -- an unveiling of the calling upon your life.