An apostle is primarily someone sent from God as His witness. In this sense, we can talk about the apostle as a prophet—as one who speaks with authority about the will of God.
And, as with the other three marks, the apostolic nature of the Church is only secondarily a matter of history. While not wishing to criticize anyone, we risk confusing people when we use phrases like the ancient or the historical Church. Yes, the Orthodox Church is the historical Church—that is the Church that was established by God on the teaching of the Apostles with Christ as its cornerstone—and so we are in this sense the ancient or even the New Testament Church.
And we are also the Pentecostal Church. We are all these and more.
But the Church is all of these because she is an apostolic community. The Church is that human society sent by God in each and every generation to proclaim the Gospel to all creation (see Mark 16:15) and to make not simply all human beings to “’make disciples of all the nations, baptizing 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.’ Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20).
To say that the Church is apostolic is to say something rather theologically and personally weightier than that the Church is old or even evangelical. To say we are apostolic is to assert that we are a band of prophetic and a prophetic community called by God to help humanity find its way back to God and in God to itself in love.
This is the gift of being apostolic. And, as we’ve seen, we cannot be personally apostolic unless we are also, like the Church in which we believe, one, holy and catholic. So let me conclude (in my next and final post) say a bit about what it means for me to say “I believe in the Church.”