Is Apostleship a Spiritual Gift?
Although the term "apostle" is found in 1 Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:11, it is never explicitly called a charisma or "spiritual gift". Exhorters are those who exhort, teachers teach, healers heal, those who have the gift of faith exercise extraordinary faith, and so on. But how does an "apostle" (noun) "apostle" (verb)? What does it mean to minister as an apostle? One ministers as a discerner of spirits by discerning spirits. One ministers as a giver by giving. However, to say that one is enabled to minister as an apostle does not tell me what the gift of apostle-ing (to coin a term) is. As Jack Deere explains,
"It is virtually impossible to define the 'gift' of apostleship in the same way that the other gifts can be defined. We can easily conceive of someone exercising the gift of prophecy without being a prophet. The same is true for all the other gifts. But how could someone come to a meeting of a local assembly and exericse the gift of apostleship in that meeting without actually being an apostle? An apostle in an assembly might teach, or prophesy, or heal, or lead, or administrate. But what would it mean to exercise the gift of apostleship? We simply cannot think of apostleship apart from the historical apostles. In the New Testament an apostle is not a spiritual gift but a person who had a divinely given commission and ministry." (Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, 242).
Several observations are in order:
1) Spiritual gifts, as described in 1 Cor. 12:7-10, are divinely energized deeds that are done. But how does one do apostle-ing? We know how one might do prophecy or mercy or encouragement. But apostleship, it would seem, is not an inner working of the Holy Spirit through a human vessel, but an office to which one is called by Christ Jesus himself.
2) If apostleship were a charisma, it would be the only one for which a person must meet certain qualifying criteria. Paul describes the charismata as if the potential always exists for any person to be the recipient of any gift, depending on the sovereign will of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11). Not so with apostleship. To qualify as an apostle one must be both "an eye-and-ear-witness to the resurrection of Christ" and receive a personal commission from Jesus himself (more on this below; see Acts 1:22-26; 1 Cor. 9:1-2; 15:7-9; cf. also Gal. 1:1; Rom. 1:1,5; 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1). Thus, unlike the charismata, only a select few who met specific conditions could even be considered as possible apostles.
3) Consider Paul's repeated exhortation to "earnestly desire the greater gifts" (1 Cor. 12:31; 14:1,12). The charismata are to be desired and prayed for (1 Cor. 14:13). In fact, we are especially to desire those gifts that are most effective in edifying the church (in this regard, see especially 1 Cor. 14:12). Most scholars believe the list in 1 Cor. 12:28-29, at the top of which is apostleship, is prioritized according to this principle. But if apostleship is a gift, like prophecy or teaching, Paul would be in the awkward position of encouraging all Christians to desire, above all else, that they might be apostles! Yet, as noted above, this is not something that could be prayed for or desired or in any sense sought after. Either you are an eye-and-ear-witness of Christ's resurrection or you are not. Either you have received a personal commission from Jesus or you have not.
In a word, whereas apostles themselves certainly received charismata such as the ability to prophesy, to heal, to show mercy, etc., apostleship per se is not a charisma. Apostleship is not an enabling power; it is an ecclesiastical position.