Spiritual Gifts Series
Spiritual Gift: Apostle
Category of Gift: Proclaiming
Introduction to New Testament Apostles
1.1 Apostles Today. Today we see many people calling themselves apostles of Jesus Christ. In fact, some churches talk about a five-fold ministry, referencing Ephesians 4:11 and the five spiritual gifts described there: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Are these churches following New Testament teaching applicable for today? In this study about the spiritual gift of apostle, we will explore the New Testament passages about apostles and learn more about the spiritual gift of apostle.
1.2 The New Testament Meaning of “Apostle.“ An exegetical study of the Word of God (the Bible) will help us understand from Scripture what the spiritual gift of apostle entailed. Because of the various uses of the term “apostle” today, we will see that the New Testament also recorded different uses of the term “apostle.”
1.2.1 The Basic Meaning of the Term “Apostle.” The basic term “apostle” means a “sent one,” usually meaning someone sent on a special mission on behalf of someone else. Below we will look more closely at how the term “apostle” was used throughout the New Testament. Matthew used the term “apostle” only once (Matthew 10:2, page 1516). Mark too only used the term “apostle” once (Mark 6:30, page 1569). Both Matthew and Luke used the term “apostle” to refer to the Twelve disciples. Luke used the term “apostle” many times and referred to the Twelve (Luke 6:13, page 1607; Luke 9:10, page 1615; Luke 17:5, page 1634; Luke 22:14, page 1645; Luke 24:10, page 1651; Acts 1:26, page 1700; Acts 2:43, page 1703; Acts 4:35, page 1706; Acts 4:37, page 1706; Acts 5:2, page 1707; Acts 5:12, page 1707; Acts 5:18, page 1708; Acts 8:1, page 1713–all of references in Luke and Acts appear to refer to the Twelve, but the Jerusalem apostles may have included more than the Twelve).
1.2.2 Jesus the Apostle. Jesus Himself was referred to as an apostle (“ἀπόστολον“) (Hebrews 3:1, page 1871). He often referred to Himself as one sent from God (John 17:3, page 1689), to speak the words of God (John 12:49, page 1682), and to perform the works and will of God (John 5:30, page 1663).
1.2.3 Peter the Apostle. In Matthew 10:2, Peter was listed as first (“πρῶτος”) among the twelve apostles (“ἀποστόλων”). Some people seek to establish the primacy of Peter among the Twelve because Jesus delivered the keys of the kingdom to Peter (Matthew 16:13-19, page 1530). Yet, Jesus made the same promise to all the disciples in Matthew 18:18, page 1533. Therefore, any attempt to escalate Peter to a position above the other apostles cannot be supported by Scripture. In fact, Peter’s own acts display His weakness (John 18:25-27, page 1692; Matthew 26:69-75, pages 1552-1553) and his hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-21, page 1821). Anyone who promotes himself as the greatest among the apostles or other believers falls prey to the Pastoral Heresy.
1.2.4 Paul as an Apostle. Paul described Himself as an apostle “by the will of God” (Ephesians 1:1, page 1827) and declared that he was “not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead” (Galatians 1:1, page 1819). Yet, with Paul, we see a man who was not a part of the twelve original disciples in the Gospels (the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), because Paul became a believer after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus (Acts 9:1-31, pages 1716-1717). In John 13:16, Jesus referred to slaves and masters, and described the sent one (“ἀπόστολος”) as not being greater that the one who sent (“πέμψαντος”) him.
1.2.5 Variety of Meanings. The term “apostle” had a variety of meanings in the New Testament. The term first applied to Jesus Christ Himself, and then to the twelve disciples, and later to other believers. The term “apostle” can refer to both the office of apostle and also to the spiritual gift of apostle. To understand the spiritual gift of “apostle,” we first need to understand the different uses of the term “apostle” in the New Testament, starting with Jesus selecting twelve apostles.
The Twelve Apostles
2.1 The Ministry of the Twelve Apostles. The ministry of the Twelve apostles changed after the Holy Spirit descended upon the Twelve at Pentecost, which followed the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Just before He ascended to heaven after His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus made a wonderful prophecy and a promise of great power for His disciples (Acts 1:8, page 1699). Jesus declared: “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Just a few days after Jesus ascended, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in Jerusalem at the Feast of Pentecost, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and great power came upon the Twelve. Therefore, we observe from Scripture that the ministry of the Twelve may be divided into their ministry before Pentecost and their ministry after Pentecost.
2.2 Matthias, the Replacement Apostle. After Judas betrayed Jesus, and Jesus had ascended back to heaven, the eleven disciples chose a replacement for Judas. We may study that passage to learn more about the qualifications of the twelve apostles. When seeking and praying for a replacement to fill the vacancy left among the twelve apostles by fallen Judas Iscariot (who betrayed the Lord Jesus), the eleven apostles gathered together and sought a man to become a witness with them of Christ’s resurrection (Acts 1:21-23, page 1700). The eleven apostles put forward two men, Joseph and Matthias, on the grounds that both of them had “accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us–beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was take up from us” (Acts 1:21-22, Page 1700). They prayed, and then cast lots, with the lot falling to Matthias, who was “added to the eleven apostles (“ἀποστόλων”)” (Acts 1:26, page 1700). This group of twelve apostles, known in the New Testament as “the Twelve,” met the qualifications of Acts 1:21-22, page 1700, and were recognized as a special group of ministers to the Jews and eyewitnesses of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ (Acts 6:1, page 1709; 1 Corinthians 15:5, page 1800).
2.3 The Office and The Ministry of Apostleship. After Jesus ascended back to heaven, the eleven disciples (Judas Iscariot had betrayed Jesus and died) recognized both a ministry (“διακονίας”) and an apostleship (“ἀποστολῆς”) from which Judas “turned aside to go to his own place” (Acts 1:25, page 1700). Judas also held an office (“ἐπισκοπὴν”) as an apostle (Acts 1:19, page 1700).
2.4 The Ministry of the Twelve before Pentecost. With the birth of the church at Pentecost, all believers were baptized by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4, page 1700).
2.4.1 Jesus Chose the Twelve Apostles. The Lord Jesus gave the name “apostles” (“ἀποστόλους “) to the twelve men he appointed to be with Him (Mark 3:13-14, page 1562). The twelve He selected included men from different walks of life: fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, and others. These twelve men stood by Him during His trials (Luke 22:28, page 1645.) The twelve apostles (“ἀπόστολοι“) ate with Jesus (Luke 22:14, page 1644). These twelve “apostles” (“ἀπόστολοι“) were in addition to a group of seventy other men Jesus sent out (“ἀπέστειλεν”) in pairs ahead of Him to every city he was going to visit (Luke 10:1, page 1618). Jesus gave very specific instructions to the seventy.
2.4.2 The Purpose of the Twelve Apostles. Jesus chose the Twelve apostles for three purposes: (1) that the Twelve may be with Him (“ὦσιν μετ’ αὐτοῦ“); (2) that He may send (” ἀποστέλλῃ“) the Twelve out to preach (“κηρύσσειν”); and (3) that the Twelve may have authority (“ἐξουσίαν”) to cast out demons. He called (“προσεφώνησεν”) the Twelve from among His disciples (“τοὺς μαθητὰ“). (Luke 6:13, Page 1607.)
2.4.3 The Qualifications of the Twelve Apostles. The twelve apostles had unique qualifications as described in Acts 1:21-22, page 1700. To qualify as one who could hold the office of apostle, the candidate must have “accompanied us [the Twelve] all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us–beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was take up from us” (Acts 1:21-22, page 1700).
22.214.171.124 Chosen by Jesus. The New Testament writers recognized different types of apostles. Jesus originally called twelve men to be His disciples and have a special part in His ministry, but He knew from the beginning that one of them was a devil (John 6:70-71, page 1667; Matthew 26:23-25, page 1550; Acts 1:2, page 1699) and identified Judas Iscariot as the betrayer (John 13:21-27, page 1683). Jesus appointed (“προσκαλεῖται“) twelve men to be with Him, and that He could send them out (“ἀποστέλλῃ”) to preach (Mark 3:12, page 1562).
126.96.36.199 The Authority of the Twelve Apostles. Jesus sent them out in pairs to the cities and villages of Israel, but commanded them to avoid the way of the Gentiles and to not enter any city of the Samaritans. Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits, and directed them to take no provisions for their journey. As they went into various cities and villages, the Twelve were casting out demons and anointing with oil so that many sick people were healed (Mark 6:7-13, pages 1568-1569). Jesus gave the Twelve specific power to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons (Matthew 10:8, page 1516).
188.8.131.52 The Preaching of the Twelve Apostles. The Twelve preached that men should repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 10:7, page 1516). Having returned from their first missionary journey, the apostles (“ἀπόστολοι“) gathered together with Jesus and reported all that they had done (Mark 6:30, page 1569; Luke 9:10, page 1615).In Luke 24:10, page 1651, we learn that Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James, reported to the apostles (“ἀποστόλους”) all the things they had seen and heard at the empty tomb of Jesus. Before His ascension, Jesus Himself had given very specific orders to the apostles (“ἀποστόλοις”) whom He had chosen (“ἐξελέξατο”) by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:2). Following the ascension of Jesus, Jesus commanded the apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they had received power when the Holy Spirit had come upon them and then they would be His “witness both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8, page 1699).
184.108.40.206 The Faith of the Twelve Apostles. In Luke 17:5, page 1634, Jesus taught about basic relationships among brothers in Christ. Jesus explained that a believer must forgive a brother who repents and seeks forgiveness, even if the brother comes seven times in one day seeks forgiveness. The apostles (“ἀπόστολοι“) then said: “Increase our faith Lord.” The faith of the twelve apostles came from Jesus. Jesus increases faith in His teachings, so that we may live according to the teaching of Jesus Christ. People tend to undervalue the teaching of Jesus, but they are the words of eternal life (John 6:68, page 1667; see the amazing teaching of Jesus with authority, Luke 4:32, page 1603 ).
2.5 The Ministry of the Twelve After Pentecost. After Pentecost, the Twelve began to fulfill the prophecy and promise of Jesus. He commissioned the Twelve to go into the entire world, making disciples, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the things Jesus had commanded (Matthew 28:19-20, page 1557).
2.5.1 Empowered by the Holy Spirit. After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit came down as tongues of fire and rested upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4, page 1700). People from various nations heard their own languages as the apostles spoke and were amazed at the apostles speaking in such foreign tongues. Immediately Peter, with the eleven apostles, preached a powerful message about faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and raised from the dead. Having heard the message from Peter, the members of the audience asked Peter and the rest of the apostles (“ἀποστόλους”): “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37, page 1702). The apostles (“ἀπόστολοι“) with great power were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and working signs and wonders (Acts 4:33, page 1706). Filled with jealousy observing the works of the apostles, the High Priest and his associates (the Sadducees) seized the apostles (“ἀποστόλους”) and put them in a public jail (Acts 5:18, page 1708). When challenged by the Jewish council, Peter and the apostles (“ἀπόστολοι“) answered that they must follow God rather than men, and described themselves as witnesses Jesus Christ (Acts 5:29-32, page 1708). After flogging the apostles (“ἀποστόλους”), the Jewish council commanded them to speak no more in the name of Jesus, and released them (Acts 5:40, page 1709). The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem began a persecution against all followers of Jesus. During this time of persecution, the Gospel of Jesus Christ began to spread, just as Jesus had prophesied (Acts 1:8, page 1699). When the apostles heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them (Acts 8:14, page 1714). Later, the apostles heard that the Gentiles had received the word of God, and Peter gave testimony to the apostles about his vision from God and the salvation of the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-30, pages 1720-1722). So, the prophecy of Jesus in Acts 1:8, page 1700, was fulfilled in that the apostles were His witnesses in Jerusalem first, then Judea and Samaria (outside of Jerusalem), and then to remotest parts of the earth (still under way today).
2.5.2 The Persecution of the Twelve Apostles. In Luke 11:49, page 1623, Jesus said that, in the wisdom of God, God sent to the fathers of the Jews opposed to Jesus both prophets (“προφήτας”) and apostles (“ἀποστόλους”), and “some of them they will kill and some of them they will persecute, so that the blood of prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah.” Notice that only the blood of prophets from Abel to Zechariah was charged against the generation confronting Jesus. At the preaching of the apostles Peter and John after the resurrection of Christ, the religious leaders sought to kill the apostles (Acts 5:33, page 1708). Gamaliel interceded for the apostles, and the Council flogged the apostles and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus. Even so, the apostles went on their way rejoicing, because they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:41, page 1709). They also continued preaching Jesus as the Christ every day in the temple, and from house to house (Acts 5;42, page 1709). Saul of Tarsus was in hearty agreement with the severe persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem, causing the believers to scatter throughout Judea and Samaria, except the apostles (“ἀποστόλων“) (Acts 8:1, page 1713). Saul began ravaging the church, dragging off men and women, to put them into prison (Acts 8:3, page 1714). On the road to Damascus to pursue and imprison believers there, Saul of Tarsus met the Lord Jesus Christ and became His disciple (Acts 9:1-30, pages 1716-1717). After the conversion of Saul, the church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up and increased, as it continued in the fear and comfort of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31, page 1717). In Revelation 18:20, page 1936, the saints, apostles (“ἀπόστολοι”) and prophets have judgment pronounced for them against the wicked on earth. Jesus predicted that some of His apostles (“ἀποστόλους”) and prophets would be killed and others persecuted (Luke 11:49, page 1623).
2.5.3 The Teaching Ministry of the Apostles. In Acts 2:42, page 1703, following the preaching of Peter at Pentecost, the new believers in Christ were continually devoting themselves (“ροσκαρτεροῦντες”) to the apostle’s teaching (“τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων“).
2.5.4 The Signs and Wonders Ministry of the Twelve Apostles. In fact, “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe, and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles (“ἀποστόλω”)” (Acts 2:43, page 1703). Likewise, in Acts 5:12, page 1707, we read that great signs and wonders (“σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα“) were taking place by the hands of apostles (“Διὰ δὲ τῶν χειρῶν τῶν ἀποστόλων“). The people, however, did not dare to associate (“κολλᾶσθαι”) with the apostles, but held them in high esteem (“ἐμεγάλυνεν“) (Acts 5:13, page 1707). In Acts 9:36-43, page 1718, a disciple named Tabitha (Greek “Dorcas”) fell ill and died. The disciples in Lydda called to Peter ministering in Joppa to come help them, evidently expecting Peter to revivify Tabitha. After clearing the room, Peter knelt and prayed and called out: “Tabitha, arise.” She arose and everyone in Joppa heard of the miracle, and many believed.
2.5.5 The Financial Ministry. In Acts 4:35, page 1706, we see the apostles functioning as stewards of the physical resources, and particularly the money, of the Jerusalem church. When believers sold their land and houses, to meet the needs of the believers, the sellers would take the proceeds of the sales and lay them before the apostles’ feet (“οὺς πόδας τῶν ἀποστόλων“), and the apostles would distribute the proceeds as anyone had need (Acts 4:35, page 1706).
2.5.6 The Fearful Ministry. In Acts 5:1-11, page 1707, we read about the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira, which inspired great fear among the church, and everyone who heard of the events. Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of property and laid a portion of the money from the sale at the apostle’s feet (“τοὺς πόδας τῶν ἀποστόλων“). Ananias and Saphira then lied about the amount of money they had received from the sale. They intended secretly to keep some of the money for themselves, which would not have been a problem, except they lied and said they had given all the money to the apostles. Peter confronts each of them individually and separately, and lets them know that they had lied to the Holy Spirit because satan had filled their hearts (Acts 5:4, page 1707).
2.5.7 The Feeding Ministry. When a complaint arose in the Jerusalem church regarding the daily serving of food to widows, the Twelve (“οἱ δώδεκα“) summoned the congregation of disciples (“τὸ πλῆθος τῶν μαθητῶν“) and let the disciples know that that the apostles should not “neglect the word of God” (“καταλείψαντας τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ“) to serve tables (Acts 6:43, page 1709). After the congregation selected men full of faith and the Holy Spirit, they brought seven men before the apostles (“ἀποστόλων“), who, after praying, laid their hands (“ἐπέθηκαν αὐτοῖς τὰς χεῖρας“) upon them (Acts 6:6, page 1709).
2.5.8 The Preaching Ministry of the Apostles. With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all (Acts 4:33, page 1706). With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all (Acts 4:33, page 1706). The high priest and the Sadducees, filled with jealousy over the ministry of the apostles, put the apostles in a public jail (Acts 5:18, page 1708). An angel of the Lord came and released them from prison and they returned to the temple and about daybreak began to teach (Acts 5:20, page 1708). The Council of the high priest and Jewish leaders feared the crowds, but brought the apostles before them for questioning (Acts 5:26-27, page 1708). Peter and the apostles answered the charges brought against them, declaring that they must obey God, rather than men (Acts 5:29, page 1708). They testified of Jesus, raised from the dead, after being hung on a tree by these very Jews. God has raised Jesus and exalted Jesus to the right hand of God, as a Prince and Savior, to grant repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. They declared themselves to be witnesses of these things (Acts 5:30-32, page 1708).
2.5.9 The Laying on of Hands. Beleivers in both the Old Testament and the New Testament laid hands on people for several different reasons. These practices help us understand the apostles’ practice of laying on of hands.
220.127.116.11 Old Testament Laying on of Hands. In the Old Testament, believers laid their hands on both people and animals.
18.104.22.168.1 Commissioning. As Moses prepared to be gathered to his people (to die), God commanded Moses to lay his hands upon Joshua (Numbers 27:18, page 268). Moses did just as the Lord commanded, and laid his hands upon Joshua in the presence of Eleazar the priest and before all the sons of Israel, commissioning Joshua to lead the people after Moses died (Numbers 27:22-23, page 268; Deuteronomy 34:9, page 346).
22.214.171.124.2 Sacrifice. The elders of the congregation of Israel laid their hands upon the bull before the LORD as part of a sacrifice for the sin of whole congregation (Leviticus 4:15, page 163). Both the priest and the sinner offering the sacrifice laid their hands on the animal to be slain as a sacrifice for sin. On the great day of atonement, the High Priest would lay both of his hands on the live goat and confess the sins of Israel. Then the High Priest would send the live goat into the wilderness, bearing on itself all the iniquities to a solitary place (Leviticus 17:20-22, page 189). The sinner would also lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering (a goat) and slay the sin offering at the place of the burnt offering (Leviticus 4:24, page 164; Leviticus 4:29, page 164; Leviticus 4:32, page 164).
126.96.36.199.3 Consecration. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of a bull before the tent of meeting as part of their consecration for service as priests before God (Exodus 29:10, page 136). See also the consecration of the Levites by laying on of their hands upon two bulls (Numbers 8:12, page 230). They also laid their hands on the head of two rams (Exodus 29:15, page 137). Both the rams and the bull were sacrificed.
188.8.131.52.4 Guilt. Whoever cursed the name of the LORD was to be stoned outside the camp of Israel, after all who heard him curse laid their hands on him (Leviticus 24:14, page 203).
184.108.40.206.5 Blessing. The Old Testament saints laid their hands on their offspring to pronounce a special blessing upon them (Genesis 48:13-20).
220.127.116.11 New Testament Laying on of Hands. In the New Testament, Jesus and others laid hands upon people for various purposes.
18.104.22.168.1 Jesus and Laying on of Hands. Jesus laid his hands on: (1) children and blessed them (Mark 10:16, page 1577; Matthew 19:15, page 1535); and (2) on the sick with various diseases and healed them (Luke 4:40, page 1604; Mark 6:5, page 1567; Mark 7:32, page 1572–people implored Jesus to lay hands on a deaf person; Luke 13:13, page 1627).
22.214.171.124.2 The Apostles and Laying on of Hands. The apostles also laid hands on people for different reasons. Apparently, it was part of the regular practice of the entire church (Hebrews 6:2, page 1874).
126.96.36.199.2.1 Special Service Laying on of Hands. In Acts 6:7, page 1709, the Jerusalem church brought seven men, full of the Spirit and wisdom, before the apostles (“ἀποστόλων”), who then laid their hands upon them. Likewise, the Holy Spirit chose Barnabas and Saul for special missionary work and the church laid their hands upon Barnabas and Saul and sent them on their way (Acts 13:1-3, page 1724).
188.8.131.52.2.2 Holy Spirit and Laying on of Hands. As Philip preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Samaria, the apostles Peter and John came down from Jerusalem and laid hands upon the Samarian believers and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17, page 1714). When Simon the Samaritan magician saw that the Holy Spirit was bestowed through the laying on the apostle’s hands (“τῆς ἐπιθέσεως τῶν χειρῶν τῶν ἀποστόλων“), he offered them money. Peter rebuked Simon and commanded him to repent, because his heart was not right before God for seeking to purchase such authority (Acts 8:18-24, pages 1714-1715). Likewise, Paul laid hands upon the new believers in Ephesus and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7, page 1737).
184.108.40.206.2.3 Spiritual Gifts and Laying on of Hands. The elders of the church laid their hands on Timothy as part of bestowing a spiritual gift upon him (1 Timothy 4:14, page 1857; compare 2 Timothy 1:6, where Paul indicated that he had also laid hands on Timothy as Timothy received a spiritual gift).
220.127.116.11.2.4 Healing. In Acts 9:17, page 1716, Ananias laid his hands upon the blind Saul of Tarsus and prayed for him, so that Paul immediately his sight returned to him.
The Jerusalem Council and the Apostles
3.1 The Jerusalem Council. After spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ among the gentiles, certain men came down from Judea to Antioch and insisted that the new believers must be circumcised according the custom of Moses (Acts 15:1, page 1728).
3.2. Paul and Barnabas Travel to Jerusalem. The brethren in Antioch determined to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles (“ἀποστόλους”) and elders concerning the controversy (Acts 15:2, pages 1728-1729).
3.2.1 Arrival and Reception. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles (” ἀποστόλων“) and the elders and reported to them (Acts 15:4, page 1729).
3.3 The Apostles, Elders and Whole Church Gather. The Jerusalem council, consisted of the apostles (“ἀπόστολοι“), elders and the whole church (Acts 15:23, page 1730). They gathered to consider an important theological question and the practice of the early church (Acts 15:6, page 1729).
3.4 The Question of the Mosaic Law. “Must the gentile converts keep the Law of Moses?” The Jerusalem council decided the answer to that question was “no.” Salvation was by faith alone, and believers were no longer required to keep the Law of Moses.
3.5 The Problem of Jewish Synagogues. Because so many believers still attended Jewish synagogues and mixed with people saved from idolatry, the Jerusalem Council offered four suggestions to the new Gentile believers. Notice that Peter declared at the council that Moses has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogue every Sabbath (Acts 15:22, page 1730). Therefore, the new Christians could avoid offending the Jews by avoiding certain religious practices. The new Christians intended to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the Jews first, and then the Gentiles (Romans 1:16, page 1758). So, it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and the Jerusalem Council to lay no greater burden upon the new Gentile believers than four essentials (“ἐπάναγκες”) to avoid offending the Jews in the synagogues (Acts 15:28, page 1730).
3.6 The Four Ways To Avoid Offending the Jews in the Synagogue. The Jerusalem Council recommended four practices to avoid needless offense to the Jews in the synagogues where the believers gathered (Acts 15:23, page 1730; Acts 15:29, page 1730).
3.6.1 Abstain from Things Sacrificed to Idols. The Jerusalem Council recommended that the Christians avoid things sacrificed to idols.
3.6.2 Abstain from Eating Blood. The Jerusalem Council recommended that the Christians abstain from eating blood.
3.6.3 Abstain from Things Strangled. The Jerusalem Council recommended that the Christians abstain from things strangled.
3.6.4 Abstain from Fornication. The Jerusalem Council recommended that the Christians abstain from fornication (“πορνείας”).
3.7 Sharing Consensus. It seemed good to the apostles (“ἀποστόλοις“) and the elders at Jerusalem to send Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, to go with Paul and Barnabas to share their consensus regarding the suggestions for the Gentiles (Acts 15:22, page 1730). Subsequently, Paul and Timothy delivered the suggestions which had been decided upon (” τὰ δόγματα τὰ κεκριμένα“) by the apostles (“ἀποστόλων”) and elders to the churches of Asia Minor.
The Revelatory Work of the Apostles
4.1 Inspiration. Peter reminded believers that they “should remember the words spoken before hand” (“προειρημένων ῥημάτων“) by the holy prophets and the commandment (“ἐντολῆς “) of the Lord and Savior spoken by “your apostles” (“τῆς τῶν ἀποστόλων ὑμῶν“)(2 Peter 3:2, page 1902). Likewise, Jude reminds the beloved “to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ (“μνήσθητε τῶν ῥημάτων τῶν προειρημένων ὑπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ“). Jesus promised the Twelve disciples that the Holy Spirit would “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26, page 1685). Both Peter and John declared that they were eyewitnesses of the Jesus Christ and witnessed His teachings and works (1 John 1:1-4, page 1904; 2 Peter 1:16-21;2 Peter 3:14-16, page 1903).
4.2 The Mysteries and The Apostles. The term “mystery” in the New Testament has a special meaning: “the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to the obedience of fath;” (Romans 16:25-26, page 1781). Notice that a mystery always involves a New Testament revelation of something previously spoken by the prophets, but not fully illuminated until the New Testament. Many different mysteries were revealed in the New Testament. Jesus made a specific promise to the Twelve apostles: “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted” (Matthew 13:11, page 1522; see Mysteries). Therefore, the Twelve apostles, holding the office of apostle, were promised that they would know the mysteries of the of the kingdom of heaven (Compare Luke 8:10, page 1612; Mark 4:11, page 1563). Jesus had to open their minds for them to understand the Scriptures concerning his suffering, death, resurrection and glory (Luke 24:45, page 1652). Likewise, the Holy Spirit would reveal the mysteries to the Twelve apostles. For example, in Ephesians 3:5, page 1829, we see that they mystery of the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel was made known by God through the revelation to the apostles (“ἀποστόλοις“) and prophets in the Spirit. Notice there the role of the apostles in proclaiming the mysteries of God.
The Term “Apostle of Jesus Christ”
5.1 Apostle of Jesus Christ. The term “apostle of Christ Jesus” (“ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ“) occurs in 1 Corinthians 1:1, page 1782; 2 Corinthians 2:1, page 1804; Ephesians 1:1, page 1827; Colossians 1:1, page 1841; 1 Timothy 1:1, page 1854; and 2 Timothy 1:1, page 1861. Peter described himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ (” ἀπόστολος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ“) in 1 Peter 1:1, page 1893 and 2 Peter 1:1, page 1900. In constrast, James described himself as a bond-servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ (“θεοῦ καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοῦλος“) (James 1:1, page 1887). In Galatians 1:1, page 1819, Paul described himself as an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead) (“ἀπόστολος, οὐκ ἀπ’ ἀνθρώπων οὐδὲ δι’ ἀνθρώπου ἀλλὰ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ πατρὸς τοῦ ἐγείραντος αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν”). Because of the emphasis upon his direct revelation and commission from God, Paul gave a lengthier explanation of his direct, divine calling as an apostle. In 1 Thessalonians 1:1, page 1846, and 2 Thessalonians 1:1, page 1851, Paul and Silvanus and Timothy greeted the church. In Titus 1:1, page 1865, Paul described himself as a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ (“δοῦλος θεοῦ, ἀπόστολος δὲ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ“). Notice in Titus 1:1-3, page 1965, that Paul described further the calling and work of his service and apostleship: (1) the faith of the chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth, which is according to godliness; and (2) in the hope of eternal life; and (3) which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested, even the word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior.
The Life of the Apostles
6.1 Apostolic Life. God exhibited the apostles (“ἀποστόλους”) as a spectacle to the world. The apostles suffered hunger and thirst, poorly clothed, and roughly treated, reviled, slandered, and persecuted. Some were homeless. They worked with their own hands. To some people, they were the scum of the word, the dregs of all things (1 Corinthians 5:9-13, page 1786).
The Destiny of the Apostles
7.1 Apostolic Destiny. In 1 Corinthians 4:9, Paul declared that God had “exhibited the apostles (“ἀποστόλους”) last of all, as men condemned to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” In Revelation 21:14, page 1940, we read that the New Jerusalem shall have twelve foundation stones, with the names of the “twelve apostles of the Lamb” (“τῶν δώδεκα ἀποστόλων τοῦ ἀρνίου“) written upon them. Likewise, the Twelve apostles shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, when the Son of Man comes and sits upon His glorious throne (Matthew 19:28, page 1535-1536).
The Special Qualifications of the other Apostles
8.1 Personal Experience with Jesus. In addition to the twelve apostles, each of the apostles must have met the special qualification that he must (1) have witnessed the resurrected Christ (Luke 24:33- 51, page 1652-1653; Acts 1:2-9, page 1699; Acts 10:40-44, page 1720; 1 Corinthians 9:1, page 1791; 1 Corinthians 15:7-8, page 1800); and (2) have seen Jesus Christ in person (Luke 1:2, page 1593; Acts 1:22, page 1700; 1 Corinthians 9:1, page 1791; 1 John 1:1-4, page 1904). Therefore, no one alive on earth today can really claim to be an apostle like the twelve apostles described in Acts.
8.2 The Seal of Apostleship. In 1 Corinthians 9:2, page 1791,Paul described the Corinthians as “my seal of apostleship in the Lord) ( ἡ γὰρ σφραγίς μου τῆς ἀποστολῆς ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ).
8.3 The Signs of an Apostleship. In 1 Corinthians 12:12, page 1817, Paul mentioned that “the signs of a true apostle were preformed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.”
The Apostles and Missionary Work
9.1 Missionaries. In 1 Corinthians 9:1-7, pages 1791-1792, Paul described Himself as an apostle, who had seen the Lord Jesus, and declared that the Corinthian believers were his work in the Lord. Paul further emphasized that the Corinthian believers were the seal of his apostleship to them. Even if others may not have considered Paul an apostle, the Corinthians must recognize Paul as apostle because of the work he had sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. Furthermore, Paul argued that: (1) he and Baranabas had the right to take along a believing wife, as the other apostles took along their wives (plus the brothers of the Lord Jesus and Peter (Cephas)); and (2) the apostles (“ἀπόστολοι“) while on a missionary journey did not need to work (1 Corinthians 9:5-7, pages 1791-1792), although Paul actually worked with his own hands night and day at Thessalonica to avoid being a burden to any of them (1 Thessalonians 2:9, page 1847). As missionaries, the apostles (“ἀπόστολοι”) and prophets, in the Spirit, received the mysteries of God (truths not fully revealed in the past, as God in His wisdom, has now revealed to the apostles and prophets–Ephesians 3:5, page 1829).
9.2 Persecution. As the persecution of believers in Jerusalem caused them to flee into Judea and Samaria, the Gospel of Jesus Christ spread on their lips. Philip the deacon went to the city of Samaria, and many people there came to salvation in Christ Jesus (Acts 8:4-13, page 1714). When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John (Acts 8:14, page 1714). The apostles laid their hands (“ἐπετίθεσαν τὰς χεῖρας“) on Samaritans believers and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17, page 1714). When Peter and John had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to many villages of the Samaritans (Acts 8:25, page 1715). After the conversion of Saul, the church enjoyed a time of peace in Judea, Galilee and Samaria (Acts 9:31, page 1717). Peter evangelized throughout the regions of Judea, Galilee and Samaria, with particular healing of Aenas at Lydda, so that everyone in Sharon and Lydda “turned to the Lord” (Acts 10:35, pages 1717-1718). Peter was also instrumental in the resurrection of Tabitha in Joppa (Acts 10:36-43, so that many believed there in the Lord (Acts 10:42-43, page 1718). Through the word of wisdom given to Peter at Joppa, Peter understood the mystery that God had cleansed the Gentiles, so that no man should call them unclean. The twelve apostles were all Jews and commissioned originally to go only to the people of Israel, and not the gentiles (Matthew 10:5-6, page 1516; compare Matthew 15:24, page 1528). Jesus expanded this mission to include the entire world, following a pattern of geographical, cultural and spiritual expansion described in Acts 1:8, page 1699. Jesus emphasized in His commission to them that He gave them all authority in heaven and on earth, so that the twelve would go and make disciples of all the nations (“ἔθνη“), baptizing and teaching them (Matthew 28:18-20, page 1557). He promised them power to be His earthly ministers (Acts 1:8, page 1699), and the Holy Spirit fulfilled that promise and empowered their ministry as they preached, made decisions, performed signs, wonders and miracles, and turned the world upside down for Jesus Christ (Acts 2:14-36, pages 1701-1702; Acts 3:1-10, page 1703; Acts 17:6, page 1733-1734). They ministered primarily in Israel, but they obviously had a deep concern to spread the glad tidings of Christ to the entire world (e.g., Acts 2:7-12, page 1701 ; 10:34-43, page 1720; Acts 11:19-30, page 1722; Acts 12:25, page 1724; 15:4-29, pages 1728-1730; 1 Peter 1:1-3, page 1893).
The Ministry of the Church-Planting Apostles
10.1 Church Planting Apostles. God also called some believers to be church-planting apostles.
10.1.2 Paul. Paul described himself as the apostle (e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:1, page 1782; Galatians 1:1, page 1782) to the gentiles (Romans 11:13, page 1773; 1 Corinthians 9:2, page 1791; Galatians 2:9, Page 1821; Ephesians 3:8, page 1829; 1 Timothy 2:7, 1852) and their teacher and preacher (2 Timothy 1:11, page 1861).
10.1.3 Peter, James and John. Peter, James and John were known as pillars of the church at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9, page 1821). Peter ministered as an apostle to the circumcised (Jews) (Galatians 2:9-10, page 1821), as Paul ministered to the Gentiles.
10.1.4 Barnabas. The church-planting apostles included Barnabas (Acts 13:2, page 1724; 1 Thessalonians 1:1, page 1846), the friend of Saul of Tarsus and missionary companion of Paul.
10.1.5 Andronicus and Junius. The church-planting apostles also included Andronicus and Junius (outstanding among the apostles (“ἀποστόλοις“), and in Christ before Paul (Romans 16:7, page 1780).
10.1.6 Sylvanus and Timothy. Likewise, Sylvanus may be included among the church planting apostles and possibly Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1, page 1846; compare 1 Thessalonians 2:6, page 1847). Other passages cast doubt upon whether Paul considered Timothy an apostle, perhaps because Timothy did not see the Lord Jesus–Paul called himself an apostle (“ἀπόστολος“), but referred to Timothy as a “brother” (2 Corinthians 1:1, page 1804; Colossians 1:1, page 1841); Paul also referred to himself and Timothy as bond-servants (Philippians 1:1, page 1835).
10.1.7 Titus. Likewise, Paul described Titus as his partner and fellow worker among the Corinthians.
10.1.8 Our Brethren. Paul also mentioned “our brethren” who were messengers (“ἀπόστολοι“) of the churches (2 Corinthians 8:23, page 1813). Finally, once the churches had been planted through a group of local believers receiving the free gift of eternal life from Christ Jesus, Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, commending them to the Lord in whom they believed (Acts 14:23, page 1728). Compare the work of Titus, whom Paul commanded to appoint elders in the cities of Crete (Titus 1:5, page 1865).
10.2 Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. Saul of Tarsus persecuted the church of Jesus Christ and supervised the death of Stephen (Acts 7:58, page 1713; Acts 8:1, page 1713). Shortly after Stephen died, Saul journeyed from Jerusalem to arrest Christians living in Damascus. On the road to Damascus, Jesus personally appeared to Saul and his life changed forever. Saul fell to ground blinded by the great light and Jesus spoke directly to Saul. Saul followed the directions of Jesus, and became a believer who testified to many people about Jesus Christ. Saul of Tarsus became Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul described himself as a called apostle (“κλητὸς ἀπόστολος“), set apart for the gospel of God (Romans 1:1, page 1758; 1 Corinthians 1:1, page 1782). Paul recognized himself as the apostle to the Gentiles (“ἐθνῶν ἀπόστολος“) (Romans 11:13, page 1774). As a preacher and apostle (“ἀπόστολος”), he was a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth (1 Timothy 2:7, page 1855). Paul also proclaimed that he was appointed (“ἐτέθην”) a preacher (“κῆρυξ ) and an apostle (“ἀπόστολος”) and teacher (“διδάσκαλος“) to the Gentiles (2 Timothy 1:11, page 1861). When defending his ministry, Paul declared: Am I not an apostle (“ἀπόστολος”) (1 Corinthians 9:1, page 1791)? Paul considered himself least among the apostles (” ὁ ἐλάχιστος τῶν ἀποστόλων“), and not fit to be called an apostle (“καλεῖσθαι ἀπόστολος“) because he had persecuted the church of God (1 Corinthians 15:9, page 1800-1801). Yet, he did not consider himself “in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles (“μηδὲν ὑστερηκέναι τῶν ὑπερλίαν ἀποστόλων“) (2 Corinthians 11:5, page 1815). Likewise, in 2 Corinthians 12:11, page 1817, Paul asserted that he was in no respect “inferior to the most eminent apostles (“οὐδὲν γὰρ ὑστέρησα τῶν ὑπερλίαν ἀποστόλων“) . . . .” Paul proclaimed that he labored more than the other apostles, through the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10, page 1801). As an apostle (“ἀπόστολος”), Paul denied that he had been sent from men or through the agency of men, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father (Galatians 1:1, page 1819). In 2 Corinthians 12:12, Paul defended himself and described the signs of a “true apostle” (“τοῦ ἀποστόλου”) which he performed with “all perseverance” (“πάσῃ ὑπομονῇ“), including signs and wonders and miracles (“σημείοις καὶ τέρασιν καὶ δυνάμεσιν“) (compare the work at Iconium, where Paul and Barnabas spoke boldly about Christ Jesus and the word of His grace, “granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands.” Even so, the people of Iconium were divided, with some siding with the Jews and some with the apostles (“ἀποστόλοις”) (Acts 14:4, page 1727). Near the end of his life, the Jewish authorities trumped up charges against Paul in Jerusalem, and the Roman government arrested him (Acts 21:27-33, pages 1742-1743). Asserting the legal right of a Roman citizen to be tried by Caesar, Paul was sent to Rome for trial before Caesar and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles closes with Paul awaiting trial (Acts 21:34-28-31, pages 1743-1757). Jesus used Paul to plant churches and write letters to the Romans, Galatians, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, and his friends in Christ, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (which are now New Testament books because God inspired them). Paul summarized his own life in Romans 1:5 where Paul described himself as having received from the Lord Jesus Christ “apostleship” (“ἀποστολὴν”) “to bring about obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake.” In contrast, Paul described Peter as having the “apostleship” (“ἀποστολὴν”) to the circumcised, while Paul had the “apostleship” (“ἀποστολὴν”) to the Gentiles, so that Christ worked effectually in Paul (Galatians 2:8, page 1820).
10.3 The Apostles Barnabas, James, Apollos, Andronicus and Junias. Several people in the New Testament also played important roles in planting churches as apostles in the New Testament: Barnabas, James, Apollos, Andronicus and Junias.
10.3.1 Barnabas. In Acts 4:36, page 1706, Joseph, a Levite and Cyprian by birth, was called Barnabas (meaning “Son of Encouragement”) by the apostles (“ἀποστόλων“). In Acts 14:4, page 1728, Barnabas and Paul are both referred to as apostles (compare Acts 13:1-4, page 1724 and Acts 13:50, page 1727). Notice that in Acts 9:27, page 1717, Barnabas brought Saul to the apostles (“ἀποστόλους”), indicating that Barnabas was not one of that group of apostles at that time, and neither was Paul apparently (compare the phrase “Peter and the rest of the apostles in Acts 2:37, page 1702). Furthermore, notice also the crucial testimony of Barnabas that Saul saw the Lord Jesus on the road, and he had talked with Jesus, and how Saul had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. Such testimony to the Jerusalem apostles supported Paul’s own testimony that Jesus had appeared in person to him and spoke with him (1 Corinthians 9:1, page 1791). Furthermore, at Antioch, Paul and Barnabas opposed some men who came down from Judea, teaching people that they must obey the custom of Moses to be saved (Acts 15:1, page 1728). As a result of the great dissension, the church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas and some others to the the apostles (“ἀποστόλους”) and elders in Jerusalem concerning these matters (Acts 15:2, page 1728). Notice that Paula and Barnabas again are not referred to as apostles like the apostles in Jerusalem. Paul himself explained that the Jerusalem apostles were apostles (“ἀποστόλους”) before him, but then he went away to Arabia and returned once more to Damascus (Galatians 1:17, page 1820). So, by the time Paul visited Jerusalem again after visiting Arabia and Damascus again, he had received the revelation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul did not receive from men (like the apostles in Jerusalem), nor was he taught it by men (Galatians 1:11-12, page 1819).
10.3.2 James. In 1 Corinthians 15:7, Paul wrote to that the Lord Jesus appeared to James (apparently the brother of the Lord Jesus), and then to the rest of the apostles (“ἀποστόλοις“). Paul also named James, the brother of the Lord Jesus, as an apostle ( (Galatians 1:19, page 1820; compare Galatians 2:9, page 1821) and he played a leading role in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 12:17, page 1723; Acts 15:13ff., page1729). With James, the brother of the Lord, one can see that he may not have been with the twelve disciples during their entire time with Christ (john 7:5, pages 1667-1668) and so he may not have been considered to fill the position of Judas Iscariot. But it does show that other men figured prominently in the life of the Jerusalem church, who were also called apostles, but distinguished from the Twelve.
10.3.3 Apollos. Apollos was eloquent man, an Alexandrian by birth, and mighty in the Scriptures (Acts 18:24, page 1737). Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos preaching about Jesus, but Priscilla and Aquila explained to Apollos the way of God more accurately, because he was only acquainted with the Baptism of John. Apollos played a supporting role to the church-planting apostles by greatly helping those who had believed through grace, for Apollos powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 18:24-28). After Paul had planted the church at Corinth by his personal visit and preaching, Apollos came to Corinth and “watered” the city with Gospel of Jesus Christ, resulting in more believers coming to salvation in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:6, page 1784). In 1 Corinthians 4:6, page 1786), Paul described himself and Apllos as stewards of the mysteries of God, and in 1 Corinthians 4:9, Paul apparently called Apollos an apostle (see also 1 Corinthians 3:22-23, page 1785 where we see that Paul and Apollos and Cephas all belong to the Corinthians, who belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God).
10.3.4 Andronicus and Junius. In Romans 16:7, page 1780, Paul described Andronicus and Junias, as his kinsmen and fellow prisoners, and outstanding among the apostles (“ἀποστόλοις”).
The Church Messengers as Apostles
11.1. Titus. The apostle Paul described Titus as his partner and fellow worker, and then said that his brethren, apparently traveling with him, were messengers (“ἀπόστολοι”) of the churches, a glory to Christ. Therefore, we see that the term “apostles” (“ἀπόστολοι”) can refer to men on the missionary team with Paul sent by particular churches.
11.2 Epaphras. In Philippians 2:25, page 1837, we learn that Epaphroditus was the brother and fellow worker of Paul, and also his fellow soldier, and the messenger (“ἀπόστολον“) and minister (“λειτουργὸν“) sent from the Philippian church. Consider also 1 Thessalonians 2:6, page 1847 where Paul spoke concerning the authority of “apostles of Christ” (“Χριστοῦ ἀπόστολοι“) who came with Paul to Thessalonica to minister there. Therefore, because of the plural “apostles” reference, Paul evidently was referring to the ministry team consisting of Silvanus and Timothy in addition to Paul (1 Thessalonians 1:1, page 1846). Therefore, it appears that Paul may have considered Silvanus and Timothy to be apostles of Christ (“Χριστοῦ ἀπόστολοι“). Yet, we do not see any indication that Silvanus or Timothy ever met Jesus face to face, as required of apostles. So, sometimes the term “apostle” may be a general reference to a person sent by a particular church on a spiritual mission.
The Office of Apostle and The Spiritual Gift of Apostle
12.1 Judas Iscariot. As we noted above, Judas Iscariot defaulted from his office (“ἐπισκοπὴν”) of apostle. In order to distinguish the office (“ἐπισκοπὴν”) of apostle from the spiritual gift of apostle, we must examine the work of the Holy Spirit.
12.2 The Holy Spirit and the Office of Apostle. John the Baptist prophesied that Jesus would come and baptize believers with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16, page 1600). Therefore, we know that John spoke about Jesus bringing about a new ministry of the Holy Spirit (baptism and indwelling), separate from the experience of believers with the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. In the future, each believer would be baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit (“ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ”).
12.2.1 The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Just before Jesus ascended to heaven after the resurrection, He told the apostles that they will “be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5, page 1699). The prophecy of both John the Baptist and Jesus concerning the baptism with the Holy Spirit was fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13, pages 1700-1701). On Pentecost, Jesus baptized the believers with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit filled the apostles and they spoke with other tongues, as the Holy Spirit was giving them utterance (Acts 2:4, page 1700; Joel 2:28-32, page 1432).
18.104.22.168 Spiritual Gifts Bestowed. The baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred after Jesus had ascended into heaven. Therefore, we know that during the lifetime of Jesus in the flesh, none of the twelve apostles had received any spiritual gift from the the Holy Spirit because those gifts were not bestowed upon men until after Jesus had ascended (Ephesians 4:8-9, page 1830; Acts 2:38-39, page 1702).
22.214.171.124 Holy Spirit Indwelling Believers. Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would not only be with them, but also the Holy Spirit would be in them (“ὅτι παρ’ ὑμῖν μένει καὶ ἐν ὑμῖνἔσται“) (John 14:17, page 1685 and Acts 2:4, page 1700).
126.96.36.199 The Origination of Office of Apostle. The office of apostle existed before Pentecost and the baptism with the Holy Spirit. To prove that point, consider Judas Iscariot. Judas held the office (“ἐπισκοπὴν”) of apostle (Acts 1:19, page 1700). Notice that Judas Iscariot, an unbeliever, did not possess a single spiritual gift because he was an unbeliever and died before Pentecost.
188.8.131.52 The Distinction between the Office of Apostle and the Spiritual Gift of Apostle. Notice that the office of Apostle began when Jesus selected His twelve apostles and Judas Iscariot, a non-believer, held the office of Apostle (Acts 1:19, page 1700). Therefore, we may safely conclude that the office of apostle remains separate and distinct from the spiritual gift of apostle. Furthermore, the original twelve disciples all held the office of apostle (including Judas Iscariot, the son of perdition (John 17:12, page 1689), before anyone received the spiritual gift of apostle. Only after Pentecost would the Twelve be baptized in the Holy Spirit by Jesus and the spiritual gift of apostle come into existence. The timing seems very important here. Furthermore, Judas Iscariot could hold the office of apostle, but he never had the spiritual gift of apostle because he was never baptized by Jesus in the Holy Spirit and never indwelt by the Holy Spirit. In contrast, only after Pentecost, do we see the arrival of the spiritual gifts, signaled by the filling of the Holy Spirit and the utterance with various tongues at Pentecost.
184.108.40.206 The Spiritual Gift of Apostle. Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He commanded His disciples to wait for what the Father had promised: each of them would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5, page 1699). Jesus further explained that the baptism of the Holy Spirit will provide power to witnesses of Jesus both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:7-8, page 1699). We know from our discussion above that the Twelve apostles had not yet received a single spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit, because Jesus had not yet ascended and Jesus had not yet sent the Holy Spirit upon them (John 16:7, page 1687). For those Twelve original apostles, the spiritual gift of apostle came upon them through the ministry of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Those Twelve original apostles had held the office of apostle for years before Pentecost and performed ministries as apostles. With the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the Twelve apostles became empowered with the spiritual gift of apostle to become the witness of Jesus to all the world (Acts 1:8, page; compare the command to wait in Jerusalem until His power had come upon them). While many may hold the spiritual gift of apostle, only the Twelve held the office of apostle. Furthermore, we should keep in mind that the spiritual gift of apostles (“ἀποστόλους”) appears at the head of the list of spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28, page 1797 and in Ephesians 4:11, page 1830. Any male believer may aspire to the office (“ἐπισκοπῆς“) of elder, but no one may aspire to the office of apostle (1 Timothy 3:1, page 1856). Male believers may be appointed to fill the offices of elders (“πρεσβυτέρους”) and deacon (“Διακόνους”) in every city, but only the Twelve may fill the office of apostle, limited to just twelve men meeting specific criteria described in Acts 1:21-22, page 1700). Likewise, many people may be apt to teach (e.g., elders–Timothy 3:2), but not all elders have the spiritual gift of teaching. Notice that the number of apostles holding the office of apostle was twelve, not more or less (Acts 1:15-26, page 1700). Because the number twelve was significant, and required the replacement of Judas Iscariot, we know that the seventy apostles (Luke 10:1-16, pages 1618-1619) did not hold the office of apostle because that number for the office of apostle was twelve and no more and no less. Furthermore, the seventy apostles had a limited mission of going to the specific cities and villages to be visited by Jesus (Luke 10:1, page 1618). They also preached the hopeful message of “The Kingdom of God has come near to you” (Luke 10:9, page 1618). Now we may explore more deeply the office of apostle in the New Testament and the spiritual gift of apostle in the New Testament.
220.127.116.11 The Office of Apostle. Jesus inaugurated the office of apostle during His earthly ministry. Notice that Judas held the office of apostle, even though he was the “son of perdition” (John 17:12, page 1689). Therefore, before the spiritual gifts were given by the Holy Spirit coming down upon men at Pentecost, the office of apostle had already existed. Therefore, the office of apostle may be distinguished from the spiritual gift of apostle, as describe above. Furthermore, this specific office needed to be filled after the demise of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-26., page 1700). The office of apostle consisted only twelve men, no more and no less. Notice that when Judas Iscariot died, they did not merely appoint all the qualified candidates to hold the office of apostle, but chose only one. Eleven were too few and thirteen were too many to hold the office. We may safely conclude from this passage that the office of apostle was held only by twelve men who met the qualifications of described in Acts 1. Jesus commanded the apostles to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit had come upon them with power before they went out to all the world to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8, page ). Jesus baptized believers with the Holy Spirit, but did not do so until Pentecost. Notice that Judas Iscariot was never baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit. As an apostle Himself, Christ is also the Guardian (“ἐπίσκοπον”) of our souls (1 Peter 2:25, page 1896). Jesus not only functions as prophet, priest and king, but He also holds the office of Apostle (Hebrews 3:1, page 1871–notice the coordination of High Priest (Old Testament office) with Apostle (New Testament office). One may argue based upon Acts 20:28 and similar passages that the office of elder now corresponds to the office of apostle, but such a claim falls short because the office of “elder” is never described as a spiritual gift in the New Testament, but always an office; in contrast, the term “apostle” refers to both a spiritual gift and an office. We see that the Twelve apostles held a special position after the resurrection of Jesus because we read that Jesus appeared to the Twelve (which number included Cephas–1 Corinthians 15:5, page 1800), then later to James and the rest of the apostles (James was a member of separate group of apostles, not a part of the Twelve–1 Corinthians 15:7, page 1800). Likewise, many people may be apt to teach (elders 1 Timothy 3:2), but not all elders have the spiritual gift of teaching. So, not every person has the spiritual gift of apostle. Clearly, the term the “Twelve apostles” had special meaning even after the resurrection and before Pentecost, and the Twelve were distinguished from the other apostles like James the brother of Jesus (who was not even a believer at the time Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate om John 7:5, page 1667). Likewise, many people may be apt to teach (elders 1 Timothy 3:2), but not all elders have the spiritual gift of teaching. So, not every person has the spiritual gift of apostle.
The False Apostles
13.1 False Prophets Identified. In 2 Corinthians 11:13, page 1815, Paul warned the Corinthians about the false apostles (“ψευδαπόστολοι”), deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ (“ἀποστόλους Χριστοῦ“). Those false prophets preached another Jesus (“ἄλλον Ἰησοῦν“), whom Paul did not preach, and a different spirit (“πνεῦμα ἕτερον”) which they had not received, and a different gospel (“εὐαγγέλιον ἕτερον“) which they had not accepted, although satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:1-154, pages 1815-1816).
13.2 False Prophets Not Tolerated. In Revelation 2:2, Jesus commended the Ephesian church for not tolerating evil, and they “put to the test” (“ἐπείρασας”) those who call themselves apostles (“ἀποστόλους“), but are not and found them to be false (“ψευδεῖς”). Please notice that each church apparently had the spiritual ability to test apostles and see if they were truly from God. Because these false prophets spread evil in the churches, it certainly shows that many people calling themselves apostles moved into churches. Obviously, if they were one of the Twelve, it would have been easy to identify them. Furthermore, by the time of writing of the Book of Revelation, in the late 80’s to early 90’s A.D., some apostles must still have been known to the church. The spiritual gift of apostle may have continued, but the John appears to be the last living one of the Twelve apostles.
13.3 The Dangers of the False Apostles. False apostles preached a gospel contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached by Paul which he summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: (1) Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and (2) Christ was buried and raised the third day, according to the Scriptures. The false apostles spread a false gospel. Paul warned that those who preach keeping the law spread a false gospel, which is not really any gospel at all, and they should be accursed (Galatians 1:6-10, page 1819).
The End of the Spiritual Gift of Apostle?
14.1 Is the Spiritual Gift of Apostle Active Today? The answer to the question of the whether the spiritual gift of apostle is still active today is both yes and no. So, let me first lay out the answer showing that we do not have the spiritual gift of apostle active today.
14.2 No, The Spiritual Gift of Apostle is not Active Today. The key to answering the question of whether the spiritual gift of apostle is still active today depends upon what you mean by the term “apostle.” We know that the office of apostle ceased with the death of the last of the Twelve apostles, as described below.
14.2.1 The Foundation of the Apostles. First, consider the popular argument from Ephesians 2:20, page 1829 that the spiritual gift of apostles no longer exists. In essence, the argument runs that Jesus, the apostles (“ἀποστόλων”), and prophets are called the foundation of the church, with Jesus Himself described as the corner stone, upon which the entire building is being fitted together, and is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, and a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:21-22, page 1829). In passing, we know that the New Jerusalem has twelve foundation stones, each bearing the name of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (“τῶν δώδεκα ἀποστόλων τοῦ ἀρνίου“) (Revelation 21:14, page 1940). Therefore, because the foundation has been laid, the work of the apostles, at least the Twelve, has been completed, just as the foundational work of Jesus Christ was finished as He ascended to heaven. In my mind, this arguments overlooks that the office of apostle has ended with the death of the Twelve, but the spiritual gift of apostle may have still continued. Let us first explore the concept that the office of apostle ended with the Twelve apostles.
14.2.2 The Office of Apostle Ended with the Twelve. As we observed above, the office of apostle consisted of only the original twelve apostles, less Judas Iscariot, with Matthias taking His position, so that the number of men holding the office of apostle remained fixed at twelve, not eleven or thirteen (Acts 1:21-26, page 1700). Furthermore, because of the qualifications of the office of apostle (the candidate had to be with the other apostles all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and among them–beginning with the baptism of John the Baptist until the day of the ascension of Jesus–Acts 1:21-22, page 1700) required that the man to have been present with Jesus during His physical ministry with the Twelve, no person now meets the qualifications to hold the office of apostle. Notice too that the particular ministry of the Twelve holding the office of apostle focused upon being witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 1:22, page 1700).
14.2.3 The Teaching of the Apostles. The teaching of the apostles forms another basis for recognizing that the work of the office of apostle ended with the death of the last of the Twelve, who held the office of apostle.. The office of apostle closed with the writing of the New Testament and ended with death of the last of the Twelve. Yet, through the purpose of God, the mysteries, commandments of Jesus, and the teachings of God continue to bring salvation and blessings to the church by remembering and observing the revelations of God in the New Testament.
18.104.22.168 The Mysteries. The ministry of the apostles included the revealing of the mysteries of God (Ephesians 3:5, page 1829). As we have seen, the term “mystery” refers to something in other generations which was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed to His apostles and prophets in the Spirit (Ephesians 3:5, page 1829). The apostles revealed the mysteries to the church and to rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, according to the wisdom and eternal purpose of God which He carried out through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:10-11, pages 1838-1839). Therefore, the apostles received special revelation from God which formed the basis of the New Testament. Similarly, the prophets also received revelations from God, which are recorded in the New Testament. Because all the mysteries had been revealed through the apostles, and those mysteries were all revealed in the New Testament, the revelatory work of the apostles closed with the last New Testament writer completing his work. Therefore, we see that the revelatory work of the apostles closed with the New Testament.
22.214.171.124 The Commandments of the Lord and Savior. The ministry of the apostles also included proclaiming the commandments spoken by Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:2, page 1902). All believers should remember the words of the prophets and the teachings of the apostles (2 Peter 3:1-2, page 1902). Peter referred to a body of teaching (the commandments of Jesus) already established by Christ and now proclaimed by the apostles. In further support of the miraculous teaching ministry of the Twelve apostles, Jesus has promised the Twelve that the Holy Spirit would supernaturally bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had said to them (John 14:26, page 1685). Therefore, any claim that people today function as an apostle must not include a claim that they have received revelation from God, because the New Testament contained all the commandments of Jesus we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3, page 1900).
126.96.36.199 The Salvation of God. The Lord Jesus spoke about salvation by faith in Him alone (Hebrews 2:3, page 1870). The writer of Hebrews reveals a familiar pattern of: (1) Jesus speaking during His physical ministry on earth; and (2) then the apostles confirmed to other believers what they had personally heard from Jesus and witnessed with their own eyes; and (3) God attested to the veracity of the witnesses with signs and wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:3, page 1870; compare 1 John 1:1-4, page 1904; 2 Peter 1:16-21, page 1901).
14.2.4 The Spiritual Gift of Apostle. While I have high confidence that the office of apostle terminated with the death of the Twelve apostles, the spiritual gift of apostle may not have terminated. Let us consider Paul the apostle for a moment. Paul did not hold the office of apostle, because he could not meet the qualifications for the office described in Acts 1:21-22, page 1700. Yet Paul described himself as a “called apostle” (“κλητὸς ἀπόστολος“), set apart for the gospel of God (Romans 1:1, page 1758; 1 Corinthians 1:1, page 1782). Paul also received direct revelation from God concerning the Gospel (Galatians 1:12, page 1819). At any time, the apostles might have asserted their authority (δυνάμενοι ἐν βάρει) (1 Thessalonians 2:6, page 1847). Because we described various ministries associated with the spiritual gift of apostle, let us review them briefly below to evaluate whether they continue today.
14.2.5 Office of Apostle Not Active; Some Form of the Spiritual Gift of Apostle Active. So in summary, the office of apostle is not active today and the spiritual gift of apostle today does not include any revelatory powers, meaning that the New Testament has been written and completed. Therefore, we have no further need for new authoritative, inerrant revelations of God. Peter proclaimed that we have all we need as believers for life and Godliness (2 Peter 1:3, page 1900), so that the man of God has been fully equipped by the Scriptures to live for Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:16-17, page 1864).
14.3 Yes, the Spiritual Gift of Apostle Is Active Today. Because the New Testament shows that the spiritual gift of apostle manifested itself in different ways with different ministries and different effects, we see that some manifestations of the spiritual gift of apostle have passed away. Please recall that the separate spiritual gift of miracles may have accompanied the spiritual gift of apostle, so that the apostle may have been able to work miracles, to confirm his apostleship. Yet, not all apostles necessarily had the ability to work signs and miracles. Likewise, the spiritual gift of the word of wisdom has passed away, because the revelation of the mysteries of God has also ended because of the completion of the New Testament.
14.3.1 The Church Planting Apostles. The church-planting apostles included Barnabas (Acts 13:2, page 1724; 1 Thessalonians 1:1, page 1846), the friend of Saul of Tarsus and missionary companion of Paul. The church-planting apostles also included Andronicus and Junius (outstanding among the apostles (“ἀποστόλοις“), and in Christ before Paul (Romans 16:7, page 1780). Likewise, Sylvanus may be included among the church planting apostles and possibly Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1, page 1846; compare 1 Thessalonians 2:6, page 1847). Therefore, the spiritual gift of apostle in the sense of someone specifically gifted to go and start churches seems to be a viable gift today. Please recognize that these church-planting apostles did not all receive revelations, and all were not apparently eyewitnesses of the Lord Jesus. Only Paul was specifically mentioned as receiving such revelations from God, and also the only one specifically mentioned as seeing the resurrected Jesus. One may question whether all the church-planting apostles had seen the Lord Jesus after His resurrection, especially in light on Paul’s comment that he had seen the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:1, page 1791). Interestingly, Paul says the he has the right to take along a believing wife, even as (a) the rest of the apostles; and (b) the brothers of the Lord; and (c) Cephas (1 Corinthians 9:5, pages 1791-1792)? We learn several interesting points here about various people, so let us delve deeper here.
188.8.131.52 The Rest of the Apostles. Paul claimed authority equal to rest of the apostles (“οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοὶ“) (1 Corinthians 9:5, page 1792). Therefore, we may conclude that Paul recognized he was a part of a larger group of apostles. All of the these people took along (“περιάγειν”) a wife with them when they performed the work of an apostle.
184.108.40.206 The Brothers of the Lord. We know that the Lord Jesus had physical brothers born of Mary: James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon (Matthew 13:55-56, page 1525). Certainly James, the brother of the Lord, was an apostle (Galatians 1:19, page 1820). Therefore, Paul recognized a separate group he labelled the brothers of the Lord (“οἱ ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ κυρίου“), apparently the physical siblings of the Lord Jesus. Perhaps they were all apostles, but definitely not part of the Twelve, because they were unbelievers in John 7:5, pages 1667-1668. So, in this context of taking along a wife with doing the ministry of an apostle, the brothers of the Lord rank along with Paul. I add a word of caution here that I am not certain one could prove all the points above, but they seem to make the most sense of the context. Furthermore, Paul separated out Cephas from the Twelve, and it may be that the Twelve did not routinely journey as an apostle to plant churches (the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, even as the persecution following the death of Stephen arose–Acts 8:1, page 1713; compare Acts 9:32, where Peter traveled throughout the regions of Judea, Galilee and Samaria, building up the churches there and bringing comfort in the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31-21, page 1717; see also Galatians 2:11-21, page 1821, where Peter came to Antioch to preach and visit). We also note that the Jerusalem apostles sent (“ἀπέστειλαν”) the apostles John (the son of Zebedee) and Peter (both of the Twelve apostles) to Samaria, where they laid hands upon the new believers and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17, page 1714). Notice in passing that all the apostles acted in concert to send Peter and John. Yet, strong evidence exists in Acts 1:8, page 1699, that everyone of the Twelve apostles were sent into all the world, even its remotest parts (compare also Matthew 28:18-20, page 1557) ; Luke 24:46-48, “all the nations;”)
220.127.116.11 Cephas. Paul put Peter in a separate category here. Notice he did not put Peter first in the list, but last. Peter apparently was not the preeminent apostle, but rather the apostle to the Jews, as Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles.
18.104.22.168 Barnabas. Paul cited Barnabas as an apostle who also had the right to take along a wife (1 Corinthians 9:6, page 1792). As noted above, Barnabas first appears in Acts 4:36, page 1706, who was named Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth. Barnabas took Paul and introduced him to the apostles in Jerusalem after Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:27, page 1717). Notice that Barnabas was not one of the Jerusalem apostles at that time, and neither was Paul. Later, the Jerusalem apostles sent (“ἐξαπέστειλαν”) Barnabas to Antioch to encourage the Greeks who had believed there (Acts 11:21-2, page 1722). After both Paul and Barnabas had ministered for about a year in Antioch, the people of Antioch sent a financial gift to Jerusalem by the hands of Barnabas and Saul to the elders at Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30, page 1722). After Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch from Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit called (“προσκέκλημαι“) them and the elders sent (“ἀπέλυσαν“) them and the Holy Spirit sent them out (“ἐκπεμφθέντες”) to the work of spreading the Gospel and planting churches (Acts 13:1-4, page 1722). Therefore, we know that some work of the church planting apostles like Barnabas existed separately from the work of the Twelve apostles. No record exists that Barnabas saw the Lord Jesus after His resurrection, although someone may imply the same from Paul saying that Paul had seen the Lord Jesus, and then mentioned Barnabas in the same paragraph as an apostle, as described above in 1 Corinthians 9:1-7, page 1791-1792). So, Barnabas stands as a good example of a church-planting apostle, apparently called and gifted by the Holy Spirit to the work of planting new churches as an apostle. Therefore, taking all the verses together, the Holy Spirit may still bestow the spiritual gift of church-planting apostles upon some men today, but it would not be the same gift conferred upon Paul or the Twelve apostles.
22.214.171.124 Conclusion Regarding Church-Planting Apostles. So, we may conclude that the spiritual of gift of apostle, manifested with the church-planting ministry, may still be in effect today. These men have the spiritual gift of apostle that moves them to go into all the world to make disciples in new places, bringing the good news of Jesus Christ with them. This spiritual gift will be closely related to the spiritual gift of evangelism.
14.4.1 The Church Messengers as Apostles. As we saw above, Epaphroditus was the spiritual brother and fellow worker of Paul, and also his fellow soldier, and the messenger (“ἀπόστολον“) and minister (“λειτουργὸν“) sent from the Philippian church (Philippians 2:25, page 1837). Likewise, consider Silvanus and Timothy whom Paul called part of the ministry team of apostles laboring at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:6, page 1847 where Paul spoke concerning the authority of “apostles of Christ” (“Χριστοῦ ἀπόστολοι“); compare 1 Thessalonians 1:1, page 1846). In some cases, the church messengers brought gifts of money (e.g., Acts 12:30, page 1722) or went to investigate a matter (e.g., Barnabas sent to Antioch, Acts 11:22, page 1722).
14.4.2 Conclusion Regarding Church Messengers as Apostles. So, we also conclude that the spiritual gift of apostle, manifested as a church messenger ministry, may still be active today. These men have the spiritual gift of apostle that moves them to travel on behalf of a local church to carry messages and encouragement to the missionaries in foreign places and return to the local church with greetings, encouragement, and more from the missionaries.
15.1 Summary and Conclusion. The office of apostle no longer exists, but the spiritual gift of apostle may now continue in some ministries. The office of apostle terminated with the death of the last of the Twelve apostles. The spiritual gift of apostle no longer includes the work of revealing God’s Word contained in the New Testament. Therefore, an apostle like Paul or Peter no longer walks among us. But, the church-planting apostles like Barnabas, may still be laboring to establish new churches. Likewise, the church-messenger apostles, like Epaphroditus, may still be moving among believers to bring an encouraging and strengthening word to another church or church-planters.