You may not have noticed, but there is a trend surging in the modern Church. More and more men… and women, are calling themselves Apostle. You should wonder why.
What is an Apostle? Why are there so many today? It’s one thing so many people jump into the role of Pastor, not knowing what they are getting themselves into, but to call yourself an Apostle?
What Is An Apostle?
Apostles came into being during the time of Jesus’s ministry on earth. He initiated the Apostles personally. The word ‘Apostle' comes from the Greek word apostolos, which means “one sent from or forth, a messenger, delegate” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 99; Thayer, 1901, p. 68)
In context, they are the men Jesus sent forth with a specific purpose. We will discover more as we delve deeper…
Some people think the term is used in the New Testament in two distinct senses. It can refer to an person who is sent by other humans to carry out a particular mission or task. Or that an Apostle is one called and sent by Jesus. The fact is, a true Apostle was always chosen by the Holy Spirit, never by men!
Who Did Jesus Select As Apostles?
At the beginning of Christ’s ministry he hand-picked twelve men. These men are found in Matthew, chapter 10:2-4…
“Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.”
But did you know there were 14 Apostles in all? Most people know or have heard of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal and death.
“Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.” Matthew 27:3-5
The remaining eleven felt the need to replace him. And with good reason, because David spoke of it…
“Let his days be few; and let another take his office.” Psalms 109:8
So a disciple named Matthias became number thirteen and took Judas’ place. The process is important and will be discussed later. Saul, also called Paul, became the Apostle to the Gentiles after Jesus’ ascension. He is number fourteen.
And he is the last, as we will see…
How Were The Apostles Selected?
Many think the Apostles were just men Jesus instructed to follow him and were sent out. That can make it easy to say, “Jesus sent me to preach the gospel, so that makes me an Apostle!” Another can claim to have a vision or dream of Jesus calling them to apostleship.
Here’s the thing. All of the men selected by Jesus were “qualified” by certain events.
- First and foremost, they were called to ministry by Jesus himself or the Holy Spirit.*
- They were given the ability to heal the sick, cast out devils, and perform miracles.
- They were witnesses of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.*
- Others witnessed their calling by Jesus or the Holy Spirit to apostleship.*
No one outside of the fourteen can claim all three of the stared events above. Paul received a special dispensation. He himself stated he was “as one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:8). But read how Paul became an Apostle…
- Jesus physically met Paul and called him to the ministry on the road to Damascus.
- The men traveling with Paul heard Jesus make the announcement.
- Jesus called Ananias to witness Paul’s conversion and call to the ministry.
- Paul had the ability to perform miracles.
So even Paul qualified! You can read most of this in Acts 9:1-18.
What is the Work of an Apostle?
Jesus gave the Apostles gifts for a specific purpose. Here are those gifts:
- Cast out devils, heal the sick, raised the dead (Matthew 10: 8)
- Preach the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 10:7)
- Establish the Church (Matthew 16:18)
As you can see, Jesus gave the Apostles the ability to continue the work he began! Jesus told them they would do greater works. Those works were works of quantity, not quality (Who can improve upon God’s work?)!
They had no other purpose, no higher calling. Let me show you something interesting…
At the time Jesus imparted the power of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, the Church was yet being formed. The Apostles were the beginning. So, who benefitted from the gifts?
The gifts were NOT for the edification of the Apostles, but the people yet to be converted! Note what Jesus said here:
“And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
The people needed to believe. Jesus knew just preaching to them would do little without showing them that God the Father, through the Son, was in their midst.
The Apostles needed the same ability. Edification of the Church comes down to proving God is in and with us in the person of the Holy Spirit, and that the Word of God is true! It’s not about having the goodies to hoard and share among one another, or use to show off to the world! It is to convince those who do not believe.
“Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.” 1 Corinthians 14:22
They also learned from Jesus, the keys to the Kingdom. Jesus, the Son of God, came to bring us back into right fellowship with God the Father. The Church was to become the end-time ambassador of this good news!
And the Apostles were tasked and equipped to set it up and get it rolling!
Who Took The Apostles’ Place?
As we know, the Apostles were human and were not going to be around until Jesus returned. For that reason, you would think they would have raised up other Apostles to take their place. They did not.
Read what Paul said about Jesus:
“After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also,…” 1 Corinthians 15:7-9
Paul was the last one to see Jesus after his resurrection. Jesus appeared to no one else after that. Yes, I reiterated. And even if Christ did appear bodily to anyone else, unless they met the qualifications (that would make you older than Methuselah!), and are needed to help establish the Church (nope, already done…), you cannot be called an Apostle!
Also note that no one else is called an Apostle after Paul. Oh, wait, what about Barnabas?
“Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,” Acts 14:14
Because Barnabas was with Paul, he was considered an Apostle, but was not. In fact, Barnabas was actually a Prophet or Teacher…
“Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” Acts 13:1
Because Barnabas was travelling with Paul AND was sent out (Apostles = Sent Ones) by the Holy Spirit with Paul (Acts 13:2), it is assumed he was an Apostle. He was not.
Is Apostolic Succession Biblical?
In a word, no. Since the Church was established by the Apostles during the first century AD, there is no need for Apostles today. No one becomes a biblical Apostle by inheritance, ordination, or initiation.
One can only be ‘made’ or called to be an Apostle by Jesus! Scripture makes that very clear. So clear in fact, no less than nine New Testament verses mention Peter or Paul as an “apostle of Jesus Christ”. And some include the words, “by or through the will of God” or “by the commandment of God”.
Allow me to digress a bit, as I sometimes do. Those who believe in an ecclesiastical hierarchy believe in the concept of the ‘clergy or ministers’ and the ‘laity or members’, and a separation between the two. There is no such order in the New Testament Church. All are servants to God the Father and those who minister (preach and/or teach) the Gospel are servants to all!
“For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.” 2 Corinthians 4:5
Servants in that those who impart the Word of Truth serve that Word, in truth, to those that believe and will believe. Finally, The Apostles NEVER saw the people as those who are called to serve them or help them fulfill their ‘mission, calling, or vision’. Their only vision was Christ’s vision of doing the will of the Father!
What about those calling themselves Apostles today?
Well, what does the scripture say? Some are false apostles according to 2 Corinthians 11:13, but not all. Some are sincere and think they do service to the body of Christ. But they are sincerely in error.
Being an Apostle was a tough and lonely calling at times. And always dangerous. And again, if they were fulfilling the true call, they would have nothing to do!
The Church of Christ is here and has been for over two thousand years! It doesn’t need establishing. AND, it certainly doesn’t need anyone coming along thinking God has given them an extra-biblical or ‘inspired’ mandate to take over the world for Christ. Let me move on because now all I can think about is the cartoon “Pinky and the Brain”!
A Warning to the Church (This will be lengthy…)
Beware of people who desire ‘positions’. Yes, we are to desire gifts, but the word is GIFTS, not TITLES! Apostle is not a title by the way, but an office or more accurately, a level of responsibility. God does not hand out titles. Men do!
Those who desire to be Pastors, Teachers, Prophets, etc. really have no idea the amount and weight of responsibility they ask for! They must be more than readers of the Word, as most people are.
They must be students of the Word! They must strive for mastery, not only of the knowledge and ability to interpret it, but to live it out in their flesh! Many in positions today are high-minded, condescending, bossy, demanding, busy-bodies in the lives of the ecclesia, arrogant, and greedy. I could go on, but you know…
Many of these people are not called of God to the place they hold, or… dare I say it… are not yet truly regenerated. I can say that because of this…
“(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)” Ephesians 5:9
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:22-26
Those who God have called are careful how they speak to treat others. There is no question the Word of Truth is in their mouth. Not because they are charismatic or are great orators, but because they can rightly divide the Word, which is of the Holy Ghost.
They truly care about your eternal state and work hard to impart the knowledge that will help you secure your place as heirs and joint-heirs with Christ! And they walk in fear of the penalty for not doing their job well, not haughty as though they have everything under control.
Finally (but not lastly), they do not act as though their words are the final authority. They are not afraid of and insist you know God’s Word for yourselves. Why?
Because that was the mission of the Apostles…
“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” John 21:15-17
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts 20:28
“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1 Peter 5:2-4
No higher calling…