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Who is an Apostle? – A Study

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11)

The apostle is a gift given by Jesus Christ to the Church. It is a calling. There is a belief that the office of apostleship discontinued with the 12 apostles. However, the Bible doesn’t teach that.

The 12 Apostles

The 12 apostles (with Mattias as the 12th in place of Judas) were foundational to the early Church. The Bible tells us that the Church is founded on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the Chief Cornerstone.

Eph 2:20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,

Therefore, faithfulness of the Church was judged by their faithfulness to the apostles’ doctrine. See the following verses:

Act 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
2Pe 3:2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior,
Jud 1:17 But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ:

The 12 apostles along with the elders (among whom was James, the brother of Jesus) at Jerusalem had authoritative position in all matters of doctrine pertaining to the Church universal.

Act 15:2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
Act 15:4 And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.
Act 15:6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.
Act 15:22 Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.

Though Paul and Barnabas were apostles who were first sent from Antioch, where they returned and remained, they came to Jerusalem when the dissension arose.

When Philip preached in Samaria, it was the apostles from Jerusalem who came and established things there (See Acts 8).


Paul, Barnabas, Silas and others

We read of Paul, Barnabas, and Silas in Acts 13 as:

Act 13:1 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

But, after the Church had prayed for them and sent them according to the will of the Holy Spirit, they are referred to as apostles in Chapter 14:

Act 14:4 But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles.
Act 14:14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude…

Paul makes it clear that an apostle is not ordained by any church. One cannot be ordained as an apostle. An apostle is Christ’s gift to the Church (Eph.4:11).

Gal 1:1 Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),

He refers himself as an apostle many times and talks of himself as an apostle to the Gentiles:

Rom 11:13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles

He also talks of the signs of an apostle.


Who is an Apostle?

An apostle is neither someone who claims by himself to be an apostle nor a title that someone can assume. It is a calling and the true apostle shall be known by their fruits.

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. (2Co 11:13-15)

How was Paul able to discern these as false apostles?
Of course, by their fruits, their works. They were “deceitful workers”.

In contrast, see the work style of Paul:

For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness–God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe;
(1Thess 2:3-10)

So, who is an apostle?

1. An apostle is someone sent (Gk. apostolos) by Jesus Christ to bear witness of Him (Matt 28:18ff; Acts 1:8; Gal.1:16)
2. An apostle possesses apostolic authority (Acts 5; 2Cor 13:10)

“according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction.” (2Cor 13:10).

3. An apostle preaches the Gospel with the demonstration of power.

2Co 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.

1Co 2:4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
1Co 2:5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Heb 2:3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,
Heb 2:4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?

4. An apostle lays, with the authority of Christ, the foundation of a church through the expounding of the Gospel, the establishment of faith, doctrine, and order in the Church.

Eph 2:20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
Act 15:41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Rom 15:20 And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation,
1Co 3:10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.
1Co 3:11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Heb 6:1-2 the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

He may remain in a place for a very long time till the church there is fully established and till the Holy Spirit wishes him to move.

5. An apostle is has the authority of a spiritual father over those who have been established in faith through him. He is the one whom the church imitates.

For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me.
(1Co 4:15-16)

In that area, he is more important than ten thousand instructors or teachers who come and go.
6. An apostle has concern for the local churches (not one but many that he has founded).

2Co 11:28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.

7. The apostle is known by his works. His work is the seal of his apostleship.

1Co 9:1 Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?
1Co 9:2 If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
2Co 3:1-3 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Who is an Apostle? – A Study

  1. Ts nice to read all ds articles based n apostle bt pls,cud yhu send mi list of writes dat have written on the subject apostle

    Posted by Obisesan ayodele | October 24, 2012, 2:23 am

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