Are there any Biblical apostles today?
by Roscoe J.
No, there are no Biblical apostles today in the sense of men who fill the scriptural office and possess the spiritual gift of being an apostle, 1 Corinthians 12:28.
Although some Christians believe that apostles working wonders, with signs and miracles, has been "normal Christianity" for the last two thousand years, the facts of history and scripture rightly divided, disagree.
Since those who profess to be apostles today use the Acts of the Apostles to "prove" that they are also apostles, wise Christians will keep the following facts in mind.
A. The book of Acts is a transitional book, from ministry to Israel to ministry to Gentiles.
B. When the events in Acts 2 took place, there was no New Testament. None of the New Testament had been written at that early date. For that reason, God used signs and wonders to authenticate the preaching of the apostles whom Jesus had chosen.
C. The Greek word, ἀπόστολος (apostle) is found 81 times in 80 verses in the Greek New Testament. In the KJV, it is usually translated as some form of the English word, apostle.
D. Jesus is not in His eartly ministry to Israel, as he was when He personally chose twelve disciples to fill the office of apostle as they ministered to Israel together before the crucifixion and resurrection.
For these reasons, it is wise to remember that there are no apostles today in the sense of the Biblical apostles in Matthew 10, Luke 6, Acts 2, 1 Cor 12:28.
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- There were many disciples but most of the disciples were not called apostles.
a. The original twelve apostles were personally chosen by our Lord, Luke 6:12-13 and were given the spiritual gift of apostleship, 1 Corinthians 12:31.
b. The original twelve apostles had personally participated in and played an integral part in our Lord's earthly ministry for 3.5 years, Acts 1:21.
c. The original twelve apostles had received the baptism of repentance by John the Baptist, Acts 1:22.
d. The apostles Jesus chose personally witnessed their resurrected Savior, Acts 1:21-22.
- There are a few others in the Bible who were called apostles but there is no Biblical record that they exercised the same kind of apostolic authority as the original twelve. The original Twelve plus Matthias who replaced Judas Iscariot, Acts 1:23-26, and the apostle Paul were "apostles of Christ," 2 Cor 11:13, 1 Thess 2:6.
Barnabas and others listed below were called apostles in the sense of "messengers" sent by God were apostles or "messengers" of the churches, 2 Cor 8:23.
a. Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot, Acts 1:23-26 - "Matthias... he was numbered with the eleven apostles." See also Ac 6:2, Luke 24:9, 33.
b. The apostle Paul, 1 Cor 15:9 - was "the least of the apostles" whose apostleship was "out of due time," 1 Corinthians 15:8. Paul had a special gift and calling from God to be an apostle on a level with the original twelve, Romans 1:1.
c. Andronicus and Junia, Romans 16:7, "who are of note among the apostles." - apostles of the churches.
d. Barnabas, Acts 14:4 - "the apostles, Paul and Barnabas." - Barnabas was an apostle of the churches.
e. James, the Lord's brother, Galatians 1:19 - "the apostles... James the Lord's brother." - James was an apostle of the churches.
f. Jesus Himself, Hebrews 13:1 - "Jesus the Apostle..."
- Judas is the only one of the original twelve apostles who was replaced. He was replaced by Matthias, Acts 1:23-26. There is no Biblical indication that any other of the original twelve apostles was replaced when he died.
If it was God's will that there constantly be apostles on earth like the original twelve, we would expect to see the apostle James replaced after his death in Acts 12:2. However, nothing in the Bible indicates that James was replaced.
- The language of 1 Corinthians 12:28, using the word "first..." and then the words, "after that," indicates chronological progression in time, not that the church would always have men with the same gift of apostleship that Jesus gave His original twelve apostles.
- Paul refers to himself as "the apostle of the Gentiles," not an apostle of the Gentiles. In plainer words, in the Bible, there was one apostle to the Gentiles, not many apostles to the Gentiles, even though many of Paul's companions were sent to the Gentiles.
The narrowly focused, specific definition of a Biblical apostle denotes the scriptural office as an apostolic gift, 1 Cor 12:31. That gift must be differentiated from the more general use of the word, apostle, in which a Christian sent by God can be called an apostle, meaning simply: one whom God has sent.
Calling someone an apostle in the general sense does not mean that individual holds the office of an apostle or possesses the spiritual gift of apostleship (including power to do sign gifts wonders and healings) which Jesus gave to His original twelve apostles.
For example, we might say of someone who is especially kind and loving, "(S)he is an angel." We don't literally mean an angel in the sense of that race of created beings who dwell with God in heaven. We are using the word angel in a general sense when we describe a fellow human being.
In the same way, we can refer to some Christians as apostles in a general sense without intending to convey the impression that they hold the Biblical office of an apostle, with the Biblical authority and implications and powers that conveys.
Are we making
an artificial distinction?
No, we are making a Biblical distinction. In 1 Cor 12:29, Paul asks rhetorical questions, to all of which, the correct answer is, No.
"Are all apostles?" The correct answer is No, all are not apostles. We can certainly say that all Christians are chosen of God and sent for specific purposes but according to the Bible, all are not apostles because all Christians have not been given the gift of apostleship.
Christians are told to "covet earnestly the best gifts," indicating that the gifts Paul just listed in 1 Cor 12, including being an apostle, are gifts not possessed by every Christian.
- The Bible warns of "false apostles," 2 Cor 11:13. The way to tell a false apostle is found in
2 Cor 12:12. "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds."
A true apostle had spiritual power from God to perform miracles which glorify God (not the apostle) and which authenticate the Biblical message because the New Testament had not then been completed, Acts 5:12-16, Romans 15:18-19, Acts 19:11-12, Hebrews 2:4.
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This page revised March 26, 2014