Church Government According to the Bible 4

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Apostles

The word apostle is the Greek word apóstolos; meaning “To send; one sent, ambassador.”[1] It appears about 79 times in the New Testament. The Apostle of all apostles is Christ himself. Hebrews 3:1 tells us, “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.” (NIV) Jesus was sent by the Father; in the same way the apostles were sent by Christ. In his prayer to the Father in John 17:18 Jesus stated, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” John 17:18 (NIV) The word Sent here is the Greek word, apostéllō; meaning “To send off, forth, out.”[2] In Luke 6:12-13 Jesus introduced the disciples as apostles by stating,

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: (NASB 1995)

In Philippians 2:25 we also see the office of the apostle as an ambassador. Paul tells us, “But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.” (NIV) The word messenger here is also the Greek word apóstolos, same word use for ambassador. Therefor Epaphroditus was also an apostle. 

Some argue that the office of the Apostle does not exist any longer. I can see how folks could arrived at that conclusion. In Acts 1:21-23 the apostles are getting ready to replace Judas who betrayed Jesus and they state, 

Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” (NIV)

This is definitely speaking about that elite group of the 12 Apostles. Nobody else will ever be a part of that group because to be a part of that group you needed to be with the original apostles during the whole time they were with Christ. They needed to be eyewitnesses of Jesus’ baptism to his resurrection. Let me also make clear that to be an apostle you must be a man. 

These 12 apostles have certain distinctions. In Revelation 21:14, as the Apostles John is describing the New Jerusalem, he tells us, “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (NIV) This amazing honor is only applicable to the original 12 apostles. 

Up to this point we can say that if those are strictly the requirements of an apostle, the apostolic office died with that generation. However, we can argue against that because there is no biblical evidence that the Apostle Paul witness Jesus’ baptism or his resurrection. This reality requires for us to take a deeper look at this office. 

I believe that apostles still exist today, but I don’t believe there is an apostle in every corner. The whole list of apostles in the Bible is about 30, including the 12 original apostles and the one who substituted Judas.[3] Apostles in the Bible covered whole regions, cities, etc. Paul, for example was assigned to be the apostle to the Gentiles. In Romans 11:13 Paul tells us, “I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry.” (NIV).

We must also remember that the even as the New Testament covers from the times of Jesus to the end of this dimension of life, it was written in one generation. The whole New Testament was written by 9 men, one is unknown; the author of Hebrews.[4] About half of the New Testament was written by Paul. These nine men were contemporaries with each other. So, in a whole generation you have only 30 apostles for the whole known world at the time.  

Just as the times of the New Testament, we still have false apostles today. We have a responsibility to identify and call them out. In Revelation 2:2 Jesus is speaking to the Church of Ephesus, and He states, 

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.” (NIV)

The question is how do we identify the true apostles from the false ones? 

To be continued…


[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[3] https://www.peace.org.au/apostolic/the-apostolic-revelation/how-many-apostles-are-mentioned-in-the-bible

[4] https://www.bible-history.com/new-testament/authors.html

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