APOSTLE: A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE
I) APOSTLE DEFINED
A) GENERAL SENSE OF THE WORD APOSTLE: ONE SENT WITH A MESSAGE
Apostle from the Scripture text which is the Greek "apostolos" literally can be translated "one sent with a message" =
"apo" = from
"stello" = to send
From a Roman army context an apostolos would be a courier, a forerunner who brings an order from the general.
B) THE GENERAL SENSE OF APOSTLE AS IT APPLIES TO ALL BELIEVERS
The general sense of the word apostle as it applies to the Christian church is a reference to all believers who are to be messengers of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world in their daily lives as Ambassadors of the Messiah:
1) [Acts 14:4, 14]:
(v. 4) "The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles.
(v. 14) But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd."
2) [Ro 16:7]:
"Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was."
3) [2 Cor 8:22-23]:
(v. 22) "In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you.
(v. 23) As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives [=apostoloi] of the churches and an honor to Christ."
4) [Phil 2:25]:
"But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs."
5) [1 Thes 2:4-6]:
(v. 4) "On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.
(v. 5) You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed--God is our witness.
(v. 6) We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you,
(v. 7) but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children."
C) THE SPECIFIC OFFICE OF APOSTLE IN THE NT CHURCH AS A POSITION OF LEADERSHIP
1) THE OFFICE OF APOSTLE IS A POSITION OF LEADERSHIP
a) [Acts 1:21-22]:
(v. 21) "Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men [in order to replace Judas] who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
(v. 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 [the Apostles] of His resurrection."
The original 12 Apostles were so designated by Christ in Lk 6:13 from 12 of His disciples. They were to be in a position of leadership:
b) [Acts 1:20b]:
''' "For [referring to Judas' suicide and the need to replace him, (vv. 18-19)],' said Peter, 'it is written in the book of Psalms [69:25],
'May his [Judas'] place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,'
and, [Ps 109:8] "May another take his place of leadership."
2) THE APOSTLES HAD A ONE TIME HISTORICAL ROLE TO ESTABLISH THE CHURCH AND SET DOWN THE FINAL PAGES OF THE WORD OF GOD
Historically speaking the Apostles fulfilled a one time role to lead the body of Christ, the Church, and thereby establish the Church and set down the final pages of the Word of God. Once this was done, no other Apostles appeared on the scene of the type that fit all of the qualifications of Apostle, especially to accomplish such a purpose.
a) [Cp Mt 10:1-8, (cf Mk 3:13-19)]:
(v. 1) "He called His twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
(v. 2) These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;
(v. 3) Phillip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;
(v. 4) Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.
(v. 5) These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: 'Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.
(v. 6) Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
(v. 7) As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'
(v. 8) Heal the sick, raise the dead [notice even raise the dead], cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."
b) [Compare 1 Cor 4:1, 9]:
(v. 1) "So then let us [Apostles, (v. 9) be looked upon as ministering servants of Christ and stewards [trustees] of the mysteries - that is, the secret purposes of God.
(v. 9) "For it seems to me that God has made an exhibit of us Apostles, exposing us to view last [of all, like men in a triumphal procession who are] sentenced to death [and displayed at the end of the line]. For we have become a spectacle to the world - a show in the world's amphitheater - with both men and angels as spectators."
This passage continues to make the distinction between the Apostles and the general body of believers through verse 13 - suffering a great deal of persecution.
c) [Ephesians 2:19-20]:
(v. 19) "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, (v. 20) 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone."
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Styx/4119/spirit/proph3.htm:"A Biblical Analysis of the Gift of Prophesy"]:
"This is a crucial passage for understanding God's design for the office of prophet [and apostle] in the New Testament. Notice that it links with Christ, the cornerstone of the Church, the office of apostle and prophet as the foundation. The foundation - which by definition does not change, is unmovable, and inalterable. And so we note that just as Christ is a once-for-all and never to be repeated Cornerstone that was laid as part of the foundation of the Church, so also, the apostles and prophets are a once-for-all and never to be repeated aspect of the foundation.
In fact, it is this truth that has lead most Protestant churches to reject the theory of Apostolic Succession. As the office of apostle was foundational to the church now that we are beyond the foundation (not above it), we no longer have need of the office of apostle- and likewise prophet.
Now this raises the question: In what way is the office of prophet [and apostle] foundational to the Church? What does this mean? The answer is found in Ephesians 3:5.
d) [Eph 3:5]:
"Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit."
[Cornerstone Commentary, cont.]:
"Notice the function that Paul ascribes to the prophets in their foundational role in the church.. Paul does not speak about a prediction of the future when he refers to the "mystery" that has been "revealed". Instead, he describes the prophetic office as giving insight about a theology of the church. In other words, the prophetic office was to serve the role of clarifier of the truth in the apostolic age. And thus, we see another design behind the office of prophet: information. Information, or as we have said throughout this study, revelation.
To appreciate this design of the prophetic gift more fully, let me place the New Testament Church in its context for you. Upon the death and resurrection of Christ, God's people were in a time of transition. They were in the era of the New Covenant - the time prophesied in the Old Testament when God would write His laws on their heart. (Jeremiah 31:33) The heart of stone would be replaced with a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19) And yet they were still functioning solely according to Old Testament revelation. Now don't misunderstand. It is not that the Word of God as found in the Old Testament is inferior - it is just incomplete! In fact, the Word of God that would be needed to fully direct God's people during this time wouldn't be completed for another sixty years!
How then would God direct His church? How would God's New Covenant people fully know what God wanted them to do and be? Answer: Enter the prophetic office. It was the design of God that the prophetic office (together with the apostolic office) be used to found the Church until the completion of the canon. Thus in the New Testament God sent prophets [and apostles] to direct and lead His church. And so we see the office of prophet [and of apostle] being used by God throughout the New Testament to direct His church. Paul and Barnabas were sent out by a prophet. (Acts 13) Moneys were raised on account of a famine predicted by a prophet. (Acts 11:28) People were warned of impending doom by a prophet. (Acts 21:10) Theological controversy was decided by the declaration of a prophet. (Acts 15) O. Palmer Robertson wrote this:
'The first letter to the Corinthians was composed at a time when very little of the New Testament had been written. The church at that stage needed an authoritative word from the Lord to direct the pattern of their life under the new covenant. Very likely none of the inspired manuscripts of the New Testament were available to the Corinthians at this point in time.' (The Final Word, p. 18)
And so we see another design behind the gift of prophet: direction for the founding of the Church. Without this gift operative in the apostolic Church, the foundation of the New Testament church could not be laid. It was this gift that was used to direct the Church until the canon was closed."
3) THE SEVEN SIGNS OF AN APOSTLE
[C. I. Scofield states, The New Scofield Study Bible, NIV, New York, Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 984]:
"The word 'apostle' (Gk apostolos) means a messenger, one sent forth with orders. It is used concerning our Lord Himself (Heb 3:1). Elsewhere it is used of the Twelve, who were called to that office by our Lord during His earthly ministry; of Paul, called to the apostleship by the risen and ascended Lord; of Barnabas (Acts 14:14), specially designated by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2); and of Matthias, chosen by lot to take the place of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-26). Although Matthias is never actually referred to as an Apostle, it is said of him: 'so he was added to the eleven apostles.'
The 'signs of an Apostle' [i.e., the technical special spiritual gift of Apostle] were:
(1) They were chosen directly by the Lord Himself or, as in the case of Barnabas, by the Holy Spirit (Mt 10:1-2; Mk 3:13-14; Lk 6:13; Acts 9:6, 15; 13:2; 22:10, 14-15; Rom 1:1).
(2) They were endued with sign-gifts, miraculous powers which were the divine credentials of their office (Mt 10:1; Acts 5:15-16; 16:16-18; 28:8-9).
(3) Their relation to the kingdom was that of heralds, announcing, to Israel only (Mt 10:5-6), the kingdom as near (see Mt 4:17, note 9), and manifesting kingdom powers (Mt 10:7-8).
(4) Our Lord delegated, first to Peter (Mt 16:19) and then to the ramainder of the apostolate (Mt 18:18; Jn 20:21-23) on behalf of all Christians, the authority to deal with men's sins through the Gospel, under the the figure of 'the keys of the kingdom'
(5) The apostles' future relation to the kingdom will be that of judges over the twelve tribes (Mt 19:28).
(6) Consequent upon the rejection of the kingdom and the revelation of the mystery hidden in God (Mt 16:18; Eph 3:1-12), the Church, the apostolic office was invested with a new endowment, the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4); a new power, that of imparting the Spirit to Jewish believers in Christ; a new relation, that of foundation stones of the new temple (Eph 2:20-22); and a new function, that of preaching the glad tidings of salvation, through the crucified and risen Lord, to Jew and Gentile alike.
(7) It is implied that an Apostle was one who was an eyewitness of the resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor 9:1), i.e., he must have seen the risen Lord. There is no N.T. record that Barnabas, called an apostle in Acts 14:14, saw Christ after His resurrection, but if such a qualification was implicit in apostleship, he must have been such an eyewitness.
II) PAUL'S APOSTLESHIP HAD A DIFFERENT MISSION FOR THE LORD
Paul referred to himself as an Apostle of different designation than the 12 Apostles:
A) [1 Cor 9:1]:
"...Am I not an Apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an Apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my Apostleship in the Lord."
B) [Cp Ro 11:13]:
"I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the Apostle to the Gentiles....."
Acts 9:15 authenticates God the Son, our Lord's appointment of Paul:
C) [Acts 9:15]:
"But the Lord [Jesus Christ] said to Ananias, 'Go! This man [Paul] is My chosen instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.' "
D) [Cp Gal 2:6-8]:
(v. 6) "As for those who seemed to be important - [Apostles and leaders of the church in Jerusalem, (vv. 1-5)] whatever they were makes no difference to me [Paul]; God does not judge by external appearance - those men added nothing to my message.
(v. 7) On the contrary, they say that I [Paul] had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews.
(v. 8) For God Who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an Apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an Apostle to the Gentiles."
III) APOSTLE WHEN IT REFERS TO OUR LORD
Our Lord uses this word "Apostolos" to describe His relation to God (Heb 3:1, Jn 17:3) - a unique relationship known only to Jehovah God the Son Who in His Apostleship of God the Father reveals His Glory as only Jehovah God the Son can.
A) [Jn 17:3]:
"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God Whom you have sent: Jesus Christ"
IV) THE FALSE CONCEPT OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH FATHERS
Apostolic church fathers is a phrase used by some to refer to the earliest Christian writers outside of the writers of the New Testament. They belong to time between A.D. 80 and 180.
Actually there were only thirteen Apostles the original twelve disciples and one to replace Judas and then the Apostle Paul. The spiritual gift of Apostle was a special gift which God gave to these thirteen men during the early church years to evangelize the world, church plant and lead the spiritual growth of the early churches in a highly authoritative manner evidencing all the miraculous spiritual gifts including healing, raising from the dead, prophecy, tongues and power of life and death over individuals in order to authenticate their office of Apostle.
Thereafter, no one evidenced such spiritual gifts or authority so the idea of the early church leaders being called Apostolic Fathers is a misnomer perpetrated by a number of church organizations in order to usurp the authority of the individual believer - violating the private priesthood of the believer and attempting to dictate to him how to run his spiritual life when that is a matter between himself and God.