Wednesday, July 19, 2006

apostle

What is an apostle? What does it mean to be an apostle? What makes one an “apostle”? Are there modern day apostles, or was this only a first century anomaly in the Church? These are the questions that I want to address.

To set the stage for this investigation, I want to briefly look at baptism. Just like the word apostle, we get the name or action of baptism as a result of a transliteration of a Greek word. The Greek root word for baptism is baptizw (bap-ti-zo). It literally means to to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge.1 The point that I want to make is that instead of translating this word into English, the translators just wrote the same Greek word in English. This is not normal when translating material except when translating proper names. For instance, the English word “man” or “mankind” when it appears in the New Testament usually comes from the Greek word anqrwpoV (an-throw-pos) and we get the name for the scientific study of human beings, anthropology, from this Greek word. The point is that the translators used a word that was already in the language of the hearers instead of transliterating this word for man or mankind. A possible equivalent way that they could have translated the word “baptizw“ instead of just transliterating it into “baptize” would have been to write something like this:

"I immersed you with water; but He will immerse you with the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:8)

Leaving aside the debate about how we are to observe baptism (whether it is to dip, dunk, splash, sprinkle, or whatever) the meaning of the passage as it was communicated by Christ is clearer. We make a few mistakes, if we are not careful, when we read the passage with the word “baptize” in it. First of all, we may think that we need to be sprinkled, dipped, dunked, or splashed with the Holy Spirit if we don’t understand what Jesus is truly saying. We also might connect the indwelling of the Spirit of God with a physical act, and thereby make salvation available by undergoing some form of water baptism.

The Greek word that is behind the English word “apostle” is the word apostoloV (a-pos-tol-os) and it is transliterated in the same way as “baptize” is. So, in order to understand who or what an apostle is, we need to articulate what the word or title of apostoloV would have meant to the readers back when the New Testament was written.

The Greek word for apostle literally means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders”2 and it also contains the idea that the person referenced has authority by the one who sent him out. So, in the most literal sense of the word, an apostle of Jesus Christ is a person telling about Jesus Christ (being a messenger) who clearly and unapologetically speaks the truth of God as communicated to him (authority).

It seems that all of the disciples of Christ were also called Apostles and held a special apostolic office. This office was of supernatural commission and had supernatural power to authenticate the message that they brought. We see that Jesus gave His disciples special power over unclean spirits and over sickness (Matthew 10:1-4) and that all of 12, even Judas Iscariot, were commissioned in the same way. After the declaration of the power given to them, they were referred to as apostles for the first time.

Luke refers to Paul and Barnabas as apostles (Acts 14:14) and it seems that Paul indicates that there were many apostles over and above the 12.3 The clearest indication that there were a number of men who were apostles is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” (1 Corinthians 15:5-8)

The James who is specifically mentioned above would seem to be the half brother of Jesus. Both James and Jude were the natural sons of Joseph and Mary.4 We also see Paul reference James specifically in another letter, “But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord's brother.” (Galatians 1:19) He was clearly not one of the 12 disciples, but he was one of Jesus’ many siblings. “He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? ‘Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?’” (Matthew 13:54,55)

However, one of the clearest indications that an apostle is someone who goes out with power and authority by the one who does the sending as opposed to a title only reserved for the 12 close disciples of Jesus is found in the book of Hebrews. “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;” (Hebrews 3:1). Here we see that Jesus Christ Himself is an apostle from God. This does not negate or diminish His deity or any of His other attributes in the same way that being called our High Priest or our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) does not diminish this but serves to describe different parts of His ministry.

It seems that an apostle of Jesus Christ is someone who goes out to represent Him and speaks with the authority that He has given. I also believe that there was a special apostolic office that was only around during the first century where men spoke and wrote the infallible word of God for the people to hear, believe, and obey. Once the scriptures were completed, there was no need to have more apostolic teaching because the teaching was already contained in the written word. So in the sense of the power (to do miracles) and authority (to speak and write the infallible word of God) of the apostles that we see recorded in the Bible, that office no longer exists. However, in the sense that believers are sent by Christ and have the power of His Word (the Bible) to bear witness of Christ and to seek and save the lost, there are apostles today.

In short, the word “apostle” is not intended, and should not be limited, to only refer to the 12 men who made up the inner circle of the followers of Jesus. It was applied to many different individuals, including Christ Himself, and was referring to someone who was sent and had authority.


1 Thayer and Smith. "Greek Lexicon entry for Baptizo". "The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon". . 1999.

2 Thayer and Smith. "Greek Lexicon entry for Apostolos". "The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon". . 1999.

3 After Judas betrayed Christ and killed himself, another man took his place and was numbered with the 12.

4 Joseph and Mary were not to be intimate until after Christ was born (Matthew 1:25), Luke refers to Christ as Mary’s firstborn son (Luke 2:7) and not her only son, and the word adelfoV (ah-del-fahs) that we see in Matthew 13:55 most properly refers to brothers, not cousins or other close kin.

9 comments:

return to righteousness said...

Paul was not named an apostle as recorded in Matthew chapter 10. If you still believe Christ made Paul Apostle (the 13th apostle) then you must note that prophecy into the future, by,Jesus, confirms Paul could not be and apostle and Christ tells us he has twelve apostles, not 13(paul);

Revelation 21:14:14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.


Christ tells that the CHurch at Ephesus knew whom the false apostles were:

To the Church of Ephesus, Revelation 2:2:

2I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

Paul told Ephesus he was an apostle:

Ephesians 1:1
1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus

Paul admits his Epheus "Believed Not his gospel:

Acts 19:8,9:

8And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. 9But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.

EJ said...

to Return to Righteousness:

I honestly don't know what to say. It would seem that you didn’t even read the article that your comment is attached to, nor do you seem to understand what an apostle is.

Jesus Christ is called an apostle in Hebrews; He is the ultimate apostle in the sense that He was representing the Father on earth as the incarnate 2nd Person of the Trinity.

If you reject the Pauline Teachings, you reject all of the teachings of Paul and John as well because they didn't denounce his teachings but Peter affirmed Paul and his writings (which contained his claims to apostleship).

Know that you are outside of anything that could be called historical Christianity, and that your language and your writings seem to be a throwback to the Judiizers that were trying to say that we are saved by works of the law (Acts 15) instead of by faith alone in the finished work of Christ on the Cross.

Know that if you believe that salvation is the result of any amount of our works, then you contradict the whole purpose of the law and you contradict Christ Himself (John 3 and John 6:35-41 make it clear that it is God's work that saves us).

If you believe that your works make you acceptable to God, then you mock the cross of Christ, and on the Day of Judgment He will say to you, "Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." (Matthew 7:23)

I say these harsh, but true, words in an effort to beg you to cast aside all trust in your works to save you, and trust only in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone.

Leonard Ravenhill said...

EJ,
I really enjoyed your look at what an apostle is, for a backslidden Pentecostal it was relatively objective. I was thinking about the secessionist view of the different gifts and I can't help but wonder if the secessionist view is ethnocentric. As you may know I have a good friend who works with the underground house churches in China, and they report signs and wonders and miracles. I also think of the work of Gospel for Asia and the miracles and the testimonies of the "prophetic" that happens with the native missionaries. I have experienced seeing that sort of think when I was in Peru with the Christians there. Much of what I hear Mc Arthur especially speak on seems to be steeped in western experience and the false prophets that seem to their own satellite networks. But God's church is a global body not just centered in the west and the testimonies and experiences of believers outside of our educated western mind set has led me to reject my secessionist upbringing because it didn't fit with God's church universally.

Marc said...

ej,

You may enjoy reading the Ministry of an Apostle by Clifford Rice. I met brother Rice and spent some time with him while doing mission work in Mexico in 1986. I was truly blessed by the Lord's work in and through him.

You may read this piece in html or pdf here:

http://www.spiritoffire.org/ebooks/THE%20MINISTRY%20OF%20THE%20APOSTLEThe%20Origin.htm
or
http://www.spiritoffire.org/downloads/THE%20MINISTRY%20OF%20THE%20APOSTLEThe%20Origin.pdf

I personally believe that many cross-cultural missionaries that are active in Church Planting and discipleship hold the office and ministry of an apostle.

By His Grace,

Marc

return to righteousness said...

Hi,

THis was one of the sites I helped get my thoughts from:

http://www.judaismvschristianity.com/paulthe.htm

EJ said...

my comment will be in my next post coming today.

Marc said...

R2R...be very, very careful what you accept from this site. In the statement of faith found here:

http://www.judaismvschristianity.com/statement.htm

He says, "Contrary to popular Jewish and Christian tradition, there are many gods. (See John 10:32-36 & Psalm 82:6). YHWH The Father is the "Most High" God, from whom all others owe their existence. We are to have no "other" god "before" (above) Him."

The scripture says,

"Isa 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:

Isa 45:6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else."

And

Deu 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

And

Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Joh 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.

Joh 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Joh 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Here I was thinking that you were coming to all your conclusions through your own zealous study of the word and instead you have been following the teachings polytheist.

Run away from such teachings! They will lead you astray to other gods (read demons).

Marc

return to righteousness said...

Hi again,

How I first came to conclude Paul as a teacher contrary to Christ:

I was in the word, Paul's infact when it was apparent that he taught contrary to Christ. Later I went online and did a search to see if others had the same inclination...that is one of the sites that came up.

I was reading Paul's writings (as a believer)... He said, Be ye followers of me (Paul)...
THat is so contrary to what Christ taught... Christ tells us to DENY ourselves, and follow him. Tha t is what hit me and hit me hard. I know because I had been denying myself and choosing to follow Christ in regards to wealth and helping others. Also, deciding to be observant in the sabbath.

Anyhow...

THat's how the first inclination to Paul as a false apostle came up.

Joey J said...

I guess you could say that he had an Undercover Brother....
http://www.undercover-brother.com/

That's the link I found that may help this conversation. Just trying to help. Have a good one!

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