“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11).
The word “apostle” is a Greek word which comes from the ancient military language of the Athenian Navy. Its meaning comes from the way in which it was used.
In anticipation of a sea battle, the Armada was assembled and one of the admirals was chosen to be the Apostle. This means that he was made the supreme commander with the highest rank and given absolute authority over the fleet. He alone had the battle plans. And so, by application, Apostles were “ones sent with absolute authority” (spiritual dictatorship) over the churches.
A SPIRITUAL GIFT (1 Corinthians 12:28)
Apostleship is a spiritual gift, sovereignly bestowed by God the Holy Spirit, “to every man severally as He will” (1 Cor. 12:11), and by the Lord Jesus Christ Who “…gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). A spiritual gift, including the gift of apostleship, is a matter of grace. It is not a matter of earning or deserving it. This stands in contrast to a natural ability or talent which is inherited or acquired. Apostleship is not inherited or acquired but is a grace gift; it cannot be transmitted to others. The Apostles could appoint elders or other leaders and teachers in the churches, and they could authorize them to assume special responsibilities, but apostolic authority could NOT be transferred. Their authority does not exist today. There is no perpetuation of apostleship today!
TWO GROUPS (Galatians 2:7-9)
Yes, just as there are two churches: the Kingdom Church (Mt. 16:18) with Christ as King (Lk. 1:32-33) and the Body Church with Christ as the Head (Eph. 5:22), there are two sets of Apostles mentioned in the Bible. In fact, it was agreed that Apostles should be divided into separate groups. Paul and Barnabas were to concentrate on the evangelization of Gentiles with the “Gospel of Uncircumcision,” while Peter, John and James (the Lord’s half brother) were to continue evangelizing Jews with the “Gospel of Circumcision” (Gal. 2:7-9).
The word “Apostle” is used of the Twelve Disciples, whom Jesus sent out two by two during His ministry in Galilee (Mk. 3:14; 6:30). These Kingdom Apostles were named in Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19 and Acts 1:13, and were given to Israel and the Messianic Kingdom (Mt. 10:5-6).
- Peter (Simon Peter)
- James, son of Zebedee (brother of John)
- John, brother of James (writer of 1st, 2nd, 3rd John and Revelation)
- Andrew (Peter’s brother)
- Philip, the evangelist
- Thomas (doubting Thomas)
- Bartholomew (also called Nathaniel)
- Matthew (the Publican, tax collector, and writer of Mat- thew)
- James, the son of Alphaeus
- Simon Zelotes (the Zealot, Simon the Canaanite)
- Judas, the brother of James (Lebbaeus, surnamed Thaddaeus)
- Judas Iscariot (the betrayer of Christ)
The Apostles mentioned in Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12:28 are Apostles given to the Body Church and are related to the Church’s heavenly calling. They are eight in number and are identified as follows:
- Paul (Gal. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:12-16; 1 Cor. 15:7-10)
- Barnabas (Acts 14:14; Gal. 2:9)
- Apollos (1 Cor. 4:6-9)
- Silas/Sylvanius (1 Thess. 1:1, 6, 9; 2:4, 6)
- Timothy (1 Thess. 1:1, 6, 9; 2:4, 6)
- Sosthenes (1 Cor. 1:1; 4:9)
- Andronicus ($om. 16:7)
- Junia (Rom. 16:7)
AN EYE WITNESS (Acts 1:21-22)
An Apostle must be an eye witness to the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8-9). Both James (Jn. 7:5) and Paul were “Johnny-come-lately” to see the resurrected Christ (1 Cor. 15:7-8; Acts 9:1-7), but were given the gift of apostleship. Paul did not become one of the “Twelve” but became the “wise masterbuilder” (1 Cor. 3:10) of the Body Church and James became one of the “pillars” of the Kingdom Church.
A SPECIAL POWER (1 Corinthians 12:12)
An Apostle was given the power to temporarily perform miraculous physical healings (Mt. 210:1-2). This power was God’s means of establishing both the validity of the message and to sustain the Apostle’s authority (Acts 5:15; 16:16-18; 19:11-12; 28:8-9). This is true of both the Kingdom Apostles and the Body Apostles. This power was gradually removed with the death and absence of Apostles. Paul did not have the gift of healing at the end of his life; it was removed from him before he died—some ten years before in 57 AD (2 Cor. 12:6-10; Phil. 2:27; cf., 2 Tim. 4:20).
THE CANON OF SCRIPTURE (2 Timothy 4:6-7)
The gift of apostleship was designed to carry believers of both the Kingdom and Body Church, during the absence of Christ from earth until the completion of the Canon of Scripture. Therefore, this gift carried both absolute authority in administration, both verbal and written communication. With the completed Canon of Scripture, the gift is removed and the gift of the Word of God is left in place of the gift of an Apostle. This is clearly evidenced by the last words of both the Apostle Paul (2 Tim. 4:6-7) and the Apostle Peter (2 Pet. 1:14). Paul said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of ‘God” (2 Tim. 3:16), and Peter said, “…Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21).
The completed Canon of Scripture is the criteria by which the gift of Apostle, with its power and authority over the churches, was withdrawn. The Canon of Scripture (66 Bible books) is now the absolute authority in judging all phases of faith and practice.
Apostles once received direct revelation from God, and exercised authority over ALL the churches; however, all revelation and authority is vested today in the Word of God. Today no one has the right to exercise authority over more than one church. No one today has or will reach apostolic stature (2 Cor. 12:12). No human being can perform miracles at will today. Today the local church draws its authority and power from the Word of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit in the believer; thus, it becomes self-sustaining and self-governing.
(1) The number “twelve” is important, since it corresponds to Christ’s promise to the Kingdom Apostles that they would receive twelve thrones of authority from which they would ruse the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt. 19:28).
(2) Now, concerning Matthias and James, the half brother of Christ. In my mind, there must be some question as to the validity of the election of Matthias (Acts 1:23-26). True, he fellowshipped with the Kingdom Church and he was numbered with the Apostles as a result of an election; but as we have already pointed out, the gift of apostleship is ALWAYS a sovereignly-bestowed grace gift. It is not given by an election. It is my person opinion that James, the half brother of Christ, and the obvious leader of the Kingdom Church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13; Gal. 1:19; 2:9; cf. Acts 21:18-20), was the Apostle ordained of God to replace Judas Iscariot.