WERE THERE ONLY TWELVE APOSTLES?
In this conversation, we take a brief look at some of the New Testament scriptures that indicate the office of apostle was not limited to the 12 founding apostles, and as such is an ongoing office of the Lord for the present church.
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Sent: 12/16/2014 11:15:01 PM
Just some follow up to the conversation about apostles the other day. Here are scriptures for you to consider.
Acts 14:4, 14 – Barnabas was an apostle. He is never recorded as having seen Jesus. He was not one of the twelve
II Cor 8:23 –refers to Titus and Paul’s other fellow workers as apostles, however the word is usually translated messengers. But it is the word for apostles.
II Cor 11:13 – Paul refers to false apostles as contrasted to true apostles of Christ. If apostles only referred to the twelve founding apostles, this verse would be meaningless because everyone would have known that only the twelve were apostles. Nobody else would have been able to come along and claim apostleship. There would have been no such thing as “false apostles.” This verse only makes sense if others than the twelve are apostles. This also applies to Revelation 2:2 where the Ephesian church is commended for having tried those who claimed to be apostles. And inasmuch as Revelation is generally taken as the last book to have been written long after the deaths of all the other apostles except John, yet the message is for present tense hearers, it clearly indicates that apostles were expected to be functioning after the twelve original apostles had passed.
Gal. 1:19 – James the Lord’s brother is called an apostle. Yet he was not one of the twelve. Question: How did he come to be acknowledged as an apostle? By what process?
Phil 2:25 –Epaphroditus is called an “apostolos” (apostle) though usually translated messenger.
I Thess 2:6 – Paul identifies his entire party as apostles. This includes Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy (1:1).
Rev. 18:20—the angels tell all the saints, apostles and prophets to rejoice over the destruction of Babylon. The broad age-long context of this including v. 24 strongly intimates that many more than the twelve founding apostles are envisioned here.
Again, keep in mind that the apostles are seen as a twin office to the prophets (Eph. 2:20 / 3:5) and then altogether with the other offices (pastor, teacher, evangelist) in 4:11. Yet the office of the prophets is not delimited at all. Nor are any qualifications or identifiers named for prophets. Seeing as the twin office of prophets is so broadly undefined, it suggests that the office of apostles paired with it is to be understood the same way.
To me, there is enough cumulative specific and general evidence throughout the New Testament to show that the term apostle was not reserved to the founding apostles. And from all the evidence of how the word is used, it appears to apply to--
those who have a calling as emissaries who uniquely “build up” groups of people in both structural gathering and comprehensive structured understanding of the truth, many of whom perform signs and wonders, and a handful of whom first saw the Lord Himself.
What I just said is about the most complete definition of a New Testament apostle there is, based entirely in the evidence regarding those to whom the word is applied.
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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