SPOTLIGHT ARTICLES

Christian Living
Essentials of Faith
Evidences for Faith
Applying Your Faith

Are There Apostles Today?

This is an important question concerning Apostolic authority of divine witness and eternal truths.  It is key to understand what an Apostle IS, understanding the different types of apostles, their qualifications and validations, and then we can determine if there are Apostles today.


What is an Apostle?

Paul states in Ephesians 4:11-12 " And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,  for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ".  We see the uniqueness of the position.  An Apostle is not a prophet and is not the same as an evangelist.  Although, an Apostle can be an evangelist in purpose and change in position, but their roles are distinct.  "Some as apostles" denotes a special and unique office. 

Before Christ, there were not Apostles.  Then, Jesus Christ chose 12.  When Judas left the group and committed suicide he was replaced.  It is important to see that Judas' replacement was not ever called an Apostle, but someone who is just filling in the office (Acts 1:20).  The actual person chosen by Christ was later identified as Paul.  Thus we can see that one of the primary qualifications of Apostle ship is a direct literal choosing from Jesus himself (Mark 3:16-19).

The first qualification for The Office of Apostle was being appointed by Jesus Christ himself on a personal intimate level.  Matthias was not chosen by Jesus Christ himself in the same way the others had been.  Therefore he was just filling in for the person who would later be directly and literally chosen by Jesus himself. 

The second qualifications for Apostle was someone who were witnesses of the resurrected Christ with the other 11 appointed Apostles (Acts 1:22).  This was Matthias, except, he wasn't appointed by Christ himself.  Therefore he was just filling in until the actual Apostle was chosen.  He was given the gift of apostleship.  There is a difference between the Office of Apostle and the gift of apostleship.  In Acts 5:32, Peter and the other Apostles point out that they were eye witnesses just as Luke 1:1-4 also states.

The Office of Apostle are those who were tasked with setting the foundations of the church.  The Holy Spirit states "having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone"  (Ephesians 2:20).  The entire church and all that it believes and teaches were founded by The Prophets of the Old Testament and The Apostles of the New Testament with Jesus Christ as the corner stone of it all.

Jesus stated “He who receives you (The Apostles) receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me” (Mt 10:40).  Jesus exclusively promised the Twelve that the Holy Spirit “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jn 14:26).  In Acts, Luke records specifically that the early church continually devoted "themselves to the apostles’ teaching"
(Ac 2:42). 

Who was the later 12th Apostle to fill the office of Apostle?

This person met both qualifications for the Office of Apostle; Paul.  He makes some very important statements about holding the Office of Apostle.  First, he was a witness of the risen Christ (1 Cor. 9:1, 15:8) and second, he was chosen by Christ himself for this office (Gal. 1:1).  But then he states "and LAST OF ALL"  meaning that he was the last whom the risen Christ appeared to and appointed to the Office of Apostle (1 Cor. 15:8).  What was he Last of all of?  The Office of Apostle.

Did the Office of Apostle End?

Paul stated the he was the last one called to fill the office of Apostle (1 Cor. 15:8) and from that point on, the Office of Apostle was referenced in past tense.  Jude, the half brother of Jesus states "I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints."  Those who heard and performed miracles to validate what they witnessed first hand is described in past tense by the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 2:3-4).  Peter even states "that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken [past tense] by your apostles." (2 Peter 3:2).  The Apostles themselves (Peter) speak of the Office as such an office that was limited.  Paul himself says he was the last one.  This is where they make the distinction between Office of Apostle and gift of apostleship.  As mentioned above, the early church continually devoted "themselves to the apostles’ teaching" (Ac 2:42). 

What is the gift of apostleship?

There were many who were gifted with the gift of apostleship.  James (1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19), Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14; 1 Corinthians 9:6), Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7), possibly Silas and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:7), and Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6, 9).  But how was their role and position different from the Office of Apostle?  The Office of Apostle is the specific reference to those who were hand picked by Jesus and who had witnessed the risen Christ first hand.  The gift of apostleship refers to those who continued the gospel message with authority for establishing the universal church.  Paul discipled and entrusted Timothy with the gospel message.  He carried that message with him to wherever Paul sent him, with authority.   Those with the gift were not eye witnesses but were commissioned by those who held the office to delegate with their authority.  We see that apostles were not stationary.  They would travel to a location, disciple an elder and move on. They were concerned with the universal church more than the local church.  Does this mean there are those who are gifted with apostleship now?  We will touch on this later.

Validation

The Apostles and those gifted with apostleship could be validated in a number of ways.  First, they could be tested with God's word.  Paul praised the Bereans for testing him with scripture
(Acts 17:10-11).  And that if anyone, including the apostles themselves, began teaching something different than that which was first proclaimed, they were wrong, false, and cursed (Galatians 1:8-9).  Those gifted with apostleship were validated by the Apostles themselves, with scripture, and with the God glorifying signs and wonders they did.  Therefore, if anyone who claims to hold the Office of Apostle fails any of the qualifying factors, they not true.  If anyone who claims to have the gift of apostleship fails the three validations (Apostolic support, scripture support, signs support), they are also not true.  Paul states “if anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command” (1Co 14:37). Speaking directly to the Twelve, Jesus said, “if they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also” (Jn 15:20b). This brings us to our main question:

Are there Apostles today?

We can simply see if they meet the biblical qualifiers identified in God's Word.  Can someone today, hold the Office of Apostle?  This is clearly a no.  They may make the claim to have seen the risen Christ like Paul did, but Paul sought the validation from the other Apostles (Galatians 1:18-19, 2:1-2,9).  People now can not do that.  ANYONE can claim they received a vision appointing them as an Apostle and then claim the met the risen Christ face to face.  Anyone can claim that.  The problem is that no actual Apostle is around to validate that (Paul was the last; 1 Cor. 15:8).  This leads into the next problem for people claiming to have the gift of apostleship now.  They can claim they have scriptural support maybe even claim to have done some amazing signs and wonders but they will never be able to obtain actual Apostolic support and validation.  It is no longer possible.

The Office of Apostle laid the foundations of Christian truth through their eye witness and testimony of Jesus on earth.  The gift of apostleship laid the foundations for the universal church body.  Now that the foundations of the gospel truth and universal church body has been laid; the office and gift are no longer necessary.  

Interestingly, those who teach now that they are the restoration of the office and apostleship feel as though they should never be spoken against, should never be questioned, because the person who speaks against them is speaking against God.  This goes against what Paul praised the Bereans for.  Paul, an actual Apostle of Christ encouraged validation because at that time, when those offices and gifts existed, they very well could be validated.  But since that time, as the author of Jude and Hebrews pointed out, that time has passed.

We do not deny that God can choose whom ever he wills for his glorious purpose, but He also does not go against what he himself has revealed through the Apostles with the Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture.  There can not exist anyone who was an eye witness of the risen Christ, until He returns.  The Holy Spirit declared Paul to be the last one to fill the Office of Apostle.  But can there still exist the gift of apostleship?  

Since we have the writings of the Apostles, we can technically validate or invalidate anyone who claims such a gift.  If someone receives a vision (which is in line with all teachings in scripture) or simply feels compelled to go to a far away nation that does not have a church presence and they teach that which has been passed down by the Apostles themselves (the true gospel message of Jesus Christ) to lay the foundations for a church in that far away nation; how can we say that they are not gifted apostleship?  Well, simply put, the church universally has already been established by the Apostles and those who were gifted apostleship.  They would then be nothing more than missionaries and disciples of Jesus fulfilling the Great Commission.  No different than the disciples of the Apostles, whom never claimed the gift of apostleship or apostolic authority either. 

Are Church Planters gifted with apostleship?

Again, no different from the disciples of the Apostles and their disciples after them.  We see in their writings that they merely describe themselves as elders, presbyters, and evangelists.  Basically, they were missionaries sent out into the world to grow the church that had already been established by the actual Apostles and those gifted with apostleship before them.  Paul lists apostles first, simply because they had to be first to lay the foundations.  He lists "helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues (languages)" last.  In our age, because the universal church has already been established, validated by miracles and healing; those who help grow the per-existing church and manage the church body in all the different cultures is the task at hand.  We are called to help and manage the body of Christ and proclaim the truth that was handed down from the Apostles until Christ comes again.

Word 'apostle' and its confusion and misuse

A word can have various meanings.  Such as the case with the word "apostle".  In a general and broad sense, it means "sent one".  In that case, every single believer is an apostle.  Once a believer comes to faith, they are then sent out into the world as a follower of Jesus Christ to proclaim the gospel. But that is not specifically what is being claimed.

The Apostles did not say they were gifted, but instead were chosen, directly and personally by Jesus himself.  They do however name some after them who were given the gift of apostleship.  But we must consider the time and place of these designations.  At the time of Paul's writings, not all the Apostles were dead and the church itself was not fully established.  Considering our day and age, all the Apostles are dead and the church is fully established.  Now we are to grow and manage it in such a way that it brings glory and honor to God.

The disciples of the Apostles pointed to the Apostles works as authority, not themselves.  Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Papias, and Polycarp were actual disciples of the Apostles.  Yet, they quoted the Apostles as their authority.  Even Mark and Luke were in direct contact with the Apostles and documented the Apostles testimony, not their own.  The authority of truth was always pointed at those who witnessed the mighty works of Jesus himself on earth.  

Again, to be clear, it is not talking about people who claim to witness healing of headaches and pains but those who raised people from the dead and who sat on the shore of the Jordan river and ate fish with Jesus himself following his crucifixion.  It was the 12 that the earliest disciples pointed to as the apostolic authority; and no one after.  Those who were gifted with apostleship would travel continuously and be concerned with the whole church universally.  Elders, Presbyters, and Evangelists were stationary and focused on transforming the local community long term.

Conclusion

The Office of Apostle and gift of apostleship are two different things.  The Office is held by someone who (1) Was personally and directly called by Jesus for the purpose of writing what they witnessed in divinely inspired writings by the Holy Spirit and (2) where eye witnesses of the risen Christ.  The Holy Spirit makes it clear that Paul was the last to hold the Office of Apostle.  The gift of apostleship is the next major position in the early church.  These individuals were directly connected the those who held the Office of Apostle.  They were validated by those who held the Office of Apostle and were sent out to establish the church universally.  Because both these positions of apostle are directly linked to eye witness testimony, it is not possible to exist currently.  Too often, the word apostle gets confused and misused but when considering its use in scripture we see the uniqueness of both types of apostles and how it does not exist today.  Evangelists and church planters today, though do very important work for the local body of Christ today, are not actual apostles in the specific sense of Office or gift.



If you have any questions or comments about this article please contact us or join our discussion forms

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think?

Top Articles in the Last Month

Flag Counter