What Is An Apostle?

Good morning.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,” (I Peter 1:1a).

What exactly was or is an “apostle?” Was the position of apostle only found in the early church or is it available today? There is disagreement.

The word apostle, of which Peter is specifically identified as one holding this office and title, generally means messenger. It was an individual who was sent with orders from a commander. Within the context of the church, this general meaning could refer to anyone who communicates the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are God’s messengers who are commanded to share a specific, unchanging message (Matthew 28:16-20).

However, there was also a specific definition for apostle which restricted its usage to a select few. This definition is found in Acts 1:21-26. As the eleven apostles sought to replace Judas Iscariot, they stipulated or insisted that Judas’ replacement meet the following qualifications as an apostle. First, one who accompanied and followed Jesus from the beginning of His earthly ministry from John’s baptism to Jesus’ ascension. Two, an apostle had to be a witness of the resurrection of Christ.

There were only two, of the 120 disciples present at that time (Acts 1:15) who were so qualified: Joseph called Barsabbas who was also called Justus, and Matthias (Acts 1:23). Peter’s apostleship qualified him to be a writer of Scripture, which became for the early church a standard to determine what ancient books were to be included into what became known as the New Testament.

God has a specific plan for each of His children by which we can serve Him. God had a plan for Peter. God has a plan for you and me.

Have a blessed day.

Soli deo Gloria!

2 Replies to “What Is An Apostle?”

  1. Dr. Clothier: The “editorial eye” of the scripture seems to convey that this was simply the standard for apostleship that they arrived at. There was apparently little explicit instruction from Jesus himself that would inform who gets to be an apostle replacement. I don’t see Jesus paying much attention to succession planning; it’s there, but the flood of systematic theologies over the next two thousand years suggested that the church felt that there were more than a few gaps to fill. Rather, it seems that the reader must conclude that the apostles’ criteria for apostle replacement was what they considered, generally, good sense, informed by OT law and tradition. If that is true (and I’m not sure it is; I’m pondering new territory here), what implication might this have on contemporary Christians’ decision making in “grey areas” of life?

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  2. Chris,

    Please call me Tom. I appreciate your comments. They take into account the transitional dynamic which was occurring during the time immediately following the ascension of Jesus and the birth of the church.

    I’m also not sure how much this particular portion of Scripture has today on current decision making by believers in the so-called “grey areas of life.” If I understand your usage of this phrase, it refers to the issues we face which the Scriptures do not explicitly teach are either good or bad, righteous or unrighteous. I would hesitate to say to someone that a decision they are facing in this context can be resolved by a throw of a pair of dice.

    To that extent, I appeal to the interpretive principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture and also the idea of progressive biblical revelation. Acts 1 is not the end of the issues the church faced then, or now. Other inspired books would be added to the New Testament which do provide biblical principles regarding issues the Scriptures do not say are either right or wrong, black or white: the grey areas.

    One of the most familiar of these texts would be Romans 14:1-15:7. While the Apostle Paul addresses the conflicts and debates occurring at that time in the Church of Rome between Jewish and Gentile Christians, the principles he sets forth are applicable for believers today. That’s where i would go. Another equally applicable text is I Corinthians 8-10.

    i trust this helps. Thanks for the question.

    Tom

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