Bible verses about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Defining apostolos is not difficult. Its usage in the Bible and elsewhere, however, causes a measure of confusion. Apostolos means a delegate, envoy, agent, ambassador, or representative, and indicates "one sent with a special message or commission." The commission's duration may be limited to a specific errand or last a lifetime.
In John 13:16, the phrase translated "he who is sent" is the word apostolos. The word translated "messengers" in II Corinthians 8:23 is also apostolos, clearly used in the sense of "delegates." Some Bibles' margins suggest "sent ones" in defining these "messengers."
The Jews, according to both Unger's Dictionary of the Bible and the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (article "Apostle"), called the person who collected the annual half-shekel temple tax an apostle. A Roman named Theodosian, writing in Greek, referred to ordained emissaries from Jerusalem synagogues as apostles. These emissaries generally collected taxes for the support of the rabbinate.
The rabbinic term for such agents was shaliah. They might represent individuals or corporate bodies such as courts and synagogues, their duties depending upon the terms of their commission—to serve legal documents, collect monies, or convey instructions, particularly concerning the calendar and festivals. In the synagogue the shaliah might lead the congregation in prayer. The rabbinic principle was "a man's shaliah [agent, representative] is like himself." If the shaliah (apostle) followed his instructions, his actions identified the one who authorized and sent him. An apostle is the direct representative of the one who sent him.
Scholars believe this is the model from which Jesus and the apostles derived their usage. However, there is an important difference. The Christian usage is totally religious, institutional, and missionary in its character. The Jewish usage was with precisely defined authority, for a limited term and almost totally nonreligious, though an apostle may have been commissioned by a synagogue.
In Hebrews 3:1-2, we are asked to "consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him. . . ." In John 5:36, Jesus states, "The very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me." Jesus fulfilled His commission so completely that He could state in John 14:9, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." Jesus, the One appointed and sent by the Father, is the pattern of the New Testament apostle.
Jesus repeated the Jewish model when He ordained twelve and sent them out representing Him. In John 20:21, He says, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." They thus were Christ's apostles. This process began early in His ministry. "Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons" (Mark 3:14-15). Add to this a principle stated by Jesus to the Twelve in Mark 9:37: "Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me." He implies that those sent are especially chosen by the divine will for their mission, bearing His authority.
Other men are specifically designated as apostles in Acts, but undoubtedly the Twelve are in a unique category. Peter describes them in Acts 1:21-22: "Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection." No other apostle, not Paul, nor the Lord's brothers James and Jude, nor Barnabas, can meet this description. Paul calls himself "one born out of due time" while specifying apostles (I Corinthians 15:8). The uniqueness of the Twelve is further emphasized in Revelation 21:14: "Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." In describing New Jerusalem, Christ shows foundations named only for the Twelve.
The last time Luke refers to the Twelve is in Acts 6:2. From that time on, references in Acts are to apostles in general. By Acts 15, the reference is to "the apostles and elders" in Jerusalem, and James, the Lord's brother, is presiding over the council—even in the presence of one of the Twelve, Peter!
As early as Acts 12:17, James holds no small authority, even with Peter. Though James does not fit the description given by Peter in Acts 1, Paul conclusively identifies him as an apostle (Galatians 1:19). An intriguing statement in I Corinthians 9:5 asks, "Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?" Having "brothers of the Lord" bracketed by "apostles" and "Cephas" (Peter) means at least two of Jesus' brothers were apostles.
Christ did not specifically identify Paul as an apostle in Acts 9, but Paul certainly was a chosen vessel and sent. He identifies himself as an apostle in virtually every one of his epistles because others were challenging his assertion. He defends himself in this regard in I Corinthians 9:3.
The Bible irrefutably names these men as apostles. How did they come into their offices? Whose apostles were they? We see a glimmer of an answer to these questions in Acts 13:2-4: "As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus." Both are named as apostles one chapter later (Acts 14:14).
In these few verses, Luke shows officers of the church of God (of which Christ is the Head), under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, setting men apart by ordination, and sending them out on a mission. In light of this witness from Scripture, we must conclude that similar occurrences inducted others labeled "apostles" (like the Lord's brothers) into their offices and missions.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Was Mr. Armstrong an Apostle?
It is a prophetic voice that speaks for God, and His prophets will always have as the basis of their prophecy the commandments of God as evidence. The message they give (predictive or not) will always be in harmony with previously revealed truth, even though the prophet may be breaking new doctrinal ground, which happens now and then.
We can see another difference between a prophet and a priest or minister. The priest or minister conserves old truth and implements new truth given by the prophet. Most of the time new truth will come through a prophet. Under the New Covenant, of course, new truth came through apostles who were about as close to prophets as one can get without being prophets. Paul makes that clear when he lists the offices in the church, listing apostles first and prophets second (Ephesians 4:11). Once we leave the Old Covenant for the New, God uses apostles to announce new truth, and the prophet is moved into a secondary position. However, throughout the Old Testament, new truth or new doctrines came through prophets.
A minister's job is to conserve what has already been given, to hold fast to what was given in the past, and to recognize that new truth comes through an apostle. There is no apostle now, so we should not expect that there will be any new truth. However, if God raises up a prophet, then we also have to recognize that new truth can come through him. He will not break God's pattern. New truth will either come through an apostle or a prophet. The prophet breaks new ground, yet he also conserves the old.
There is a difference between a minister and a prophet. A minister does not give new truth but conserves old truth. The prophet or the apostle will conserve the old and also proclaim the new.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)
What did He give "these twelve [whom] Jesus sent forth"? What is an apostle? It is one sent forth with a message. Thinking about the principle in Romans 10:17, that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ, Jesus gave the same words to those He sent forth! They are the ones who have the message that will produce saving faith!
When we read about fracturing of the church during the first century—in the books of James, I and II Peter, I, II, and III John, and Jude—we find direct and indirect references, sometimes very strong, in which the apostle writes, "Remember what we have taught you." Other messages were coming into the church, and people were falling for them because they were susceptible to them—they were too weak to reject them and to discern the deceit in them. They believed them, and then what was the result? Disobedience. This factor separates those who believe from those who do not. Those who believe will obey God. Those who do not believe will not obey Him because "the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7).
We find ourselves in a battle, a struggle, between the carnality that remains, which is attracted by false messages, and the truth of God, which is the right message, the proper faith. Paul describes it in Galatians 5:17 as a war going on in us (see also I Peter 2:11). By the power of God's spirit, we have to make the choice as to which one we will submit to.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wisdom of Men and Faith
To understand Jesus' command, we need to examine some other things that He said to the same people. We should also determine just whom He commissioned to preach the gospel in all the world. Many today believe that God divinely commissioned everyone who has ever heard or read this command to "witness for Christ" and make converts for his religion.
To whom did Jesus issue this command? Only to the eleven disciples (Matthew 28:16-19; Mark 16:14-15)! "And they went out and preached everywhere. . ." (Mark 16:20). These eleven disciples became Jesus' apostles, just as Jesus Himself was His Father's apostle (Hebrews 3:1-2). An "apostle" is one personally commissioned to deliver a message to someone else. Christ was sent with a message from His Father, and He, in turn, sent these eleven to convey the same message to yet other people! The message is the good news of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15).
'Go Ye Therefore Into All the World...'
1 Corinthians 3:9-10
If God places us within an office in the church—as an elder or a deacon—it must be looked upon as a blessing that is a responsibility, not a reward! It is given for God's purposes. Paul even had his office as apostle because it was given to him. It is implied that all the powers to perform it were also given. He used them to lay the foundation.
Everybody else is the same way. The important thing is that each one of us must use our gifts to build. Paul says, "Be careful how you build." The foundation that was laid is Jesus Christ. When we begin to expand on it, it consists of the apostles and the prophets as well—the things that they wrote and the examples that they set. Everybody is to build on the same foundation! God gives everybody the gifts to enable them to do so.
To some, God gives gifts to be apostles; to others, He gives gifts to be an evangelist, pastor, teacher, or whatever. They are given, though, and every time God gives an office, He gives all that is needed for the person to fulfill that office—including overcoming sin.
The Bible consistently teaches that an office is not a place from which to exercise power, but a position from which to exercise service. The authority is certainly there, since God gives it. He always gives the authority to go with the office, but having it means that the elder or deacon must also have the right perspective on how to use the office God has given him. The office is given, not earned.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace
Related Topics: Apostle
| Apostle, Function of
| Building Analogy
| Building Metaphor
| Building on a Foundation
| Deacons, Responsibility of
| Elder, Function of
| Evangelist, Function of
| Foundation as Metaphor
| Foundation, Building on a
| Gifts Edify Church
| Gifts of God
| Ministry, Function of
| Pastor's Responsibility
| Responsibility, Sense of
| Servant Attitude
| Serving Others
| Spiritual Gifts
| Spiritual Gifts, Abuse of
| Spiritual Gifts, Neglect of
| Teachers, Role of
2 Corinthians 10:13-16
Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. It was his province, his area of authority, his area of influence. Paul says that he lived within it and worked within it. He did not go into other men's areas to extend his influence beyond what was given to him. Peter was made preeminent over them all, and then as the work grew, God divided it up, saying in effect, "Paul, concentrate on this. Peter, concentrate on that." They had leadership in those areas, and it was almost as though the two shall never meet.
The picture that appears from all of this is that, not only did Paul adhere to the sphere of influence that God had given him, but so did the other twelve apostles. They divided up the world, went to their areas, and conducted their spiritual and governmental responsibilities only within their regions. That is the only way God could keep order over a worldwide work at the time.
The people who responded to the teaching of those men in those areas were not confused by other voices speaking to them. Each stayed within his own sphere of influence, the one that had been given by God. In that area, he was the top authority, as far as the doctrines that were to be followed, and in this way, God could keep order. Quite likely, the apostles were all speaking the same thing, yet by this method, confusion in terms of government was kept to a minimum. The people were not confused about whom they were to look to in their region for authority in matters pertaining to their relationship with God. It is a wonderful system.
God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33). Doctrine was put into the church as the work expanded in the way that He has always done it - as He did through Moses, through whom He gave the first five books; as He did through Samuel, who may very well have been the author or main editor of all the books from Joshua to II Samuel; then through others whom God used to add to the scriptures so that we might have the complete Bible today.
So, it is God who puts doctrine into His church by the man He chooses to be His ambassador, His representative to those who have been called. That keeps matters in order. Our job is to have faith in God's decision and in the pattern that He reveals in His Word. That will keep us on track if we choose to make the right choices.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 2): God's Pattern of Leadership
2 Thessalonians 2:15
Tradition is broader than some admit. A note from a study Bible contains a bit of useful information regarding this word:
Traditions refers to more than customs. In view here is the totality of the apostolic doctrine as it was given to them—all of the teachings, not just what we would think of being the foundational teachings that appear in Hebrews the sixth chapter or things directly pertaining to the great goal in life that gives us the vision of being born in the kingdom of God.
The writer understands that word applies to the whole revelation given through the apostles. "Traditions" reach out to include policies and practices or procedures that the Bible does not specifically speak to. The apostle has the authority to establish them while he is God's apostle.
Notice an application in I Corinthians 11:2. Corinth was a badly divided congregation, at least internally; church members there had all kinds of different ideas. In I Corinthians 1:10, the phrase about being "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" has to do with the way we see things, with our perspective. He is saying that we should not be divided even in our perspectives. I Corinthians 11:2 reads,
Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
Ordinances is the same word that is translated "traditions" in II Thessalonians 2:15 and II Thessalonians 3:6. Here, the translators have rendered it "ordinances," as if it referred to law. However, consider the issue in I Corinthians 11: the way—the manner—in which Christians should keep the Passover, the procedures that were to be followed. He instructs them to eat at home first before coming to the service. The passage deals with what we would call church-service procedures. "Traditions" includes these matters.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 5): Ephesians 4 (B)
1 John 1:1
Who is "we" and "our" here? They are the apostles of Christ: Peter, James, John, Andrew, and even Paul, an apostle "born out of due time" (I Corinthians 15:8). Why would they be unimpeachable as sources? John tells us why: "We were with the Boss for three and a half years. We heard our Lord, Master, and Savior with our own ears, saw Him with our eyes, watched Him do miracles, saw Him walk on the water. We touched Him. We ate with Him. We slept by Him." It really makes a difference to have good sources, and eyewitnesses are among the best.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 20)
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