The Apple Of God's Eye

October 30, 2009

What Happened To The Biblical Office Of The Apostles?

www.creationism.orgThere are some who say Christ only ordained the original twelve, that the apostleship was then sealed, and there would be no more apostles after the original twelve. Was this an office that would end after their death?

Unger’s Bible Dictionary says on the subject of apostle, “One sent with a special message or commission…. As regards the apostolic office, it seems to have been preeminently that of founding the churches, and upholding them by supernatural power specially bestowed for that purpose.”

The Companion Bible says, “One sent forth with a special mission or errand.”

And Clarke’s Commentary says, “The word apostle comes from a Greek word that means, I send a message.” He goes on to say, “Those who were Christ’s apostles were first His disciples; which means that men must first be taught of God before they are sent of God.”

Was the Apostolic Office Sealed?

The first apostles were chosen, just as any of us must be chosen, for God to use. Halley’s Handbook points out that the training of the first twelve was not an easy task, for they were being trained for a work utterly different from anything they imagined. They had no thought at first of becoming the preachers they turned out to be. They were expecting the Messiah to establish a political world empire of which they would be administrators. When they were told that Christ was to be crucified instead of establishing a throne at that time, they were stunned. Even at the last Passover, their minds were still on who was to have the greatest office. It was not until after Christ’s death, resurrection, and sending of His Holy Spirit that they understood His Kingdom was to be set up at a much later time. Notice in Acts 1:6 that they asked Christ before He ascended to heaven if He would, “at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”

Let’s look into the Bible to see if there is any evidence of this office being sealed with these original twelve. In Matthew 10:1 Christ called them disciples. Then in verse 2 they are called apostles, and in verse 5 they are “sent forth.” There is nothing in this chapter saying that the office was sealed. Mark 3:13-14 states that He ordained twelve. Luke 6:12-13 tells us He prayed all night before choosing and ordaining them. John’s account tells us the disciples were excited that they had found the Messiah and they willingly followed Jesus Christ as His disciples (John 1:37-41). Again, in all these accounts there is nothing about the apostleship being a closed office or a sealed office.

The Companion Bible tells us there are four places where the Bible lists the apostles in the New Testament: three times in the gospels which we have just read, and one time in the book of Acts. In fact, the word apostle or apostles appears eight times in the gospels, 68 times in Acts and the epistles, and three times in the book of Revelation. When used in the gospels, it refers to the twelve chosen and commissioned by Christ during His ministry. It was from this office that Judas fell. Remember the question is, was this office sealed with the twelve? Could there be others ordained to this office?

More Apostles Ordained

In Acts 1:13-26 we read the account of how the office from which Judas fell was given to Matthias. So here is the account of another apostle being chosen, though nothing more is said about him.

In Acts 13 and 14 we are given an account of some of the work of Paul and Barnabas, but notice in Acts 14:14 Barnabas and Paul are called “apostles.” We see further proof that the apostleship wasn’t sealed. In Romans 11:13, Paul says, “I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office.” So we see in God’s inspired Word that Barnabas and Paul were the first and second apostles mentioned after the first twelve.

We can also find others mentioned in the Bible. Notice the third and fourth ones mentioned: Romans 16:7 says, “Salute Andronicus and Junia…who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” Here are two more mentioned.

Let’s look at the account of another apostle. We know that of the original twelve, two were named James, one was the son of Zebedee and the other the son of Alphaeus. There was yet another James who later became an apostle who was not numbered among the original twelve. This was James the half-brother of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:17-19 gives the account of Paul returning from Arabia after his three years of training in the desert with Christ. In verse 19 he says, “But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.” Here is a fifth one mentioned after the twelve.

Two more apostles are mentioned by Paul which will take a little more study. In I Thessalonians 1:1-6 notice how Paul words the letter: “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of Thessalonians….” Notice in verse 2 that he say “We give thanks,” grouping all three together. He says the same thing in verses 5-6. Then in chapter 2, verses 2 and 5, Paul still lumps all three together and in verse 6 he refers to them all as apostles: “Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.” We can see that Silvanus and Timothy are mentioned as apostles, bringing the number to seven, who were ordained after the original twelve apostles.

Epaphroditus and Titus are given the label of “messenger.” Notice Philippians 2:25: “Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger….” The same is said of Titus in II Corinthians 8:23. The Greek word for “messenger” here is apostolos, translated apostle in other places. The Diaglott of the original Greek translated “messenger” as “apostle” both times in these two scriptures. This brings our number of additional apostles to nine. It is rather evident that Christ did not seal the office of apostle with the first twelve.

Paul called himself an apostle nineteen times and even defended himself concerning this office in II Corinthians 10:13. The only time the word apostle and seal are used together is when Paul is defending his office (I Cor. 9:2). Read verses 1-5 and notice that Paul is saying that the seal or proof of his apostleship was the conversion to Christianity of the brethren. Paul used the analogy of a seal or stamp which was a figure cut in stone and then set in a ring by which a letter or document would be stamped, showing by whose authority the said document was sent. Paul used this analogy to show that God had sent him and placed him in the office of an apostle.

If this office was sealed and no one else was to hold that office, then why is it listed among the gifts of the Spirit in I Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11-13? These are offices to be held in the Church and this was written over 20 years after Christ ascended to heaven and after most of the original apostles were either dead or sent to other places. Also keep in mind that the Bible was written mainly for us in the end time.

Notice in Revelation 2:2 that the Ephesus era was commended for testing those who claimed to be apostles. Wasn’t this an ideal spot to say there were no apostles, if the office had been sealed? No, the office of apostle has not been sealed and completed with the original twelve. Someday we may be surprised to learn just how many apostles there have been down through the centuries.

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