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What Makes an Apostle?

By Justin Johnson

There are quite a few self-proclaimed apostles on the church scene causing confusion as to the role of apostles. What is it that makes an apostle?

Sent Ones

In an English dictionary the definition of apostle has been taken mainly from the Biblical meaning. The word literally means “one who is sent” or “chief messenger” with the idea of being the first to pioneer a message. This seems to immediately eliminate many from being apostles as their church and denomination was not the first to preach Jesus with signs following.

In the Bible we see five different kinds of apostles:

  1. The twelve apostles sent by the Lord for the gospel of the circumcision and the kingdom (Mat 10:2).
  2. The apostle Paul was specially sent by the Lord as the Apostle of the uncircumcision to preach the mystery of Christ (Rom 11:13, Gal 1:1).
  3. The Apostle Christ Jesus is described as one who was sent from God to be the mediator of the New Testament (Heb 3:1, John 3:16).
  4. Other apostles were sent by the Holy Ghost to lay the foundation work for the early church (Acts 14:14, 1 Cor 12:28, 1 Thess 2:6).
  5. False apostles are described as deceitful workers not sent by God (2 Cor 11:13).

An apostleship is not a position you can choose or inherit because your last apostle died. It is one who is sent, and the Biblical apostle is sent authoritatively by God.

Signs of an Apostle

In every case of true God-sent apostleship signs were performed to verify the office. When Jesus came to minister to Israel he came with great signs to show he was sent from God.

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” – Mat 4:23

The twelve apostles ministered with signs following:

“ And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.” – Acts 2:43

Paul used the powers he was given as signs that he was an apostle sent by the Lord:

“ Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” – 2 Corinthians 12:12

Apparently some false apostles can even perform wonders by the evil power given to them. This shows that it is not the wonders that make an apostle, but apostles do show wonders.

“ For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.” – Mark 13:22


Pioneers and Founders

Apostles are more than just messengers and miracle workers. They are also given the responsibility as pioneers of a message to lay the foundation for the gospel.

Jesus Christ came to be the foundation (1 Cor 3:11). The twelve apostles laid the foundation of the gospel of Israel’s kingdom (Mat 16:18). Paul laid the foundation of the gospel of the grace of God in this dispensation (1 Cor 3:10).

Of the spiritual gifts given by the Holy Ghost for the body of Christ the first was “apostles” (1 Cor 12:28). Once the foundation is laid there is no longer a need for foundation layers (Eph 4:11-13).

Seeing the Lord

Another unique qualification of the Biblical apostles was having seen the Lord. To hold one of the twelve apostleships the candidate needed to have been with the Lord during his earthly ministry.

“Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,” – Acts 1:21

Paul could not be an apostle for the kingdom group, he did not meet this qualification. However, the Lord appeared to him personally many times.

“ Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?” – 1 Corinthians 9:1

Many false apostles who understand this necessity for being an apostle invent wild and strange stories of personal visions and revelations of the Lord.

No Longer Needed

Once the building of the second floor and the roof begins the concrete foundation layers are no longer needed.

The work of the apostles has already been done. The apostle Paul, as the masterbuilder in this dispensation, has laid the foundation of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery.

The work that remains to be done belongs to the saints of the body of Christ who will “make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery” and teach faithful men to teach others also (Eph 3:9, 2 Tim 2:2).

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Published: January 6, 2010
Last Modified: August 4, 2016
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