What is an…

also known as: apostolos (Greek)

Meaning: a person sent by another; a messenger; envoy

In two instances, the Greek word apostolos is not translated as “apostle,” but rather as “messenger” or “representative” (2 Corinthians 8:23 and Philippians 2:25).

This word is once used as a descriptive designation of Jesus Christ, the Sent of the Father (Hebrews 3:1; John 20:21). Christ is The Chief Apostle—the messenger sent by the Father.

It is, however, generally used as designating the body of disciples to whom Christ entrusted the organization of His Church and the dissemination of His Gospel, “the twelve” as they are called (Matthew 10:1-5; Mark 3:14; 6:7; Luke 6:13; 9:1).

Our Lord gave them the “keys of the kingdom,” and by the gift of His Spirit equipped them to be the founders and governors of His Church (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15). As representatives of His Church, He commissioned them to…

“preach the gospel to every creature” (Matthew 28:18-20)

After His ascension, He gave them supernatural gifts, as He promised, enabling them to perform their duties (Acts 2:4; 1 Corinthians 2:16; 2:7, 10, 13; 2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 Corinthians 11:2).

Judas Iscariot, one of “the twelve,” fell by betraying Jesus, and Matthias was his replacement (Acts 1:21). Saul of Tarsus was afterwards added to their number (Acts 9:3-20; 20:4; 26:15-18; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11).

Luke recorded what happened to Peter, John, and the two Jameses (Acts 12:2, 17; 15:13; 21:18), but, beyond this, we know nothing definite about the rest of the original twelve. After the martyrdom of James the Greater (Acts 12:2), James the Less usually resided at Jerusalem, while Paul, “the apostle of the uncircumcision,” usually travelled as a missionary among the Gentiles (Galatians 2:8).

Qualifications for Apostleship

  1. They have seen the Lord, and are able to testify of Him and of His resurrection from personal knowledge (John 15:27; Acts 1:21-22; 1 Corinthians 9:1; Acts 22:14-15).

  2. They must have been immediately called to be an apostle by Christ (Luke 6:13; Galatians 1:1).

  3. It was essential that they should be infallibly inspired, and thus protected against error and mistake in their public teaching, whether by word or by writing (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Thess. 2:13).

  4. Another qualification was the power of working miracles (Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43; 1 Corinthians 12:8-11).

The apostles therefore could have had no successors. They are the only authoritative teachers of the Christian doctrines. The office of an apostle ceased with its first holders. There is, therefore, no one alive today that is an “Apostle,” in the truest biblical sense.

Those apostles were chosen directly by Christ, so as to be called “apostles of Christ” (Gal. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1). They were given three basic responsibilities:

  1. to lay the foundation of the church (1 Pet. 2:20)
  2. to receive, declare and write God’s Word (1 Pet. 3:5; Acts 11:28; 21:10-11)
  3. to give confirmation of that Word through signs, wonders, and miracles (2 Cor. 12:12; cf. Acts 8:6-7; Heb. 2:3-4)

The term apostle is used in more general ways of other men in the early church, such as Barnabas (Acts 14:4), Silas (1 Thess. 2:6), Timothy (1 Thess. 2:6), and others (Rom. 16:7; Phil. 2:25). They are called “apostles of the churches” (2 Cor. 8:23), rather than “apostles of Jesus Christ” like the thirteen. They were not self-perpetuating, nor was any apostle who died replaced. —John F. MacArthur, Litt.D., D.D., The MacArthur Study Bible (Thomas Nelson)

Twelve apostles to be honored in New Jerusalem

Tweleve apostles will be honored in the New Jerusalem, which will come down…

“…out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” —Revelation 21:2 NASB

“And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” —Revelation 21:14 NASB

Who are these 12 to be honored in New Jerusalem? Although not specified, they are most likely these men (in alphabetical order):

  1. Andrew
  2. Bartholomew
  3. James “son of Alphaeus
  4. John
  5. Luke
  6. Mark
  7. Matthew
  8. Paul
  9. Peter
  10. Philip
  11. Simon “the Canaanite
  12. Thomas

The reasoning is that all of these men were called “apostles” by Jesus Christ, himself, and surely Judas Iscariot eliminated himself. Matthias was a replacement for Judas, chosen by man and casting of lots, but not specifically by Christ. Therefore, Paul, first called by the ascended Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), is the more likely substitute for Judas. Paul was inspired by God to write much of the New Testament, providing vital doctrine, whereas Matthias is only very briefly mentioned in Acts, and Scripture tells us almost nothing about him, including whether he met the qualification of being given the power of working miracles. Paul’s apostleship was also confirmed through noted signs and wonders and miracles, and his apostleship was recognized by Peter and the others.

“Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God…” —1 Corinthians 1:1 NASB (also see: 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1)

List of Original Apostles

We have four lists of the original apostles/disciples—one by each of the synoptic evangelists (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14), and one in Acts 1:13. All the original apostles, with the exception of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:11), were Galileans.

Matthew’s list Mark’s list Luke’s list Book of Acts
Simon—“who is called Peter Simon—“to whom He gave the name Peter” Simon—“whom He named Peter” Peter
Andrew Andrew Andrew Andrew
James “son of Zebedee” James “son of Zebedee” James James
John “his brother” John “brother of James John John
Philip Philip Philip Philip
Bartholomew Bartholomew Bartholomew Bartholomew
Thomas Thomas Thomas Thomas
Matthew “the tax collector” Matthew Matthew Matthew
James “son of Alphaeus James “son of Alphaeus” James “son of Alphaeus” James “son of Alphaeus”
Thaddaeus Thaddaeus Jude “brother of James Judas “brother of James”
Simon “the Canaanite” (Cananean) Simon “the Cananean” Simon “who was called the Zealot Simon the Zealot
Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot omitted: Judas Iscariot—already dead prior to the occasion being mentioned in Acts

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Article Version: August 14, 2021