"Just What IS an APOSTLE?"

Chapter 1

An Apostle is One Sent

The word apostle is a Greek word that means “one who is sent.” The first use of the word may well have been within the Temple where “apostoli” were sent by the High Priest into the outlying lands to collect the temple tax that was paid annually (www.jewishencyclopedia.com “apostoli”). It is interesting, that the one verse where we find Christ referred to as “The Apostle,” He is also called our High Priest: “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Heb 3:1).

Sent To Do Something:

The meaning of the word: “one who is sent,” actually gives us many clues about the subject of apostleship. If one is sent, he clearly must be sent by someone, sent to someone and to do something. Therefore let us obey what Hebrews 3 tells us, and consider “The Apostle” Jesus Christ, using Him as an example to find answers to each of these questions:

John records that Christ said “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draws him” (John 6:44). So God the Father is also involved within the above process. After having our minds opened by the Father, we receive illumination through Jesus Christ (the living Word of God) as described in Luke 4.From being spiritually blind, we begin to see; from being brokenhearted, we are given a new heart (Ezek 36:26-27); from spiritual captivity, we are released (John 8:34-36).But until that time of initial illumination, we remain spiritually blind and enslaved. So we see that one of the reasons Christ was sent (or made The Apostle) involved the revelation of Truth to those whose minds God had just opened.

Sent by Christ and the Father:

The reason this is important is that Christ told the twelve apostles: “as [my] Father hath sent [grk: apostello] me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on [them], and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy [Spirit]” (John 20:21-22). The apostles to whom He said this were being sent by Christ to continue the same Work He did and for the same reason. He also symbolically gave them the same power that came from the Father, by breathing on them and saying, “receive the Holy Spirit.” It was only this power that gave them the ability to reveal the Truth to those they dealt with.

This is why Christ emphasises the importance of this chain of authority, that flows down from God to His people through those He sends as apostles, by saying to them, “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent [grk apostello] me” (Mt 10:40).

Apostles of God – Not Man:

In the beginning of Galatians Paul says: “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)” (Gal 1:1). Although ministerial ranks certainly are imparted by the laying on of hands (II Tim 1:6), the scripture above clearly shows that the rank of apostle is something God Himself must impart. This is true even if a human ceremony should also take place. It is God who sends an apostle, not man. Continually Paul referred to himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (I Cor 1:1; II Cor 1:1; Eph 1:1; Col 1:1) and mentioned how he received his individual apostleship from God for a specific purpose within the Gentile world: “for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name” (Rom 1:5).

So why is Paul mentioned as being sent by certain prophets and teachers in Acts? In Acts 13 we read of particular prophets and teachers in Antioch to whom God specifically revealed the mission given to Paul. Without this specific revelation, they would undoubtedly not have performed the ceremony of the laying on of hands. Clearly it was God who actually did the sending, even though prophets and teachers were used to formally acknowledge what God had already decided: “So they, being sent forth by the Holy [Spirit], departed unto Seleucia” (Acts 13:4).

Christ said “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent [grk: apostello] greater than he that sent him” (John 13:16). A mere man cannot send an apostle, as it is the highest rank within the Church (I Cor 12:28). One would have to be greater than the apostle in order to do so.

It is God who must therefore indicate that this is something that has already taken place, should an ordination to the rank of apostle be carried out. This is somewhat different to ordination to the normal ranks of the ministry, as although elders are indeed the servants of God, it is men who ordain them: “ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (Titus 1:5).

In Summary:

The word “apostle” conveys much within its meaning “one who is sent.” An apostle is a man expressly chosen and sent, not by men, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father. Such an apostle is sent into the world to illuminate with the Truth those drawn by the Father. This Truth can only come from God Himself – and such Truth is only available via revelation specifically given to such an apostle through the power of God’s Holy Spirit.