"Just What IS an APOSTLE?"

Chapter 2

Apostles of the Early Church

The Twelve:

Just before Jesus chose the twelve apostles, from those who were His disciples at the time, He said “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matt 9:37-38). What He was about to do was of such monumental significance that Luke 6:12-13 tells us that He spent all night in prayer to His Father before making His final choice. But why were there twelve apostles? Is there any significance in the actual number of men Jesus chose?

After choosing the apostles, Jesus commanded them: “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:5-6). This initial command holds far more information than simply relates to their role at the time. Not only did He send them to the twelve tribes of Israel at the first, but later refined this role by defining what their positions were going to be at His return - within the Kingdom of God.

In Matthew 19 Christ said, “Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt 19:27-28). The reason there were twelve apostles was because there are twelve tribes of Israel. Each apostle is destined to be the ruler over a specific tribe. No wonder Christ spent an entire night in prayer before making such a momentous decision.

We even see this in Revelation where further information is given: John was shown a vision of the New Jerusalem which “had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are [the names] of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel … And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:12, 14).

Here we see that the names of the Twelve Apostles are bonded into the very foundations of the New Jerusalem. These foundations support the walls, and contained within the walls are twelve gates that provide access into this spiritual city – each gate being identified with a specific tribe within Israel. This vision gives more clear evidence of the vital role God has for the Twelve Apostles – providing spiritual foundations for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Replacing Judas Iscariot:

The reason the Twelve Apostles understood their position in teaching Israel, must have been that Christ had been clearly instructing them: Acts tells us that “Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy [Spirit] had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen …speaking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:2-3).

Having been instructed by Christ, their minds were obviously on the future kingdom and the position of rule they had been promised within it. The apostles asked, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). This is also why one of the first things that needed to be done after Christ’s death and resurrection, was to replace Judas Iscariot, as it was important that the number Twelve was preserved: “And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26).

If we notice how this lot was cast, we once again find that it was God – not the disciples themselves – who chose Judas’s replacement. God must always be the One who sends a true apostle. What we find in Acts 1:21-22 is the basic criteria that allowed someone to be considered by God in the role of replacement, as the person also needed to act as a witness of Christ’s whole ministry on earth: “Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22).

It appears that just two individuals fulfilled the requirements: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. They then prayed and asked God to choose between them: You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship … and the lot fell on Matthias” (Acts 1:24,26).

Once again, it was God who chose, and God who sent – not the disciples!

More than The Twelve:

The Twelve were very special indeed. But it is also clear from scripture that the apostle Paul was regarded as a special individual chosen by God and specifically sent to the Gentiles as an apostle. However, there are also several other apostles mentioned in the pages of scripture, showing us clearly that the term “apostle” was not limited to The Twelve and Paul.

In Matthew we are told that Christ had a brother called James (Matt 13:55). James, the brother of Christ, is later described by Paul in Galatians as “an apostle”; “But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother” (Gal 1:19). It is very clear he was in addition to the twelve. One of the twelve was also called James the son of Zebedee and there was another James – the son of Alphaeus. But clearly neither was “James the Lord’s brother,” or he would have been described as James the son of Joseph (the human “father” of Christ).

In Acts 14 Barnabas is described as an apostle (one sent): “Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul heard [of], they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? (Acts 14:14-15). In this case, Paul and Barnabas had been “sent” by God for a specific purpose. In Acts 13 we find both Paul and Barnabas being selected by God and then sent to a particular area “by the Holy [Spirit]” (Acts 13:4).

In Romans 16 two individuals are mentioned: Andronicus and Junia. There are different ways of translating this passage, but it is possible that these were apostles (sent) for a specific reason. However, we are not given any details:“Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me” (Rom 16:7).

False Apostles:

One of the clearest indications that there were several more apostles in the early church than the Twelve and Paul is the fact that “false apostles” are mentioned. If the office of apostle was restricted only to the Twelve and Paul, false apostles could not have deceived anyone. It is clear from scriptures, such as the two below, that this was not the case:

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ” (II Cor 11:13).

“I know your works, your labour, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars” (Rev 2:2).

John the Baptist:

There is one individual who at first glance nobody would tend to think of as having fulfilled an apostle-like role, yet John the Baptist is somewhat unique in this regard, as he preceded Christ – unlike the twelve. The reason it is important to recognise this aspect of John the Baptist, is that he was described by Christ as the type of one prophesied to come just before His second coming. This latter fulfilment is prophesied to have a similar role in being sent before Christ, to prepare a people for Christ’s return. This is why the subject of apostleship is absolutely vital for the true people of God today.

Two things indicate the apostle-like role of John the Baptist. First is the wording used within the prophecies predicting his arrival: God says: Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me” (Mal 3:1) and Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet” (Mal 4:5-6). These scriptures show that John the Baptist was to be sent by God – the very meaning of the title “apostle.”

The second aspect is the way in which Christ Himself referred to John: “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yes, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is [he], of whom it is written, Behold, I send [grk: apostello] my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee” (Matt 11:9-10). When this verse is understood in the light of the offices currently within the Church: first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers …” (I Cor 12:28), then we see that the only role greater than a prophet is an apostle. Christ therefore seems to imply an apostle-like role here of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist was “sent” to do a specific job. He is also the type of an apostle (one sent) who is prophesied. This latter individual is prophesied to appear at the end-time, when an elect people of God must be prepared as part of the very living Temple to which Christ is going to return. The existence of this end-time apostle will be covered later in the booklet – in chapter eight.

In Summary:

The reason why Christ chose twelve apostles is that each one is to rule a specific tribe of Israel in the Kingdom of God. Paul also was hand-picked by God and sent to the Gentiles.

However, there were several more apostles than just the twelve and Paul. Although John the Baptist preceded Christ, he also was “sent” (grk: apostello) and was described as “more than a prophet” by Christ. More importantly, he was the type fulfilment of another individual who was also prophesied. This individual was to be “sent” (grk: apostello) shortly before Christ’s return, specifically to prepare a people (a holy temple) for that return, and was prophesied to restore all things, just before the end.