Vol. 5, No. 3
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(Therefore Stand, Vol. 18, No. 7, July 2002, p. 51.)
Acts 1:2 refers to "the apostles whom he had chosen," and these (along with the selection of one to take Judas' place) are also listed by name later in the chapter. We shall examine the meaning of "apostle," their selection, their qualifications and their significant role in the Lord's church.
Although the apostles were also called "disciples," the names have different meanings. "Disciple" means "a learner, follower;" whereas, "apostle" refers to "one who was sent by another." "Apostle" is the more specific term. All disciples did not become apostles, but all the apostles were disciples. Luke 6:13 tells us, "He called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles."
Since God sent Jesus to this earth, Hebrews 3:1 refers to "the Apostle...of our profession, Christ Jesus." Since the church at Philippi had sent Epaphroditus to Paul (Philippians 2:25), the word here in the original Greek New Testament rendered "messenger" (in the KJV) is the word that ordinarily is translated "apostle." It is in this sense that the word "apostle" is applied to both Barnabas and Paul in Acts 14:14. Both had been sent by the church in Antioch (13:1-3). Barnabas was not one of the apostles of Christ as was Paul, but was an apostle (one sent) of the church at Antioch.
At least Peter, Andrew, James, John (Matthew 4:18-22) and Matthew (Matthew 9:9) had been invited by Jesus earlier to, "Follow me." Then the more formal appointment of all the twelve was made (Matthew 10:1-6; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:13-16). They were appointed after he had prayed all night.
One did not become an apostle by his own wish. To be an apostle one had to have been chosen by Jesus Christ. He "calleth unto him whom he would...and he ordained twelve" (Mark 3:13-14). Paul wrote that he was "an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ...)" (Galatians 1:1) and that he was "called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God" (1 Corinthians 1:1; also stated in 2 Corinthians 1:1 and other letters).
When Jesus arose from the dead there were only eleven apostles left. When Judas Iscariot saw the result of his betrayal of Jesus he committed suicide by hanging himself (Matthew 27:3-5). Now, as the other eleven wait in Jerusalem as Jesus had instructed (Luke 24:49), Peter initiates action to select another apostle to take Judas' place. From those men with them who had accompanied them from the baptism of John until the time Jesus ascended, one man was to be appointed. Two men are put forth for this selection, Barsabas and Matthias. After praying for God to show which he had chosen, they cast lots, and Matthias is selected. From then on he is considered to be one of the twelve apostles (Acts 1:15-26).
It is noteworthy that Matthias had "to be a witness with us of his resurrection" (Acts 1:22). The only other man later chosen to be an apostle was Paul. It is no coincidence that Jesus appeared to him in person before his conversion. Ananias was then sent by God to him to tell him what he had to do to be saved (Acts 22:10). At that time Ananias also told Saul [Paul], "The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth" (22:14). To be a witness of the risen Christ it was necessary that Paul see and hear Jesus. At the time of his appearance the Lord had said, "I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee...a witness...of these things which thou hast seen" (Acts 26:16). Later Paul wrote, "Last of all he was seen of me" (1 Corinthians 15:8). Since the last time Jesus was seen was by Paul, and since one had to see him to be an apostle, we know that there are no living apostles today!
Although the apostles did not have successors, and none of them are living today, we still have apostles today. The original apostles are still our apostles. They were forever set apart ("sanctified") by having been guided in revealing God's New Testament truth (John 17:17). Someday we shall be judged by the truths given through them (Romans 2:16). They now sit "on twelve thrones," judging God's "twelve tribes" -- the church of which we all can be members (Matthew 19:28). Let us follow their teachings!