Wednesday, April 17, 2013

An Apostle—To Be, Or Not To Be?

Biblegems #132
Question: According the book of Acts, one of the qualifications for being an apostle was being with Jesus throughout His ministry. How, then, does Paul qualify to be an apostle?

Acts 1:21-22 says,
Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.

Following Judas’ suicide, the remaining eleven apostles saw the need to fill Judas’ “position of leadership” (v. 20). It was scripturally necessary for the core group’s number to be restored to twelve men who were trusted witnesses of Jesus' ministry from the time of His baptism to His ascension. With the addition of Matthias, this was accomplished, fulfilling God’s plan for the early church and also for the perfect completion of His church in the New Jerusalem:
         Rev. 21:14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

However, the term “apostle” is used 83 times in Scripture and beyond the Gospels and Acts often applies to others besides Jesus’ core group of twelve. It was a common word in the Greek-speaking world that meant “a person sent by another; a messenger; envoy.”[i] That’s why Paul could use the term of himself 18 times in the New Testament. In fact, in Hebrews 3:1 even Jesus is called “the apostle and high priest whom we confess,” meaning He was sent by God, commissioned with a task, which He then passed on to others:
         John 20:21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”        

Paul was extremely conscious of the fact that he was not counted among the original twelve:
         1Cor. 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

He was often misunderstood and his apostleship held suspect:
         1Cor. 9:2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

But Paul also knew that his calling as an apostle came as a direct calling from God through Jesus Christ (2Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Rom. 11:13; etc.), and that his calling was validated by the fact that he had seen Jesus personally (1Cor. 9:1) and that his ministry was accompanied by “the things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles” (2Cor. 12:12).

Acts 1:22 does not give qualifications for being an apostle in general but for replacing Judas as one of the foundational twelve apostles. Unlike the twelve, Paul was called specifically to be an apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13). He was “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope” (1Tim. 1:1).

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[i] Easton Bible Dictionary, in loc.

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