the weblog of Alan Knox

The Apostles Were Apostles

Posted by on Aug 11, 2010 in discipline, missional, spiritual gifts | 10 comments

The Apostles Were Apostles

Yeah, the title of this post sounds strange. But, there’s a reason to my madness.

There is alot of confusion today about apostles. In fact, this confusion has continued for thousands of years (well, about two thousand years). It’s not that I’ve figured out something that no one else has ever figured out. Many people understand the difference between apostles and apostles. But, there are many who are still confused.

You see, it all began with the apostles… the twelve… those twelve men that Jesus originally called so that he could send them out.You can see this in Matthew 9-10:

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these… These twelve Jesus sent out… (Matthew 9:35-10:5)

The word “apostle” simply indicates that the person is a representative of someone else sent out for some person. Often, it can be translated as “messenger.” An “apostle” is differentiated from other in that the apostle is “sent out.” In fact, the noun “apostle” comes from a verb that means “to send,” as in Matthew 10:5.

Thus, the Twelve (the Apostles) were apostles. They were “sent out” by Jesus both before and after his death and resurrection. They were specifically told to make disciples of all the nations (indicating being sent) (Matthew 28:19-20) and that they were to be witnesses of Jesus to the end of the earth (also indicating being sent) (Acts 1:8).

So, the apostles (the Twelve) were apostles (those who are sent out).

The difficulty comes in recognizing that others in Scripture are also called apostles even though they were not part of the Twelve. The designations are not the same. The Twelve (including Paul?) were a special type of apostle who had been personally commissioned by Jesus. However, there were other apostles in Scripture who were not part of the Twelve.

In Acts 14:14, Barnabas is called an apostle. In 1 Thessalonians 2:6, Paul indicates that Timothy and Silas are apostles (see 1 Thessalonians 1:1 for the identification of “we”). 1 Corinthians 4:9 indicates that Apollos was an apostle (see 1 Corinthians 4:6).

Finally, in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul makes a clear distinction between “the twelve” and “the apostles.”

Thus, the Twelve (and Paul) were apostles, but others were apostles as well. There is, then, no reason not to identify Andronicus and Junia as being “among the apostles” in Romans 16:7. The indication only means that Andronicus and Junia were “sent out” away from their home in order to proclaim the gospel and strengthen the churches as they went.

The apostles were apostles, but there were other apostles who were not counted among the Twelve. From the very early days after the death of the Twelve, Christians have argued about the continuing existence of apostles. The Twelve no longer exist. But, there is no reason to assume that there are no apostles today. In fact, Scripture seems to indicate that the church continues to need apostles just as we continue to need all gifted believers.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-11-2010


    Can apostle be equated with missionary? If not, what would the difference be?


  2. 8-11-2010

    I wonder, “on that very day, two of them…” Luke 24:13 ???

  3. 8-11-2010

    I would have to agree with Dan.

    I know from institutional Christianity they make the case that the word apostle also refers to only those who saw the resurrected Lord. I think this is where you are coming from Alan.

    Based on what I have read from Scripture and now from “Finding Organic Church” by Frank Viola it seems that apostle as a messenger and sent one speaks of those called out from the church to plant another church, e.g. preaching Christ to unbelievers, forming a Christian community for those who believed, and then helping them learn to live by the life of Christ. They would then leave and do the same in other towns and cities, sometimes returning to encourage the brothers to move forward in their love for Christ and one another. So our traditional words such as missionary and church planter all speak of being modern day apostles.

    The problem are those false apostles who have taken the word as a title and position over the church to the detriment and spiritual demise of the church, replacing themselves as head of the church instead of Jesus Christ. The reason I guess why many denominations no longer use the word and to throw the word out doctrinally by stating apostles were only those who had seen the resurrected Christ. At least from my perspective it appears that way.

    I have also seen how institutional that “missionary” work has become. Missionaries are often seen as step children to a church pastor to help build the pastor’s flock, instead of forming new churches under the headship of Jesus Christ. I believe a true missionary is a church planter in every sense of the word. They are fulfilling the Great Commission by preaching the gospel to the lost, forming communities of those who believe the message, and helping them live by Christ’s life under His headship.

    I have also seen the confused understanding of the Great Commission where many advocate that every believer is supposed to be out making disciples, etc which has brought many people into a work they were never called to do. Making disciples is a corporate experience in the body of Christ, each living under Christ’s lordship and all living under His headship. That’s where making disciples happen, it is not a system of training or a step by step process advocated by most discipleship programs. I know I did many discipleship programs and was a discipleship director! This does not mean that individually we do not do anything, on the contrary! We are all called to manifest the life of Christ to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. because of learning Christ together in our gatherings. This may be getting off topic but the quality of the foundation of a church plant, living by Christ’s life, will determine the life of that church, how they manifest His life to one another and to the world. That’s what Christ is after! Amen!

    We need true church planters, who have lived by Christ’s life in an organic way and can help others do the same, then when God calls them, go and plant churches of quality that can live by His life, listen to Him, who is head of the church, and follow Him. Finding Organic Church by Frank Viola I think is a pivotal work that every follower of Christ, if God is calling them to this kind of work, a work full of hurt and joy, should read.

  4. 8-11-2010


    I would not equate “apostle” with “missionary.” In modern language, a “missionary” does learn his/her home, but the “missionary” does not necessarily travel from place to place. This is what an “apostle” did in Scripture.


    I don’t understand what you’re asking…


    I don’t equate “apostle” with “those who saw the resurrected Lord.” I see “apostle” as someone who travels from place to place in order to proclaim the gospel and strengthen the churches.


  5. 8-11-2010


    Thanks. That makes sense. Is the idea of going different places, as opposed to one place, tied into the meaning of the word or just in the New Testament context?


  6. 8-11-2010

    excellent post Alan! and so thus not all are apostles just as not all are prophets, or teachers or helpers, and so on. but there are apostles indeed.

  7. 8-11-2010


    A combination of the two. The idea of going somewhere as a representative is found in the meaning of the word “apostolos”. The idea of traveling from place to place – without settling in any one place – is found in the examples of Scripture.


    No, all are not apostles, and yes, some are apostles.


  8. 8-14-2010

    The qualifications of an apostle have been misunderstood in the account of Matthias’s selection. Faced with the loss of Judas , Peter and the early apostles searched the scriptures and found guidance in, “… it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.”

    From this they understood there was to be a replacement for Judas. Now the question becomes, how would they select this replacement? The qualifications they subsequently agree upon are based on this one case, finding a replacement for Judas.

    “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.”

    Are these the qualifications for every apostle? As Alan pointed out, several other folks in the scriptures are called apostles BUT do not meet the qualification of having “companied with us from our Lord’s baptism until His ascension.”

    To use the Judas’ replacement criteria as a set of qualifications for all apostles is clearly contradictory to the scriptures which themselves identify other men as apostles who did not meet these criteria.

  9. 7-2-2013

    However, a comparison of the duties of “evangelist” and “apostle” seem comparable, and thus result in what I believe to be a continuation of the “sent out” order.

  10. 7-2-2013


    Where do you find those duties?

    I think that those gifted as evangelists could also be “sent out” and those who are sent out as apostles could also do the work of evangelism. But, I’m not sure I’m comfortable saying that “evangelist” is a continuation of “apostle,” if that’s what you’re saying. They seem to exist side by side.