I would like to write about the term apostle as it is used in the New Testament. I believe there is much confusion about this term, and it has therefore been abused and misused.
The New Testament was originally written in a language called koine Greek, and ancient form of the Greek language. The Greek word apostolos literally means “one who is sent; a messenger or ambassador.” Based on this, one might try to argue that anyone sent by God is an “apostle.” The New Testament writers, however, normally used this word to describe a very specific group of people. The word “apostle” appears over 80 times in the New Testament, and almost always refers to a very specific, narrowly defined group.
Let’s consider some of the characteristics of the New Testament Apostles as most commonly described:
*The term “apostles” is synonymous with the 12 disciples in the four gospels (Matthew 10:1-4). These men were eyewitnesses to the ministry of Jesus. This was an essential qualification when the eleven disciples decided to replace Judas (Acts 1:21-22).
*Others were given this title in the New Testament, but the number is limited. Paul, for example, considered himself the “least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9).
*The apostles were foundational in passing on the essential teachings of Christ, and some of them were inspired to write New Testament Scriptures (Ephesians 2:19-21).
*They had unique spiritual authority. The role of apostle was considered the most authoritative role in the early church (1st Corinthians 12:28-30).
*Their authority did have boundaries. They were charged with preaching the gospel, but they were not given the authority to create another gospel other than what Jesus had preached (Galatians 1:8-9).
The term “apostle” is often misused.
Considering these qualifications, I am surprised and appalled at how loosely people use the term “apostle.” It seems in the Philippines alone we have more “apostles” than we have McDonald’s. Men and Women love to give themselves this title, ignoring the narrow biblical description. When someone calls himself an apostle, you should immediately be on guard.
The term “apostle” is often abused.
Some churches/religions claim that they have apostles. Unless they can show me a live, breathing 2,000 year old church member, I’ll remain skeptical of such a claim. Many false religions make this claim in order to 1) control their members (by telling them only members of their group can be saved) 2) create their own set of non-biblical beliefs (despite the fact that even the original apostles did not have this right) and 3) expand their own religious empire.
Remember that salvation is found in Jesus Christ himself (John 14:6), not in a particular church or religion. Consider Paul’s words carefully and don’t be deceived!
But I will continue doing what I have always done. This will undercut those who are looking for an opportunity to boast that their work is just like ours. These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.
-2nd Corinthians 11:12-15
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