Do Apostles Still Exist?

do apostles still existMost of us Christians have a man or woman we consider our pastor. But what about the other four ministry offices?

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” (Ephesians 4:11)

We’re all familiar with pastors, and probably even teachers and evangelists. However, there are many who would say there are no longer apostles or prophets. Just today, I was listening to a sermon by a pastor I highly respect, and he said in passing that the office of the apostle no longer exists. He held the common view that there were only twelve “apostles,” and that they were the men whom Jesus had appointed in the first century to spread the gospel and write the New Testament.

I quickly flipped open my bible and looked up a few scriptures, and quickly confirmed that this pastor (while mostly brilliant) was wrong.

Here are a few things the New Testament says about apostles.

  1. There are thirteen men appointed as “apostles” specifically by Jesus in the bible

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.” (Matthew 10:2-4)

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead).” (Galatians 1:1)

Generally, those who believe there are no more apostles say that Paul is the twelfth and final apostle, having replaced Judas, who sucked. But consider this for a second: Judas did miracles. Yes, the guy who was stealing from Jesus’ treasury (meaning Jesus had treasure) healed the sick and raised the dead. Take that how you will.

  1. Four other men are called “apostles” in the bible

Barnabas

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out.” (Acts 14:14)

Luke the physician, a companion of Paul (2 Timothy 4:11; Acts 28:16), clearly states that Barnabas was an apostle. Not only that, the narratives in Acts seem to indicate that he was in charge and that Paul was his disciple. Barnabas is usually listed first, and the men of Lystra called Barnabas “Zeus” (the chief God) but Paul “Hermes” (the messenger of Zeus) (Acts 14:12). It seems Barnabas was an apostle who discipled Paul.

Andronicus

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” (Romans 16:7)

The NIV reads that Andronicus was “outstanding among the apostles.”

James, the Lord’s Brother

But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.” (Galatians 1:19)

Not to be confused with James the son of Zebedee or James the son of Alphaeus, this was James the son of Mary and Joseph, the half-brother of Jesus, and author of the Epistle of James.

Worth noting is that he is clearly distinguished from the twelve apostles.

After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.” (1 Corinthians 15:7)

Epaphroditus

And I thought it necessary Epaphroditus – my brother, and fellow-workman, and fellow-soldier, and your apostle and servant to my need – to send unto you.” (Philippians 2:25)

He is only mentioned twice in scripture, so we don’t know much about him, but from Paul’s epistle to the Philippians we know that he was an apostle (Greek “apostolos”) to the church in Philippi.

(I chose not to include Matthias on my list, because the argument could be made that he was “numbered with the apostles” rather than being considered an apostle [Acts 1:26]. Also, he never shows up again.)

  1. One woman is called an “apostle” in the bible

You may have noticed I skipped over a name earlier.

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” (Romans 16:7)

Junia’s example demonstrates that woman can not only function in ministry positions (at least according to Paul), but can be outstanding at it.

  1. Jesus’ twelve apostles didn’t have universal jurisdiction

And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.” (Acts 16:4)

Chapter 15 of Acts tells us of the Jerusalem Council, where the church leaders basically confirmed that you didn’t have to convert to Judaism to become a Christian. What is interesting is that it wasn’t just the apostles who decided this. It was a meeting of apostles and elders. The authority of the twelve disciples didn’t override everyone else. They still needed to discuss matters with church leaders. That rule still applies today.

  1. There is something special about the twelve

Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:14)

The twelve apostles of Jesus do hold a special position in heaven (Matthias is easily the luckiest guy there). Let’s face it. They spent those three and a half pivotal years with Jesus, and we have Christianity today because of them.

  1. Apostles are necessary in the church today

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12)

Look at some of the things apostles (along with the other four ministry offices) do for the church. They equip us for ministry, they edify us, they unify us and teach us to know God. As the scriptures plainly state, all of these ministry offices are absolutely vital for the church experiencing the fullness of Christ today.

And if we’d stop denying the necessity of modern day apostles, maybe we’d see a more equipped and unified church.

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