Are Apostles for Today? | Part 1

Are apostles for today?  It’s an important question, a question essentially about authority, of whom we should listen to.

If Apostle so-and-so says “The Lord told me in a vision that…you need to give me all your money now.  All your NSFAS funding,” should you listen to him?  Well, it depends on whether he has authority from God to say that.  What if he says, “All the women in the congregation must come to his house.”  Will you listen to him?  You need to drink petrol?  Or get sprayed with doom?  Will you listen to him?  He’d claim “yes”. He’s an ‘Apostle’ who has God-given authority to tell people what to do.

But is he actually an Apostle? Or is he a false apostle, using the title—that he gave himself—to exploit people? Are apostles for today?

Defining Terms

Now, we need to clarify what we mean by apostle.  An apostle means “sent one.”  You’ll meet people who use “apostle” in that way.  For example, Hudson Taylor was a missionary who the Lord sent to China to spread the gospel.  Some would say Hudson Taylor was an ‘apostle’ to China.  So yes, if we’re using ‘apostle’ to mean “one who is sent” then there are people like that today, what we might call ‘lowercase A’ apostles today.  But I think it’s unwise to use ‘apostle’ like that.  It confuses people.  Because ‘apostle’ today normally meaning something else.   


Jesus’ original apostles had unique authority that no one today has.


Today, when pastors, often in flashy suits, dressed to impress, say “I’m apostle so-and-so” what they’re saying is, “Look, I’m special.  I have direct hotline to heaven.  I have more authority than you, the average believer.”  They claim to speak on behalf of God with unique authority, to have the same level of authority as Jesus’ original twelve apostles had: “You need to listen to me, I’m an apostle!”  But should we listen to them? Well, let’s see what the Bible says.

My aim in these two posts is to show you from the Bible that there are no more apostles as seen in the New Testament today. Jesus’ original apostles had unique authority that no one today has. And I’ll make this case under three headings, the first appearing here with the second and third in my next post.

CHOSEN WITNESSES

The first point is this: there are no Apostles today since the requirement of an apostle is that they are chosen witnesses.

A true apostle needs to be chosen by the Lord Jesus himself. All of the original twelve apostles were chosen by the Lord Jesus.  

 “These are the names of the twelve: “Simon (who is called Peter)”, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him”  (Matt. 10:2-4).

Now, we know what happened: Judas betrayed Jesus and then Judas committed suicide.  Jesus was crucified, died, buried and then he rose bodily from the tomb and ascended to heaven, from where he now reigns.  After Jesus ascended to heaven. The book of Acts then describes how the Apostle Peter led the 10 other remaining apostles and other believers, to choose a replacement apostle for Judas.  And the replacement Apostle needed to fit specific requirements on his CV.  Listen to what Peter tells them in Acts 1:21:

“Therefore [since Scripture prophesied that Judas must be replaced] it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us [the other apostles] 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 [ascended to heaven].  For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

Notice the qualifications needed to replace Judas as an Apostle. To qualify to replace Judas, a man must have an eyewitness of Jesus’ earthly ministry, beginning with Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River all the way through to his ascension.

APOSTLES TODAY?

So, let’s evaluate modern day apostles. Did Apostle so-and-so walk the dusty streets of Jerusalem with Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Philip? Did apostle so-and-so witness Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River?  Did any apostle today witness him walking on water, raising the dead, any of his miracles?  Did apostle-so-and-so see the once-crucified Jesus risen from the dead?  Did apostle so-and-so stand with the other apostles and witness Jesus ascend to heaven?  Of course not!  It’s clear that they don’t meet the Acts 2 requirements to be one of the twelve apostles.

But now why did Judas’ replacement need to meet those specific requirements?  Because the apostles had a very specific task. We see this in Acts 1:22, “For one of these must become a witness with us of the resurrection.”  They must have witnessed Jesus—who died and was buried—bodily, physically alive

As you read Acts, the Acts of the risen Lord Jesus, you hear the Apostles proclaiming that Jesus rose from the dead. Which means he is the Lord, who will judge everyone and who can save all who believe in him. The Apostles had these special qualifications, since they were called to a special task: to bear witness to resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the risen Lord Jesus who they had to have seen with their own eyes.


The Apostles had these special qualifications, since they were called to a special task: to bear witness to resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.


So, modern-day ‘apostles’ do not qualify to be Jesus’ apostles. We can’t flinch away from this. Now, you might ask, what about the Apostle Paul?  He became an Apostle later, didn’t he? You can read of how the Lord called Paul to preach the Gospel to non-Jews in Acts 9:1-22. Paul the persecutor of Christian becomes Paul the proclaimer of Jesus Christ on the Damascus road.

Paul’s calling was unusual, he describes himself as one untimely born (1 Cor. 15:8) but he is an apostle because the risen Lord Jesus both appeared to him and chose him. So, even though Paul’s calling was unusual, it still fits the very same requirements that we see in Acts 1, which further confirms who Apostles really are.

Look out for the next post where I’ll talk about both the message of the Apostles and their ongoing ministry today.

2 Comments

  1. Hi there, I’m sure your post will receive a lot of heated responses from people who like to elevate man, but I hope I can engage you on a scriptural basis here. I agree with most of what you’re saying and I can’t comment too much until you’ve made your second and third points. However, if we ignore the fact that there are thousands of false apostles today ( and as a side note the same goes for evangelists and pastors etc so it doesn’t mean real ones don’t exist based on that theory) your point that ‘apostles don’t exist today because they were chosen witnesses’ is a strange one. It’s true but it doesn’t discount Jesus doing the same today, in the same way He called Paul. As far as I understand the risen Jesus did not appear in the flesh to Paul, he just heard his voice. But even if He did, Jesus could do the same today if he wanted to. I don’t deny Paul met with the risen Jesus but haven’t we all met with Him when we were born again? As a former Baptist, I have come to believe that I used to think of the early church as a special church in another dispensation, with certain things happening that we will not see today or ever see in the future. I believe we always need to stay within the confines of the Word of God but think it’s a dangerous assumption to believe we are now in a new type of dispensation where Jesus can’t call men in the same way….. Going back to your first point….Based on the many points the original 12 used to choose Judas replacement, Paul would not have qualified. They sincerely made a good judgement call but all of your points, apart from meeting with the risen Lord, are surely void when it comes to Paul? He does not fit that mould but equally fits the ‘chosen witness’ who had a very real meeting with Jesus and is an example of the sovereign nature of God. Yes He chose 12, but he also chose another who received probably the greatest revelation of the new covenant out of all of the apostles. I guess I will need to wait for your second and third points but if we just take this first point in isolation, I can’t see why Jesus can’t do that today. You might say he can but he wouldn’t. (Forgive the assumption) In which case it will all come down to why it is not necessary to have this office of apostle in the church today. A thought for another day perhaps! Yours in Christ (FYI I don’t ever get into debates like this online, I just felt to pose a question or two in the interest of edification, and I’m not trying to pick a fight!)

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