You are not an apostle.
You know this already, of course. So why am I writing an article to prove it?
Well, interestingly, and awful lot of believers who already know they are not apostles routinely assume upon themselves various promises and duties that Jesus gave to his apostles, and not to anyone else. So I thought it would be good to set the record straight on a few matters about which there seems to be widespread confusion.
First, some basic facts about the apostles:
- The word “Apostle” means “one who is sent out”. From apo–out or away, stellein–to send. Read more here if you like. As we shall see below, the apostles were sent out by Jesus. They were expected to take his message to the entire world, calling people everywhere to follow Jesus. Interestingly, the word for “church” is ekklesia, which means those who are called out. So the apostles were “sent out” to do the calling, and those who responded were the “called-out ones”.
- Apostles were personally appointed by Jesus. Even in the case of Paul, who came considerably after the appointment of Peter and the others, Jesus had a personal meeting with him. Here’s a start on some passages in support of what I’m saying:
- Luke 6:12 Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. 13 And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles: 14 Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; 15 Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; 16 Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.
- Acts 9:3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” 6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
- Apostles had miraculous abilities:
- Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This was more than the power to cast out demons and to heal diseases, for they had already been given this in Matthew 10:1.
- John 14:12“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. I know of no believer in this generation who does greater works than Jesus, although this could have been true of the apostles with their “signs and wonders”. If the Bible were a complete record of what happened, I get the feeling we’d have lots of accounts of the apostles doing mighty works.
- Acts 2:43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Why only through the apostles? Why were not all believers given such powers?
- Acts 4:33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. This is probably literal language concerning miracles, and not figurative as in “What a powerful message today, Pastor!”
- Acts 5:12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people.
- 2 Corinthians 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds. This seems to have been a standard feature of apostleship. There is no promise of such powers for all believers, and there is certainly no evidence that all believers have such gifts–or that it ever was so.
- The apostleship was only for a limited time.
- In no place does scripture lay out any plan for an apostolic succession; once the apostles were gone, there would be no replacement for them.
- Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
- There were two ages in view: “this age”, said Jesus, and “the age to come”: Matthew 12:32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
- Paul would write that they were at the common terminus of two ages—that is, the end of one and the beginning of the next: 1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
- With this, Hebrews agrees: Hebrews 9:26 … but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
- The apostles were the chief authority for the ekklesia (“church” to most) on the Earth. Yes, Jesus was in charge of the whole thing, but he had appointed them to lead the ekklesia:
- Matthew 16:18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
- 1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Not only are the apostles first on the list, but Paul makes it certain that they are to be first inasmuch as he uses the word “first”.
- Ephesians 2:19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,… Without the apostles, there could have been no “foundation” to the ekklesia.
- Ephesians 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 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; Note that apostles start the list again.
- Revelation 20:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Their role in the ekklesia on the Earth was so profound that they even have special honor in heaven!
- The revealing of Christ to the world and to the ekklesia would happen through the ministry of the apostles.
- John 12:18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world….20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;
- Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
- Ephesians 3:4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel
- 2 Peter 3:1 This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.
So those are the basics. And surely, you don’t think you are an apostle. But what follows below is a list of bad assumptions made by many believers today, in which they presume upon themselves either promises or duties that were only ever made to the apostles.
Promises and Commissions That Were Only For the Apostles
- “Christ’s Ambassadors” Paul wrote to the Corinthians the following: 2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
- Many today fail to grasp, however, the stark difference between the apostles and those who were called out of the darkness through the apostles’ appeal. Here’s an article wherein I prove that the “we” whom Paul claimed to be ambassadors of Christ were the apostles, and not all believers in general.
- “Whatever you ask…” John 14:13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
- Any believer today can demonstrate that this is not true for him or her; he only has to ask for something and not get it—just as many of us have done. Even so, many Christians continue to tell themselves that this promise is for them, rather than being only for the apostles.
- “Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
- To whom did he make this promise? To the disciples in a private conversation. And did they ever repeat this to non-apostle believers? Not the we have in the record.
- “I can do all things.” Philippians 4:12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
- Here we have an authorized apostle speaking of his own access to God’s powers, yet many feel compelled to presume such access upon themselves. I’ve even seen this one posted on t-shirts and football game banners and the like—and especially on Facebook.
- “Teach you all things” John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
- This promise to the apostles obviously does not apply to us today. Indeed, John’s gospel says that Jesus did many things that John did not write down. (John 20:30-31) We don’t know about these things, yet if this promise for the apostles were for us, we would have been informed about them through the Spirit.
- “Guide you into all truth” John 16:12 I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
- If this promise were for all believers today, how is it that what started out as one ekklesia is now split into hundreds or even thousands of competing groups with different doctrines, beliefs, and practices? And how is that that many different camps exist regarding “what is to come”? If all their information were coming straight from the Spirit, as was promised for the apostles, would they not be in agreement about “all the truth” and about “what is to come”?
- The Great Commission. Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
- The passage is clear that this commission was made only to “the eleven”.
- In no passage anywhere in the New Testament (or Old) do we ever see any apostle passing this commission on to non apostles.
- In no passage do we see any of the non-apostle Christians having assumed or understood this commission to have been for them.
- Even though the epistles are replete with coaching, encouraging, correcting, and rebuking on a great many subjects of Christian life, not once do we ever see any Christian or congregation being chided for failures in “evangelism”.
- I am not suggesting that it is wrong for a believer to share with others, but it is certainly wrong for one to claim that he is operating under a heavenly commission when no such appointment was made. God most certainly knows how to appoint a person to some task, and if we have not been so appointed as were these “eleven”, then we ought not imagine that we have been.
So cut it out!
Do you have any idea, Christian, how much strife and cognitive dissonance is caused by the careless application of these promises and commissions to those for whom they were never meant? How many believers feel bad about themselves because they have been taught to believe that if only they had enough faith, they’d be able to do whatever they want or get whatever they ask for?
The Craziest Part
The craziest part of all this is that we can prove, by way of direct observation, that these promises are not true for us today. Even so, so very many continue to tell themselves lies with regard to these things, telling themselves what they know, or should know, does not apply to us. This habit, therefore, is a classic example of irrationality. For an apostle to have claimed these promises and commissions faithfully would have been wholly rational (reality-based), for the apostles had indeed been so promised and commissioned. But for any non apostle to assume these promises and commissions is an exercise in unreality, for they were simply not given to us.