Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Apostles

"When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles" (Luke 6:13).

Often Christians become confused about “disciples” and “apostles,” thinking that they mean the same thing and that they refer to the same group of people. Actually, “disciple” means “learner,” and Jesus had many disciples. But what happens to a learner, eventually? He graduates. And so the time came when certain of the disciples were ready to graduate to the level of being “apostles.”

Apostleship is a very special job. The word in Greek is apostolos, which is constructed of apo, meaning “out of, from,” and stello, meaning “send.” An apostle, thus, is someone sent out on a mission. In the ancient world, a person serving as an apostle was usually a representative of a king or some other ruler who had the authority to speak on behalf of his patron. He served as an emissary, much as an ambassador does today. An ambassador has the right to speak on behalf of our government to other heads of state, and sometimes an ambassador has the right to make decisions on behalf of our government.

An apostle had the authority of the one who sent him. Jesus told the apostles, “He who receives you, receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me” (Matthew 10:40). It is this apostolic authority that lies behind the New Testament, for the church is founded on the apostles and prophets, with Christ as chief cornerstone.

Often I have heard people say, “I like Jesus, but I don’t like Paul.” Well, Paul had all the authority of Jesus when it came to exercising his apostleship, and to pit the authority of Paul’s letters against Jesus is to pit Jesus against Himself. An apostle does not speak on his own authority, but on the basis of the authority of the one who sent him.

The first apostle we meet in the New Testament is neither Paul nor Peter. It is Jesus Himself. Jesus defines His role as one sent by the Father. He came with the words and the authority of the Father. Just so, Jesus’ apostles came with His words and His authority.

The original apostles were unique to the New Testament, and there are no apostles in that strict sense today. Nevertheless, you have been invested with some authority and are sent out on behalf of the kingdom. Do you know where you are sent and what you are saying?