Abba refers to one’s male parent, his father.
“Apostle” means somebody sent with a commission to represent or to accomplish some task. This is essentially an embassador (political context) or a missionary (religious context).
• An appellation of Jesus
Heb 3:1 Apostles
(one sent forth), in the New Testament originally the official name of those twelve of the disciples whom Jesus chose to send forth first to preach the gospel and to be with him during the course of his ministry on earth. The word also appears to have been used in a non-official sense to designate a much wider circle of Christian messengers and teachers See (2 Corinthians 8:23; Philemon 2:25) It is only of those who were officially designated apostles that we treat in the article. Their names are given in (Matthew 10:2-4) and Christ’s charge to them in the rest of the chapter. Their office. — (1) The original qualification of an apostle, as stated by St. Peter on the occasion of electing a successor to the traitor Judas, was that he should have been personally acquainted with the whole ministerial course of our Lord from his baptism by John till the day when he was taken up into heaven. (2) They were chosen by Christ himself (3) They had the power of working miracles. (4) They were inspired. (John 16:13) (5) Their world seems to have been pre-eminently that of founding the churches and upholding them by supernatural power specially bestowed for that purpose. (6) The office ceased, a matter of course, with its first holders-all continuation of it, from the very condition of its existence (cf. (1 Corinthians 9:1)), being impossible. Early history and training .–The apostles were from the lower ranks of life, simple and uneducated; some of them were related to Jesus according to the flesh; some had previously been disciples of John the Baptist. Our Lord chose them early in his public career They seem to have been all on an equality, both during and after the ministry of Christ on earth. Early in our Lord’s ministry he sent them out two and two to preach repentance and to perform miracles in his name Matt 10; Luke 9. They accompanied him in his journey, saw his wonderful works, heard his discourses addressed to the people, and made inquiries of him on religious matters. They recognized him as the Christ of God, (Matthew 16:16; Luke 9:20) and described to him supernatural power (Luke 9:54) but in the recognition of the spiritual teaching and mission of Christ they made very low progress, held back as they were by weakness of apprehension and by national prejudices. Even at the removal of our Lord from the earth they were yet weak in their knowledge, (Luke 24:21; John 16:12) though he had for so long been carefully preparing and instructing them. On the feast of Pentecost, ten days after our Lord’s ascension, the Holy Spirit came down on the assembled church, Acts 2; and from that time the apostles became altogether different men, giving witness with power of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, as he had declared they should. (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8; Acts 1:22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 13:31) Later labors and history. –First of all the mother-church at Jerusalem grew up under their hands, Acts 3-7, and their superior dignity and power were universally acknowledged by the rulers and the people. (Acts 5:12) ff. Their first mission out of Jerusalem was to Samaria (Acts 8:5-25) where the Lord himself had, during his ministry, sown the seed of the gospel. Here ends the first period of the apostles’ agency, during which its centre is Jerusalem and the prominent figure is that of St. Peter. The centre of the second period of the apostolic agency is Antioch, where a church soon was built up, consisting of Jews and Gentiles; and the central figure of this and of the subsequent period is St. Paul. The third apostolic period is marked by the almost entire disappearance of the twelve from the sacred narrative and the exclusive agency of St. Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles. Of the missionary work of the rest of the twelve we know absolutely nothing from the sacred narrative.
A messenger or envoy. The term is applied to Jesus Christ, who was God’s envoy to save the world, Heb 3:1; though, more commonly, the title is given to persons who were envoys commissioned by the Savior himself.
The apostles of Jesus Christ were his chief disciples, whom he invested with authority, filled with his Spirit, entrusted particularly with his doctrines and services, and chose to raise the edifice of his church. They were twelve in number, answering to the twelve tribes. Mt 19:28, and were plain, unlearned men, chosen from the common people. After their calling and charge, Mt 10:5-42, they attended their divine Master, witnessing his works, imbibing his spirit, and gradually learning the facts and doctrines of the gospel. After his resurrection, he sent them into all the world, commissioned to preach, to baptize, to work miracles, etc. See Joh 15:27 1Co 9:1; 15:8; 2Co 12:12; 1Th 2:13. The names of the twelve are, Simon Peter; Andrew, his brother; James, the son of Zebedee, called also “the greater;” John, his brother; Philip; Bartholomew; Thomas; Matthew, or Levi; Simon the Canaanite; Lebbeus, surnamed Thaddeus, also called Judas or Jude; James, “the less,” the son of Alphaeus; and Judas Iscariot, Mt 10:2-4; Mr 3:16; Lu 6:14. The last betrayed his Master, and then hanged himself, and Matthias was chosen in his place, Ac 1:15-26. In the Acts of the Apostles are recorded the self-sacrificing toils and sufferings of these Christlike men, who did that which was “right in the sight of God” from love to their Lord; and gave themselves wholly to their work, with a zeal, love, and faith Christ delighted to honor-teaching us that apostolic graces alone can secure apostolic successes.
(“one sent forth”.) The official name of the twelve whom Jesus sent forth to preach, and who also were with Him throughout His earthly ministry. Peter states the qualifications before the election of Judas’ successor (Act 1:21), namely, that he should have companied with the followers of Jesus “all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among them, beginning from the baptism of John unto the day that He was taken up, to be a witness with the others of His resurrection.” So the Lord, “Ye are they that have continued with Me in My temptations” (Luk 22:28). The Holy Spirit was specially promised to bring all things to their remembrance whatever Jesus had said, to guide them into all truth, and to enable them to testify of Jesus with power to all lands (Joh 14:26; Joh 15:26-27; Joh 16:13-14). They were some of them fishermen, one a tax collector, and most of them unlearned.
Though called before, they did not permanently follow Him until their call as apostles. All were on a level (Mat 20:20-27; Mar 9:34-36). Yet three stood in especial nearness to Him, Peter, James, and John; they alone witnessed the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the transfiguration, and the agony in Gethsemane. An order grounded on moral considerations is traceable in the enumeration of the rest: Judas, the traitor, in all the lists stands last. The disciples surrounded Jesus in wider and still wider expanding circles: nearest Him Peter, James, and. John; then the other nine; then the Seventy; then the disciples in general. But the “mystery” was revealed to all alike (Mat 10:27). Four catalogues are extant: Matthew’s (Matthew 10), Mark’s (Mar 3:16), Luke’s (Luk 6:14) in the Gospel, and Luke’s in Act 1:13.
In all four the apostles are grouped in three classes, four in each. Philip heads the second division, i.e. is fifth; James the son of Alpheus heads the third, i.e. is ninth. Andrew follows Peter on the ground of brotherhood in Matthew and Luke; in Mark and Acts James and John, on the ground of greater nearness to Jesus, precede Andrew. In the second division Matthew modestly puts himself after Thomas; Mark and Luke give him his rightful place before Thomas. Thomas, after his doubts were removed (Joh 20:28), having attained distinguished faith, is promoted above Bartholomew (or Nathanael) and Matthew in Acts. In Matt, hew and Mark Thaddaeus (or Lebbaeus) precedes Simon Zelotes (Hebrew “Canaanite,” i.e. one of the sect the Zealots). But in Luke and Acts Simon Zelotes precedes Jude (Thaddaeus) the brother of James. John gives no catalogue, but writing later takes it for granted (Rev 21:14; Rev 21:19-20).
In the first division stand Peter and John, New Testament writers, in the second Matthew, in the third James and Jude. The Zealot stood once the last except the traitor, but subsequently became raised; bigotry is not always the best preparation for subsequent high standing in faith. Jesus sent them in pairs: a good plan for securing brotherly sympathy and cooperation. Their early mission in Jesus’ lifetime, to preach repentance and perform miracles in Jesus’ name, was restricted to Israel, to prepare the way for the subsequent gospel preaching to the Jews first, on and after Pentecost (Act 3:25). They were slow to apprehend the spiritual nature of His kingdom, and His crucifixion and resurrection as the necessary preliminary to it. Even after His resurrection seven of them returned to their fishing; and it was only by Christ’s renewed call that they were led’ to remain together at Jerusalem, waiting for the promised Comforter (John 21; Act 1:4).
From the day of the Pentecostal effusion of the Holy Spirit they became new men, witnessing with power of the resurrection of Jesus, as Jesus had promised (Luk 24:45; Luk 24:49; Act 1:8; Act 1:22; Act 2:32; Act 3:15; Act 5:32; Act 13:31). The first period of the apostles’ working extends down to Act 11:18. Excepting the transition period (Acts 8-10) when, at Stephen’s martyrdom, the gospel was extended to Samaria and. to the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip, Jerusalem is its center, and Peter’ the prominent figure, who opened the kingdom of heaven (according to Jesus’ promise to him, Mat 16:18-19) to the Jews and also to the Gentiles (Acts 2; 10). The second period begins with the extension of the kingdom to idolatrous Gentiles. (Act 11:19-26).
Antioch, in concert with Jerusalem, is now the center, and Paul the prominent figure, in concert with the other apostles. Though the ideal number always remained twelve (Rev 21:14), answering to the twelve tribes of Israel, yet just as there were in fact thirteen tribes when Joseph’s two sons were made separate tribal heads, so Paul’s calling made thirteen actual apostles. He possessed the two characteristics of an Apostle; he had” seen the Lord,” so as to be an eye witness of His resurrection, and he had the power which none but an Apostle had, of conferring spiritual gifts (1Co 9:1-2; 2Co 12:12; Rom 1:11; Rom 15:18-19). This period ends with Act 13:1-5, when Barnabas and Saul were separated by the Holy Spirit unto missionary work. Here the third apostolic period begins, in which the twelve disappear, and Paul alone stands forth, the Apostle of the Gentiles; so that at the close of Acts, which leaves him evangelizing in Rome, the metropolis of the world, churches from Jerusalem unto Illyricum had been founded through him.
“Apostle” is used in a vaguer sense of “messengers of the churches” (2Co 8:23; Phi 2:25). But the term belongs in its stricter sense to the twelve alone; they alone were apostles of Christ. Their distinctive note is, they were commissioned immediately by Jesus Himself. They alone were chosen by Christ Himself, independently of the churches. So even Matthias (Act 1:24). So Paul (Gal 1:1-12; Rom 1:1; 1Co 15:9-10). Their exclusive office was to found the Christian church; so their official existence was of Christ, and prior to the churches they collectively and severally founded. They acted with a divine authority to bind and loose things (Mat 18:18), and to remit or retain sins of persons (Joh 20:21-23), which they exercised by the authoritative ministry of the word. Their infallibility, of which their miracles were the credentials, marked them as extraordinary, not permanent, ministers.
Paul requires the Corinthians to acknowledge that the things which he wrote were the Lord’s commandments (1Co 14:37). The office was not local; but “the care of all the churches.” They were to the whole what particular elders were, to parts of the church (1Pe 5:1; 2Jo 1:1). Apostles therefore could have strictly no successors. John, while superintending the whole, was especially connected with the churches of Asia Minor, Paul with the W., Peter with Babylon. The bishops in that age coexisted with, and did not succeed officially, the apostles. James seems specially to have had a presidency in Jerusalem (Act 15:19; Act 21:18).
Once the Lord Himself is so designated, “the Apostle of our profession” (Heb 3:1); the, Ambassador sent from the Father (Joh 20:21). As Apostle He pleads God’s cause with us; as” High Priest,” our cause with God. Appropriate in writing to Hebrew, since the Hebrew high priest sent delegates (“apostles”) to collect the temple tribute from Jews in foreign countries, just as Christ is the Father’s Delegate to claim the Father’s due from His subjects in this world far off from Him (Mat 21:37).
a-pos’-l ([ @apostolos], literally, “one sent forth,” an envoy, missionary): For the meaning of this name as it meets us in the New Testament, reference is sometimes made to classical and Jewish parallels. In earlier classical Greek there was a distinction between an aggelos or messenger and an apostolos, who was not a mere messenger, but a delegate or representative of the person who sent him. In the later Judaism, again, apostoloi were envoys sent out by the patriarchate in Jerusalem to collect the sacred tribute from the Jews of the Dispersion. It seems unlikely, however, that either of these uses bears upon the Christian origin of a term which, in any case, came to have its own distinctive Christian meaning. To understand the word as we find it in the New Testament it is not necessary to go beyond the New Testament itself. To discover the source of its Christian use it is sufficient to refer to its immediate and natural signification. The term used by Jesus, it must be remembered, would be Aramaic, not Greek, and apostolos would be its literal equivalent.
1. The Twelve:
In the New Testament history we first hear of the term as applied by Jesus to the Twelve in connection with that evangelical mission among the villages on which He dispatched them at an early stage of His public ministry (Matt 10:1; Mark 3:14; Mark 6:30; Luke 6:13; Luke 9:1). From a comparison of the Synoptics it would seem that the name as thus used was not a general designation for the Twelve, but had reference only to this particular mission, which was typical and prophetic, however, of the wider mission that was to come (compare Hort, Christian Ecclesia, 23-29). Luke, it is true, uses the word as a title for the Twelve apart from reference to the mission among the villages. But the explanation probably is, as Dr. Hort suggests, that since the Third Gospel and the Book of Ac formed two sections of what was really one work, the author in the Gospel employs the term in that wider sense which it came to have after the Ascension.
When we pass to Acts, “apostles” has become an ordinary name for the Eleven (Acts 1:2; Acts 1:26), and after the election of Matthias in place of Judas, for the Twelve (2:37,42,43, etc.). But even so it does not denote a particular and restricted office, but rather that function of a world-wide missionary service to which the Twelve were especially called. In His last charge, just before He ascended, Jesus had commissioned them to go forth into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Matt 28:19; Matt 28:20; Mark 16:15). He had said that they were to be His witnesses not only in Jerusalem and Judea, but in Samaria (contrast Mt 10:5), and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Ac 1:8). They were apostles, therefore, qua missionaries–not merely because they were the Twelve, but because they were now sent forth by their Lord on a universal mission for the propagation of the gospel.
The very fact that the name “apostle” means what it does would point to the impossibility of confining it within the limits of the Twelve. (The “twelve apostles” of Re 21:14 is evidently symbolic; compare in 7:3 ff the restriction of God’s sealed servants to the twelve tribes.) Yet there might be a tendency at first to do so, and to restrict it as a badge of honor and privilege peculiar to that inner circle (compare Ac 1:25). If any such tendency existed, Paul effectually broke it down by vindicating for himself the right to the name. His claim appears in his assumption of the apostolic title in the opening words of most of his epistles. And when his right to it was challenged, he defended that right with passion, and especially on these grounds: that he had seen Jesus, and so was qualified to bear witness to His resurrection (1Co 9:1; compare Ac 22:6 ff); that he had received a call to the work of an apostle (Rom 1:1; 1Cor 1:1, etc.; Ga 2:7; compare Acts 13:2; Acts 22:21); but, above all, that he could point to the signs and seals of his apostleship furnished by his missionary labors and their fruits (1Cor 9:2; 2Cor 12:12; Gal 2:8). It was by this last ground of appeal that Paul convinced the original apostles of the justice of his claim. He had not been a disciple of Jesus in the days of His flesh; his claim to have seen the risen Lord and from Him to have received a personal commission was not one that could be proved to others; but there could be no possibility of doubt as to the seals of his apostleship. It was abundantly clear that “he that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for (Paul) also unto the Gentiles” (Ga 2:8). And so perceiving the grace that was given unto him, Peter and John, together with James of Jerusalem, recognized Paul as apostle to the Gentiles and gave him the right hand of fellowship (Ga 2:9).
3. The Wider Circle:
It is sometimes said by those who recognize that there were other apostles besides the Twelve and Paul that the latter (to whom some, on the ground of 1Cor 15:7; Gal 1:19, would add James the Lord’s brother) were the apostles par excellence, while the other apostles mentioned in the New Testament were apostles in some inferior sense. It is hardly possible, however, to make out such a distinction on the ground of New Testament usage. There were great differences, no doubt, among the apostles of the primitive church, as there were among the Twelve themselves–differences due to natural talents, to personal acquirements and experience, to spiritual gifts. Paul was greater than Barnabas or Silvanus, just as Peter and John were greater than Thaddaeus or Simon the Cananean.
But Thaddaeus and Simon were disciples of Jesus in the very same sense as Peter and John; and the Twelve and Paul were not more truly apostles than others who are mentioned in the New Testament. If apostleship denotes missionary service, and if its reality, as Paul suggests, is to be measured by its seals, it would be difficult to maintain that Matthias was an apostle par excellence, while Barnabas was not. Paul sets Barnabas as an apostle side by side with himself (1Cor 9:5; Gal 2:9; compare Acts 13:2; Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14); he speaks of Andronicus and Junias as “of note among the apostles” (Ro 16:7); he appears to include Apollos along with himself among the apostles who are made a spectacle unto the world and to angels and to men (1Cor 4:6; 1Cor 4:9); the natural inference from a comparison of 1Th 1:1 with 2:6 is that he describes Silvanus and Timothy as “apostles of Christ”; to the Philippians he mentions Epaphroditus as “your apostle” (Php 2:25 the Revised Version, margin), and to the Corinthians commends certain unknown brethren as “the apostles of the churches” and “the glory of Christ” (2Co 8:23 the Revised Version, margin). And the very fact that he found it necessary to denounce certain persons as “false apostles, deceitful workers, fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ” (2Co 11:13) shows that there was no thought in the primitive church of restricting the apostleship to a body of 12 or 13 men. “Had the number been definitely restricted, the claims of these interlopers would have been self-condemned” (Lightfoot, Galatians, 97).
4. Apostles in Didache:
When we come to the Didache, which probably lies beyond the boundary-line of New Testament history, we find the name “apostles” applied to a whole class of nameless missionaries–men who settled in no church, but moved about from place to place as messengers of the gospel (chapter 11). This makes it difficult to accept the view, urged by Lightfoot (op. cit., 98) and Gwatkin (HDB, I, 126) on the ground Of Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8; Acts 1:22; 1Cor 9:1, that to have seen the Lord was always the primary qualification of an apostle–a view on the strength of which they reject the apostleship of Apollos and Timothy, as being late converts to Christianity who lived far from the scenes of our Lord’s ministry. Gwatkin remarks that we have no reason to suppose that this condition was ever waived unless we throw forward the Didache into the 2nd century. But it seems very unlikely that even toward the end of the 1st century there would be a whole class of men, not only still alive, but still braving in the exercise of their missionary functions all the hardships of a wandering and homeless existence (compare Didache 11:4-6), who were yet able to bear the personal testimony of eye-witnesses to the ministry and resurrection of Jesus. In Lu 24:48 and Ac 18:22 it is the chosen company of the Twelve who are in view. In 1Co 9:1 Paul is meeting his Judaizing opponents on their own ground, and answering their insistence upon personal intercourse with Jesus by a claim to have seen the Lord. But apart from these passages there is no evidence that the apostles of the early church were necessarily men who had known Jesus in the flesh or had been witnesses of His resurrection–much less that this was the primary qualification on which their apostleship was made to rest.
5. The Apostleship:
We are led then to the conclusion that the true differentia of the New Testament apostleship lay in the missionary calling implied in the name, and that all whose lives were devoted to this vocation, and who could prove by the issues of their labors that God’s Spirit was working through them for the conversion of Jew or Gentile, were regarded and described as apostles. The apostolate was not a limited circle of officials holding a well-defined position of authority in the church, but a large class of men who discharged one–and that the highest–of the functions of the prophetic ministry (1Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11). It was on the foundation of the apostles and prophets that the Christian church was built, with Jesus Christ Himself as the chief corner-stone (Eph 2:20). The distinction between the two classes was that while the prophet was God’s spokesman to the believing church (1Cor 14:4; 1Cor 14:22; 1Cor 14:25; 1Cor 14:30; 1Cor 14:31), the apostle was His envoy to the unbelieving world (Gal 2:7; Gal 2:9).
The call of the apostle to his task might come in a variety of ways. The Twelve were called personally by Jesus to an apostolic task at the commencement of His earthly ministry (Mt 10:1 ff parallel), and after His resurrection this call was repeated, made permanent, and given a universal scope (Matt 28:19; Matt 28:20; Acts 1:8). Matthias was called first by the voice of the general body of the brethren and thereafter by the decision of the lot (Acts 1:15; Acts 1:23; Acts 1:26). Paul’s call came to him in a heavenly vision (Ac 26:17-19); and though this call was subsequently ratified by the church at Antioch, which sent him forth at the bidding of the Holy Ghost (Ac 13:1 ff), he firmly maintained that he was an apostle not from men neither through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead (Ga 1:1). Barnabas was sent forth (exapostello is the verb used) by the church at Jerusalem (Ac 11:22) and later, along with Paul, by the church at Antioch (Ac 13:1); and soon after this we find the two men described as apostles (Ac 14:4). It was the mission on which they were sent that explains the title. And when this particular mission was completed and they returned to Antioch to rehearse before the assembled church “all things that God had done with them, and that he had opened a door of faith unto the Gentiles” (Ac 14:27), they thereby justified their claim to be the apostles not only of the church, but of the Holy Spirit.
The authority of the apostolate was of a spiritual, ethical and personal kind. It was not official, and in the nature of the case could not be transmitted to others. Paul claimed for himself complete independence of the opinion of the whole body of the earlier apostles (Gal 2:6; Gal 2:11), and in seeking to influence his own converts endeavored by manifestation of the truth to commend himself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God (2Co 4:2). There is no sign that the apostles collectively exercised a separate and autocratic authority. When the question of the observance of the Mosaic ritual by GentileChristians arose at Antioch and was referred to Jerusalem, it was “the apostles and elders” who met to discuss it (Acts 15:2; Acts 15:6; Acts 15:22), and the letter returned to Antioch was written in the name of “the apostles and the elders, brethren” (Ac 15:23).
In founding a church Paul naturally appointed the first local officials (Ac 14:23), but he does not seem to have interfered with the ordinary administration of affairs in the churches he had planted. In those cases in which he was appealed to or was compelled by some grave scandal to interpose, he rested an authoritative command on some express word of the Lord (1Co 7:10), and when he had no such word to rest on, was careful to distinguish his own judgment and counsel from a Divine commandment (1Cor 12:25; 1Cor 12:30). His appeals in the latter case are grounded upon fundamental principles of morality common to heathen and Christian alike (1Co 5:1), or are addressed to the spiritual judgment (1Co 10:15), or are reinforced by the weight of a personal influence gained by unselfish service and by the fact that he was the spiritual father of his converts as having begotten them in Christ Jesus through the gospel (1Co 4:15 f). It may be added here that the expressly missionary character of the apostleship seems to debar James, the Lord’s brother, from any claim to the title. James was a prophet and teacher, but not an apostle. As the head of the church at Jerusalem, he exercised a ministry of a purely local nature. The passages on which it has been sought to establish his right to be included in the apostolate do not furnish any satisfactory evidence. In 1Co 15:7 James is contrasted with “all the apostles” rather than included in their number (compare 1Co 9:5). And in Ga 1:19 the meaning may quite well be that with the exception of Peter, none of the apostles was seen by Paul in Jerusalem, but only James the Lord’s brother (compare the Revised Version, margin).
Lightfoot, Galatians, 92-101; Hort, Christian Ecclesia, Lect II; Weizsacker, The Apostolic Age, II, 291-99; Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry, 73-90.
J. C. Lambert
SPECIAL TOPIC: CHART OF APOSTLES’ NAMES
Andrew (Peter’s brother)
James (son of Zebedee)
John (James’ brother)
James (son of Zebedee)
John (James’ brother)
Andrew (Peter’s brother)
Matthew (tax gatherer)
James (son of Alphaeus)
Simon (the Cananean)
James (son of Alphaeus)
Simon (the Cananean)
James (son of Alphaeus)
Simon (the zealot)
Judas (son of James)
James (son of Alphaeus)
Simon (the zealot)
Judas (son of James)
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