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Making It Plain: “Apostle” = One Sent To Be A Representative

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SIH TOTT ICONThe term “Apostle” is used only in the KJV New Testament…

1. In the OT the word “apostle” is not used.

2. In the NT the Greek word translated “apostle” is “apostolos”.  This word means “a delegate”, “ambassador”, “messenger”, or “sent one”

The idea is this… when we speak of  an “apostle”… we are describing a man that has been sent as a representative of Christ to perform a specific ministry…
“he might send them forth to preach,  And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:” (Mark 3:14)

There was a characteristic that was found in common with all the men that held the office of apostle…
“Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,  Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.”  (Acts 1:21-22)
In other words, to hold the office of Apostle, a man must have accompanied Christ during His earthly ministry that took place between His baptism and His ascension.

There were 14 men who held the title of apostle found listed in the New Testament….

The original 12…
“And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,  And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:  And Simon he surnamed Peter;  And James the [son] of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:  And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the [son] of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite,  And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.” (Mark 3:14-19)

Matthias the replacement for Judas…
“That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”  (Acts 1:25-26)

The “one born out of due time”, Paul…
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:  And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:  After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.  After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.   And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.  For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”  (1 Corinthians 15:3-9)

The phrase “one born out of due time” means “one born prematurely”, or “one that was born without the proper preconditions”.   This is exactly what took place with Paul.  He was given the title Apostle without accompanying Christ from His baptism to His ascension. Just like a baby that comes into existence without the proper 9 months of growth in the womb of its mother.


  1. Great teaching! Thanks!

  2. SLIMJIM says:

    Word study of the word Apostle and seeing it’s usage in the NEW Testament is rather fascinating and no doubt you must have found it true yourself as this study shows!

    • Rob Barkman says:

      The Word is so rich, none of us can ever come to a full understanding of all these things… it is a continual learning process. What a Great Lord and Wonderful Word! Lord bless.

  3. So can someone be an apostle today, since he would not have accompanied Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry? Thank you and God bless.

    • Rob Barkman says:

      Great point. The Scriptural prerequisites for the Biblical office of Apostle clearly restrict the office holders to those accompanying Christ during His lifetime. Others may use the title “apostle” to simply mean they are “one sent to be an ambassador of Christ”, when the word is used in this sense, the title can actually apply to all of us who have been saved.

      Much like anyone who proclaims the teachings of God’s Word can be described as a “prophet” but they cannot hold the Scriptural office of “Prophet” (one who reveals portions of the inspired Word of God that have not been revealed previously to man.)

      You can see how using these terms in today’s time can be a bit confusing. That’s why, personally, I try to refrain from using either title to describe people living in our day. If we do use these titles, we should clearly indicate the titles are being used in a generic sense, and are not implying the holding of the Scriptural office.

      Lord bless you. Thanks for your insightful comment.

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