one who is sent out
In the New Testament,
there are two primary usages of the word apostle.
The first is in specifically referring to the twelve apostles of
The second is in generically referring to other individuals
who are sent out
of Jesus Christ.
The twelve apostles held a
In referring to the New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:14 states,
“The wall of the city had twelve foundations,
and on them were the names of the
twelve apostles of the Lamb.”
The twelve apostles are also referred to in Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:14; 4:10; 6:7; 9:35; 14:10, 17, 20; Luke 6:13; 9:1; 22:14; John 6:71; Acts 6:2; and 1 Corinthians 15:5.
It was these twelve apostles who were
the first messengers of the gospel
after the death and resurrection
It was these twelve apostles who were the
foundation of the church—with
Jesus being the cornerstone
This specific type of apostle is not present in the church today.
The qualifications of this type of apostle were:
(1) to have been a
witness of the resurrected Christ
(1 Corinthians 9:1),
(2) to have been explicitly chosen by the Holy Spirit
(3) to have the ability to perform
signs and wonders
(Acts 2:43; 2 Corinthians 12:12).
The responsibility of the twelve apostles,
laying the foundation of the church,
would also argue for their uniqueness.
Beyond the unique twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, there were also apostles in a generic sense. Barnabas is referred to as an “apostle” in Acts 13:2 and 14:14. Andronicus and Junias are possibly identified as apostles in Romans 16:7.
The same Greek word usually translated “apostle” is used to refer to Titus in 2 Corinthians 8:23 and Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25. So, there definitely seems to be room for the term apostle being used to refer to someone besides the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.
Anyone who was “sent” could be called an apostle.
What exactly would be the role of an apostle outside that of the twelve apostles?
That is not entirely clear.
From the definition of the word, the closest thing today to an apostle,
in the general sense, is a missionary.
A missionary is a follower of Christ
who is sent out
with the specific mission
proclaiming the gospel.