The question is simple. Are apostles alive today in the church or was it a one time event at the birth of the church. Was John the last apostle or have they continued throughout church history or have apostles even been been restored in these latter days?
The short answer is no, John was the last apostle.
But, please read on… 🙂
Is sitting on the fence okay?
Is it important to have a view on this? Or can we just cruise through our Christian life sitting on the fence ? I think, having a correct view on the apostolic office is critical to our faith.
For example, in Acts 2:42, Luke writes:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (ESV).
If you believe apostles are alive today, you MUST find out which ‘apostles’ are true, and then devote yourselves to their teaching!
If you DON’T believe apostles are alive today, then you MUST look to scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) and devote yourselves to the apostles teaching found in scripture.
So, you can see that this question of apostleship is really a question about the authority of scripture and whether we need extra biblical information given by modern day apostles.
I might add, talk of BIG A apostles and little a apostles only muddies the water too. Why do people feel the need to have lesser apostles today, doesn’t this just confuse the issue? Are people seeking titles? Is scripture not sufficient?
Just imagine if I started calling myself the prime minister! When you further inquire, I would say, oh don’t worry, I am a ‘small p‘ prime minister of my own house, not the ‘BIG P‘ Prime Minister of Australia! How ridiculous! Sorry for my little rant!
What does scripture have to say about Apostles?
In Ephesians 4:11 Paul says this about Christ:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers…(ESV)
On the face of it, this passage suggest that, along with Pastor-teachers (which are in the church today), Christ also gave the apostles and they are still being given today. But a single verse of Scripture should never be interpreted on its own.
For good exegesis a verse should always be put into the context it was intended and weighed against all of Scripture to correctly interpret.
We see that in Scripture apostles were given a specific task in the church: to lay a foundation, Ephesians 2:20 states:
…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone (ESV)…
and they did their job, in 1 Corinthians 3:11 Paul writes:
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (ESV).
The way I read this, is that the apostles have already done their job!
So, why are there currently apostles running around today? Who appointed them? What does scripture have to say about the appointment of Apostles?
What makes someone an Apostle?
First of all, Jesus Christ appoints apostles, no man can do this:
Mark 3:14 says:
And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach (ESV).
and Galatians 1:1 says:
Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead (ESV).
So I ask the question: How many of today’s ‘apostles’ were appointed by Christ himself?
In Foundations of Pentecostal Theology we see other qualifications laid out:
“The requirements for apostleship were:  to have been with the Lord (Acts 1:21,22)  to have been a witness of the Resurrection (Acts 1:22)  to have seen the Lord (1 Cor 9:1)  to have wrought signs, wonders and mighty deeds (2 Cor 12:12). The foundational Apostles were a fixed number of twelve… Obviously the Church can have only one foundation. (p425, Duffield & Van Cleave, 1991).
1 Corinthians 15:7-8 says:
Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me (ESV).
How many of today’s ‘apostles’ have been with the Lord?
Acts 1:22 says:
…beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.
How many of today’s ‘apostles’ witnessed his resurrection?
Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles…
and 2 Corinthians 12:12
The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.
How many of today’s ‘apostles’ have ‘wrought’ verifiable signs and wonders?
Ephesians 3:5 says of the Mystery of Christ,
…which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit (ESV).
For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ(ESV).
Do we need apostles today to re-reveal Christ?
The apostles had a job! To lay the foundation which is Christ. Has this not already been done?
There are no living apostles today!
But even though the last apostle was alive 1900 years ago, they are still at work! How? Through Scripture.
I am no scholar and I am happy to be wrong, but when I read Ephesians 4:11, I see this:
- Apostles = The New Testament scriptures.
- Prophets = The Old Testament scriptures.
- Evangelists = (Missionaries) going to the ends of the earth.
- Shepherds and Teachers = The Local church Pastors
Looking at church history for a moment, isn’t this what we have seen? The WORD of GOD as our foundation, Missionaries going out to the ends of the earth and Pastor-Teachers shepherding the local church.
and with this in mind, look at how 11-14 reads:[The Scriptures, Missionaries and Pastors-Teachers are given]...to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
I don’t know about you, but when I have had the unfortunate opportunity to listen to ‘modern’ apostles, I often feel tossed to and fro in my doctrine!!!
When I carefully study scripture I feel like I am maturing (be it ever so slowly).
I would love your thoughts on this issue. Please let me know in the comments below.