Thursday, April 12, 2007

Are Missionaries Apostles?

While reading over at David Rogers's place recently, I followed a link and found myself at the Internet home of Strider, a blog entitled Tales from Middle Earth. This brother has authored a post "On Being Apostolic" (see here). Strider's post is not particularly unique, although it is a well written post. It merely highlights the presumption of many today that the office of apostle is still in operation—that missionaries are apostles. I disagree. Thesis: Only a physical eyewitness of the risen Christ is qualified to be an apostle. Many derive their sense of latter-day apostolicity from the meaning of the word. An apostle, they say, is one who has been "sent." I retort that being "sent" no more makes one an "apostle" than being "old" makes one an "elder" or raising sheep for a living makes one a "pastor." Consider Paul's words from 1 Corinthians 15:1-9.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (emphasis mine)
In defending his apostolic credentials, Paul carefully mentioned the fact that Christ had appeared to him. His circumstances were different from the other apostles—so much so that he regarded himself as "one untimely born." By that strange phrase, Paul referred to the fact that he did not physically witness Christ until after Christ's ascension, after the "deadline" beyond which one could not become an apostle apart from such a miraculous occurrence. See also the close connection Paul put between apostolicity and being an eyewitness of Christ in his words earlier in the same book, in 1 Corinthians 9:1-2.
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
Not everyone who was an eyewitness was an apostle. Paul mentions in this passage two criteria that make him an apostle. First is the fact that he was an eyewitness of the risen Christ. Second is the fact that Christ sent and commissioned Paul to spread the gospel to the Gentiles. Of this second qualification, the very existence of the Corinthian church is evidence, thus they are "the seal of [Paul's] apostleship in the Lord." Roger Williams spent the last years of his life waiting for Christ to make him a latter-day apostle. He had become convinced that only an apostle could reinstitute New Testament baptism. Personally, I do not believe that the consequences of not having any apostles around today rise to quite that level of inconvenience. Apostle or not, we are all under obligation to be obedient. For many of those who lob around the term "apostle" these days, their intent seems to be as benign as describing the New Testament missionary imperative. Good for them. But the uniqueness of the actual apostles is a doctrine that makes a difference. Ultimately, it affects even our view of the Bible. The ministry of the apostles continues not through latter-day apostles, but through the written testimony of Christ offered to us by the original, real apostles. So, I would encourage all to cease from using the term "apostle" to refer to anyone other than the folks mentioned as such in the New Testament. Yes, that applies even to references to this guy.


Strider said...

I can't really decide how I feel about your post. Thanks for the link? I agree that many are throwing around the word apostle quite recklessly and in some cases (the City Apostle concept for instance) it seems to be an ego driven power play. What I was trying to recover from the biblical text was the concept of calling. I think that God calls us and equips us differently and that the way I describe apostle is a specific calling for those who will go and break down barriers.
I think we do violence to the 1 Cor 12 passage and others when we reduce all christians to 'we should all just be obedient'. At the same time I equally reject the 'I'm a teacher and so all I can do is teach' position as well. God directs us and empowers us with His Spirit to do what He wants whether or not we are 'comfortable' with it.
On Being Apostolic isn't about me claiming to be Paul. It was about recognizing that God calls and very importantly empowers individuals to do things that others can not do.
So, to help us down the road here who are we? If we relegate Apostles to the original 12 or 13 then what word do you want to use? The word missionary was popular (etymologically exaclty the same as apostle unless you believe translating the greek into latin fundamentally changed it somehow) but it has been massaged to mean 'everyone' these days- and if a word means everything then it means nothing.
Growing up I was happy with the Apostle with a capital A distinction vs. the small a guys. That of course, is as biblical as fliping a coin. Might be- probably not. But I am a pragmatic kind of guy. I want to see those who are called out to go to distant places and break down ancient spiritual barriers supported and empowered to do it. Call them what you want to - just call them!

gary ledbetter said...

I truly sympathize with Strider's difficulty. A word that means everything means nothing (as he said). Many have noted the way our society uses "hero" to mean anyone with an interesting story. "Missionary" has become that to evangelical Xians. I try to resist word creep, though. "Apostle" has a more technical meaning in the New Testament, though--just as "prophet" did in the OT and NT. Missionary and Apostle connote different roles to most Evangelicals today. That's useful. Better to reclaim "missionary" or "evangelist" than to compound the confusion by adding "apostle" to the stew.

Bart Barber said...


Wow! That was fast! A phonecall interrupted me, but I was on the way over to your place to notify you that I had posted this. But you are already here! Talk about quick!

Anyway, I do affirm the idea of calling. The post is about terminology. You used the word "pragmatic" and that is a good word for it. Of course, as a historian-theologue type, I get all the more energetic about blogging about the esoteric things. This is largely one of those, although as I have indicated I believe that there is some practical implication to it all.

Your ultimate assertion I agree with: "Call them what you want to [I would add, as long as it is not apostle :-)], just call them!"

BTW, as to how to feel about the post, no animosity is intended. Feel happy that your thoughts have managed to instigate further dialogue and thinking.

Bart Barber said...


I agree.

Greg Tomlin said...

Consider the differences/similarities between Paul's description of his calling and apostleship and that of Matthias in Acts 1 (most often he is forgotten).

Paul, of course, mentions that he was an eyewitness to the resurrected Christ, and directly commissioned. He then spent three years in Arabia, presumably learning what Jesus taught his disciples in three years.

When the disciples gathered together and cast lots over Matthias and Barsabas, there was this condition:

Literally, this man had to be one "of those consorting with us men during all the time in which came in and out among us the Lord Jesus." Paul didn't directly meet that condition. In fact, he was in Tarsus, far away from the events (presumably).

The disciples cast lots for Matthias, but they would have seen this process as superintended by the Lord (as in the Old Testament).

So they are different in that respect (Paul was at Jesus' feet while he went in and out among the disciples and the larger group). STILL, either way, the commissioning presupposes not just an eyewitness to the resurrection and the Lord's calling, but a sort of intimate visible, bodily teaching experience with the apostle as pupil and the Lord as the Master teacher.

We, of course, don't have that scenario today, with the church being given the role of teaching "all things whatsoever" He commanded us -- and many of the chruches frequently getting it wrong. So I would eliminate any modern churchgoer from receiving the title based solely on that.

An apostle had to be an eyewitness to the Lord's resurrection AND his pupil. It is afterall, an office modeled on the ancient pedagogical system.

Make sense?


Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Brother Dr. BB,

I have encountered trouble with the use of the word "apostle" when people try to sell the list from Ephesians 4:11 as the callings within the ministry. They normally equate "apostle" with "missionary" because of the idea of being sent.

Although I bungled my way through most of college and seminary, I apparently was present and paying attention the day we went over the definition of "apostle," so I agree with and appreciate your post.

Love in Christ,


Greg Tomlin said...

I should have said this too:

I suppose you could make the argument that Matthias wasn't an apostle. Some have, based on the use of "episcopas" there, or "overseer." But it seems to me clear that he is one of "the twelve."


Greg Tomlin said...

And my post should have said "Paul wasN'T at Jesus' feet." Perhaps you can edit that and avoid this post.

You'd think an editor would be more careful when typing. Thanks for your longsuffering with the breed known as "fateus fingerus typerus."

volfan007 said...


i agree with you wholeheartedly. there are no more apostles. the apostles were the twelve plus paul, and there are no more. God used the apostles to write the nt, so are people who claim to be apostles now qualified to give us more of God's Word????!!!? the early church learned and followed the apostles teachings. thier writings were looked upon as God's Word. for someone to claim to be an apostle leads to some dangerous ground.


Bart Barber said...


Everything you write makes sense (with the exception of anything you ever wrote critiquing a paper of MINE) :-)

Master Jeff,

We seem to agree entirely on the subject matter of biblical church offices and terminology—or at least, I've never observed any disagreement between us on anything remotely related to that field.


MidSouth dittoes, brother.

GuyMuse said...

I read with interest your post today. To add to the conversation, might I share a different perspective held by most Baptists here in Ecuador?

There is little doubt that the twelve Apostles chosen by our Lord were special and played a unique one-time role in the birth of the Church.

However, one can make a case from Scripture that other apostles (small "a") followed in the footsteps of the Twelve. Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:4; 1 Cor.9:1-6), James, the Lord's brother (Gal. 1:19), Timothy and Silas (see 1 Thes.1:1 then 2:6), Andronicus and Junias...who Paul said were "outstanding among the apostles..." (Rom.16:7)

While apostles are not writing Scripture today, they are certainly mentioned as having a continuing role along with prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers of "equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ..." (Eph.4:11-12) And in 1 Cor.12, Paul is instructing the Corinthian church, "...God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers..." Why would Paul instruct the Corinthians that in the church there are apostles, prophets, teachers, etc. if he was referring to the "Twelve" who were far removed from this distant Gentile church?

In summary, there just seems to be too much Scripture that has to be erased, or explained away in order to justify the argument that apostles no longer exist today. Granted there is much abuse of the term 'apostle' and everyone seems to have their own definition of what one is. Nevertheless, too much evidence exists in Scripture to simply say they ceased to exist after the Twelve Apostles.

Strider said...

I like what Guy just said. I am not going to insist on the term, or demand to be called an apostle.
Oh, and David no sane person I have ever heard of is saying that people who are apostles today can or want to write scripture. That's just silly.
My point was and it remains that there are biblical giftings and positions that must be recognized for the Church to be effective. The word pastor is mentioned two whole times in the NT but I don't see anyone saying that because it is not talked about much it is an unimportant term that we can lose.
(That ought to be good for ten more comments on your string Bart:)
I guess the main reason I even wrote my post is because I hate the way we let our theological opponents take away all our terms. Because the charismatics talk about the Spirit we don't, someone misuses the idea of annointing so that word is out too. You get the idea I hope.
God is doing amazing things in our world today. His church is going where it has never gone before. It is an exciting time to be a follower of Jesus. There are lots of different people that we call missionaries. Even in the traditional sense of the word there are many very differently gifted people. But there are some who are unlike the others. They can go to new places and empower others to make remarkable strides. When I came here to Middle Earth I was told more than once that it would be 100 years before the ground was broken up and we could see a harvest. Many have come but just a few have believed that this is not neccessarily so. There have been some remarkable men here who have crossed boundaries with surprising power and authority. Church growth has not been smooth or easy but it has been miraculous. Yes, God gets all the glory. But if we do not respect and honor those who have this gifting then we may be in danger of not supporting them as they need.
Again you can call them something else if you want to - but if you do you must therefore use a non-biblical term- but support these just the same.
By the way Bart, I don't have trip wires set up around the World Wide Web to sound the alarm when someone mentions my blog. I was up late last night and just happened to look at site meter and noticed that someone from your blog had dropped by. Coincidence? And I am pleased to have stimulated a discussion here. Thanks friend.

volfan007 said...


silly? silly? the early church looked upon the writings of the apostles as the Word of God. if we have apostles around today, then we should look upon thier writings in the same way. but alas, there are no more apostles. and, apostles were mentioned in the list of gifts because they were real and had the gift, and they were around at that time. also, the twelve plus paul were it. there were no more apostles.


Bart Barber said...

Bro. Guy,

You infer that I am arguing that the term apostle ought to be limited to "The Twelve." But I am not making that argument. I am arguing that the term ought to be limited to those who were eyewitnesses of the risen Lord. Greg Tomlin has eloquently argued for the additional stipulation an apostle be someone who was Christ's direct pupil.

From what I read in 1 Corinthians 15, as many as five hundred people might have met those qualifications. Some of the "exceptions" you have mentioned clearly are not exceptions at all, but explicitly meet the given criteria. I know of no sound reason to exclude any of them.

As to whether the Corinthian church had any reason to think that an apostle had been "given" to their church, I should think that Paul's eighteen-month stay there as founding elder/pastor/overseer would quite qualify them to claim that an apostle had been given to them.

All done without explaining away any scripture whatsoever.

Bart Barber said...


Thanks so much for increasing my traffic! :-)

Of course, the base difficulty here is that no title is given at all to the many "missionaries" in the New Testament.

It all reminds me of the poor scallion on VeggieTales (from the silly song "Larry's High Silk Hat"): "They've never given me a name. I've been around since show one, and I still don't have a name!"

Strider said...

David, Maybe my post is for you after all. Apostle does not mean "the guys that wrote scripture". Several wrote scripture who were not apostles and several apostles did not write any scripture. These are two unrelated things.
Bart, As I have said I can be nameless but I want us as the Church to recognize the gifting for the sake of calling out those so gifted. But really, I think the early church had a name and it was apostles. By the fourth century they continued to use the same name only, because they then spoke Latin instead of Greek they used the word missionary which is a simple translation of the word apostle.
Further, you infer in your post that to get this wrong is to head down a road with unfortunate consequences. I think I will agree with you here. I think that by limiting the apostles to the original eye-witnesses (and Paul does this with the Apostles with the big A but there are those that Guy mentions of whom this is not clear)we are saying that we can not know God or His will as well as those who actually spent time with Jesus physically. Jesus indicates otherwise. 'Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.' In John 16:7 Jesus declares that it is to our advantage that he go away so that the Holy Spirit will come. We do not need more scripture written but we do need men and women who will go farther in their faith and understanding of who God is than ever before. I believe this is possible. It is even necessary to see this next generation of believers rise up to heights not yet experienced if we will see His Kingdom spread to every tribe and nation and if the Church will then be able to stand during the terrible days that will come when the enemy spews his most violent hatred on a bride that looks more like Christ than ever before.
To be clear here I am not talking about apostles who create new doctrine but men and women who walk in obedience to the already revealed truth as never before.
The security letters I must enter to post this are imrong. Perhaps that is a message to me! I don't think that I am wrong but then no one does do they?

David Rogers said...

Although I need to make crystal clear I am not endorsing everything Watchman Nee has to say, I think what he writes on his chapter on apostles in The Normal Christian Church Life will give some very interesting food for thought for those who take Scripture seriously and believe that the only apostles were those who saw Jesus personally.

You can read the entire chapter on-line here.

Some of the more relevant quotes for this discussion are:

"Now we see the teaching of the Scriptures as touching apostles. God appointed His Son to be the Apostle; Christ appointed His disciples to be the twelve apostles; and the Holy Spirit appointed a group of men (apart from the twelve) to be the Body-building apostles. The first Apostle is unique; there is only one. The twelve apostles are also in a class by themselves; there are only twelve. But there is another order of apostles, chosen by the Holy Spirit, and as long as the building up of the Church goes on and the Holy Spirit's presence on earth continues, the choosing and sending forth of this order of apostles will continue too.

In the Word of God we find numerous other apostles besides Barnabas and Paul. There are many belonging to the new order chosen and sent forth by the Spirit of God. In 1 Corinthians 4:9 we read, "God has set forth us the apostles last." To whom do the words "us the apostles" refer? The pronoun "us" implies that there was at least one other apostle besides the writer. If we study the context, we note that Apollos was with Paul when he wrote (v. 6), and Sosthenes was a joint writer with Paul of the Epistle. So it seems clear that the "us" here refers either to Apollos or to Sosthenes, or to both. It follows then that either or both of these two must have been apostles.

Romans 16:7: "Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles." The clause "who are of note among the apostles" does not mean that they were regarded as notable by the apostles, but rather that among the apostles they were notable ones. Here we have not only another two apostles, but another two notable apostles.

First Thessalonians 2:6: "We could have stood on our authority as apostles of Christ." The "we" here refers clearly to the writers of the Thessalonian letter, that is, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy (1:1), which indicates that Paul's two young fellow workers were also apostles.

First Corinthians 15:5-7: "He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve; then He appeared to over five hundred brothers at one time,...then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles." Besides the twelve apostles there was a group known as "all the apostles." It is obvious, then, that apart from the twelve, there were other apostles.

Paul never claimed that he was the last apostle and that after him there were no others. Let us read carefully what he said: "Last of all He appeared to me also...for I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle" (1 Cor. 15:8-9). Notice how Paul used the words "last" and "least." He did not say that he was the last apostle; he only said he was the least apostle. If he were the last, there could be no more after him, but he was only the least.

In the book of Revelation it is said of the Ephesian church: "You have tried those who call themselves apostles and are not, and have found them to be false" (2:2). It seems clear from this verse that the early churches expected to have other apostles apart from the original twelve, because, when the book of Revelation was written, John was the only survivor of the twelve, and by that time even Paul had already been martyred. If there were to be only twelve apostles, and John was the only one left, then no one would have been foolish enough to pose as an apostle, and no one foolish enough to be deceived, and where would have been the need to try them? If John were the only apostle, then testing would be simple indeed! Anyone who was not John was not an apostle!"

"Then what is the meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:5-9? "He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve; then He appeared to over five hundred brothers at one time,...then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all He appeared to me also." The object of this passage is not to produce evidence of apostleship, but evidence of the resurrection of the Lord. Paul is recording the different persons to whom the Lord appeared; he is not teaching what effect was produced upon these persons by His appearing. Cephas and James saw the Lord, but they were Cephas and James after they saw the Lord, just as they were Cephas and James before; they did not become Cephas and James by seeing Him. The same applies to the twelve apostles and the five hundred brethren. Seeing the Lord did not constitute them apostles. They were twelve apostles before they saw the Lord, and they were twelve apostles after they saw the Lord. The same argument applies in Paul's case. The facts were that he had seen the Lord, and he was the least of the apostles; but it was not seeing the Lord that constituted him the least of the apostles. The five hundred brethren were not apostles before they saw the Lord, nor were they after. Seeing the Lord in His resurrection manifestations did not constitute them apostles. They were simply brethren before, and they were simply brethren after. The Word of God nowhere teaches that seeing the Lord is the qualification for apostleship."

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

I have to give it to you. What you lack in stature, you make up for in backbone. Not many people would be willing to take on our Missions Force. Please note that you have now engaged dialog with three, count them, three of our finest Missionaries/apostles(?), and all disagree with you. :>)

I began this debate with Brother David Rogers over at his house about 8 months back and did not have the intellect of Scripture to continue it. It seems that Brother Paul Burleson entered the conversation and made some rather interesting points also. I still believe that Apostle is described in the NT and that is as far as we need to go with it. However the translation from Greek into Latin would come up Missionary and I do not have the intellect of the languages to argue that point.

For all you bloggers that have been looking for it, here it is. I DO NOT KNOW. Help me Rhonda!


Grosey's Messages said...

David, Strider and Guy know that I hold a cessationist view on tongues and other revelatory gifts such as prophets and apostles, so .. please allow me to stir you a little :)
2 Corinthians 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.

David, Strider,Guy, bottom line it.. have you performed miracles that demonstrate you are apostles? then maybe, if you apply the term "apostle" to "missionary", you should come home until you do?

Now, I don't believe that you need to perform these signs, nor to come home, but rather to engage all the more heartily in the work to which God has called you because
1. Signs as confirmatory to the revelatory gifts these NT apostles had : Hebrews 2:2-4 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

2. The greatest Revelation is complete in the Lord Jesus Christ.. He is the summation of all revelation, and therefore the apostolic and prophetic revelatory gifts were intensified around Him, Who is the pinnacle of all revelation: Hebrews 1:1-3 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Guys, missos, like pastors have only one job:
Ephesians 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

and that is to know Christ and to make Him known (Navigator's motto).
:) Let's get on with the job.


Bart Barber said...

Tim Rogers,

Nolite timere.

Your knowledge of Latin or lack thereof notwithstanding, ask yourself this question: If our doctrine of apostleship came from the people who translated Greek into Latin, what would that doctrine look like?

Perhaps we should contact an expert. Does anyone happen to have the email address for Benedict XVI? :-)

Strider said...

Steve- Yes the miraculous has been a part of the ministry we have had here in Middle Earth- and I agree that it should be.
Just when I told myself I would not comment anymore along comes Steve:)

Bart- I am not looking backward to Benedict to find a theology of apostleship. In our ministry we use the Bible alone. Whenever anyone suggest some tradition that they heard someone somewhere say I toss the Bible on the table and say 'Show me'. And I am not even from Missouri. So, for our life and work right now I am looking to Biblical paradigms to find my way. Jesus is our truest example. Paul is the next closest thing for me to learn from. That is why we are trying to return to the term apostle. I am not trying to reject 1900 years of Church history- I am trying to learn from it and not repeat it!

Bart Barber said...

Bro. David,

I'll see your Watchman Nee and raise you two International Standard Bible Encyclopedia articles:

"Despite all this Paul never ranked Timothy with himself in terms of office or authority when he addressed the churches (e.g., 'Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ . . ., and Timothy our brother,' 2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 1:1; but cf. 1 Thess 2:6). . . . As the apostolic envoy to Ephesus, he needed instruction on how to behave toward various groups of people. . ." (ISBE s.v. "Timothy")

"The expression 'all the apostles' in 1 Cor. 15:7 seems to include more than the twelve referred to in v. 5. Here, as in Gal. 1:15, James is designated as an apostle; and he worthily performed the duties of that office for a generation as a home missionary to Jerusalem, as the chief minister of the church there, and as a witness for Jesus to Jewry. Barnabus is designated an apostle in Acts 14 (cf. 11:22f; 13:1-4), and Junias and Andronicus, kinsmen of Paul, in Rom. 16:7. In 1 Cor. 3:5, Apollos is called a minister (Gk. diakonos); hence he is hardly to be included as an apostle in 4:6, 9. Likewise Timothy is a brother, a minister, and a fellow laborer in 1 Thess. 3:2, and he is probably not designated an apostle in 2:6. The wider circle is intimated in 1 Cor. 9:5 and is presupposed in Didache 11:4-6. Paul's reference to false apostles in 2 Cor. 11:13 certainly goes beyond the Twelve and himself. In this broad usage, then, an apostle was a first-century evangelist who bore witness to the resurrection of Christ, an itinerant missionary sent by Him to make disciples of all nations." (ISBE, s.v. "Apostle")

I think these two articles by these two gentlemen in one of the more respected academic theological works are reflective of good exegesis and good judgment.

Watchman Nee's proclivity for assigning to every "we" in the epistles the full authorial list as an antecedent is not good judgment IMHO. It is a leap of logic. I think the best illustration of this faulty reasoning is to be found in his analysis of 1 Thessalonians 2:6. Just above in verse 2 ("but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi"), the "we" clearly refers to Paul and Silas, but not to Timothy. Acts clearly identifies Paul and Silas as the ones beaten and imprisoned in Philippi.

So, when Paul says "we" he is clearly referring to himself and somebody else, but to establish doctrine on suppositions as to who those other people were…that's a leap.

Bart Barber said...


My response was not necessarily to you, but to whomever made the argument to Steve that missionaries are apostles because the word missionary derives from the Latin translation of apostolos. It appears that you and I agree: Roman Catholic word choice does not dictate our theology of apostleship.

David Rogers said...


I do not see being a "brother," "minister," or "fellow-laborer" as necessarily incompatible with being an "apostle" at the same time. In any case, Nee's main point (and mine) does not rise or fall, as I understand it, on the apostleship of either Timothy or Apollos.

I would agree that those who had born witness to the resurrection had a special role to fulfill. It seems to me there are different types of apostles. Some call them "apostles of the Lord" and "apostles of the churches." Nee prefers "apostles of the Holy Spirit." I am in agreement that the true "apostles of the Lord" were those who had personally witnessed the resurrection.

David Rogers said...


Yes, the passage about the "signs of an apostle" and "signs and wonders" is what raises the most doubts with me on this whole issue. Nee thinks this requirement is still valid for today.

I, as a continuationist, am not entirely closed to this possibility, but I do admit it does seem to be a bit disconcerting, especially when we equate the terms "apostle" and "missionary."

Bart Barber said...

If Nee's main point is that there were apostles beyond "the Twelve," then his argument is with someone else other than me. Nowhere have I asserted that the Twelve were the only apostles.

If, on the other hand, the point is that there is a biblical use of the term apostle that clearly refers to someone who was not a witness of the risen Christ, then I think the argument does rise or fall with the apostolicity of Timothy and Apollos. We know with certainty that Timothy was not an eyewitness. We have strong reason to suspect that Apollos was not. With regard to everyone else associated with the title in the NT, the argument is an argument from silence.

In 1 Corinthians 15, the "one untimely born" phrase is the clincher for me. If that does not mean that Paul gained his apostolic credentials beyond the natural time frame in which one could have received them, then what can "one untimely born" really mean?

I agree with you that the "least" of the apostles reference speaks to Paul's prior acts of persecution. But even this is indirectly related to this timing of his apostolic witness of the risen Christ. He persecuted the church, and was the only apostle to have done so, because he stayed "in the dark" for so long.

Bart Barber said...

By the way, this is one of the better discussions that has ever graced this blog. Thanks, everyone.

joerstewart said...

What a tangled web you weave! This has tremendous import for the idea of continualism as David has suggested. The need for 'signs',
'wonders', and 'miracles' presupposes that an apostle would be verified by such accompanying signs. Hence, the pragmatic practice in many cases (IMHO) of apostles claiming to have words of revelation from God.

volfan007 said...

also, let me throw one more thing into this discussion. did not the "12" see the need to fill the void of keep the "12 apostles" in tact? and thus, paul would indeed be one who was untimely born? why the need to keep the "12" in tact if there were more apostles all over the place?

also, the apostles being able to prove thier apostleship with signs and wonders does away with anyone in this day and age being able to claim apostleship. i havent seen anyone raising the dead as paul did, nor healing true sick and handicapped folk like peter.

also, one of the requirements was to see the risen Lord...was it not?

so, i'd be very leery about people claiming to be an apostle....the ones i've seen claiming to be one were usually wild eyed charismatics who were off into all kinds of strange dealings.


Strider said...

David every time you comment I am affirmed in the need for the original post I wrote. Most of these issues have already been addressed- if your not satisfied then that is fine by me. But I will say for the record that I am not wild eyed. Usually.
I have been blessed to see the Lord work in our ministry. I wrote an article appropriately titled 'That thing that doesnt happen anymore.'
You can find it here and decide if God is still using apostles to fulfill His mission or not.

Bart Barber said...


We have multiple Davids in this context. Probably everyone can keep up with whom you mean, but we might want to be careful.

Strider said...

Not only that but I messed up the link. It was an Oct 17,2006 post.
How about I just put it like this:
try this
Anyway, it was David the Volfan I was addressing. Thanks for the fun blogging Bart. I am off to bed.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

While I admit my ignorance of the Latin Vulgate, I cannot say I am that ignorant of inglish. :>)

Are you saying that since the Greek was translated into Latin when we translate it into English we are accepting catholic doctrine? I do not believe that is what you are saying, but that is what it seems.

For the record, I do not believe today's M's are synonymous with the Apostle's office found in Scripture. I have always found the office of evangelist to be synonymous to Missionary. Have I missed something?

Good night Strider. Sweet Dreams.


Grosey's Messages said...

I would tend to agree with David R on thts (I think David? Please correct me if I'm wrong) that Missionary gifting is more likely to be pastor/ teacher/ evangelist/ administrator/ leader/ helps/ etc normative (non "charismatic") gifts that we would see exercised today in our home countries called out to be exercised in another country.
:) is Australia, with less than 3% evangelical a "missionary country" when we send long term missionaries to most parts of the world?
I guess the bottom line to the dispute is whether conservative evangelical's (like SBC/IMB) ought to be pushing the "signs and wonders" movement of Wimber and Fuller seminary? The issue becomes the sufficiency of scripture (apostles and prophets), the sufficiency of Christ (as the final climactic revelation), and the sufficiency of the gospel (Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. , 1 Cor 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.... 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

Grosey's Messages said...

Just by the way (sorry to 'double post' Bart *sigh),Joer made the comment "Hence, the pragmatic practice in many cases (IMHO) of apostles claiming to have words of revelation from God."
An amusing story..
I was called to aprticipate in the ordination of an AOG pastor 17 years ago.
He was going to a church that had gone from 300 members to 17 members overnight (the previous pastor was a theif, and some of the deacons were adulterers).
they ahd 1 year interim, and then called from the USA Jimmy Bakker's music minister as pastor!
The chairman ( an AOG pastor) called for any "words of prophecy for this man's ministry!"
A depressed and distressed church.. nothing happened! No one spoke up! (Now there's the kiss of death on an AOG minister before he's even started!)
3 times he called for a Word from the Lord! and no one spoke up! So the newby signals with his eyes to his wife, who was sitting alongside me (uhoh, maybe I drain charisma!) who immediately looks at the ground! She's not going to participate in a fraud (her dad was an AOG pastor whom I respected for his stand against the crazies and his commitment to the biblical gospel)! You can see the panic in newbies eyes! "No Word from the Lord! Oh NO I'm SUNK!"
then from Newbie himself!
"The Lord spoke to me and said w would have mammoth blessings.. etc etc blah blah blah" (none of which actually happened!).
Sadly, everyone forgets the Sovereignty of God in blessing who where and how He chooses to bless.
the point: "Hence, the pragmatic practice in many cases (IMHO) of apostles claiming to have words of revelation from God."


volfan007 said...


i read the link you gave me. that was great. i am tickled to death that the Lord used you in that way. i'm glad that the boy was healed. i pray that this incident of Gods power and grace will lead to many in that village being saved. halelujah! but, that still doesnt mean that you're an apostle, if you are claiming to be one. i've prayed for people to be healed that were healed as well.... but, i'm certainly no apostle.

btw, keep up the good work. :)


GuyMuse said...

I've been out the past couple of days trying to be a good "apostle" which I am fascinated to now read do not exist today! :) Seriously, though, I do recognize the difficulties in dealing with this subject and have enjoyed getting caught up on everyone's comments.

Personally, I still hold to there being modern day apostles. We don't address anyone by the title "Apostle Juan", but many of our church planters function as the NT apostles did in the first century. They do all the same things Paul and Barnabas did in going, preaching the Gospel, teaching the new believers and establishing newly planted churches, relating to them as spiritual "fathers and mothers" and then moving on.

If there are still prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers around, why would we want to eliminate apostles from their badly needed role within the Kingdom? Might I respectfully suggest the reason so many dismiss the work of modern day apostles is that this function has been assumed by the modern day Pastor (with a capital "P"). Not only is today's pastor an apostle, he is prophet, evangelist, teacher, administrator, and a host of other things all rolled up into a single "super-pastor" package! No wonder there is so much burnout amongst pastors!

Steve Grosey above kiddingly asks if some of us missionaries have performed "signs and wonders" and if not, maybe we should come home. This is indeed a sign of the "apostles of the Lord" (the twelve), but I am not aware of any NT evidence for James, Junias, Andronicus, and other mentioned "apostles of the churches" having performed signs and miracles.

Steve, I do not think of myself as an "apostle". I feel my own gifting is more in the area of teaching and prophecy (in the sense of 1 Cor.14:3 "the person who prophesies speaks to people for edification, encouragement, and consolation...")

But there are plenty of folks with whom we work and relate whom I would consider to be true apostles in the tradition of those who followed the twelve in going out to plant churches across the Roman Empire. They are what David Rogers speaks about above as "apostles of the churches" or Nee's "apostles of the Holy Spirit".

For us, none of these go by any title other than "brother/sister" or "servant" and sometimes "missionary." Anybody being addressed as "Apostol Juan" would be immediately suspect (believe me there are many who use this title!) To me, it is the kind of role or function they execute that makes them apostolic.

There is much one could say about apostles but one of many characteristics of a true apostle is the heavy spiritual burden they carry for a city or region. They are regional workers who belong to all the churches. They are called in I Cor. 12 "first in the church" because their work is that initial ground-breaking job or plowing, planting, watering the seed until it bears fruit and new churches are planted. Being "first" doesn't mean they are more important than the prophets and teachers who follow in the list (NOTE: "pastors" are not even mentioned in the 1 Cor.12 list--but that is another subject.) It simply means that without their role/function/labor there would be no churches at all!

Believe me, if you lived here in Ecuador where more than 90% of the people are that type of ground, you too would see the need for apostolic workers. We cry out to God daily for Him to send us these kind of laborers!

Not everyone is cut out for apostolic ministry. It is a gift of the Spirit and certainly a recognized biblical function.

GuyMuse said...

My last sentence above is incomplete, it should read...

It is a gift of the Spirit and certainly a recognized biblical function regardless of what these folks are called.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bart Barber said...

Bro. Guy,

Thankfully, nobody here is arguing against the biblical mandate for the job you are describing. The terminology is the question at hand. As you and many others have suggested, the terminology is just important enough to talk about, but much less important than the imperative of the Great Commission task.

Thanks for your hard work in that area.

Bart Barber said...

To Anonymous,

The comment I deleted was just a series of numbers. It looked like Blogger had accidentally coughed up some garbage into my comment stream. If there was a real person involved, and if somehow that was a real message, then you are welcome to re-post.

Perhaps that was the first time someone has commented in tongues here at PGBB!

Is there an interpreter? :-)

davidinflorida said...

Hello Bart,

I must confess, those numbers were me, my computer was messed up.

By the way, Mark 16: 17-18 And these signs will follow those who believe......I believe , call me an apostle: 1 Cor 12:28

Grosey's Messages said...

Thanks Guy for the gracious comment and I do understand the hard work of church planter and regional pastor (having planted 2 churches and exprcising a regional pastoral ministry now).
I would not call that "apostolic".
ALthough that is the work Paul and Barnanbas did, that was not why Paul was called an apostle.
As the 5 offices mentioned in ephesians 4:11
(And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, reflect special ministry)

to the church to equip gifted members for the functions in the church (please read Peter Obrien commentary on Ephesians in the Pillar series), so the issue of apostle has to do with office rather than with the functions that Paul and Barnabas exercised as gifted evangelists, administrators and and pastors.

I perceive Paul's Apostleship to be
an office
(1 Corinthians 15:7 Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one abnormally born, He also appeared to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective. However, I worked more than any of them, yet not I, but God’s grace that was with me.)

and his gifting to include evangelist, administrator leadership etc.
But you are right Guy, its much more important to get on with the job than to discuss it, and for that we are grateful to God for you and those like you.
Hang tuff bro.

Anonymous said...

while i am not sure whether i have the gift of interpreting tongues, i will give it a go. jk :)

two thoughts (forgive me if someone has already voiced these ... i stopped reading when the comments became longer):

1. if someone claimed today to have been a physical eyewitness of the risen Christ, then many would say that he should be marginalized to some type of psychiatric care.

2. your thesis states that physical eyewitnesses are the only ones exclusively qualified to be apostles. is this accurate? is there anything in scripture that would prohibit one's qualification to be an apostle from being something else?

A Simple Student @ SWBTS

Bart Barber said...

Simple Student,

You mean, I guess, other than the two passages I quoted in the OP and the one that Greg Tomlin helpfully added in his comment?

kws said...

I have enjoyed reading all of your comments. For my edification, how would you interpret Romans 1:5? "By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name."

Specifically, to whom does the "we" of verse five refer? Is this an example of the "royal plural"? Does he speak of other apostles? Is he including all believers?

Bart Barber said...


Thanks so much for your comment. Rather than edifying you only, I will attempt to make this of edification to us all. I believe that this is the "royal we" on display (not that Paul considered himself royal, but just that he was using "us" in place of "me").

More to the point, this usage clearly illustrates Nee's interpretative fallacy. Romans does not list any author other than Paul, and yet Paul felt free to employ the word "we" therein (and right in the salutation, no less!). Obviously, every "we" in a Pauline letter does not necessarily refer to the list of authors given in the salutation. I would not even say that they usually ought to be construed in such a manner.

Tim Patterson said...


I am a first time visitor to your blog. I came over from a link from Guy Muse.

Fascinating discussion. It is interesting how the missionaries commenting see the Scripture so differently from stateside folks. Could it be that our worldview (cultural lense) colors our interpretation of Scripture? I know that my experience overseas totally changed the way I look at things. Anyway, as a missionary now stateside for a while, I agree more with how Guy, David R. and Strider view this issue.

Thanks for the stimulating discussion.