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apostle Summary and Overview

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apostle in Easton's Bible Dictionary

a person sent by another; a messenger; envoy. This word is once used as a descriptive designation of Jesus Christ, the Sent of the Father (Heb. 3:1; John 20:21). It is, however, generally used as designating the body of disciples to whom he intrusted the organization of his church and the dissemination of his gospel, "the twelve," as they are called (Matt. 10:1-5; Mark 3:14; 6:7; Luke 6:13; 9:1). We have four lists of the apostles, one by each of the synoptic evangelists (Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14), and one in the Acts (1:13). No two of these lists, however, perfectly coincide. Our Lord gave them the "keys of the kingdom," and by the gift of his Spirit fitted them to be the founders and governors of his church (John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26, 27; 16:7-15). To them, as representing his church, he gave the commission to "preach the gospel to every creature" (Matt. 28:18-20). After his ascension he communicated to them, according to his promise, supernatural gifts to qualify them for the discharge of their duties (Acts 2:4; 1 Cor. 2:16; 2:7, 10, 13; 2 Cor. 5:20; 1 Cor. 11:2). Judas Iscariot, one of "the twelve," fell by transgression, and Matthias was substituted in his place (Acts 1:21). Saul of Tarsus was afterwards added to their number (Acts 9:3-20; 20:4; 26:15-18; 1 Tim. 1:12; 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11). Luke has given some account of Peter, John, and the two Jameses (Acts 12:2, 17; 15:13; 21:18), but beyond this we know nothing from authentic history of the rest of the original twelve. After the martyrdom of James the Greater (Acts 12:2), James the Less usually resided at Jerusalem, while Paul, "the apostle of the uncircumcision," usually travelled as a missionary among the Gentiles (Gal. 2:8). It was characteristic of the apostles and necessary (1) that they should have seen the Lord, and been able to testify of him and of his resurrection from personal knowledge (John 15:27; Acts 1:21, 22; 1 Cor. 9:1; Acts 22:14, 15). (2.) They must have been immediately called to that office by Christ (Luke 6:13; Gal. 1:1). (3.) It was essential that they should be infallibly inspired, and thus secured against all error and mistake in their public teaching, whether by word or by writing (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Thess. 2:13). (4.) Another qualification was the power of working miracles (Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43; 1 Cor. 12:8-11). The apostles therefore could have had no successors. They are the only authoritative teachers of the Christian doctrines. The office of an apostle ceased with its first holders. In 2 Cor. 8:23 and Phil. 2:25 the word "messenger" is the rendering of the same Greek word, elsewhere rendered "apostle."

apostle in Smith's Bible Dictionary

(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 #2Co 8:23; Phm 2:25| It is only of those who were officially designated apostles that we treat in the article. Their names are given in #Mt 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. #Joh 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. #1Co 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, #Mt 16:16; Lu 9:20| and described to him supernatural power #Lu 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, #Lu 24:21; Joh 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. #Lu 24:48; Ac 1:8,22; 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. #Ac 5:12| ff. Their first mission out of Jerusalem was to Samaria #Ac 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.

apostle in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

APOS'TLE (one sent forth). 1. This term was given originally to the twelve chief disciples of our Lord. Matt 10:2. Their names were Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John (sons of Zebedee); Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, and Lebbeus, who is also called Judas or Jude (sons of Alpheus); Simon the Canaanaean (or Zealot) and Judas Iscariot. Christ's charge to them is recorded in Matt 10:5-42. All the known circumstances of their history will be found under their respective names. Speaking generally, the apostles were of the lower, but not the lowest, class of the people. They were all laymen. Their learning was rather of life than of books, and yet it is probable they possessed the rudiments of an education. Religious perceptions and piety they doubtless possessed. Yet they needed much instruction and a miraculous endowment before they were able to do the work of the gospel. The Acts of the Apostles tells us of their first independent labors. Paul was called as an apostle, 7 years after the resurrection of Christ, on the way to Damascus. He was not of the Twelve, but was of equal authority. Gal 1:1, Jud 4:12, Ex 17:16; Gal 2:9. The office and commission of apostles were remarkable in the following particulars: (1.) They were all required to have been eye- and ear-witnesses of what they testified, especially of the resurrection of Christ. John 15:27; Acts 1:21, Josh 11:22 and Acts 22:14, 2 Sam 20:15; 1 Cor 9:1 and 1 Cor 15:8; 1 John 1:3. (2.) They were all called or chosen by our Saviour himself. Luke 6:13; Gal 1:1. Even Matthias is not an exception to this remark, as the determination of the lot was of God. Acts 1:24-26. (3.) They were inspired. John 16:13. (4.) They had the power of miracles. Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43; Heb 2:4; Rom 15:18, Acts 1:19; 2 Cor 12:12. The word "apostle" is also used in a wider sense of Christian heralds of the gospel. 2 Cor 8:23; Phil 2:25. (A. V. in both cases translates "messenger.") 1. The term apostle is also applied to our Saviour, Heb 3:1, and with singular propriety, as in the character of Messiah he is emphatically the Sent of God.

apostle in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

("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 (Acts 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" (Luke 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 (John 14:26; John 15:26-27; John 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 (Matthew 20:20-27; Mark 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 (Matthew 10:27). Four catalogues are extant: Matthew's (Matthew 10), Mark's (Mark 3:16), Luke's (Luke 6:14) in the Gospel, and Luke's in Acts 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 (John 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 (Revelation 21:14; Revelation 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 (Acts 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; Acts 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 (Luke 24:45; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8; Acts 1:22; Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Acts 5:32; Acts 13:31). The first period of the apostles' working extends down to Acts 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, Matthew 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. (Acts 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 (Revelation 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 (1 Corinthians 9:1-2; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Romans 1:11; Romans 15:18-19). This period ends with Acts 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" (2 Corinthians 8:23; Philemon 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 (Acts 1:24). So Paul (Galatians 1:1-12; Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 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 (Matthew 18:18), and to remit or retain sins of persons (John 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 (1 Corinthians 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 (1 Peter 5:1; 2 John 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 (Acts 15:19; Acts 21:18). Once the Lord Himself is so designated, "the Apostle of our profession" (Hebrews 3:1); the, Ambassador sent from the Father (John 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 (Matthew 21:37).