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Apostles are missionaries

by Theodore Wright


An apostle, as defined in the original greek language, is a messenger or one sent on a mission. In other words, an apostle is a missionary. Just as with different callings, though, this call is from God. God calls His missionaries, equips them, anoints them for service. Not all who are called apostles meet the criteria.

2 Corinthians 11:13 (KJV): For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.


Apostles did not end with the early church but continued throughout the church age as well as evangelists, pastors and teachers, and, yes, prophets too. All of these callings will continue throughout the Church age until we all, as Christ’s Church, are made perfect together with Him when we meet Him in the air.

Ephesians 4:11-13 (KJV): And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:


Apostles, as well as prophets, lay the foundation for Christ’s church. Some of the early apostles and prophets especially did this by writing the New Testament, which canon is now complete. However, apostles and prophets, continue to lay down this same foundation of the Holy Scriptures in new places, thus continuing the same work. Apostles also function as church planters.

Ephesians 2:20 (KJV): And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

Many Christians have been taught that since the Holy Bible is complete that there are no longer any apostles or prophets needed to lay the foundation, seeing that it is already laid.  Thus, God will no longer call anyone to these roles and longer.  It is not the role, though, of all apostles and prophets to write Scripture.  Since this was true then, it continues now the same way.

1 Corinthians 3:11 (KJV): For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

The foundation of Jesus Christ is laid, none other can be laid.  For the lives of many believers and for Christian communities, that same foundation needs to be laid personally and practically for them.  This is the Great Commission to preach the gospel to all nations.  It is the solemn responsibility for all God sent apostles/missionaries.  Like all of the roles of the five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11, the work is also to be shared by all believers in Jesus.


Despite what many believe, actually seeing the risen Lord Jesus Christ is not mentioned as a requirement to be an apostle.

1 Corinthians 9:1-2 (KJV): Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

Though Paul did see the risen Lord Jesus in a vision on the road to Damascus, the above passage does not literally state that seeing Jesus Christ as such is a requirement for being an apostle. However, in the passage below, the signs of an apostle are mentioned.

2 Corinthians 12:12 (KJV): Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.


There are a number of various expectations that people have for what qualifies someone as an apostle or what an apostle must do to be one. Much is expected by men in this manner because Paul’s own ministry as an apostle is commonly used as an example. Paul does make an excellent example for a basis of comparison, but Christ is the ultimate example. Yet, what Paul did or did not do does not necessarily define the role of an apostle. The Bible passages which define an apostle clearly are those that specifically mention the word apostle or when Paul talks about what the role is.


It is often believed that God appointed the apostles as last. This may or not be true. Paul, though he did not state this as fact, held this opinion.

1 Corinthians 4:9 (KJV): For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.


1st Corinthians confirms the existance of additional apostles in addition to the original 12…

1 Corinthians 15:3-7 (KJV):

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

6 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.

7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

If the only apostles of Christ were the 12 then this opens up a question. Christ was seen risen by “Cephas, then of the twelve” in verse 5. Then, who are “all the apostles” in verse 7?


Besides the original 12 apostles, 10 others by name were called apostles as well as the Lord Jesus. This would not be counting people who are not named or those called by God throughout the Church age.

The original 12 apostles…

Matthew 10:2-4 (KJV): Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him

Note that when the 12 disciples of the Lord were sent out, they were referred to as “apostles” rather than “disciples” even before Jesus died and rose from the dead. See Matthew chapter 10.

Other apostles by name in the Bible…

Acts 1:26 (KJV):
And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

James, the Lord’s brother
Galatians 1:19 (KJV):
But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother

Paul and Barnabas
Acts 14:14 (KJV):
Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,

Silas and Timothy
1 Thessalonians 1:1 & 2:6 (KJV):
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. … Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

1 Corinthians 4:6 & 9 (KJV):
And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. … For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

Philippians 2:25 (KJV):
Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.

Note that the word “messenger” in this passage is the word for “apostle” in the original greek language.

Andronicus and Junia
Romans 16:7 (KJV):
Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

Junia was a woman apostle.

The Lord Jesus Christ
Hebrews 3:1 (KJV):
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

It is easily perceived here that God did not appoint simply twelve apostles and that it would end with them.  We see also the apostolic call continues throughout the Church age as is the intent of Christ until He returns.  The role of the apostle does need to be recognized in the modern church.  Albeit, if we look carefully, we see that it is already being fulfilled through many God called missionaries.



Conclusions drawn from the Bible about the role of the apostle need to be accurate to what the Bible says without assumptions, presumptions, adding in what is not there, nor taking away what is said therein.  Often denominational biases have contributed to confusion on many topics. Many church denominations count on that their polity is all accurately drawn from the Bible. With such presumed upon to be a correct basis for church government any inaccuracies about clerical roles will be reflected elsewhere in other teachings. Such can found common place regarding conclusions made about the role of the apostle. Herein, we exhort that a fresh reexamination of the Holy Scriptures be conducted.





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