In recent decades we have heard of men – and indeed women – who have claimed the title of apostle, or allowed believers to call them by the name of apostle. But what does the Biblical record teach us ?

We arrive in our study of the Gospel of Mark at the passage in chapter 3 where Jesus specifically appoints 12 disciples to a particular function which Mark explains from verse 14:

and he ordained twelve that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: and Simon he surnamed Peter; and James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot which also betrayed him

So what were the qualifications identified, and how does this fit with other key scriptures on this same topic ?

The qualifications are 3:

  1. that they should be with him
  2. that he would send them out to preach
  3. that they would have authority to heal sickness and to cast out devils

Now, there were in Jesus time and for some time before, exorcists – people who could cast out demons ie evil spirits. We know this from the Acts of the Apostles, for example Acts chapter 19, verse 13. So that of itself does not make someone an apostle.

It is clearly someone who can heal and deliver, but who also has authority from Jesus himself to preach the message Jesus Christ came to deliver. But that is not all. Indeed God has clearly appointed teachers and preachers of his word ever since those times. There is a vital third qualification required to mark an apostle, and it accords with what we read elsewhere.

that they should be with him

When the early church sought a replacement for Judas Iscariot  after his death, Luke records Peter saying in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles:

wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection

Notice ONE person to be appointed; that person to make up the number again to the specific number of TWELVE Jesus chose in the beginning. And what was the qualification?

That the person had been with Jesus personally throughout the period of his earthly ministry and had witnessed his crucifixion as well as his resurrection. That single appointment was to fulfil the prediction in the Psalms of Judas’ betrayal and of the need for his particular place as one of the 12 to be filled [verse 20 of Acts chapter 1].

No person since the earthly lifetime of Christ and being alive in the 1st century can fulfil that requirement !

The 12 had special authority from being in the very physical presence of Jesus Christ throughout the 3 or so years of his earthly ministry. Such was the authority, that they could interpret the Old Testament scriptures to the church of the first century, and the record of what they wrote is left to us within the writings of the New Testament.

But that New Testament record also contains the 14 epistles or letters of the “apostle” Paul, as well as the letter of Jude, understood to be a brother of Jesus. In connection with both men we note Paul’s comment in the first letter to the Corinthians chapter 9 and verse 5:

have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas ?

Jude as a brother of Jesus in the flesh, would of course had personal knowledge of Jesus right through his life and up to his death. He could therefore testify as to who the Jesus was who is recorded in the 4 Gospels as being the Teacher Jesus who was Crucified along with two thieves at the time of Passover in a particular year.

Paul of course will have known about Jesus. He was also a Pharisee and therefore well versed in the Old Testament Scriptures. His understanding of them was dramatically enlightened by the Risen, Resurrected Jesus appearing to him personally on the road to Damascus where he planned to arrest Christians [Acts chapter 22] .

Therefore a personal, tangible encounter with Jesus Christ. Since then, of course, God acts by his Holy Spirit to call, equip and send people to preach and teach his word – and no doubt also to heal and to deliver.

But such will not have had that intensely personal encounter with Jesus Christ himself.  Their encounter is with Jesus Christ the Word Written in the New Testament by those apostolic figures of the first century [note John 1:1] Those sent today to preach the Gospel message do not themselves write holy Writ; they accept and teach the Holy Writings as handed down to them from the first century apostles.

They take their authority from the written New Testament – they do not add or subtract from it. The genuine Christian preacher or teacher today relies on what the apostles have said. They themselves having nothing else to say ! Indeed, they understand that to add or to subtract from the written message of the Bible would be to invite the curse of God as recorded in the final chapter of the Revelation recorded by John on Patmos.

If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. 

Christian Preacher


By Christianity

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