The Apostles

Text: II Corinthians 11:1-15


I.         I Corinthians 12:28-29; Ephesians 4:11-13

            A.        The world contains many strange ideas regarding apostles.

            B.        The Mormons and some other denominations claim their organization is more truly like the first century church because they have apostles.

            C.        I have had some strong discussions with men who claim the title of Apostle

II.        The Apostles were men sent to be witnesses of Jesus Christ

            A.        The word apostle literally means one sent as a messenger

            B.        When Peter and the other apostles presented the first gospel sermon, Peter stated that they were witnesses - Acts 2:32

            C.        This is not mere testimony, but the ability to give eye-witness accounts

                        1.         John stated that they bore witness to the life of Christ - I John 1:1-3

                        2.         When Judas had to be replaced as an apostle, the criteria for selecting a man was his presence with Jesus - Acts 1:21-22

                        3.         Peter claimed they were witnesses to Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection - Acts 10:39-41

            D.        The testimony was so important that Jesus promised to send help for remembering to the apostles - John 15:26-27

                        1.         The testimony was done with power - Acts 4:33

                        2.         God supported their testimony - Hebrews 2:4

            E.        These men were not self-appointed witnesses. They were sent by Jesus himself, hence the name apostle - Acts 1:8

            F.        Sometimes people speak of witnessing for Christ

                        1.         Technically, we cannot be witnesses

                                    a.         We were not present when Christ walked this earth

                                    b.         We did not see him die

                                    c.         We did not witness his resurrection

                        2.         We can speak about the Christ.

                                    a.         We can give evidence of the change he has made in our lives.

                                    b.         But we cannot be eye-witnesses

                                    c.         We cannot prove that Jesus was the Son of God as the apostles were able to do

            G.        The apostles offered personal testimony concerning the things they personally experienced.

III.       The Apostles were given authority to establish the church

            A.        They were a part of the foundation of the church - Ephesians 2:19-20

            B.        They were given authority to issue commands on behalf of God - Matthew 18:18

                        1.         This is not to say they could create any law they felt like creating.

                        2.         Notice the use of the past tense. The things they bound on earth are the things that had been bound in heaven.

                        3.         They were passing on the laws of God with the authority Jesus granted to them - I Corinthians 14:37

            C.        The apostles were full representatives of Christ to the people

                        1.         Luke 10:16 - The reception of the apostles was the reception of Christ

                        2.         The authority they held was not their own, but the Lord’s authority that was delegated to them - II Peter 3:1-2

                        3.         Their teachings were received as the words of God - I Thessalonians 2:13

            D.        The apostles’ teachings were permanent

                        1.         The 27 books of the New Testament are the result of the Apostles’ work and they are the permanent record of God’s teaching - I Peter 1:23-25

                        2.         It contains everything for life and godliness - II Peter 1:3

                        3.         It equips us for every good work - II Timothy 3:16-17

            E.        Once handed down, there would be no need for further revelation

                        1.         The apostles wrote their witness so their joy would be made complete - I John 1:1-3

                        2.         It was handed down once for all - Jude 3

IV.      There were only twelve apostles

            A.        Luke 6:12-16 - Jesus personally selected the twelve

            B.        When Judas committed suicide after betraying the Christ, another was selected - Acts 1:20-26

                        1.         They narrowed the field down to two men who qualified

                        2.         They drew lots, but they had prayed that Jesus select who was to be his representative

            C.        James was killed by Herod - Acts 12:1-2

                        1.         But prior to this, Jesus had selected Paul to be his apostle to the Gentiles - Acts 9:10-16; 22:12-16,21

                        2.         It appears that Paul did not assume his duties immediately - Galatians 1:15-19

            D.        Was Paul really an apostle?

                        1.         Paul was not taught by men in how to be an apostle - Galatians 1:11-12

                        2.         The remaining apostles recognized Paul as one of them - Galatians 2:6-10

                                    a.         We even have Peter’s own testimony - II Peter 3:15-16

                        3.         Paul met the qualifications for apostleship

                                    a.         He is an eye-witness of Jesus’s resurrection - I Corinthians 9:1, I Corinthians 15:3-10

                                    b.         He was able to give proof of his apostleship by the signs God gave to accompany him - II Corinthians 12:11-12

                                    c.         Paul considered himself the least of the apostles, not because of a lack of ability or authority, but because he fought against the Lord in his past. He felt he wasn’t worthy of being called by the Lord, though he appreciated the gift.

                        4.         Paul was a called apostle, called by Jesus - I Corinthians 1:1

            E.        Hence the church was founded on twelve apostles - Revelation 21:14

                        1.         Fourteen men held the title, but essentially there were only twelve at any time.

            F.        Weren’t other men called apostles?

                        1.         We must remember that the word apostle was not created for this particular office. The office was called by Greek word already in existence – the word for a messenger.

                        2.         For example, II Corinthians 8:23 says that Titus and the others who accompanied Paul were messengers (the word there is apostles) of the churches.

                                    a.         Here in is the distinguishing mark.

                                                (1)       The twelve were selected by Jesus.

                                                (2)       The two replacements were selected by Jesus.

                                                (3)       These men were selected by the churches

                                    b.         Epaphroditus was Philippian church’s messenger (or apostle)

                        3.         What about Barnabas? - Acts 14:4, 14

                                    a.         Paul was sent by Jesus

                                    b.         But Paul and Barnabas were selected by the Holy Spirit and sent by the church in Antioch - Acts 13:1-3

                                    c.         What is lacking is proof that Barnabas was selected by Jesus to be his messenger and witness.

                                    d.         In addition, we have no record of the signs of the apostleship that should have accompanied Barnabas.

                        4.         What about Silas and Timothy? - I Thessalonians 1:1, 5-6

                                    a.         The question is, was Silas and Timothy included in Paul’s “we?”

                                    b.         In the very next chapter shows that Paul was using “we” when he meant himself alone - I Thessalonians 3:1,5

                                    c.         Neither Silas or Timothy had the authority that Paul could have brought to bear

                                                (1)       Silas was selected by Paul and sent by the church in Antioch - Acts 15:40

                                                (2)       Timothy was also selected by Paul - Acts 16:1-3

                                                (3)       While these two men are frequently mentioned in the Scriptures, the title “apostle” was never directly attached to their names, unlike the twelve

                        5.         What about Andronicus and Junias? - Romans 16:7

                                    a.         The phrase could be read that Andronicus and Junias were outstanding apostles or it could mean that they were outstanding Christians, well-known to the apostles.

                                                (1)       As in “Nurse Jones is outstanding among the doctors.”

                                    b.         Since the phrase can be read either way, it, by itself, is insufficient proof that these two were apostles.

                                    c.         If they were outstanding apostles, how is it that this is the only time they are mentioned? If any were outstanding among the apostles it would have been Peter and Paul.

                        6.         There is one other apostle mentioned in the Bible, though he was not one of the twelve - Hebrews 3:1

                                    a.         Jesus was sent by God, just as Jesus sent the apostles - John 20:20-23

                                    b.         Jesus was a witness to the Father - John 14:9-11

                                                (1)       Notice that Jesus spoke on behalf of the Father

                                                (2)       Jesus showed proof that he was sent by God

                                    c.         Jesus spoke as an eye-witness - John 6:46

V.        If Paul could be an apostle after Jesus arose, why can’t the apostleship continue?

            A.        First, there is the problem that the Bible speaks of twelve apostles.

            B.        Second, none today can serve as eye-witnesses to Jesus

            C.        Third, all who were selected were chosen by Jesus

                        1.         No method was given for the training of new apostles

                        2.         In fact, Paul’s argument that he was an apostle rested on the fact that he was not trained or selected by men.

            D.        Fourth, there is a distinct lack of proof that men today are apostles.

                        1.         Where is the evidence of signs that proved apostleship?

                        2.         A prime sign was the ability to pass on the gifts of the Spirit by the laying on of the apostles’ hands - Acts 8:18

                        3.         Paul even should this ability - II Timothy 1:6

                        4.         There are claims, but never proof

            E.        Finally, Paul called himself as an apostle born out of due time - I Corinthians 15:8

                        1.         Think what this implies. There was a season when apostles were selected.

                        2.         Paul was an unusual case. He was an exception to the rule. He came later than the other apostles.

                        3.         If apostles would continue to appear, then Paul would not be unusual.

            F.        God has warned us that there would be false apostles

                        1.         II Corinthians 14:13-15 - Their deeds will show them as false

                        2.         Revelation 2:2 - They are to be tested and will be found false

                        3.         Primarily, the very claim to be an apostle means they desire to teach their own doctrine, which will conflict with the doctrine proven to be from God - Galatians 1:6-10

                        4.         Test every spirit - I John 4:1