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Bible Statistics and History
New Testament

What is the meaning of apostle?

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July 06, 2017 8:26AM

First, there is a difference between "apostle" and "disciple". Disciple means one who followed after and was taught by whomever they were following. The disciples of "Christ" were followers of and taught by Jesus Christ himself. While "apostle" means that they have actually seen the person who they are now teaching others about. There were 12 main disciples whom Jesus selected to be closer to him and learn more from him. These 12 would have also been apostles as they obviously saw him too. Paul (also known as Saul before he converted) is not a disciple, but is only an apostle. This is because he did not follow Jesus and his teaching before Jesus death and resurrection from the dead. However, when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, Paul was converted and believed all that Jesus said and did. He then went on to teach others about who Jesus was, thus making him an apostle.

Additional Answer:

The answer is true, however not entirely accurate. Yes, Paul is an apostle not just because he went on to teach about Jesus. He was made an Apostle of Jesus, by the will of Jesus. He made this clear at the beginning of all his letter (Romans, I Cor, II Cor, Ephesians, etc.). He stated, "Paul, made an apostle by the will of Christ Jesus." This was made possible because Jesus chose him as His vessel to reveal to him all things that he needed to know and the things that he must suffer for Christ's sake (Acts 9:15-16). Jesus wanted Paul to present Him to the Gentiles, that they would now be able to recevie God's word and promise of life everlasting (Acts 11:1-18).

An apostle by definition is a messenger of God's word and a first hand witness (as the previous answer sets forth, one who saw Christ and witnessed His work). Paul was not an Apostle by definition, because he didn't walk with Christ and witness His works and persecution, but He was an apostle because he was

willed by Christ to be such, through revelation. Paul is indeed a discple of Christ (an imitator of Jesus as the term means). Paul is a disciple because he subscribes to and has faith in the teachings of Christ. Anyone that learns from another directly or through the trickle down effect, is a disciple of the teacher.

Paul was given revelation of the gospel by Christ, therefore he became a disciple of Christ (Gal 1:11-12); he was then charge to preach the word (Acts 9:15). He's an Apostle by both definitions: a messenger and an eye witness (through Christ revealing it to him not because he walked with Christ). So Paul is both an Apostle and disciple. However, people today can only be disciples through study and learning and following the Christ teachings, but no one can claim apostleship, as in the sense of eyewitness. Understand that we are all given apostleship by Christ, to be messengers of His word, as told by Paul to the Romans (Rom 1:1-5), but by the second definition of apostle we cannot attain. In Romans 1:1-5, Paul used the word "apostle" in two ways, by its two meanings. In verse 1, called to be a witness as well as a messenger, and in verse 5 merely messengers.

Another View:

Peter's definition of an apostle clearly precludes the possibility that Paul could have ever served as one, since he did not witness Christ's earthly ministry "beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us." (Acts 1:22). Neither was there an opening within the group of twelve for Paul, since Matthias had filled Judas' position long before Paul's reported conversion. "Lord, . . . [s]how us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs." Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles." (Acts 1:24).

Therefore, the apostolic authority asserted by Paul throughout his ministry lacks credibility, since his claims deny God's choice of Matthias as witness to Christ's resurrection.

Additional Comment:

An Apostle means 'one sent forth' with the Gospel of Christ message of the Kingdom of God. They supervised and proclaimed that message to the world by means and persons other than themselves - think of Timothy sent by Paul as an example. Apostle's had supervision over all the local congregations/churches (1 Corinthians 16:1). The Apostle Paul had oversight over the churches of the Gentile world (2 Corinthians 11:28).