We know the apostles to be the 12 chief disciples of Christ, his inner circle, who followed Jesus and helped him carry out his earthly ministry.
Their names were Simon Peter, James, John, Andrew, and more, including Judas Iscariot, who later betrayed Jesus and was replaced by Matthias.
Jesus appointed these men himself, and after his death and resurrection, they were responsible for the start of the early church.
Indeed, when Peter acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:15), Jesus blessed his friend and said Peter was the rock upon which He would build His church.
But what is an apostle, really? And should every Christian strive to be like the apostles?
What Is an Apostle According to the Bible?
The word apostle comes from the Greek word apostolos, which means a messenger, one sent on a mission.
Strong’s Concordance says an apostle is an envoy, delegate, one commissioned by another to represent him in some way, especially a man sent out by Jesus Christ Himself to preach the gospel. The Gospel of Mark describes how the 12 apostles were appointed by Jesus.
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons (Mark 3:13-15, NIV).
What Did the Apostles Do?
The job of the 12 apostles was to go to the Jews and proclaim the gospel. Matthew 10:8 says that Jesus gave them specific tasks: Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. He gave them “authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness” (Matthew 10:1).
This was a big job, and it would bring them no earthly pleasure. Jesus said they would be like sheep among wolves (10:16), arrested, flogged, betrayed, and hated. And history indicated most of the apostles were ultimately martyred for their faith.
And yet it was a great honor — appointed by the Son of God and claimed as His own, a representative of the Christ.
As Jesus said, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (Matthew 10:40).
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, these apostles became the messengers of the gospel and the foundation of the church, with Jesus as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).
What’s the Difference Between an Apostle and a Disciple?
An apostle and a disciple of Christ are similar — both follow Jesus, learning from Him as their teacher and role model. But an apostle has the further distinction of being appointed and sent out into the world to carry the gospel message.
The earliest apostles were appointed by Jesus during the time He walked on earth among humanity. Other apostles were appointed through the Holy Spirit after the resurrection, such as Matthias, Paul, and Barnabas.
Am I Supposed to be an Apostle, Too?
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul explains there are different kinds of gifts, but these gifts are distributed by the same Spirit, and all from God (v. 4-6). We are all part of the same body of Christ, Paul says, but we have different roles.
God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:28-30).
Not all people are given the job of being an apostle. God calls us to different tasks in the world.
Should I Strive to be Like an Apostle?
But as to whether we should strive to be like the apostles, the answer is yes. For the apostles are messengers of the gospel sent by God, representing God. In that, they strived to model their lives after the Lord.
They tried their best to follow His commandments and hold tight to faith and hope. They tried to not worry about what they would eat or drink, what clothes they would wear or where they would sleep, as Jesus instructed in Matthew 6:25-34.
And they worked hard to fulfill the Great Commission Jesus gave them in Matthew 28:19-20:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
These are all things we should strive to do also, whether or not we are gifted with apostolic abilities or appointed as an apostle.
What Are Some Ways I Can be Like an Apostle Today?
Today, we can continue to try to be like an apostle. We can do our best to model Jesus and walk in His way.
As Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
We can share His message with others, and answer when we are called, even if that means risking our earthly life or living in discomfort.
Today, people are called to be pastors, starting new churches in unique and sometimes strange places. People are called to be missionaries in the world, whether that is living among the homeless or working in prisons in their own nations, or traveling to far, distant lands to love and work as a missioner to foreign peoples.
The point is saying “yes” when God calls and appoints us and living in His ways and by His commands in the meantime.
None of us is among the first apostles appointed by Christ. But all of us are freely offered the gift that is Christ. And we honor God when we share that message in whatever way He calls us to do so.
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Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
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