The word "Apostle" means "messenger; one who has been sent," according to the King James Dictionary. The 12 Apostles were messengers sent into the world for a fixed purpose, with specific instructions from the Lord. Jesus called them, ordained them and sent them into the world even as His Father had sent Him (John 15:16; John 17:6-18).
What’s the Difference Between “Disciple” and “Apostle”?
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia notes a significant difference between “apostle” and another commonly associated word, "disciple," which means "a learner."
The 12 disciples are first called “apostles” in Matthew 10:2. According to John Gill’s commentary, “they were learners before; now being instructed, they are sent forth to preach publicly, and therefore are called apostles, or messengers.”
List of the 12 Apostles’ Names
Jesus called his first disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, in Matthew 4:18-22 (also recorded in Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:1-11, and John 1:35-42). These four, along with eight others, whom Jesus may have already selected as close followers and learners, made up the 12 whose names are all listed together for the first time in Scripture in Matthew 10: 2-4. “These are the names of the twelve apostles:” (Matthew 2:2)
1. Simon (who is called Peter) 2. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother 3. James, son of Zebedee 4. John, James’ brother 5. Philip 6. Bartholomew 7. Thomas 8. Matthew, the tax collector 9. James, son of Alphaeus 10. Thaddaeus 11. Simon the Zealot 12. Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus
What Did the Apostles Do?
The first time Jesus sent the apostles to preach, He restricted their labors to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:6), and their preaching to the simple announcement that the kingdom of God was at hand (Matthew 10:1-7).
After Jesus had broken down the middle wall between Jew and Gentile by his death on the cross, He gave His apostles a new commission – preaching the good news of reconciliation with God to both Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:11-16).
According to Matthew, this commission embraced:
- the announcement that all authority in heaven and in earth had been given unto Him;
- the command to go and teach;
- the command to baptize those who were taught;
- the command to continue to teach the baptized disciples;
- the assurance that He would be with them to the end (Matthew 28:18-20).
According to Mark, it embraced:
- the command to preach the gospel to the whole world;
- the promise of salvation to those who believe and obey it (Mark 16:15).
According to Luke, it embraced:
- the command to preach repentance in His name;
- to begin at Jerusalem;
- the assurance that the apostles were witnesses of these things (Luke 24:45-48).
According to John, it embraced, under the condition laid down by Jesus, the power to remit and retain sins (John 20:21-23).
This article was adapted from “Christian History: The Twelve Apostles” by Ashley S. Johnson.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock