Tag Archives: Paul

Are There Apostles Today?: An Essay

The term “apostle” has been around ever since before the beginning of what we would call the church. Although traditionally used to refer to the twelve apostles that Christ had personally chosen, the term may be acceptable to use even for Christians today. The word apostle is from the Greek word apostolos which means, “one who is sent.” There are many instances in the Bible where the word apostle is mentioned – eighty times in the King James Version.

Until the beginning of the church, the word in its Biblical context referred only to the twelve apostles that were specifically chosen by the Lord while in His human form. With the death of Judas Iscariot, however, the remaining eleven apostles believed it necessary that another man fill the spot, which Judas Iscariot had left vacant. After casting lots, the apostles chose Matthias to become the new twelfth apostle, even though he was not chosen by the Lord while in His physical body.

Another example of an apostle who was chosen by a process other than by Christ in his physical body is that of Paul. Paul was confronted on the road to Damascus by the voice of the Lord and a bright light, which soon led to his conversion. Then, in the introduction of the book to the Romans, Paul writes, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…” (Romans 1:1), clearly believing that he was an apostle even though he had not had any face-to-face contact with the Lord.

One may argue, however, that Paul, through his confrontation on the road to Damascus, and Matthias, through the Lord’s sovereignty over the outcome of the lots, were indeed chosen directly by the Lord to be called apostles. Even in the examples of people such as James, the Lord’s brother, and Barnabas, who were both referred as apostles in Galatians 1:19 and Acts 14:14, respectively, it is safe to argue that the Lord may have bestowed a similar honor upon them. In the case of James, close fellowship with Christ was likely a daily routine, and, as seen in Acts 9:27, Barnabas already had an established relationship with the apostles and for that reason he may have been considered an apostle himself.

There is no accounting, however, using the previously stated arguments for the following verse written to the Corinthians: “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works” (2 Corinthians 12:12), for Christ never was recorded to visit the city of Corinth, which was about 600 miles away from Jerusalem as the crow flies, and it is unlikely that the Corinthians received any special revelation from the risen Christ in which he ordained them to be apostles. It is also important to note that Paul did not “ordain” any of the Corinthians to be apostles since his missionary to the city of Corinth was not particularly long and scholars are not sure whether or not Paul made a second journey to that city.

So should Christians today be called apostles? This is a question wrought with peril and many implications. The term apostle is traditionally reserved only for those chosen by Christ during His life on the earth and for Paul. The term thus implies religious authority that none today possess. However, by strictly using the definition of the word as our guideline, many people could be “apostles,” though not necessarily apostles of Christ.

By narrowing the definition to include only those who “are sent” and those who meet the requirements of 2 Corinthians 12:12, we may say that missionaries and church planters, and, quite possibly, all Christians under the Great Commission, are apostles. It may be wisest, however, to avoid use of this term because it implies a degree of religious authority that no Christian possesses today.

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The Jew and also the Greek: An Essay

This was an essay that I wrote for school about the interactions between the Jews, early Christians, and Gentiles and then also addressing the issue of studying the Bible for devotional purposes verses studying the Bible for historical purposes. I know that it’s a little unpolished but I hope that you enjoy it!

 

The Jews, Gentiles, and the early Christians had many differences that often caused negative interaction between them, these differences primarily being differences of belief and religious practice. Throughout the Old Testament, by making a covenant with the Jews and giving them His law, the Lord set the Jews apart from the Gentile nations. The Jews were commanded to conquer the surrounding nations and not make peace with them unless they were very far away (Deuteronomy 20:10 – 15). On the other side of the same coin, the Lord used the pagan Gentile nations such as Egypt, Babylon, and Rome to conquer His people – usually when they were falling into sin. Thus, to the Jews, the Gentiles were either the hated conquered or the feared conquerors.  When Israel came into peace with the pagan nations, the Jews began to act as the pagans did and the Lord judged the nation of Israel for their sin. Thus, for those reasons, the Jews and the Gentiles almost continually had a strained relationship.

 

The Jews has a mixed response to Christ, and, likewise they had a mixed response to Christians. There were many Jews who wished to kill all the Christians, but there were others heard the word and believed, such as on the day known now as Pentecost, where, “those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” (Acts 2:41, NKJV). In contrast, often the Jews, especially the religious leaders, were so intent on eradicating the Christians that they relied on and/or stirred up the Gentiles to help them in their quest, as in Paul’s trip to the city of Iconium, where “the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren.” (Acts 14:2, NKJV)

 

The Christians had been commanded to take the Word to the Jews first, and also to the Greek. Thus, there were many Jewish converts. Surprisingly, the Gentiles came to Christ and to the early Christians for counseling and the Christians were happy to help, as evidenced by the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10, or, in the story of Philip and the eunuch in Acts 8:34 – 35 (NIV), “The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” The Gentiles were often wary of the Christians and treated them with suspicion. When the results of Christian teaching affected their business negatively, however, the Gentiles took strong measures against them, as in the case of Demetrius the Silversmith (Acts 19:23 – 41).

 

Another level at which the early Christians, Jews, and Gentiles differed was their reading of the Scriptures and their reasons for reading the Scriptures. By reading the Scriptures merely as a reliable historical source, one is seeking to gain historical insight on events of the past but is not necessarily reading for the purpose of tracing God’s plan of redemption through history. Reading the Scriptures for devotional purposes, on the other hand, implies studying it with the intent of learning what God has to say to His people. The mere facts of the Bible would have been such a major part of the Jews culture and tradition that it is likely that they already knew a large part of their history through the many feasts they attended and through oral tradition that is so prevalent in the Near and Middle East that Jews would have studied the Bible primarily for “devotional” purposes – for seeking God’s will and revelation through the law and the prophets. The Gentiles, as a whole, would have been unfamiliar with the Scriptures and likely didn’t study the Scriptures at all. Because the early Christians were a mix of converted Jews and Gentiles, many of them Gentiles, they would have studied the Scriptures for both historical and devotional purposes, because they, especially the Gentiles, would be unfamiliar with both the historical and devotional content of this new religion, and, for the Jews, they re-read or were re-taught the Scriptures in light of their new revelation.

 

In short, there were many factors which affected the interaction between the first-century Jews, Christians, and Gentiles. Although a significant amount of the interaction between these groups was negative due to differences of belief and practice, this was not always the case, especially between the early Christians and Gentiles. Like the early church, it is my prayer that we will all have the boldness to proclaim Jesus, crucified and resurrected, to all the world and wherever we go – to the Jew and also to the Gentile.