Are There Apostles Today?
Are there Apostles today? I see in Ephesians 4:11 that it’s a group just like pastors and teachers, so are they still around?
Hi, my friend. Great questions.
I have to say that I’m going out on a limb on this one since the Bible is not explicitly clear.
Here are my thoughts.
Just like prophecy/prophets, there are two working definitions of apostle.
Prophecy is both the ‘foretelling of God’s will’ and the ‘forth-telling of God’s will.’ When I preach, I act as a prophet ‘forth-telling’ God’s Word to the world. However, the ancient prophets were getting downloads by God that were original and new words. I don’t think that we have any of those about crucial issues, but I do think that God is still downloading information to His people (just not into the same office – prophets – thus saith the Lord or die – kind of thing). We do have people who are near to God and receive His input on things happening down here on Earth and speak on His behalf in a similar way and act in a prophetic way. But we don’t have the office of prophet any more since God has revealed His will through Jesus Christ and the gospel (Bible both NT and OT).
In the same way, Apostle can mean a number of things:
- Traditional Apostles – those called and sent personally by Jesus – this is a closed group (Revelation 21:14; 2 Peter 3:2 and Jude 17). Even Paul the Apostle (it was on his business card), had a tough time cracking into this one even though he had all the legit qualifications (Galatians 1:17): A.) Personally called and commissioned verbally by Jesus Christ, B.) Seen the Risen Lord; C.) Attested by miracles. We don’t have any of those folks any more, unless God is still doing Damascus things and we are putting up a fake limit. Really, the 13 (Mathias replaced Judas and Paul added in) apostles are just a designation to describe guys who were key to the foundation of Christianity. In the verse you used, Ephesians 4:11, I think it’s talking about God gave some in the past like this group, to lay a foundation that has been built on by the other giftings. However, when we talk about 1 Corinthians 12:29, I think it’s switched to group number two …
- Office of Apostles in General – Notice in Acts 14, in verses 4 and 14, that Barnabas is called an Apostle. That is talking about the office of apostle. In 2 Corinthians 11:13, it talks about ‘false apostles,’ which doesn’t mean people were walking around with Peter masks and clothes on, but were not fulfilling the office of Apostle properly. I’m confused about Galatians 1:19, when Jesus’ brother James is called an apostle, because he had likely the same qualifications as Paul did so perhaps he’s one of the legit early ones and not just the office, or both. Revelation 2:2 seems to talk about the office as well (other guys were called Apostles as well: Andronicus & Junias, etc.). So what is the office of an Apostle? Apostle means ‘sent one.’ So it’s anyone that is commissioned to go on behalf of someone else. Religiously, it means one sent from God or on God’s behalf. So anyone that is sent out for a mission of God really is functioning as an apostle, but isn’t that just a missionary? Yup, they overlap. In fact I think of an apostle as a missionary with authority.
So, are there Apostles today? Not, that are going to have their names carved on the foundations of the New Heavens, there aren’t. Are there still hybrid Apostles (like Andronicus, Junias, James, perhaps Paul) today – which are personally called and commissioned by Jesus Christ personally in a vision/in person and given the gift of miracles? I don’t know. I haven’t met any, but I don’t run in those odd circles. Are there people fulfilling the office of apostle today? Yes, there are. A ton. But in what capacity? Likely the capacity of authoritative missionaries who go out and travel on God’s behalf to set up churches, correct issues and speak God’s voice into situations.
Because everything got formalized in the past (think traditional old school Catholic view in the Renaissance era), there was a big backlash to break from all those titles by the Protestants and now today we don’t know what to call people. We merely talk about what they are currently doing for God, or how they are gifted. The church is a different animal than in the past, so it’s hard to quantify.