A messenger or envoy. The term is applied to Jesus Christ, who was God's envoy to save the world, Heb 3:1; though, more commonly, the title is given to persons who were envoys commissioned by the Savior himself.
The apostles of Jesus Christ were his chief disciples, whom he invested with authority, filled with his Spirit, entrusted particularly with his doctrines and services, and chose to raise the edifice of his church. They were twelve in number, answering to the twelve tribes. Mt 19:28, and were plain, unlearned men, chosen from the common people. After their calling and charge, Mt 10:5-42, they attended their divine Master, witnessing his works, imbibing his spirit, and gradually learning the facts and doctrines of the gospel. After his resurrection, he sent them into all the world, commissioned to preach, to baptize, to work miracles, etc. See Joh 15:27; 1Co 9:1; 15:8; 2Co 12:12; 1Th 2:13. The names of the twelve are, Simon Peter; Andrew, his brother; James, the son of Zebedee, called also "the greater;" John, his brother; Philip; Bartholomew; Thomas; Matthew, or Levi; Simon the Canaanite; Lebbeus, surnamed Thaddeus, also called Judas or Jude; James, "the less," the son of Alphaeus; and Judas Iscariot, Mt 10:2-4; Mr 3:16; Lu 6:14. The last betrayed his Master, and then hanged himself, and Matthias was chosen in his place, Ac 1:15-26. In the Acts of the Apostles are recorded the self-sacrificing toils and sufferings of these Christlike men, who did that which was "right in the sight of God" from love to their Lord; and gave themselves wholly to their work, with a zeal, love, and faith Christ delighted to honor-teaching us that apostolic graces alone can secure apostolic successes.
a person sent by another; a messenger; envoy. This word is once used as a descriptive designation of Jesus Christ, the Sent of the Father (Heb 3:1; Joh 20:21). It is, however, generally used as designating the body of disciples to whom he intrusted the organization of his church and the dissemination of his gospel, "the twelve," as they are called (Mt 10:1-5; Mr 3:14; 6:7; Lu 6:13; 9:1). We have four lists of the apostles, one by each of the synoptic evangelists (Mt 10:2-4; Mr 3:16; Lu 6:14), and one in the Acts (Ac 1:13). No two of these lists, however, perfectly coincide.
Our Lord gave them the "keys of the kingdom," and by the gift of his Spirit fitted them to be the founders and governors of his church (Joh 14:16-17,26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15). To them, as representing his church, he gave the commission to "preach the gospel to every creature" (Mt 28:18-20). After his ascension he communicated to them, according to his promise, supernatural gifts to qualify them for the discharge of their duties (Ac 2:4; 1Co 2:16,7,10,13; 2Co 5:20; 1Co 11:2). Judas Iscariot, one of "the twelve," fell by transgression, and Matthias was substituted in his place (Ac 1:21). Saul of Tarsus was afterwards added to their number (Ac 9:3-20; 20:4; 26:15-18; 1Ti 1:12; 2:7; 2Ti 1:11).
Luke has given some account of Peter, John, and the two Jameses (Ac 12:2,17; 15:13; 21:18), but beyond this we know nothing from authentic history of the rest of the original twelve. After the martyrdom of James the Greater (Ac 12:2), James the Less usually resided at Jerusalem, while Paul, "the apostle of the uncircumcision," usually travelled as a missionary among the Gentiles (Ga 2:8). It was characteristic of the apostles and necessary (1) that they should have seen the Lord, and been able to testify of him and of his resurrection from personal knowledge (Joh 15:27; Ac 1:21-22; 1Co 9:1; Ac 22:14-15). (2.) They must have been immediately called to that office by Christ (Lu 6:13; Ga 1:1). (3.) It was essential that they should be infallibly inspired, and thus secured against all error and mistake in their public teaching, whether by word or by writing (Joh 14:26; 16:13; 1Th 2:13).
(4.) Another qualification was the power of working miracles (Mr 16:20; Ac 2:43; 1Co 12:8-11). The apostles therefore could have had no successors. They are the only authoritative teachers of the Christian doctrines. The office of an apostle ceased with its first holders.
("one sent forth".) The official name of the twelve whom Jesus sent forth to preach, and who also were with Him throughout His earthly ministry. Peter states the qualifications before the election of Judas' successor (Ac 1:21), namely, that he should have companied with the followers of Jesus "all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among them, beginning from the baptism of John unto the day that He was taken up, to be a witness with the others of His resurrection." So the Lord, "Ye are they that have continued with Me in My temptations" (Lu 22:28). The Holy Spirit was specially promised to bring all things to their remembrance whatever Jesus had said, to guide them into all truth, and to enable them to testify of Jesus with power to all lands (Joh 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13-14). They were some of them fishermen, one a tax collector, and most of them unlearned.
Though called before, they did not permanently follow Him until their call as apostles. All were on a level (Mt 20:20-27; Mr 9:34-36). Yet three stood in especial nearness to Him, Peter, James, and John; they alone witnessed the raising of Jairus' daughter, the transfiguration, and the agony in Gethsemane. An order grounded on moral considerations is traceable in the enumeration of the rest: Judas, the traitor, in all the lists stands last. The disciples surrounded Jesus in wider and still wider expanding circles: nearest Him Peter, James, and. John; then the other nine; then the Seventy; then the disciples in general. But the "mystery" was revealed to all alike (Mt 10:27). Four catalogues are extant: Matthew's (Matthew 10), Mark's (Mr 3:16), Luke's (Lu 6:14) in the Gospel, and Luke's in Ac 1:13.
In all four the apostles are grouped in three classes, four in each. Philip heads the second division, i.e. is fifth; James the son of Alpheus heads the third, i.e. is ninth. Andrew follows Peter on the ground of brotherhood in Matthew and Luke; in Mark and Acts James and John, on the ground of greater nearness to Jesus, precede Andrew. In the second division Matthew modestly puts himself after Thomas; Mark and Luke give him his rightful place before Thomas. Thomas, after his doubts were removed (Joh 20:28), having attained distinguished faith, is promoted above Bartholomew (or Nathanael) and Matthew in Acts. In Matt, hew and Mark Thaddaeus (or Lebbaeus) precedes Simon Zelotes (Hebrew "Canaanite," i.e. one of the sect the Zealots). But in Luke and Acts Simon Zelotes precedes Jude (Thaddaeus) the brother of James. John gives no catalogue, but writing later takes it for granted (Re 21:14,19-20).
In the first division stand Peter and John, New Testament writers, in the second Matthew, in the third James and Jude. The Zealot stood once the last except the traitor, but subsequently became raised; bigotry is not always the best preparation for subsequent high standing in faith. Jesus sent them in pairs: a good plan for securing brotherly sympathy and cooperation. Their early mission in Jesus' lifetime, to preach repentance and perform miracles in Jesus' name, was restricted to Israel, to prepare the way for the subsequent gospel preaching to the Jews first, on and after Pentecost (Ac 3:25). They were slow to apprehend the spiritual nature of His kingdom, and His crucifixion and resurrection as the necessary preliminary to it. Even after His resurrection seven of them returned to their fishing; and it was only by Christ's renewed call that they were led' to remain together at Jerusalem, waiting for the promised Comforter (John 21; Ac 1:4).
From the day of the Pentecostal effusion of the Holy Spirit they became new men, witnessing with power of the resurrection of Jesus, as Jesus had promised (Lu 24:45,49; Ac 1:8,22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 13:31). The first period of the apostles' working extends down to Ac 11:18. Excepting the transition period (Acts 8-10) when, at Stephen's martyrdom, the gospel was extended to Samaria and. to the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip, Jerusalem is its center, and Peter' the prominent figure, who opened the kingdom of heaven (according to Jesus' promise to him, Mt 16:18-19) to the Jews and also to the Gentiles (Acts 2; 10). The second period begins with the extension of the kingdom to idolatrous Gentiles. (Ac 11:19-26).
Antioch, in concert with Jerusalem, is now the center, and Paul the prominent figure, in concert with the other apostles. Though the ideal number always remained twelve (Re 21:14), answering to the twelve tribes of Israel, yet just as there were in fact thirteen tribes when Joseph's two sons were made separate tribal heads, so Paul's calling made thirteen actual apostles. He possessed the two characteristics of an Apostle; he had" seen the Lord," so as to be an eye witness of His resurrection, and he had the power which none but an Apostle had, of conferring spiritual gifts (1Co 9:1-2; 2Co 12:12; Ro 1:11; 15:18-19). This period ends with Ac 13:1-5, when Barnabas and Saul were separated by the Holy Spirit unto missionary work. Here the third apostolic period begins, in which the twelve disappear, and Paul alone stands forth, the Apostle of the Gentiles; so that at the close of Acts, which leaves him evangelizing in Rome, the metropolis of the world, churches from Jerusalem unto Illyricum had been founded through him.
Apostle is used in a vaguer sense of "messengers of the churches" (2Co 8:23; Php 2:25). But the term belongs in its stricter sense to the twelve alone; they alone were apostles of Christ. Their distinctive note is, they were commissioned immediately by Jesus Himself. They alone were chosen by Christ Himself, independently of the churches. So even Matthias (Ac 1:24). So Paul (Ga 1:1-12; Ro 1:1; 1Co 15:9-10). Their exclusive office was to found the Christian church; so their official existence was of Christ, and prior to the churches they collectively and severally founded. They acted with a divine authority to bind and loose things (Mt 18:18), and to remit or retain sins of persons (Joh 20:21-23), which they exercised by the authoritative ministry of the word. Their infallibility, of which their miracles were the credentials, marked them as extraordinary, not permanent, ministers.
Paul requires the Corinthians to acknowledge that the things which he wrote were the Lord's commandments (1Co 14:37). The office was not local; but "the care of all the churches." They were to the whole what particular elders were, to parts of the church (1Pe 5:1; 2Jo 1:1). Apostles therefore could have strictly no successors. John, while superintending the whole, was especially connected with the churches of Asia Minor, Paul with the W., Peter with Babylon. The bishops in that age coexisted with, and did not succeed officially, the apostles. James seems specially to have had a presidency in Jerusalem (Ac 15:19; 21:18).
Once the Lord Himself is so designated, "the Apostle of our profession" (Heb 3:1); the, Ambassador sent from the Father (Joh 20:21). As Apostle He pleads God's cause with us; as" High Priest," our cause with God. Appropriate in writing to Hebrew, since the Hebrew high priest sent delegates ("apostles") to collect the temple tribute from Jews in foreign countries, just as Christ is the Father's Delegate to claim the Father's due from His subjects in this world far off from Him (Mt 21:37).
The Greek word ????????? signifies 'a messenger,' 'one sent,' and is used in this sense for any messenger in 2Co 8:23; Php 2:25; and as 'one sent' in Joh 13:16. It is also used in a much higher and more emphatic sense, implying a divine commission in the one sent, first of the Lord Himself and then of the twelve disciples whom He chose to be with Him during the time of His ministry here. The Lord in His prayer in Joh 17:18 said, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." He was the Sent One, and in Heb 3:1 it is written "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Jesus."* They were to consider this One who had been faithful, and who was superior to Moses, to the Aaronic priests, and to angels, and was in the glory. The ordering of a dispensation depended on the apostolic office as divinely appointed.
* The word 'Christ' is omitted by the Editors.
APOSTLES, THE TWELVE. The Lord appointed these "that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out demons," and also to carry out the various commissions given by Christ on earth. It will be seen by the lists that follow that Lebbaeus, Thaddaeus and Judas are the same person; and that Simon the Canaanite (Cananaean) and Simon Zelotes are the same; Peter is also called Simon; and Matthew is called Levi.
1 Peter and 1 Peter. 1 Simon. 1 Peter.
2 Andrew. 3 James. 2 Andrew. 3 James.
3 James and 4 John. 3 James. 4 John.
4 John. 2 Andrew. 4 John. 2 Andrew.
5 Philip and 5 Philip. 5 Philip. 5 Philip.
6 Bartholomew. 6 Bartholomew. 6 Bartholomew. 7 Thomas.
7 Thomas and 8 Matthew. 8 Matthew. 6 Bartholomew.
8 Matthew. 7 Thomas. 7 Thomas. 8 Matthew.
9 James and 9 James. 9 James. 9 James.
10 Lebbaeus. 10 Thaddaeus. 11 Simon Zelotes. 11 Simon Z.
11 Simon the Cana- 11 Simon C. 10 Judas. 10 Judas.
naean and 12 Judas 1. 12 Judas I.
12 Judas Iscariot.
Peter is always named first; he with James and John was with the Lord on the mount of transfiguration and also with the Lord at other times, though no one apostle had authority over the others: they were all brethren and the Lord was their Master. Judas Iscariot is always named last. In Matthew the word 'and' divides the twelve into pairs, perhaps corresponding to their being sent out two and two to preach. Bartholomew and Simon Zelotes are not mentioned after their appointment except in Acts 1.
When the Lord sent the twelve out to preach He bade them take nothing with them, for the workman was worthy of his food: and on their return they confessed that they had lacked nothing. Their mission was with authority as the sent ones of the Lord; sicknesses were healed and demons cast out; and if any city refused to receive them it should be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgement than for that city. Mt 10:5-15.
They received a new mission from the Lord as risen: see Luke 24; John 20. And before the ascension the apostles were bidden to tarry at Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. This was bestowed at the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. They are also viewed first among the gifts with which the church was endowed by the Head of the body when He ascended up on high. Eph 4:8-11. These gifts were for "the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." The mystery hitherto hid in God was now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, namely, that the Gentiles should be joint heirs, and a joint body, and partakers of His promise in Christ Jesus. Eph. 3. Paul was the special vessel to make known this grace. His apostleship occupies a peculiar place, he having been called by the Lord from heaven, and being charged with the gospel of the glory. See PAUL.
On the death of Judas Iscariot, Matthias, an early disciple, was chosen in his place, for there must be (irrespective of Paul, who, as we have seen, held a unique place) twelve apostles as witnesses of His resurrection, Ac 1:22; Re 21:14 as there must still be twelve tribes of Israel. Jas 1:1; Re 21:12. At the conference of the church in Jerusalem respecting the Gentiles 'the apostles' took a prominent part, with the elders. Acts 15. How many apostles remained at Jerusalem is not recorded: we do not read of 'the twelve' after Acts 6. Tradition gives the various places where they laboured, which may be found under each of their names. Scripture is silent on the subject, in order that the new order of things committed to Paul might become prominent, as the older things connected with Judaism vanished away: cf. 2Pe 3:15-16.
There were no successors to the apostles: to be apostles they must have 'seen the Lord.' Ac 1:21-22; 1Co 9:1; Re 2:2. The foundation of the church was laid, and apostolic work being complete the apostles passed away, there remain however, in the goodness of God, such gifts as are needed "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Eph 4:12-13.
(one sent forth), in the New Testament originally the official name of those twelve of the disciples whom Jesus chose to send forth first to preach the gospel and to be with him during the course of his ministry on earth. The word also appears to have been used in a non-official sense to designate a much wider circle of Christian messengers and teachers See
It is only of those who were officially designated apostles that we treat in the article. Their names are given in
and Christ's charge to them in the rest of the chapter. Their office.-- (1) The original qualification of an apostle, as stated by St. Peter on the occasion of electing a successor to the traitor Judas, was that he should have been personally acquainted with the whole ministerial course of our Lord from his baptism by John till the day when he was taken up into heaven. (2) They were chosen by Christ himself (3) They had the power of working miracles. (4) They were inspired.
(5) Their world seems to have been pre-eminently that of founding the churches and upholding them by supernatural power specially bestowed for that purpose. (6) The office ceased, a matter of course, with its first holders-all continuation of it, from the very condition of its existence (cf.
), being impossible. Early history and training.--The apostles were from the lower ranks of life, simple and uneducated; some of them were related to Jesus according to the flesh; some had previously been disciples of John the Baptist. Our Lord chose them early in his public career They seem to have been all on an equality, both during and after the ministry of Christ on earth. Early in our Lord's ministry he sent them out two and two to preach repentance and to perform miracles in his name Matt 10; Luke 9. They accompanied him in his journey, saw his wonderful works, heard his discourses addressed to the people, and made inquiries of him on religious matters. They recognized him as the Christ of God,
Mt 16:16; Lu 9:20
and described to him supernatural power
but in the recognition of the spiritual teaching and mission of Christ they made very low progress, held back as they were by weakness of apprehension and by national prejudices. Even at the removal of our Lord from the earth they were yet weak in their knowledge,
Lu 24:21; Joh 16:12
though he had for so long been carefully preparing and instructing them. On the feast of Pentecost, ten days after our Lord's ascension, the Holy Spirit came down on the assembled church, Acts 2; and from that time the apostles became altogether different men, giving witness with power of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, as he had declared they should.
Later labors and history.--First of all the mother-church at Jerusalem grew up under their hands, Acts 3-7, and their superior dignity and power were universally acknowledged by the rulers and the people.
ff. Their first mission out of Jerusalem was to Samaria
where the Lord himself had, during his ministry, sown the seed of the gospel. Here ends the first period of the apostles' agency, during which its centre is Jerusalem and the prominent figure is that of St. Peter. The centre of the second period of the apostolic agency is Antioch, where a church soon was built up, consisting of Jews and Gentiles; and the central figure of this and of the subsequent period is St. Paul. The third apostolic period is marked by the almost entire disappearance of the twelve from the sacred narrative and the exclusive agency of St. Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles. Of the missionary work of the rest of the twelve we know absolutely nothing from the sacred narrative.
APOSTLE, ?????????, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, commissioned by him to preach his Gospel, and propagate it to all parts of the earth. The word originally signifies a person delegated or sent; from ?????????, mitto; in which sense it occurs in Herodotus, and other profane authors. Hence, in the New Testament, the term is applied to divers sorts of delegates; and to the twelve disciples by way of eminence. They were limited to the number twelve, in allusion to the twelve tribes of Israel. See Mt 19:28; Lu 22:30; Re 21:12-14; and compare Ex 24:4; De 1:23; and Jos 4:2-3. Accordingly care was taken, on the death of Judas, to choose another, to make up the number, Ac 1:21-22,26. Of the first selection and commission of the twelve Apostles, we have an account, Lu 6:13, &c.; Mt 10:1, &c. Having chosen and constituted twelve persons, under the name of Apostles, our blessed Lord determined that for some time they should be continually with him, not only to attend upon his public ministry, but to enjoy the benefit of his private conversation, that he might furnish them the better for the great work in which they were to be employed; and that, at length, after suitable preparation, he might, with greater advantage, send them abroad to preach his Gospel, and thus make way for his own visits to some more distant parts, where he had not yet been; and to enable them more effectually to do this, he endowed them with the power of working miracles, of curing diseases, and casting out demons. About the commencement of the third year of his ministry, according to the common account of its duration, he sent them out two by two, that they might be assistants to each other in their work; and commanded them to restrict their teaching and services to the people of Israel, and to avoid going to the Gentiles or to the Samaritans, to declare the approach of the kingdom of heaven, and the establishment of the Gospel dispensation; to exercise the miraculous powers with which they had been endowed gratuitously; and to depend for their subsistence on the providence of God, and on the donations of those to whom they ministered. Their names were, Simon Peter; Andrew, his brother; James the greater, the son of Zebedee; and John his brother, who was the beloved disciple; Philip of Bethsaida; Bartholomew; Thomas, called Didymus, as having a twin brother; Matthew or Levi, who had been a publican; James, the son of Alpheus, called James the less; Lebbeus, surnamed Thaddeus, and who was also called Judas or Jude, the brother of James; Simon, the Canaanite, so called, as some have thought, because he was a native of Cana, or, as Dr. Hammond thinks, from the Hebrew ???, signifying the same with Zelotes, or the Zelot, a name given to him on account of his having before professed a distinguishing zeal for the law; and Judas Iscariot, or a man of Carioth, Jos 15:25, who afterward betrayed him, and then laid violent hands on himself. Of these, Simon, Andrew, James the greater, and John, were fishermen; Matthew, and James the son of Alpheus, were publicans; and the other six were probably fishermen, though their occupation is not distinctly specified.
After the resurrection of our Saviour, and not long before his ascension, the place of Judas the traitor was supplied by Matthias, supposed by some to have been Nathaniel of Galilee, to whom our Lord had given the distinguishing character of an "Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile;" and the twelve Apostles, whose number was now completed, received a new commission, of a more extensive nature than the first, to preach the Gospel to all nations, and to be witnesses of Christ, not only in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and in Samaria, but unto the uttermost parts of the earth; and they were qualified for the execution of their office by a plenteous effusion of miraculous powers and spiritual gifts, and particularly the gift of tongues. In consequence of this commission, they preached first to the Jews, then to the Samaritans, and afterward to the idolatrous Gentiles. Their signal success at Jerusalem, where they opened their commission, alarmed the Jewish sanhedrim, before which Peter and John were summoned, and from which they received a strict charge never more to teach, publicly or privately, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. The noble reply and subsequent conduct of the Apostles are well known. This court of the Jews was so awed and incensed, as to plot the death of the twelve Apostles, as the only effectual measure for preventing the farther spread of Christianity. Gamaliel interposed, by his prudent and moderate counsel; and his speech had so good an effect upon the sanhedrim, that, instead of putting Peter and John to death, they scourged them, renewed their charge and threats, and then dismissed them. The Apostles, however, were not discouraged nor restrained; they counted it an honour to suffer such indignities, in token of their affection to their Master, and zeal in his cause; and they persisted in preaching daily in the courts of the temple, and in other places, that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised and long expected Messiah. Their doctrine spread, and the number of converts in Jerusalem still increased. During the violent persecution that raged at Jerusalem, soon after the martyrdom of St. Stephen, several of the leading men among the Christians were dispersed; some of them travelled through the regions of Judea and Samaria, and others to Damascus, Phoenicia, the Island of Cyprus, and various parts of Syria; but the twelve Apostles remained, with undaunted firmness, at Jerusalem, avowing their attachment to the persecuted interest of Christ, and consulting how they might best provide for the emergencies of the church, in its infant and oppressed state.
When the Apostles, during their abode at Jerusalem, heard that many of the Samaritans had embraced the Gospel, Peter and John were deputed to confer upon them the gift of the Holy Spirit; for to the Apostles belonged the prerogative of conferring upon others spiritual gifts and miraculous powers. In their return to Jerusalem, from the city of Samaria, they preached the Gospel in many Samaritan villages. The manner of its being sent to Ethiopia, by the conversion of the eunuch who was chief treasurer to Candace, queen of the country, is related in Ac 8:26, &c. After the Christian religion had been planted in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and sent into Ethiopia, one of the uttermost parts of the earth, Ac 1:8; and after it had been preached about eight years to the Jews only, God, in his wise and merciful providence, disposed things for the preaching of it among the Gentiles. Caesarea was the scene in which the Apostle Peter was to open his commission for this purpose; and Cornelius, one of the devout Gentiles, and a man distinguished by his piety and charity, was the first proselyte to Christianity. After Peter had laid the foundation of a Christian church among the devout Gentiles, others imitated his example, and a great number of persons of this description embraced the Christian faith, more especially at Antioch, where the disciples, whom their enemies had hitherto called Galileans, Nazarenes, and other names of reproach, and who, among themselves, had been called "disciples," "believers," "the church," "the saints," and "brethren," were denominated, probably not without a divine direction, Christians.
When Christianity had been preached for about eight years among the Jews only, and for about three years more among the Jews and devout Gentiles, the next stage of its progress was to the idolatrous Gentiles, in the year of Christ 44, and the fourth year of the emperor Claudius. Barnabas and Saul were selected for this purpose, and constituted in an extraordinary manner Apostles of the Gentiles, or uncircumcision. Barnabas was probably an elder of the first rank; he had seen Christ in the flesh, had been an eye witness of his being alive again after his crucifixion, and had received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, as being one of the hundred and twenty. Saul also, since his conversion had preached as a superior prophet, about seven years to the Jews only, and about two