Speaking the Truth in Love

Are there Living Apostles in the Modern Church?

The word “apostles” describes the 12 special representatives appointed by Jesus. He sent them first to the people of Israel and then to all the world — to speak in his name, confirm the message with mighty signs, give testimony to his resurrection, and build up his church. After the suicide of Judas, the number dropped to 11. Guided by the Spirit, Peter proposed a replacement. To qualify for the office of apostleship, a man had to be a close personal companion of Jesus and an eyewitness of the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22). Two people were nominated, and the Lord chose Matthias.

Jesus appointed one more apostle a few years later. The Lord appeared to him on the Damascus road. Saul the persecutor became Paul the apostle. “Last of all,” he wrote, “as to one untimely born, [Jesus] appeared also to me” (1 Cor. 15:8). Paul hadn’t been a personal companion of Jesus during the three years of the Lord’s earthly ministry, but he made an intriguing statement in his letter to the Galatians: “I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem” (2:17-18). What was Paul doing those three years in the desert? Was Jesus teaching him in an extended series of revelations? Probably.

Here’s the point: Anyone claiming apostleship today has some tough questions to answer. Are you an eyewitness of the resurrection? Have you been the Lord’s personal companion? Do you have the power to perform the signs of an apostle (2 Cor. 12:12)? Can you raise the dead? Can you lay hands on other Christians and give them spiritual gifts? And how can you claim to be an apostle since Paul said he was the last eyewitness of the resurrection?

Modern “apostles” cloak themselves with this honor so that they can exert power over others. But the real apostles were humiliated and mistreated everywhere they went. They suffered beatings, imprisonments, exposure to the elements, poverty, hunger, thirst, and cold. Unless a man is really suffering for his eyewitness testimony of the resurrection, his apostolic claim has a very hollow ring.

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