WHO/WHAT WERE THE APOSTLES AND ARE THERE ANY AROUND TODAY??
The basis of the Greek word translated 'Apostle' (apostulous) is 'One sent forth' and the word has an implication that the one 'sent forth' has been granted extra power by God. The first Apostles were witnesses of the ministry of Jesus and were undoubtedly granted additional strength/power to lay down the first and primary foundation of witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ far and wide in the first century AD.
There is a looser sense of what Paul calls our 'Apostleship' which can be applied to all who accept the truth of the gospel and are then appointed by God and 'sent forth' to witness for Christ (Romans 1:5)- this applies to every one of us! Yet this should not blind us to the fact that the original apostles were granted additional power and authority to lay the very foundation of Christian witness. It was vital that this was done correctly since the first century AD had no means of mass communication as we do today and, in order to be a truly effective 'message' the good news of Christ needed to spread fast. We now know that this was certainly accomplished!
How far did the original Apostles travel? Anything we say here is sheer speculation since nobody knows, but the tradition that Thomas reached India is just too strong to ignore, we may say fairly confidently that the original apostles probably reached much of southern Europe, getting as far west as Spain, possibly into southern France, and there is certainly some sort of tradition that even the British Isles were reached. Meanwhile Asia was probably reached as far east as India and there seems little doubt that there must have been apostolic activity in parts of north Africa.
So What Can We Confidently Say About the Office of Apostle?
Christ pre-eminently called "The Apostle"
They are ordained by Christ
Mark 3:14; John 15:16.
They receive their title from Christ
THEY ARE CALLED BY GOD
1Corinthians 1:1; 1Corinthians 12:28; Galatians 1:1; Galatians 1:15-16.
Matthew 10:1; Mark 3:13; Acts 20:24; Romans 1:5.
And THE HOLY SPIRIT
Acts 20:24; Romans 1:5.
AND NOW LET US NOTICE THREE OR FOUR ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT POINTS ABOUT THE BIBLICAL OFFICE OF APOSTLE:
(These points are important in order to thwart the claims of modern "Apostles" - if one is truly an Apostle, the following points should apply).
1. They had seen Christ in the flesh:
Luke 1:1-2; Acts 1:21-22; 1Corinthians 9:1; 1 John 1:1.
2. They had been witnesses of the resurrection and ascension of Christ (Acts 1:2-9 here perhaps especially significant):
Luke 24:33-53; Acts 1:2-9; Acts 10:40-42; 1 Corinthians 15:3-9.
3. They were specifically empowered to work miracles, often of a most spectacular sort (2 Cor 12:12 here perhaps especially significant):
Matthew 10:1, 8; Mark 16:17-20; Luke 9:1-2; Acts 2:43; Acts 5:12-16; Acts 14:3; Acts 15:12; 2 Co 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4.
4. They were to rely entirely on God for their material needs!
Matthew 10:8-10; Luke 6:38; Luke 9:3-4.
What more can we say about the Apostles? (and some of these points - not all - can be applicable to us):
They were ordinary/unlearned men
They were selected from obscure stations
They were sent, first of all, to the house of Israel
Matthew 10:5-6; Luke 24:47; Acts 13:46.
They were sent to preach the gospel to all nations
Matthew 28:19-20.; Mark 16:15; 2Timothy 1:11.
Christ always present with them
They were warned against a timid profession of Christ
The Holy Spirit was given to them
John 20:22; Acts 2:1-4; Acts 9:17.
Guided by the Spirit into all truth
John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:13.
Specifically instructed by the Spirit how to answer adversaries
Matthew 10:19-20; Luke 12:11-12;
Specially and specifically devoted to the office of the ministry
Acts 6:4; Acts 20:27.
Humility urged upon them
Matthew 20:26-27.; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 22:24-30.
Self-denial urged upon them
Mutual love urged upon them
Equal authority given to each of them
Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18; 2 Corinthians 11:5.
They were not of the world
John 15:19; John 17:16.
They were hated by the world
Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:9; John 15:18.
Persecutions and sufferings would come to them
Matthew 10:16; Matthew 10:18; Luke 21:16; John 15:20; John 16:2.
To see how this entirely Scriptural approach towards Apostleship can be applied to any who claims apostleship in our own day, it will be found helpful to review our article, Was Herbert W. Armstrong REALLY AN Apostle?
Robin A. Brace