How Many Apostles Are Named in the New Testament?October 26, 2017
And He Himself gave some to be apostles….
— Ephesians 4:11 NKJV
Today we continue our study of the word “apostle.” By the time of the New Testament, the word apostolos was already an old word with quite a lengthy history. It carried many shades of meaning — all of which overlapped each other and were interrelated, as we have seen. So when people in the Early Church heard or read the word “apostle,” it is likely that they understood an apostle to be a person who was specially selected, commissioned, and sent by the Lord to represent Him for the purposes of the Kingdom: to build up, draw forth, speak out, align, govern, strengthen, and establish His Church as His unique agent on the earth.
Early believers were also probably aware that the apostle was a pioneer and a chief overseer, responsible for opening up new territory, both physically and spiritually, for Kingdom purposes. They would have known him as one who provided passage from one spiritual dimension to another as he took a church to new levels in its spiritual growth that it could never reach apart from the apostolic anointing.
Believers recognized the apostle as one who had the anointing, authority, and spiritual backing to get things accomplished for the furtherance of God’s purposes. He wasn’t just the implementer of pragmatic ideas and strategies. Rather, a true apostle carried within him supernatural insight and revelation that was vital for the growth and the building up of the Church.
Over the centuries, the question “Who is a true apostle?” has been something of a theological conundrum for many scholars. Some insist that only the original 12 were true apostles, whereas others argue that the apostolic ministry has continued since the death of Jesus’ original 12 apostles. But let me give you a concise way of looking at this subject.
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In Luke 6:13, Jesus called together His disciples and from among them, He chose 12 men whom He called apostles. They are listed by name in Matthew 10:2-4. In Luke 9:1-6, Jesus sent forth these 12 apostles to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons. But in the next chapter, Jesus appointed 70 more people and “…sent them (apostolos) two by two…” (Luke 10:1).
When Judas died, Acts 1:25,26 tells us that Matthias was chosen to take his place among the original apostles. Paul was also an apostle, as he testifies of in multiple places throughout the New Testament.
So the Greek word apostle is used to describe the original 12, another group of 70, plus Matthias and Paul — and then 11 others:
- Apollos (see 1 Corinthians 4:6-13)
- Epaphroditus (see Philippians 2:25; “messenger” is apostolos in the Greek)
- James, the Lord’s brother (see Galatians 1:19)
- Barnabas (see Acts 14:4,14; 1 Corinthians 9:5,6)
- Andronicus (see Romans 16:7)
- Junia (see Romans 16:7)
- Titus (see 2 Corinthians 8:23; “messenger” is apostolos in the Greek)
- An unnamed brother with Titus (see 2 Corinthians 8:18,23)
- Another unnamed brother with Titus (see 2 Corinthians 8:22,23)
- Timothy (see 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:6)
- Silas (see 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:6)
If you were to take the entire list of those who were sent forth apostolically in the New Testament, there are at least 83 people in the New Testament who are called “apostles.” All of this makes it very clear that apostolic ministry has continued beyond the original 12 apostles. Just as prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers have continued for 2,000 years, the apostolic gift has also continued; it has simply been more or less unrecognized.
You may wonder why this information is relevant to you personally and to the Church at large today. But consider it this way: If the Scriptures reveal that there was a multiplied increase in the apostolic ministry in the Early Church — from 12 to 83 — who were called apostles, how much more will Jesus Christ continue to give this gift to men for the purpose of building His Church?
And this would be especially true in these last days before Jesus returns! Great preparation and equipping is taking place in the Church to prepare all of us as end-time believers to be His bold, sold-out, Holy Spirit-empowered witnesses on this earth before He comes. We as a Body need to receive the powerful benefits given to us by God through the operation of the apostolic anointing!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I am amazed at this list of people who were sent forth as apostles in the New Testament. I now wonder about and have a new desire to better understand the gifts You have set in Your Body as it pleases You. Help me, Holy Spirit, to understand not only my own spiritual gift but also the authentic gifts in those around me — including the apostolic gift whom You’ve sent to build up, draw forth, speak out, align, govern, strengthen, and establish Your Church as Your unique agent on the earth. I want to humbly and completely cooperate with and draw from the apostolic anointing that rests on those You have genuinely called to this ministry so that I can experience the fullness of Your intent when You gave gifts unto men.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that my appreciation for and knowledge about the valuable apostolic ministry is expanding. My perspective is adjusting concerning the supernatural function of authentic ministry gifts — and of the apostle in particular. I see that it is worthy of my study and consideration. I want everything that God has for me, and if this is part of God’s plan for the Church, my heart is longing for it too.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Were you surprised by the lengthy list of people in the New Testament who were sent out as apostles? What is your initial reaction to this information?
- How many people over the centuries who were called missionaries do you think were actually God-called apostles? Have you ever thought about it? Why do you think many apostles were never recognized for being apostolic?
- Why do you think it is important to recognize and acknowledge the true ministry gift upon a person’s life? Whom do you know right now to be true apostles? Is their apostolic gift acknowledged, or are they referred to as something else?