Are There “Apostles” Today?
An apostle is one who is sent on behalf of another. In a general sense many have been sent. Even Jesus sent out the Seventy two by two. However, there are those who are Apostles in a more limited, specific sense. An Apostle had to be one who was a witness of the resurrected Christ, called by God, appointed by Jesus, baptized with the Holy Spirit, given miraculous powers, and able to impart the gifts of the Holy Spirit to others by laying on of hands. They were given specific tasks required of in the function of their office, such as, teach the truth, establish the Kingdom on Pentecost and beyond, confirm their teaching by miraculous signs and wonders, and endure persecution. However, how long would this specific office of an Apostle endure?
The Duration of an Apostle
Since an Apostle had to be a witness of the resurrected Christ, and since Paul was the last to witness the resurrected Savior, he is the final qualified Apostle of Christ. Paul referred to himself as “last of all” the apostles in conjunction with his eyewitness account of the resurrected Jesus (1 Cor. 15:8). Unless someone can find a two thousand year old witness to the resurrection of Christ, the Apostles ceased to exist with the death of the last Apostle, perhaps John.
The prophets and Apostles of the New Testament church make up its foundation. Was Paul wrong concerning the church “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20)? The first part of any building will be the foundation. The foundation is built upon the teachings of the Apostles or “apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:47). Along with the prophets, the Apostles’ teaching has been written down in twenty-seven different books which comprise the New Testament. Therefore, the church is called the “New Testament Church.” Since the foundation upon which the church is built has been laid, there is no need for the Apostles.
The New Testament has been completed. It has been once and for all time delivered to the saints. Jude wrote, “beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). They had confirmed the Word by their miraculous powers. Therefore, these gifts are no longer needed. The work of the Apostles has been completed. We now have the complete or perfect Word of God. (1 Cor. 13:8ff). Simply put there is no longer a need for the Apostle and there is no one who is qualified to be an Apostle.
No Apostles Today
What about those who make a claim to be an Apostle? John warned, “beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Later he congratulated the church at Ephesus “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars” (Rev. 2:2).
No one has the credentials of an apostle. No person living today can meet the qualifications given in Scripture for being an Apostle. There are not living eyewitnesses or the ministry or the resurrection of the Christ. Paul asked several rhetorical questions: “Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?” (1 Cor. 9:1). No one man alive has been appointed by Christ to represent Him in the work of an Apostle (Mark 3:14; John 15:16; Luke 6:13). To replace Judas, Matthias was divinely selected by lot and “he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26; cf. Matthew 28:16; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:33). God told Ananias concerning Paul, “the God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:14-15).
In the twelfth chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul defends his apostleship. He says, “truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds” (2 Cor. 12:12). Today, no one possesses these required powers of an apostle. Therefore, there are no Apostles today.
According to Acts 8:18, an Apostle had the ability to impart gifts of the Holy Spirit to other Christians by laying their hands upon them. This is not being done today because there are no Apostles.
The Catholic church claims the succession of apostolic authority through the popes going all the way back to Peter. Yet Christ nor His Apostles ever had need of successors or representatives on earth beyond the average Christian with a New Testament. Paul did not pick either Timothy or Titus to take his place as an Apostle. He did tell Timothy, “the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
Those who claim to be Apostles among the various denominations are liars and false teachers. The claims of Catholicism, Mormonism, and some Pentecostal groups are bogus. Paul warned, “but even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8).
The original men appointed by Christ in the New Testament were sufficient. They are the only ones He needed to “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28) and “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:30). Heaven has no need of anymore Apostles “now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:14). They rule over the Kingdom in the sense that their words in the New Testament guide the church into obedience to Christ.
At the close of the first century, the last living Apostle was likely John. When he died, the Apostles of Jesus Christ ceased to live upon the earth. If you really want to be influenced and guided by the Apostles today, just pick up a copy of the New Testament read, study and obey. Become a part of the New Testament church they helped to establish on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) which was built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets. Finally, go to Heaven where their names are recorded on its foundation (Rev. 21:14).
– Daniel R. Vess