What Is An Apostle Anyway?

For whatever reasons, and they are not entirely clear – studies on Apostleship have become a sort of specialized subject for academia alone. They are not common. It is as if it’s only a museum piece we dust off once in a while to view with gloved hand, and then carefully place it back in its spot, encased behind a glass door. And the church seems to have backed away from any honest discussion on it, asking only: Did this gift even survived till the end of the First Century? It’s as if it’s some forbidden fruit. But when we consider the massive witness to the Apostolate that the Scriptures declare, whose footprints account for nearly the entire advance of the Gospel in their generation, why do we avoid the subject? The short answer: it was decided by church leaders, beginning immediately after the First Century and thereafter, that the only valid apostles are those in the Bible. Case closed.

This is far too brief and I have not stated the situation in a well-balanced way. Notwithstanding, we still need to re-evaluate this burning question: Though the Apostles of the NT are unique and the Cannon of Scripture is complete, does Scripture slam shut the door on apostleship or does it anticipate that there should yet be on-going apostolic witness that reaches even to the present? What would that look like? Are we even curious about it? But to put it simply, the church has been unwilling to have a real inquiry about this. Instead its leaders have augmented this need with what would seem to be, amongst many things, a mania for linguistic correctness, a demand for language un-offending to all, and a zeal driven by tolerance. So much could be said. In lieu of all this, what’s been offered is a substitute for apostleship. It consists of a wide currency of alternative subjects, which has uncommonly well distracted the brethren to forget about the apostle and so buy into almost anything else. So if somehow I’ve perked an interest about this essential question, let’s just ask it: Does God still send men as in the NT? If He does, we’ve got a lot explaining to do; confession is good for the soul. But If He doesn’t, then the following is right off the dairy barn floor, a hot, steaming pile of . . . back-talk. Hmmmm.
Having given you a brief background, scope, and purpose for this study I should acknowledge that I am debtor to many missionaries, pastors, and teachers who, I dare say, demonstrate apostleship but are never recognized as such. Though not an expert in theological media, publications on our subject seem scant. However an outstanding source which I will reference several times is Prof. Rengstorf, a European scholar whose article inspired so much thought on the matter [see Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, “ἀποστέλλω” (English – “I send”), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. I, ed. by Gerhard Kittel, trans. by Geoffery Bromily (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964), pp. 398-445]. Ιf strength and time allowed exhaustive research, surely there would be found many other scholars who have well written in this area.

Watch for the next post: Apostleship Defined

Tim Halverson

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