What Is an Apostle? Requirements from Acts 1:21–26 (Part 2 of 2)
We saw last week from Acts 1:21–26 that the early church laid out three requirements in choosing a replacement apostle* for Judas Iscariot:
- The candidate was required to be someone who followed Jesus during his entire earthly ministry, beginning from Jesus’ baptism by John to Jesus’ ascension into heaven (1:21–22a)
- The candidate was required to have seen Jesus after His resurrection (1:22b).
- The candidate needed to have been appointed by the Lord Jesus himself (1:24–25).
What I did not stress in the previous article was this: if these are some of the requirements to be an apostle, then no one is an apostle today. These requirements are historical conditions that no one can fulfill today. No one today can claim to have followed Jesus during His earthly ministry. Along with this, neither can anyone today claim to have seen Jesus after His resurrection. And, if someone has seen Jesus neither before nor after His resurrection, neither will he be able to claim that Jesus was physically present to personally appoint him to be an apostle.
But perhaps someone claims Jesus gave him a personal appointment to some type of apostolic ministry through a dream or vision. If this is so, could a person still be an apostle? I am an unashamed cessationist who would dismiss such a claim outright, but even if someone could claim such a dream or vision, he still could not be an apostle. He did not follow Jesus during his earthly ministry from Jesus’ baptism by John to the point of His ascension into heaven.
Adding one more thought—if one cannot be apostle, neither can he enjoy what Scripture calls apostleship. In the context of Acts 1:21–26, apostleship is a ministry that is enjoyed by only those who are apostles. The eleven prayed to the Lord Jesus and asked Him to reveal which of two men would “take the place in this ministry and apostleship [apostolē] from which Judas turned aside” (Acts 1:25). Paul used this word elsewhere with the same sense (Rom 1:5; 1 Cor 9:2; Gal 2:8).
Pulling all of the above together, Acts 1:21–26 denies the possibility of apostles today and their correlative ministry of apostleship. An apostle is someone who followed Christ during His earthly ministry, saw Him after the resurrection, and was personally appointed to the apostolate.
*Scripture uses the term apostle in a more general sense as well (cf. 2 Cor 8:23). I hope to address both this use in the days ahead as well as the unique appointment of Paul.
About David Huffstutler
David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, serves as a chaplain for his local police department, and teaches as adjunct faculty at Bob Jones University. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.