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What Is an Apostle? Requirements from Acts 1:21–26 (Part 1 of 2)

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series

"A Theology of Apostles and Apostleship"

Read more posts by using the Table of Contents in the right sidebar.

ma-1704087 (1)“What is an apostle?” This is an important question to answer because many people in Christendom claim that there are apostles for today or at least claim that some enjoy what is called the spiritual gift of apostleship. Over the course of my next couple posts or so, I hope to give a brief understanding of how Scripture describes and defines apostles and whether or not there is a gift called apostleship. A great place to start is Acts 1:21–26.

To give a dash of context, after the suicide of Judas Iscariot, Peter addressed the matter of finding a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15–20). In doing so, he laid out two requirements for who this replacement apostle should be (Acts 1:21–22), and the subsequent prayer of the people (cf. Acts 1:15) revealed a third requirement as well (1:24–25).  Acts 1:21–26 begins with the words of Peter:

21 ‘So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.’ 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:21–26)

The requirements that can be gathered are as follows:

  1. 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).
  2. The candidate was required to have seen Jesus after His resurrection (1:22b).
  3. The candidate needed to have been appointed by the Lord Jesus himself (1:24–25).

While the first two requirements are fairly straightforward, the third is not. Some question the wisdom of the Christians’ use of lots to decide between Justus and Matthias, but my understanding is that the Lord (i.e., the Lord Jesus; cf. Acts 1:21) providentially allowed the use of lots to appoint the replacement for Judas. The Christians were led by the eleven and prayed to the Lord Jesus that He would reveal to them the apostle He had already chosen (Acts 1:24). In this way, it could be said that, just as Jesus had personally appointed the other apostles (Mark 3:13–19), so also did He appoint Matthias through the casting of lots.

Luke’s description of Matthias’ appointment showed that the early Christians accepted this choice as the Lord’s mind on the matter: “he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26). Later reference to “the twelve” assume Matthias’s legitimacy as an apostle as well (Acts 6:2).

I’ll say more next week.

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David Huffstutler

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.

14 Responses to What Is an Apostle? Requirements from Acts 1:21–26 (Part 1 of 2)

  1. How was Paul commissioned as an Apostle? I am aware he was with Jesus for 3 plus years on an Island. I am aware he is called by Jesus Christ but not sure if Paul witnessed His resurrection?

  2. So can anyone be sent to a nation and not be an apostle. It means one sent right? Has that gift office passed away?

  3. Hello Gary – I have a few posts in this series that clarify primarily what it means to be an apostle in a formal sense (e.g., the Twelve and Paul). I would certainly agree that we are all “apostles” if we mean the general sense of being a “sent one,” which is what the word inherently means.

  4. I am sure that Saul of Tarsus who studied under Gamaliel was aware ofJohn the Baptist and the Christ ministries…since both were well known in the region…

  5. The three requirements are narrow analyses and interpretation of the Word of God concerning apostleship.I may paraphrase the requirements as:
    1.Believe on Biblical account of the works of The Lord Jesus Christ as presented in the gospels.
    2.Be a witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ through the baptism of Holy Ghost with fire.
    3.Must have had a personal encounter with Christ Jesus as the pillar of fire.

    Ephesians 4 states that when He ascended on high He gave gifts unto men…some apostles etc.Apostleship after His ascension in order to propagate the course of the gospel until He comes the second time on earth to take His Bride into His home in the sky.

    David’s views on apostleship is outrightly antichrist.The views may dangerously drive thoughts that the days of apostleship are no longer with us in 21st century but for the first century believers.

    Apostleship and othe ministries of the five fold are until He stops calling at His second coming.

    Theological interpretation of the Word of God is a tool in the hands of Satan to add to or take from the sacred Word of God.God shall punish those who attempt to mutilate the Word of God.

    The Holy Ghost is the only interpreter of His Word not any man or a theologian.

  6. “Outrightly antichrist.” Wow. At least I was clear. You summarized it well – “the days of apostleship are no longer with us in 21st century but for the first century believers.”

  7. So by this description Paul could not be an apostle because he wasn’t with them during Jesus earthly ministry. This is just not right. This is not a criteria for all apostles. This was a criteria for someone to replace Judas as one of the 12. This is why he wanted the man to replace him to have been with them.

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