Apostle: How is this word used in the Bible?
This is a word that has been transliterated from the Greek word APOSTOLOS. It means delegate, messenger, one who is sent with authority. For instance, the apostle Paul was a special messenger from God, one sent forth with special authority by the Lord Jesus Christ with God’s message of grace directed especially to the Gentiles.
Paul used this term 34 times in 11 of 13 of his epistles. The only exceptions being his second letter to the Thessalonians and his letter to Philemon.
There are three classes of apostles in the New Testament.
1. The 12 Apostles of Israel
These were men called of the Lord to assist Him in His earthly ministry to Israel. Judas Iscariot was legitimately replaced by Matthias [Acts 1:23-26 cf. I Corinthians 15:5]. Our Lord spoke of special awards these men will hold during the time of the coming Millennial Kingdom [Matthew 19:28].
2. Satan’s apostles
These are Satan’s counterfeits of God’s apostles. These are false apostles that are transformed into ministers of righteousness [II Corinthians 11:13-15]. The fact that they are called “ministers of righteousness” tells us something of their deceptive ways. They typically come across as “good” people. Throughout this present age there have been thousands of them. At times they’ve been given special miralulous powers by which to deceive people. They serve as Satan’s representatives on earth. According to I Timothy 4:1 there will be quite an increase in their number during the final days of The Dispensation of Grace.
3. The Grace Apostles
Some men who served with the apostle Paul are called apostles. The names of these men mentioned in Scripture include Silas, Timothy, Barnabas, Titus, and Epaphroditus [Philippians 2:25; I Thessalonians 1:6; II Corinthians 8:23; Acts 14:14]. These men ministered mainly to Gentiles in association with the apostle Paul in fulfilling the new commission and the message of grace given to him [II Corinthians 5:18-21]. This was because it was prophesied that the Gentiles would receive salvation through the rise of the nation Israel [Zechariah 8:20-23; Isaiah 11:10]. This has still not come to pass but will in the coming Tribulation Period. According to Romans 11:11, salvation has come to the Gentiles today because of the fall of Israel. The Old Testament writers knew nothing of this. That’s why this truth is called a mystery. Therefore, this is something totally new provided for our understanding through the special revelation given to the apostle Paul. The Lord Jesus Christ is to be presented in a new way, according to a new program of God, called in Romans 16:25 “the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery.” This necessitated a new class of apostles [those other than The Twelve] to proclaim this wonderful truth about Christ to the Gentiles.
One of the major mistakes of the Christian church today is to mingle The Grace Apostles with The Twelve Apostles. Although they all worked as servants to our Lord, these men do not belong in the same group. One communicated one message to the Gentiles and the other had been commissioned with a different message directed to Israel. Galatians 2:7 clearly shows that there were TWO messages involved in all this, not one.
7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me [Paul], as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me [Paul] toward the Gentiles:)
One of the reasons for the letter to the Galatians is to show that The Twelve Apostles to Israel had a different ministry from that of The Grace Apostles. The first two chapters of Galatians serve to define this difference.
The Holy Spirit’s use of the word APOSTOLOS provides great enlightenment, being used 81 times. It is used first in Matthew 10:2, referring to The Twelve Apostles to Israel. It is used last in Revelation 21:14, referring to these same apostles, except Judas having been replaced by Mathias. The middle use – #41 – is in Romans 11:11, speaking of Paul as having been the apostle of the Gentiles. This divinely designed arrangement gives us an outline of God’s work in the New Testament portion of the Bible.